Writing can feel like a lonely endeavor, especially when you’re up before the sun to get words down before work or staying up late after your partner and kids have gone to bed.
But writing isn’t meant to be a solitary profession. Authors signed with publishing houses have teams behind them–an agent, a few editors, a marketing team, etc. As an indie author, you need a team, too! And beta readers are part of that team.
Don’t forget to grab the free beta reader questionnaire at the end of the blog post! 😉
// What is a beta reader?
Before we can dive into why beta readers are important, you need to know what a beta reader is.
A beta reader is someone who readers a manuscript before publication to highlight errors and suggest improvements.
It’s important to note that a beta reader is not an editor. Rather, a beta reader is a exactly that, a reader! And they can be a great resource for feedback and improvements to your book.
Beta readers provide feedback on your book from a reader’s point of view rather than a writer’s or editor’s POV. This helps you test your target market and see how real readers might react to your book.
Does it have an emotional impact? Do readers like the characters and relationships portrayed in the book? Is the plot interesting and not too cliche? Is there enough intrigue to keep them turning pages?
But beta readers aren’t just about helping you write to market.
// Save some money
As an editor, I know how important it is that writers get professional feedback from a trained editor. No book can go without.
However, I also know that indie authors are often on tight budgets because they have to invest in their books up front, and it can really add up!
The great thing about beta readers is they can help you save some money… IF you are an experienced writer.
If you’ve worked with an editor before and have lots of writing under your belt, you can probably forego a developmental edit if you’re feeling confident in your plot and the feedback you’ve received from critique partners. This is because beta readers, when serving as the average reader in your genre, should be able to point out things they don’t like about character arcs and plot, which can help you self-edit and revise before publishing.
If this is your first book or you aren’t sure about your plot, please work with critique partners/groups and consider hiring an editor for a manuscript critique or developmental edit. These services can help you grow your skills and strengthen your early books.
Don’t know about critique partners? Check out this post to learn more.
And if you’re looking to have a professional provide insight on your manuscript, check out my services. New clients receive 10% off!
// Get Early Reviews
Some beta readers leave reviews for the books they’ve worked on once said book is published. They can serve as an ARC (advanced review copy) team. Reviews are the lifeblood of all authors and sales — not just indies — so don’t be afraid to ask beta readers to leave an honest review if they want.
The key being if they want. You cannot and should not ever buy reviews, but asking people to leave them of their own free will is totally fine and encouraged!
// Build early support
Beta readers can be very loyal fans if you work with the same ones time and again. And as fans, they’ll probably hype your book on social media and tell their friends. Word-of-mouth and social media marketing are free ways to get your book’s name and content in front of more people.
Also, let’s not forget that beta readers aren’t just there to read your book and write a review. They work hard to provide feedback to help you make your book the best it can be. Build friendships and relationships with your betas, and be sure to thank them. Whether you do that privately, on social media, or in the acknowledgments of your book are up to you, but never forget to acknowledge their hard work and dedication.
// Identifying & Finding Beta Readers
As you begin to search for beta readers, remember that not all betas are created equal, especially not when it comes to your genre.
If you’re writing fantasy, you won’t necessarily get the best feedback on making your book more marketable from a beta who prefers modern teen romance books. Your beta team should reflect your genre, as they’ll know what readers in your market like and don’t like. Making your book appealing to readers in your target genre is critical to its commercial success.
Then, start by searching for beta readers online. You can find beta readers on nearly every social media platform, though younger readers tend to hang out on Twitter and Instagram while more mature readers can be found on Facebook.
On Twitter and Instagram, try searching the hashtags #amwriting, #writingcommunity, #betareader, and #amediting and see who you find. Likewise, on Facebook, search for writing and critique groups as well as beta reader groups.
But don’t just ask random people to be your beta readers. That’s pretty rude, actually! Nobody wants to receive a random message from a stranger being asked to do work, even if it’s work they really enjoy. Instead, establish yourself in the community, interact with others, and start putting out the word that you’re in the market for beta readers.
// Making the most of your beta readers
When it comes to any kind of critique, it might be tempting to think that you can just let your reviewers go in with no direction and that they’ll simply give you amazing feedback. While that does happen, providing a few guiding questions to your beta readers can help you get feedback on specific questions you have.
You might ask about your setting, your characters, a certain plot point — anything! Just make sure your betas know that they’re welcome to comment on anything in the manuscript and that they aren’t limited to the scope of your questions.
If you don’t know what to ask your beta readers, download this free Beta Reader Questionnaire to get started. It has 16 sample questions and directions to help you move in the right direction.
Additionally, you’ll want to put a deadline on your beta reading period. People are very busy and things can get lost in the shuffle of life. While it’s understandable, it could be detrimental to your beta process and publishing timeline if none of your beta readers complete their reading in a timely manner.
As you begin to recruit beta readers, make sure they understand the timeframe for review. And on your end, be realistic! Most people won’t be able to provide feedback on an 85,000-word novel in two days. Give people plenty of time; just be sure to specify with them.
// Your Next Steps
As long as you’re organized, kind, and willing to work with others, beta readers will be a great addition to your publishing team.
And if you’re in the market for beta readers, consider joining my free Facebook group for writers. WIth over 1400 members, you’re sure to make connections and a few friends, and maybe even find your next critique partner or beta reader.
Don’t forget to download the free beta reader questionnaire and email template! ⬇️