Welcome to the new series, friends! 🙂 This one is all about beta reading. If you’ve missed anything in my series about world building, or if you’d like to remind yourself of a couple of points, you can now find all posts neatly listed here 😉
Knowing how to be a good beta reader and what to ask for if you’re the writer is useful and all, but how do you actually find beta readers? It’s a question I’ve been asked several times since I’ve started this blog, so I thought it was the perfect topic to start with!
This was the most effective way for me. I asked here, and you answered! I had far more responses than I expected to receive, so this worked very well for me. You can take a look at my post here if you’d like to get a better idea of what I did:
I recommend you ask on your blog for another reason, too: The people who follow your blog are more likely to be interested in your progress than Twitter followers, for example, where most people follow someone without really thinking about it. Therefore, if you ask on your blog or website you’re more likely to get the word to people who are genuinely interested in your books, and actually want to help. I don’t need to spell out for you why that’s a good thing. And it brings me to my next point, too:
Now, I understand if you’re new to this blogging and writing thing you likely haven’t gone all out right away. That’s okay. These are suggestions, after all, and you don’t have to run with all of them! So don’t worry if you don’t have a newsletter.
If you do have one, however, I recommend that you use it to build your squad. Our inboxes are sacred; we don’t subscribe to someone’s mailing list unless we’re really, really interested. So, if you ask for beta readers via your newsletter, you can be sure that the people who open it actually care.
Social media can be excellent for getting the word out to as many people as possible as soon as possible. However, please be advised that a lot of people who follow you on social media won’t actually be interested in your books. Similar to giveaways, a lot of people might reply and follow you until they realise that they didn’t make it (which is okay, by the way – you can’t make everyone who volunteers a beta reader, that’d be insane, but I’ll come to that in a moment).
Therefore, if you’re going to ask on social media, I’d advise you only do it in conjunction with your blog. You could set up some simple guidelines, so you can be sure that the people who respond are definitely interested and know what you need from them.
Now, I admit, I haven’t actually tried this. I know there are several sites which specialise in getting beta readers and writers together, but because I haven’t tried it I can’t recommend any. I do, however, know a few writers who have done this with mixed results. Some betas you get are excellent. Others read one chapter or get halfway through your manuscript and then drop out, often without a word.
So ask on beta specific websites at your own risk. They can work out great, or you might waste a couple of months without receiving any input.
Having a squad of writers definitely has its advantages, but don’t forget that you’re not writing solely for other writers. You also want input from people who don’t obsess over grammar rules and theory books; you know, readers. It’s a good idea to have a mixture of the two, across all age groups, of both genders. Someone who wouldn’t normally read the genre you write can be just as valuable as a whole-life fan. Someone who loves your genre might get lost in the story and not notice smaller mistakes as a result. Someone who wouldn’t usually pick up a book like yours, on the other hand, might be more focused on spelling and grammar.
The more betas you have, the more opinions you’re going to get. In small numbers that’s a great thing – if one beta hates chapter four or Billy’s character development but the other five betas love it, you’ve likely got nothing to worry about. But do you know what happens when you have twelve betas? You get twelve opinions, some of them very different, and you’ll end up not knowing what to do. Does it really help you to know that three people hated Jianna, one person sort of disliked her, five people were indifferent but didn’t want her to die exactly, and the other three adored the ground she sways on? What do you do with that information? All it tells you is that some people love her and others don’t, but you probably already guessed that before you sent your book out to betas. After all, the same is true for everything we create.
But you don’t want too few betas, either. Imagine having two betas. One hates Charlie, the other doesn’t comment. Does that mean that Charlie is unlikable? Does it mean you have to cut her?
So how many betas should you have? Personally I recommend four to seven, but seven might already be pushing it. The best thing to do is to experiment, and see what works best for you. Too many opinions will quickly become overwhelming, but too few and you won’t learn anything. I’d say start with five, and if you then feel that you’re not receiving enough input you can always recruit a few more.
Having strangers read your book is the way to go, but knowing that you can trust people is a good thing, too. I know plenty of people on social media, for example, who I’m not that close to that I’d call us best friends exactly, but who I know would stick to their word and do a good job. Don’t just recruit your best friends who read all the time and your parents. They don’t make good beta readers unless they can be absolutely, brutally, honest with you, and most of your friends won’t want to do that. If you do recruit one or two friends, make sure you still recruit enough other betas to ensure complete honesty.
Asking here on CookieBreak worked best for me and I will ask in my newsletter, too, when the times comes (in a few weeks… stay sharp, friends). I will ask on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook as well, but I will lead people back here so I can explain my conditions properly and in detail.
In two weeks we’ll look at when the right time to ask for betas is, but before that 11 authors share their best marketing tips here next week! An Easter gift from us, to you 😉
How do you ask for betas? Have you gone over a website, and what’s your experience? (Recommendations welcome!) More importantly, do you have any more questions? 🙂 Make a tea, grab a cookie, and let’s chat!
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