Beta readers: authors need them, but how do they find them? And what do they actually do? Should you pay them?

What Are Beta Readers?

As writers – especially first-time writers, make their way down the path toward publication, they come face to face with terms they haven’t heard before, timelines they hadn’t considered, and so on and so forth. It can be a lot. Before succumbing to the overwhelm that seems to perch itself above every creator’s head, let me unpack what beta readers are.

Beta readers will read your book before it's been published.
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Beta readers are those who will read your book, typically before it’s been published. They’ll provide feedback on subject matter, cohesiveness, etc.

Who Should Beta Readers Be?

Beta readers should be a member of your ideal audience for you to get the best feedback. Someone who has never lived in Peru shouldn’t beta read a book about what life is like there – because they don’t have any experience in that. Someone who doesn’t like horror shouldn’t be a beta reader for a horror story. They won’t understand the trope as much, and if they don’t like horror, they won’t like your book. Additionally, family and other loved ones don’t always make the best beta readers. Sometimes those who love us are hesitant about letting us know where we fall flat. The purpose of a beta reader is to ensure your book is ready for mass consumption.

Help your beta readers out – if you’re wanting to make sure a specific plot point, or character quirk is really communicating, let them know. They can then look for that and let you know if it’s working or not.

Do You Pay Them?

While sites like FIVERR have people who offer their paid services for beta reading, you shouldn’t necessarily have to pay a beta reader. There are communities and groups on social media that are dedicated to connecting authors with beta readers. That being said, if you do decide to use FIVERR and pay someone for their time, make sure you read reviews of people who have used them for their own book. You want to make sure you’re getting what you paid for.

When To Get a Beta Reader:

Finally, when should you be getting a beta reader? Everyone has their own opinion, but I firmly believe your beta reader should come after your developmental edit, but before your copy edit (copy editing being done right before publication). You can even tell your beta reader not to worry about the errors that copy editing will address as that is not their responsibility.

A beta reader can be someone you know, but they should also know and understand the topic.
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That doesn’t mean you can’t shoot chapters over to your bestie to get their opinion as they’re written, but think of beta readers as your first readers.  If they loved your book, you could ask them to write a review, which is always the goal!

It can be scary, asking someone to read your book, especially if they might not like it, but you’ve gotten this far. You might as well get that much closer to the finish line.