How to Use Beta Readers to Launch your Book
The best feeling for an author is to complete the manuscript – ‘The End.’ It is a moment of celebration since you have accomplished something that most writers want to but cannot do.
If you think the journey is over post manuscript completion, you are mistaken. You may have done infinite rounds of self-edits, but there is still a lot to be done. The best way to know how your book shaped-up is to get beta readers – volunteers who will read your work and provide feedback. It is always better to go through this stage. Beta Readers are not replacements for editors. While professional editors find loopholes, grammatical errors, comment on character development and make your book better, beta readers give honest reviews for a reader.
If you are planning to skip the stage, you should reconsider.
How to know my book is ready for beta readers?
Your manuscript should be 100% complete, and there should be no missing scenes or events. You should have done multiple rounds of self-editing and, if possible, use some online software for editing. You should be happy, satisfied, and ready to share your book with readers.
What are beta readers & how does it help?
If you had run a business or worked for any software development company, you would know the concept of beta. Software companies release a beta version of their software to see how it performs and ensure it is bug-free.
In similar lines, authors need a beta reader to understand how the book reads to a general reader – to see if the plot is understandable and ensure there are no loopholes and remote spots in the book. Every writer has a weakness; you, too, will have. The problem is, as young writers, you may not be aware of your vulnerability. The feedback from beta readers will give you a chance to address the issue with your manuscript before you publish it.
Who do you choose as beta readers?
Before you know who to choose beta readers, you must know whom not to choose. Your friends and family members are strict, no as beta readers. They love you and also your work, so they won’t ever give you honest feedback. You are not looking for glowing comments on your work but honest feedback to improve upon. Remember, by choosing the right people, you build a team to promote your book, called the ‘book beta team.’
The people you should be looking for are:
- A member of your target audience – it is essential for you to know your book resonates with your audience, so find a beta reader from your genre.
- A friend of a friend – People who know you will read between the lines putting their understanding in the book. For that reason, pick someone who will understand the things as they are written.
- Someone who can be blunt – You are looking for someone to give you positive, constructive, and honest feedback.
- Someone reliable – You are giving your complete work to someone; it is of utmost importance the person you are choosing is honest and will provide the feedback as per the timelines agreed.
Here are a few questions you should ask the potential beta-readers to determine if they are the right fit:
- What is their age?
- What is their purpose of reading: to be emotionally engaged or entertained?
- Why do they enjoy reading?
- How much time do they invest in reading?
Where do you find beta readers?
Just like you can find any author on Goodreads, you can find beta readers on Goodreads. Goodreads is a huge platform, and it has people like editors, proofreaders, reviewers, readers, and authors on the forum. You can find thousands of beta reader groups on Goodreads; you can join the groups and pitch with your manuscript.
Another platform where you can easily find beta readers is Facebook groups. You can join ‘Beta-reader’ groups on Facebook, and connect directly with beta readers, tell them about your manuscript and decide if they are suitable for beta reading.
You can also get beta readers on platforms like Twitter and Instagram using correct hashtags. Remember to use that hashtag carefully and in all the posts related to the upcoming book.
Fiverr.com is another platform where you can get professional beta readers who will share honest feedback after reading your manuscript.
CP Matchmaking is a matchmaking website that helps authors find correct beta readers who match them the best.
How many beta readers do you need for your book?
You should have no minimum or a maximum number of beta readers, but you should always work with more than one beta reader. A good number will be four to five readers. A good beta reader will give feedback and take care of the editing part (finding such a reader is demanding!). If you are low on budget for your book, the more such beta readers you see, the better for you. It is essential for you to know, even if a beta reader gives you feedback related to editing, you can’t replace them will a professional editor. A beta reader is not obliged to point mistakes at every line, unlike an editor.
Do beta readers get paid?
A lot of writers have this question – to pay or not to pay. In a typical case scenario, the beta readers are not paid. However, it would be unfair for writers not to give anything to beta readers. As an author, there are many things you can do to thank the reader for the time they have to spend on the book. The best thing to give is a copy of your book once it is published. You can mention their name in the notes somewhere in the book. If a beta reader is an author, you can do a barter service where both parties benefit.
In some cases, beta readers do ask for a payment, and it is up to you to go for service or not.
How to work with beta readers?
If you think finding a beta reader is an easy task, you should know – it is not. It is not a task but a process, and you need to follow every step. You should know that you are asking someone to invest their precious time reading your work. Paid or free, you are asking for a favor and not the other way round. Here are the steps you need to follow:
- Finding the ideal beta reader – Your book is for a specific set of people. The beta readers you want to have on your list should be part of that set. The beta reader should be someone who has not read your work before, so you get a fresh perspective. The reader should be interested in your genre; else, the chances of them leaving the book in between increase.
- Establishing deadlines – Once you have found your beta readers, you should give them the blurb of your book and the number of words in your manuscript. You should also tell them the date by which you want them to provide the feedback. If they agree with your timelines, then only you should go ahead with them. Do note, unexpected things do happen in life, and since reading your book won’t be on someone’s priority list, you should always be prepared for a two or three days delay in receiving the feedback.
- Briefing what type of feedback you need – getting vague feedback won’t help you much. You need to give clear instructions on the type of feedback you want. The basic instruction could be as follows:
- Ask them to take notes as they read the book. Ask them to mention the lines/scenes they liked and disliked. You can also ask them to make a prediction or ask them to write down their thought of what is going to come once they finish a chapter.
- Ask for specific details like the areas they felt were missing or something was off or the part of the book they did not understand or was confusing.
- Once they provide you specific feedback, they should give a reason for the same. For example, if the beta readers tell you, ‘I did not like the second para on page 21.’ They should also give a supporting reason, ‘It is because the lines were…..’
If the beta readers are not professionals, it is best to give them a list of questions, namely:
- How was the opening scene? Did it capture your attention?
- Did the dialogues keep your interest?
- Did you feel there are any loopholes?
- Did you find any grammatical errors or typos?
- Is the book easy-flowing? Does each scene flow naturally?
- How are the characters built?
- Do the dialogues feel natural?
- How was the ending? Are you satisfied with the ending?
- Collecting feedback – Collect the feedback from all the beta readers and look at them critically. Not everything they have said needs to be changed. YouAt the end of the day, you are the best judge of your work. However, if there is feedback like – ‘The dialogues were far too less,’ ‘The word love was used too many times on page 23.’ etc., you should work on such feedback. A good rule of thumb is to make a change to your manuscript if it’s something you wholeheartedly agree with or if more than half of your beta readers have suggested the same change.
Once you have made changes as per the beta reader’s suggestion, you will have to start the editing process. You should always thank your beta reader, a thank you card or even a thank you mail will bring a smile to their face. Sending them the physical copy of the book also works wonders. They have volunteered their effort and time to help you write a better manuscript, so make sure to show your appreciation.