Two questions I hear frequently follow each other. “How do I find beta readers and what do I do with them?”
The short answer is “it varies.” I know plenty of writers who have beta groups, street teams, ARC groups, etc. And for many writers, the easiest thing is probably a FB group to manage any and all aspects.
If you aren’t familiar with the term beta, it’s a reader who fits your ideal market and provides feedback on a large scale and small scale. They tell you what works, what doesn’t work, and perhaps find plot holes that you didn’t even realize existed. Some betas might be a broad stroke romance while some of the other beta readers might have a specialty in historical or fantasy romance. Maybe they read sweet/clean romance and can tell you when you’re going too explicit for the genre. Same thing goes for all the other genres and subgenres. You want readers who enjoy that genre. Some beta readers are also sensitivity readers—used so you’re portraying a specific type of person/culture correctly without assuming stereotypical thoughts are accurate.
Easiest way to find betas, ask in your writer groups like Fiction Writing.
“I’m looking for beta readers for x and y genres. The current work is x-amount of words, and I would like to have this completed in x-time frame.”
Give your betas at least 2 weeks to read. 4 weeks would be nice if it’s a novel.
Betas aren’t just for novels. Micro-fiction to epics, betas can be a worthy investment.
Another way is to ask your newsletter subscribers. These people are already your fans, and some of them may be a great addition to any of your teams (Beta, ARC, Street Team).
Some writers give betas x-number of chapters to read and review in x-number of days, and as they finish their assigned chapters, they get access to the rest. It’s like a reward system.
You can use Word documents, Google Docs, etc. You want to make it easy for your betas to give you surgical feedback with track changes. It allows for efficient feedback by showing you exactly where someone had a question, a thought, a suggestion without you looking at this long list of things and not understanding where the betas’ feedback should be applied.
I strongly suggest you keep up with whom gives feedback and what type of feedback do they provide (use a Google Excel sheet if you have to).
You need a variety of opinions to decide if something is a problem or is something just a pet peeve of that reader. Sometimes it’s both.
Sometimes people aren’t a good fit for your style. Maybe they don’t understand that a beta offers advice and suggestions and not total rewrites. If you don’t keep track, you’re wasting your time having to go through their feedback and wasting their time because they spent the time to comment while you have no intention of using them. Just because they aren’t good for beta reading doesn’t mean they can’t be used in another area like Street Team or proofreading.
Another reason you need to keep up with whom beta’s and who doesn’t is you don’t need dead weight in your beta groups. It’s a drain to continually ask people “are you done yet,” when they have no inclination or ability to do so … consistently. It’s different if it’s a regular who can’t because of curveballs.
Betas do this for free. They get paid in reading things before anyone else and their opinions making a difference.
In FB Groups
It’s easier to interact with them because you’re on FB, they are on FB. You can share things in the group. You can let them share things in the group or maybe you have it locked down where they can’t.
You can set the group to closed or to secret. You can let as many people in as you want or keep it to a small number with an expected 20% not completing the reading for whatever reason.
Some authors do fun giveaways and give free paperbacks and gift cards in their beta groups as rewards, and others barely post in theirs except to inform the readers where the writer is at in their story and what’s in the wood works with an expected completion date.
There has been an emergence of paid betas, and some of them are worth it, but they could accomplish the same with a developmental editor, and you’d gain well more than just feedback going that route.
While this is a short jaunt into betas and a basic overview of what to do with them, why not ask your network what they do with theirs? They might give you an idea or point you to a FB group teeming with people looking to beta read, giving you a good jumping point. Maybe you guys create a beta group that all of you can use, sharing a valuable resource, or maybe you guard it like a treasure that a well-formed beta group is.
I don’t recommend using family and close personal friends. They might be good, they might not, but you need people who aren’t afraid to give you honest feedback, and most of the time, family and intimate friends don’t have the skills.
No matter what you do, remember that betas provide their opinions. And no matter what their opinions are, respect them. You might not agree, but you need to respect them, and you need to weigh their words with a business-like mind and not as a personal attack.
Don’t forget to like, comment, and subscribe for more WwD content.
This post was edited/proofed by ProWritingAid.