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Use Beta Readers to Strengthen Your Stories

June 12, 2015 by Fiction Editor Beth Hill
last modified June 12, 2015

This article began as advice for writers getting ready to self-publish, advice to remind them that someone else should read their stories before they’re released to the public. Yet the information about beta readers is useful for both those self-publishing and those seeking the traditional path to publication.

Someone’s got to read your manuscripts—and give you feedback—before you publish or submit your stories. And that someone—preferably several someones—needs to be honest and bold and at least familiar with fiction and, one would hope, with the genre of your story.

You’re fooling yourself if you think your story is perfect and doesn’t need vetting. You’re fooling yourself if you think a read by your spouse or mother, by those who love you unconditionally and would never say anything negative about your work, is sufficient. You’re fooling yourself if you think that talking over your plot with a best friend, especially one who expresses fascination with the story events, will satisfy the need for someone to make a thorough and honest evaluation of your novel manuscript.

A friend can share an opinion about your story idea, but that’s nowhere near the vetting needed for a manuscript you’re getting ready to publish. An idea is not the story itself, so an opinion about the idea is nothing like a critique of the story that shows up on the page. Solicit real critique and a forthright assessment of the actual manuscript. And get evaluations from a variety of sources, from individuals with different skills and outlooks. You’ll want evaluations of depth and breadth.

Yet you won’t want to solicit feedback too soon. Asking for opinions and advice before the story is firm in your head is a mistake. Work with a critique partner if you need help with writing issues or to help you through problem areas—that’s not what I’m talking about here. But don’t solicit feedback from beta readers while you’re still creating, while the story is in its formative stage. You need to write the story as you see it. Worry about fixes after you get your vision down in some kind of cohesive, coherent form.

Let’s talk a bit about readers who can help you get your story into shape.

______________________

You’re the alpha reader, the one who gives a novel its first and second and third reads. But you can notice only so much in your own work. There are errors and weaknesses you’ll never see until another reader points them out.

You need someone else to read and note problem areas. Your beta readers are test readers, those you trust to read your manuscripts and give you honest feedback. You’re not looking for atta-boys and praise here, though if a reader can point out something that works well (and maybe the reason that it does) that’s a plus. You do want to find plot and character weaknesses. You want to know where wording runs in circles with no point. You need to know if your story has confusing subplots or subplots that end abruptly or that have no resolution at all. You should want to know where the boring parts are so you can eliminate them.

You should want to know when characters fall short, where readers stop reading or skip over paragraphs or large sections of text, and where the story’s confusing.

You want a beta reader to find the holes and problems in your stories before a critic or fan does.

You want your betas to point out anything that strikes them as odd, that doesn’t work, and that has them scratching their heads, wondering what you had to drink the day you wrote a particular passage.

Whether your beta readers are a critique group or critique partners or other readers who can speak knowledgeably about novels and fiction, someone has to read your story. And they have to tell you where the weak spots are. They don’t have to know how to fix them; if they do that’s great and you should be paying those readers for their expertise. But knowledge of the bad places and problem issues is sufficient for you to make changes. To at least examine the story.

And you’ll want to listen when this reader or readers points out the weak places.

You actually want them to find the weak places.

Don’t ignore what a trusted reader tells you. If you’re going to ignore everything a beta reader says, then you need a new beta reader.

This doesn’t mean you have to change everything a reader mentions or do everything he or she suggests (if suggestions are even made). It means the section of the story or the story element mentioned is worth looking at again.

Your beta readers need to be able to tell you anything without fear of hurting your feelings. A beta is no good to you if she can’t or won’t tell you the truth, even if the truth is that your lead character is wholly unlikable. Or that your mystery can be solved by chapter 3. Your ending is implausible. Your plot is identical to a current best-seller. Your story is beyond boring and your beta reader couldn’t get past page 70.

If you say you can take it, that you’re thick-skinned, yet you make excuses for what you’ve put on the page, or if you whine that a problem is only a teeny-tiny problem, that you can’t believe your reader is even pointing out the issue, or if you rip your beta reader for telling the truth, then you’re not ready for an audience. And you’re not making the best use of your betas.

A beta reader is doing you a service; give her reasons to want to do it again. Or at least give her reasons to find the experience enjoyable.

Yes, you want to know about problems before you publish. Yes, you want to know about even the smallest of problems, the kind you didn’t notice or overlooked as inconsequential. No, you don’t have to agree that a stated problem is a true problem. But if several beta readers point out a problem, you can be sure other readers will see that exact weakness as well. And if a trusted beta tells you something is off, investigate the issue. And maybe see if she can tell you more, help pinpoint what feels off.

