How can I find beta readers? How can I use beta readers to improve my book?

What are – and how do you find -beta readers? Can they really improve the draft of your book? I’ve worked with beta readers now for four books and I’m finding them essential! They’ve provided me great ideas and helped me work out story problems before my books were published. I’ve found them a great help to me in finding plot holes (which I fix), developing characters, and adding new scenes to my book.

What are Beta Readers?

Beta readers are merely readers who volunteer to read your story in its draft form and provide feedback. If you are fortunate, these beta readers will leave the first reviews for your book once it is published.

When selecting beta readers, it’s best that they are strangers or acquaintances interested in reading the type of book you are writing. It’s best if they are not friends and family. because they may hesitate to voice their feedback, worried you might be offended by their criticism.

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There are also specialized Beta Readers:

When you feel unsure about your level of knowledge, find a beta reader to help you.

Sensitivity readers – will review your book and see if it there are problems with minority representation. This is important with Never Date a Siren as the main fae character is black. Sensitivity readers can also give you feedback on LGBTQ characters and their representation in your book.

Language or Cultural experts: If writing about a country, you aren’t familiar with, having someone local on the ground really helps. The College Fae YA fantasy series is set on an international stage and many things need to be confirmed, especially the German phrases.

Wicked Wolves of Windsor and other Fairytales has several Irish references. I lucked out with two Irish beta readers. It also has a character from Puerto Rico and I wanted the Spanish checked with someone from that country.

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Where do you find Beta Readers?

I’ve been lucky enough to put out a call through my social media and located some very good ones. However, if you are starting from scratch there are places you can go and put out a request.

Just be aware you want readers who are familiar with your genre and like reading it.

When do you let Beta Readers start reading your work?

I’m sure you have your own process, but this is my sequence of writing and drafting. Not until I’m about halfway through my process do I start working with beta readers. You don’t want to give them an incomplete or confusing story – that will impact how much they can do for you.

1.) Write 1st draft (zero draft)
2.) Revise story (2nd and 3rd drafts)
3.) Throughout this process use Grammarly Pro to catch mechanical errors (typos, grammar, etc.) 4th draft
4.) Share manuscript (MS) with Alpha reader (husband, writer’s critique group).
5.) Incorporate feedback, make edits I agree with, add more scenes, for this 6th draft.
6.) Check it with Grammarly Pro before posting to beta readers via Beta Books.
7.) Collect feedback, revise and change what I feel is needed. 7th draft.
8.) Grammarly Pro check again. 8th draft.
9.) Submit MS for professional edit to editor. 9th draft.
10.) Complete last changes on MS. Let husband re-read. 10th draft.
11.) Final Grammarly Pro check. 11th draft.
12.) Self-publish

How do you share your story with Beta Readers?

In the past, I’ve tried sharing my draft through a mobi file that Beta Readers could read via their Kindle. However, it caused all sorts of confusion, which resulted in readers losing interest in helping me! Another problem with emailing a file to beta readers is it opens you up to piracy as files can now be easily passed around.

I much prefer a more formal method to provide my books to beta readers. I’ve also found that by using a website platform designed for beta reading that I get better feedback and have more control over how to track what readers are doing. I’ve used Beta Books, an online software, three times and I’m loving it!

Beta Books website sharing app

  • Free version allows 1 book, 3 readers.
  • $14 per month. Pay for just the months you need – put your account on hold when you don’t need it, and reactivate it later. 
  • Designed specifically for beta readers  
  • Readers read the book on a mobile-friendly website
  • No downloads needed by the reader, easy and secure
  • Can gather feedback inline, by chapter, or by questionnaire
  • Tracks what each reader has read
  • Nice management tools for seeing who commented what and where
  • You can promote your book to their own Beta Readers via their website.

What I like so far about Beta Books:

The book is shared online only. No one downloads it to their Kindle but must read it by logging into the website. This prevents confusion and also keeps your documents secure (it isn’t floating around on the internet unsupervised or lost in someone’s email);

It allows you to turn off the account when not needed so you don’t incur additional charges on months when beta readers are not active. This was the only app I looked at that stated up front they did this.

You can list questions at the end of chapters to spark discussion. Often beta readers don’t know what to say or how to respond so this option has allowed me to encourage more feedback this go-around.

The notes from beta readers is easily organized and can be marked as read, to do, consider, etc.. making it easy to keep track of people’s suggestions.

Best of all? I know EXACTLY how much beta readers have read. This means I can award my gifts to people who actually helped me out by reading the book and commenting.

There is a beta reading community on Beta Books which you can announce the availability of your book.

Other beta reader services

Beta Books was one of several apps I tested. Here are some others I reviewed, but decided not to use.

  • Free version allows 1 book, 3 readers.
  • $10 per month subscription. 
  • Readers read the book in the app or on the website.
  • No downloads needed by the reader, easy and secure
  • Allows readers to add comments directly in the book
  • Tracks what each reader has read
  • Feedback data only available for 30/90 days
  • No pause your subscription option that I saw.
  • I also didn’t like the limitation of my feedback data.

Story Origin

  • Free for now
  • Not designed for beta readers, focused more on reviewers and free giveaways
  • Readers download the pdf or mobi file
  • Limited tracking, only available for reviews

Book Connect

  • $37 per month, billed annually. 
  • Designed for reviewers and book distribution, not beta readers
  • Downloads files to the reader, provides some instructions for how to view them.
  • No tracking of reader progress.
  • No comments

Book Funnel

  • $20 per month,billed annually. 
  • Designed for reviewers and book distribution, not beta readers
  • Downloads files to the reader, provides some instructions for how to view them.
  • No tracking of reader progress.
  • No comments

Do you use beta readers? Tell me about your experiences below!

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