Writing can be a solitary activity — especially when writing a book.

Sure, there are a wealth of creative writing blogs and podcasts for writers; nonetheless, the act of writing can be a lonely adventure.

For months or even years, it can be just you and your characters, as you painstakingly work to craft a story. All on your own, you’re wrestling with ideas, themes, and plotlines, trying to get everything just right.

If you are writing non-fiction, then it may be mountains of research that you have been contending with.

And when you finally finish your book, thrilled that you have completed this difficult endeavor, you may be eager to send it off to potential publishers (or even to self-publish right away).

But, wait!

A common mistake authors make is not seeking outside opinions.

No matter how hard you have worked on your book, how many drafts you have done, or how meticulously you have worked on every little detail, there is no way to escape the fact that you are too close to the material to be an unbiased reader.

Before you proceed to the publishing step, it is important that you get another set of eyes on the book to provide feedback.

What is a Beta Reader?

A beta reader is your first reader and is needed to offer a subjective response to your book.

The term has been borrowed from the computer world. “Beta testing” refers to a process of letting some users try out a program that hasn’t been finalized yet.

Your beta readers will perform the same function: getting a pre-publishing look at your book, and then providing you with feedback that you can use to help you make edits to the current draft.

How to Find Beta Readers for Your Novel

You may now be convinced that you do require beta readers, but are curious about where to find beta readers. The good news is there are a variety of solid sources for finding beta readers for your novel. Consider these options:

Start With Your Friends

When wondering how to find beta readers, you can start first by considering your friends and colleagues. They should be people whom you trust, whose opinions you value, and whom you think will offer you constructive responses.

Friends who are avid readers are a good bet. People who you have previously heard give thoughtful and detailed opinions about books, movies, art, or the like could be very helpful too.

Be aware of the potential pitfalls of having a friend or family member beta read your book. While they may be eager to read your masterpiece and volunteer their input, they may not be the most objective beta reader option. They may shy away from giving you their honest opinion in hopes of sparing your feelings. Therefore, if you have a friend, colleague, or family member willing to beta read your novel, be sure to tell them you want them to be brutally honest when answering your questions.

Join a Writer’s Group

If you are really at a loss for how to find beta readers, consider joining a writers’ group.

Through a site like MeetUp.com, you will find numerous groups where writers meet to share their work. There are also online writing groups where people share advice and give feedback on each other’s writing.

While a local writer’s group can seem like a natural source for finding beta readers, keep in mind that writer’s groups may not necessarily be skilled at providing feedback. For example, the group may get hyper focused on one particular aspect or chapter of the novel and not provide the overall feedback you are seeking.

There are many online writer’s groups to inquire about beta readers. Check out these writer’s groups:

Use Social Media

Social media platforms can also provide access to writer’s groups, including those that offer beta reader services. Check out these groups on Facebook:

Reddit and Instagram are also sources for beta readers on social media:

Aspiring authors understand the importance of building a social media presence for promoting their books, which can help increase sales. You can also make use of your Facebook or Instagram platform to solicit beta readers for your book in progress. Your own followers may include writers who happen to provide beta reader services — a surprising source when asking how to find beta readers.

Find Beta Readers on Goodreads

How do you go about finding beta readers on Goodreads? Goodreads beta readers are plentiful. This enthusiastic community of book lovers is a perfect spot to look when you are wondering how to find beta readers.

Some beta readers on Goodreads volunteer their time to read your novel and offer their suggestions, while others charge a fee. Some Goodreads beta readers are also writers themselves and work out swaps with another author to read each other’s books.

To find beta readers on Goodreads just follow these steps:

  1. Go to the Goodreads Beta Reader Group here.
  2. Sign in to your Goodreads account.
  3. Click on the “Join Group” tab.
  4. Review the various discussion groups, which include:
    • Authors seeking free betas
    • Betas offering free services
    • Paid services offered
    • Paid services requested
    • Special offers
  5. Select the pertinent beta discussion group, and connect with some beta readers.

How Should You Choose Your Beta Readers?

Finding a good fit in a beta reader is essential. When you are in the process of selecting the best beta readers for your novel, consider these important tips:

1. Do they enjoy reading your genre?

Find someone who actually likes to read the type of novel you have written. In other words, if the beta reader is a fan of historical novels, they probably aren’t going to enjoy reading your romance novel. If they enjoy the genre, they will be more experienced with it and can offer meaningful feedback.

2. Are they a demographic match?

Select beta readers in the same age group as your target audience. A boomer beta reader might be able to offer some valid feedback on a YA novel, but a young adult beta reader will provide more valuable insights pertaining to that audience.

3. Are they qualified?

Even though you are likely asking someone to volunteer their time to read your manuscript, you should still be selective. Look for beta readers who are writers themselves, and seek readers with editing backgrounds, if possible.

What Feedback Should You Get from Beta Readers of Your Novel?

So, what kind of feedback are you seeking from your beta readers? You will get the most out of the beta reader if you are clear about your expectations from the outset. Having a list of questions you’d like answered about your manuscript will also help. Consider these points when making your list:

  • Does the story flow smoothly? Is the pace of the story too slow, too erratic, or just right?
  • Are the characters fleshed out and interesting or likeable?
  • Are there plot holes?
  • Does the dialogue fit the characters?
  • Are there any dead zones?
  • Were there any inconsistencies in the plot?
  • Is the story enjoyable and satisfying to read?

Remember that a beta reader is not there to do your editing for you. They simply provide their feedback in response to your questions, and the rest is up to you.

How many beta readers do you need?

There is no magic number of people that you should ask to read your book, but three to five might be good.

Only having one is not ideal because you need multiple people to get a comprehensive set of viewpoints.

On the other hand, you don’t want to ask too many people because then you could find yourself overwhelmed by the amount of feedback you receive.

5 Great Beta Reader Questions to Ask

Many of the questions you will want to ask your beta readers will be particular to your novel, based on its style, subject, and genre. But here is a sampling of some of the most common beta reader questions that fiction writers will likely want to ask.

  1.     Did you find the story compelling?
  2.     Were there any points in the narrative where you felt confused or unsure about what was happening, and why?
  3.     Did you find the characters interesting?
  4.     Which themes in the story resonated with you?
  5.     Did you feel like you learned anything or were enriched in any special way as a result of reading the book?

Answers to these questions and others that you choose to ask your beta readers can provide you with some guidance for fixing gaps in your story, clarifying confusing passages, improving your characters, deepening your themes, and more.

What Happens Once the Beta Reading is Done?

Hopefully, you now feel confident that you know the answers to the questions “What is a beta reader?” “Why do I need one?” and “How many beta readers do you need?” Once you have finished the process of beta reading and polishing up your manuscript, check out Gatekeeper Press to find out how to get your book published by the best!

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