If you’re self-publishing, you owe your readers the courtesy of a good read. You owe them the courtesy of a cogent read. You owe them standard grammar and punctuation.

Beta readers will help ensure that’s what you publish.

If you’re charging readers for the privilege of reading your work, you need to make it work that you’re proud of, a story they wouldn’t mind admitting they read. A story worth the money they invest in it.

You wouldn’t serve crap in a restaurant; don’t serve it to your readers. Use beta readers to help you recognize garbage and stinky writing.

Please understand that I’m not telling you that others know better than you do about your stories and characters. I’m not saying you’re always wrong and your beta readers are right. I am saying you’re human and therefore imperfect and that your manuscripts will also be imperfect. Yet while writing is a solitary endeavor, that doesn’t mean you can’t use or solicit help. Seeking advice is not cheating.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with advice and counsel.

 

What to do with Beta Readers

Beta readers should not be reading an incomplete first draft. Beta readers, like beta testers of software, should get a strong working model of the project. You don’t want beta readers to help form your book, not in the early stages. You make the decisions of who and what and when and where. Let beta readers find the problem areas—don’t enlist them to help you write.

You can, of course, have a critique partner or mentor help you with problems in an early draft or with passages as you’re writing, but don’t approach your beta readers until the manuscript is in a (not necessarily the) final form. They shouldn’t be reading notes and unfinished scenes. They should be reading a manuscript that approaches the quality of a book. And that may mean draft number four or five.

You can request that your readers offer feedback on any issue, no matter how large or small. Tell them they can make notes and/or write in the margins of the hard copy or use Track Changes in a Word doc if that works for you and for them.

Or you can prime them with questions before they read, have them alert for particular issues. Use this option if you want to guide their responses

Or you may ask them to read first and then answer questions when they’re through. Use this option if you don’t want to influence their read or responses.

No matter your approach, always give beta readers a chance to comment on any issue, not only those you’re particularly interested in. If they note a problem, you need to know about it.

Recognize that you may have to have beta readers for multiple versions of a story. If that means you need a handful of readers—because you don’t want to overburden one or two betas with too many requests—get a group of readers ready. Be prepared for what you’ll need.

If you intend for your betas to read multiple versions of the same story, keep in mind that they may not be able to separate one version from another, especially if you ask them to read those versions virtually back to back.

They may mix up events that you dropped from an earlier version with those you’ve added to the new version. Keeping versions separate is a skill, not one everyone has or will think to call on as they’re reading your work.

Don’t take advantage, in the negative sense, of those willing to read and offer you feedback. Ask them for help only when you’re truly ready for them.

▪  Provide a format they can work with, whether that means hard copy, file (doc, pdf, or ePub), or even a flash drive

▪  Reciprocate and do something equally valuable for your beta readers

▪  Give them sufficient time to read and to work through your questions

▪  Give serious consideration to every comment, suggestion, and question

▪  If you don’t understand the feedback, push for explanations

▪  Never complain about your beta readers publicly or privately

▪  Make beta reading a positive experience for your readers and don’t berate them for sharing honest and what might be difficult-to-share comments

▪  Set your ego aside

▪  Thank your readers profusely

 

Questions for Beta Readers

Remember to include both big-picture and detail-level questions. Go for questions that don’t allow for yes or no answers unless that’s specifically what you’re looking for. Always push for follow-up.

Be considerate of your beta readers—don’t necessarily hand them a long list such as this one. Pick the topics you want answers about.

And unless your beta readers are fellow writers, don’t use writing terms or jargon. Put your questions into words they’ll understand.

You’ll likely want to adjust your questions and concerns for each manuscript and each version of a manuscript, but here are a few questions to give you ideas about what you could ask.

▪  Where does the story get boring? Where else?

▪  Where were you confused by what was happening?

▪  Where and how were you confused by the characters, about why they do what they do?

▪  Which characters couldn’t you keep straight? Which characters were too much alike?

▪  When in the story did you realize you were reading a romance (thriller, mystery, western, and so on)?

▪  Where did you have to reread?

▪  Where was the story too slow?

▪  What did you really like? Why? Did those sections touch your emotions? Which? Was it the style of writing—the words or the flow—you liked or the story actions and events or the characters?

▪  Rank your top three story events/moments.

▪  Rank your top three characters.

▪  What didn’t you like? What character or event or moment?

▪  What character(s) didn’t you like? What about him didn’t you like? Did you dislike him so much that you didn’t want to read about him, or did that dislike make you want to see him get what he deserved at the end?

▪  Is the bad guy bad enough? Sneaky enough? Evil enough?

