You’ve written your book and now you want to know how to find beta readers and what to ask them once you’ve found them.
First of all, congratulations on getting this far! It’s one thing to have written a book, it’s another altogether to feel comfortable enough going to other people and saying, “Hey, can you read this cool thing I wrote and give me totally awesome feedback to make it better?”
Okay, maybe those aren’t exactly the words you use but you get the gist. Your book is your work, your time and your passion project. Opening yourself to feedback is not easy to do at all. It takes a lot of thick skin, as well as putting your pride on the line.
I remember the first pieces of feedback I got from my book, Elementalists: The Fires of Canicus, when I asked people to beta read it.
“This chapter felt too long.”
“This didn’t make sense to me.”
“I didn’t really like this character. She was kind of dull and didn’t add much.”
“The first half of the book was really slow and hard to get into.”
Yikes! But to be fair, that was the bad, and there was also the good.
“Once I got past the first half I couldn’t put it down.”
“I loved Isaac! Every time he entered a scene I knew it would be good.”
“The way everything came together at the end felt really solid.”
Although I’m paraphrasing, this was some of the real feedback I received from my beta readers. I was able to take their advice and fix the bad and capitalize on the good. It was a humbling experience, but also a really cool one to know that people read something I wrote, even if it wasn’t perfect. I ended up condensing my first 10 chapters into 3 and reducing the word count by almost 50,000. Talk about much needed feedback!
But enough about that, let’s get into how to find beta readers.
When To Find Beta Readers
Okay, I lied… just a bit.
Before we can talk about how to find beta readers, let’s talk about when to find beta readers.
This is an extremely important step because… (seriously, read this part) – you are asking people to do you a HUGE favour.
You wrote something that’s likely between 60,000 to 100,000 words long. Maybe shorter, maybe longer, depending on your genre, fiction vs. non-fiction, etc. Either way, you have a substantial word count and that’s going to consume your beta reader’s personal time. They could be playing Pokémon Go, or hunting for narwhals, or jousting on horseback. Seriously, what do people do outside, anyway? Someone please leave a comment and let me know.
The point is, you’re asking your beta readers to give up their personal time to do something for you. Oh, and you’re not paying them for it either.
“But they’re getting to read a book for free!”
I can just hear this being used as an argument, which leads me to my next point.
Your book is still imperfect and has flaws at this point.
If it wasn’t, you wouldn’t be reading an article on how to find beta readers. But you are, and for that reason alone it’s important to respect your beta readers’s time. Get your book to the point where it’s (in your honest opinion) the best it can possibly be without help from someone who has an impartial, outside perspective.
For me, that meant one full year of editing by myself, going through my book from start to finish, every page, every word, four times.
Also, I’m not saying you won’t find someone who is just totally psyched and thrilled at having a chance to read your book before its published. There are people out there who will love to beta read. I was fortunate enough to find someone like this who I now consider a good friend and my book’s #1 superfan.
While it can happen, you’re still more likely to need to search a bit.
How to Find Beta Readers
See? I told you we’d get to this part.
The bad news, there is no huge ‘go-to one-stop-shop’ for how to find beta readers. The good news – it’s still possible, it’s just going to take a little bit of work, no matter how you go about doing it.
Beta readers; how do you find them?
1. Your Personal Circles
Depending on who in your circle of friends, family and acquaintances enjoys reading, this could either be a fantastic or a terrible place to look. Just remember, by asking someone you know to read your work they’re doing you a favour – not the other way around.
If you’re going to go this route, once they’ve read your book, I suggest making the process of receiving feedback a more personal experience. As a way of saying thank you, treat your beta reader(s) to drinks or dinner and make things informal. Feel free to take notes, just don’t make your beta reader’s feel like they’re under a microscope.