beta readers

How to Find Outstanding Beta Readers for Your Book

Ann O'Brien

Ann O'Brien

February 6, 2023

When you write a book, an important part of the process is finding beta readers. These reviewers read your book in its final stages and give you an honest assessment of it. Beta readers can help you step out of your self-imposed writer’s bubble to see how your book plays in the real world of readers and reviewers. Here’s how to find the right beta readers.

What Are Beta Readers?

Beta readers should not be confused with developmental editors or substantive editors. It’s a person who enjoys reading in your book’s genre and whose opinion you consider valuable.

Their job is to tell you their honest opinion of your book before you publish it. That’s it. They give you the opinion of a typical reader in your subject or genre. You should send them the book once it’s close to being finished. Once you get their assessments, you can take them into account when you write the final draft of your book.

Beta reader scan’t replace a copy editors or proofreaders. That’s not their job, and you may still want to hire professional editors and proofreaders for your book. Beta readers stand for the viewpoint of a typical reader in your genre.

Why Would Someone Be a Beta Reader?

Beta readers are book lovers. Some are published writers. They love specific genres of writing and are well-read in those genres. That’s why their opinion is valuable.

Most of them enjoy getting the first look at a new book, and they are enthusiastic about welcoming new writers to their favorite genre.

Some of these readers work for a small payment, typically about $50 to $75. If you can’t find beta readers who will work for free, consider looking on various freelance platforms. That price is much lower than the price you’d pay a professional editor, and the response you get may be invaluable.

What to Look for in Beta Readers

It’s important to find beta readers who are a good match for the type of book you’re writing. The best beta readers:

  • Enjoy and read widely in your genre.
  • Understand your goals for your book.
  • Are experienced readers or writers.
  • Are not afraid to deliver an honest opinion.
  • Respect deadlines.
  • Are trustworthy.
  • Can write a thorough assessment of your book.

The relationship runs both ways. Just as beta readers must be honest with you, the writer, so you must be ready to hear what they say. You should be prepared to take honest, constructive criticism without getting angry. It’s not easy to hear that some parts of your book don’t work, but it’s better to hear them now, while you can still make changes.

Be prepared to be honest with yourself. If you hear the same criticisms from several beta readers, you’ll know there is something you need to revisit in your book.

Where to Find Beta Readers

Now that you know how important these readers are, where do you find them? Here are some places to start.

Family and Friends

The obvious place to start is with your family and friends. Let’s face it, most of them are already excited about your forthcoming book and can’t wait to read it. You’ll probably find many enthusiastic takers among them. You can count on them to read enthusiastically and work without pay.

There are a couple of downsides to using your loved ones for this task. First, they may not be as willing to criticize your writing. They may just say they think everything is great to spare your feelings. On the other hand, some family members and friends may feel resentful and try to sabotage your book by telling you it’s terrible. In short, you may not be able to trust their opinions.

If you go this route, choose your readers carefully. Select friends who enjoy reading and whose opinions you value.

 Writing Groups

If you are in a writing class or writing group, you have a built-in group of beta readers. Many writer support groups make beta reading part of their offerings. You can connect with other members who would be willing to take on the task of reading and critiquing your book.

The best reason to find a beta reader in your reading group is that you can later return the favor. If one of the group members needs a beta reader, you can step in to offer your services. Like other support groups, writing groups are mutual help societies.

A writer’s group or writing workshop is likely to have several members who are avid readers and writers. Like you, they are looking for helpful criticisms of their writing. Use the barter system to your benefit. While you’re waiting for your beta reader to get back to you, offer to do some beta reading for another author in your group.

 Social Media

Do you have good relationships on social media? If you are active on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, you may have a following of people who like your posts and your style. They are potentially a built-in audience for your book. Approach them, and ask if they’d be willing to look at a preview of your book. The offer of a free book will intrigue most people, and some will jump at the chance to help you out.

 Online Groups

There are online forums where you can find like-minded writers who are willing to share beta reading duties with fellow writers. These online sites offer classes, forums, discussion groups, critiques, and other support functions. Unless otherwise noted, these are all aimed at writers of fiction, nonfiction, and any genre.

  • BookRix
  • Christian Writers (for faith-based fiction and nonfiction writers)
  • Critique Circle
  • Critters Workshop (for science fiction, fantasy, and horror writers)
  • Lit Reactor
  • The Novelry (for novel writers)
  • Hatrack River Writers Workshop
  • Mythic scribes (for fantasy writers)
  • NextBigWriter
  • KidLit (for writers of children’s fiction)
  • Scribophile
  • She Writes (for female writers)
  • Writers Anonymous

How to Prepare Your Manuscript for Beta Reading

When you line up your readers, find out how they’d like to receive your book. Some people prefer to read on a screen, but many readers prefer reading from paper. Before you start looking for readers, have three or four printed, stapled, or bound copies of your book ready to go. Don’t ask your readers to print out the manuscript themselves. Printing, copying, and binding take time, and you’re already asking them to commit time to reading and reviewing your book.

If your readers prefer reading from a screen, don’t use a PDF. Your readers need to be able to add notes and bookmark pages. Ask which format they prefer. If you’re on different platforms, use Google Docs, which will work on both Apples and PCs.

How to Get the Information You Need from Your Beta Readers

Getting readers is a waste of time if you don’t get usable feedback from them. To make sure you get this, add a checklist for each reader with questions you’d like them to answer. They might include the following:

  • Did you like or relate to the main character?
  • Did you like the subplot or secondary characters?
  • Was there something about the characters you disliked?
  • Did the plot make sense? Were there points at which you found the plot confusing or hard to follow?
  • Were there things that made you laugh, cry, or feel emotional?
  • Were you happy with the way it ended?

If your readers are people you know personally, turn the reading into a group session. Invite them over, serve snacks, and turn your beta reading into a book club. Your readers can bounce ideas off each other, and you’ll learn a lot by listening to them.

Beta Readers Can Make You an Alpha Author

Before you publish your book, find out how readers will react to it by getting valuable, informed opinions. Getting these readers takes some time, effort, and expense, but it will pay off in a better, more reader-friendly book. When you’re ready to publish the final version of your book, contact Publishing Xpress.

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