▪  Does the main character (refer to her by name) seem believable? Did you care about her enough to worry whether she’d get _______? (Fill in the blank with whatever it is she’s after—the guy, the treasure, the respect of her father, the bad guy.)

▪  Does the bad guy (refer to her by name) seem believable? Was she a sufficient threat to the main character?

▪  Could the story’s problem have been solved in two pages with a good discussion? That is, was the main problem too basic? Did you find the characters too easily fooled or confused?

▪  Which scene(s) did you hate? Which did you love?

▪  Which section(s) of dialogue had your attention? Which had you yawning?

▪  Which sections were plodding—too boring, too detailed, or just too long?

▪  Could you picture where the story took place? Where each event took place? Describe the story’s location as you understood it.

▪  What do you want more of? Less of? A taste of because it’s completely missing?

▪  What did you find disappointing?

▪  Does enough happen in terms of story events?

▪  Does the end satisfy? Would you read more about these characters?

▪  Where did you cry? Laugh? Shiver?

▪  What did you think of the scene where ______ (point out a specific event) happened?

▪  Did you care what happened to _____? (Name the characters.) Why or why not?

▪  Which characters talked too much?

▪  Which characters thought too much?

▪  Where was the pace too slow or too fast? Where?

▪  When did you first notice the _____ ? (Supply a symbol or theme or object.) How did it make you feel?

▪  When did you know who the murderer (or the culprit) was? Who else had you convinced he or she had done it?

▪  Would you have been satisfied with a shorter story or did you want more?

▪  What were you left wondering about? What questions went unanswered?

 

Last Words

Add questions peculiar to your characters, plot, or genre. You want to be specific but at the same time you may not want specifics to limit your readers’ responses. Leave space in your questionnaire for comments concerning any topic. Invite beta readers to tell you anything, positive or negative, about the story.

Be clear about what level of response you’re looking for. If you’re not looking for a line edit, make sure your beta readers understand that they’re not editing for spelling, punctuation, and grammar. At the same time, don’t discourage them from pointing out a persistent problem. (And make all versions of the story that betas read as clean as possible so that they’re not distracted by spelling, grammar and punctuation issues.)

Be prepared to discover that your story has problems and issues that need to be addressed before you move toward publishing or submitting. The revelation that a story isn’t perfect even after three or four drafts can be eye opening for the beginning novelist. Don’t be surprised for beta readers to find a lot of issues that need attention. Once you work through the full writing, rewriting, and editing process a couple of times, with a couple of manuscripts, you’ll recognize that finding weaknesses and making changes is simply another stage of the creation process.

Use the responses from beta readers as one more tool to help you strengthen your stories. You don’t have to change everything they mention, but if several readers bring up the same issue, you need to examine it, see where you could make changes to improve the story or eliminate the problem.

Look behind the answers to get at problems. Try to determine whether one problem is related to another. And then see if you can’t solve multiple problems with a single solution. Any time you link story issues or elements, you tighten the threads that hold your story together, and that’s always a plus. Tightly woven stories have internal cohesion that makes every element of every scene seem as if it belongs to the whole. And that makes for satisfying fiction.

Find beta readers you can trust, provide a venue that allows them to speak freely, and then take advantage of what they tell you.

Use beta readers to help you produce a story worth reading.

***

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Tags: ,     Posted in: Beyond the Basics, Writing Tips

20 Responses to “Use Beta Readers to Strengthen Your Stories”

  1. Cillian says:

    That’s all well and good but where do I find Beta Readers? Everyone I know, knows me, as you’d imagine and I’m not too comfortable just throwing my work around the internet. What trusted service or place does one go to in order to find unbias beta readers?

    • Cillian, I knew that question would come up. I should have addressed the issue in the article when that little voice told me to.

      Do you have friends who read in your genre? Perhaps one or two of them would be willing to read. (I once picked 6 friends with different interests and communications styles, but all readers, to read a manuscript. I was trying to get a feel for what different readers would find.)

      Do you belong to a writing group? A critique group? There are writing groups everywhere, including in-person groups and internet groups. Become a member, see what the group is like, check out how they critique or read for one another. Even if the group doesn’t critique as a whole, it’s likely you’ll find one or two people you could ask to read for you.

      Writing organizations—Romance Writers of America, Mysteries Writers of America, and so forth—may have ways of finding compatible beta readers. If they don’t have a particular service set up for matching beta readers, they at least have forums where you can ask. If you don’t feel comfortable using beta readers you’ve never met in person, go to a local meeting of these kinds of groups.

      Goodreads has a beta readers group. You could always try them.

      Vet potential beta readers at writer’s conferences. Talk to attendees between sessions and see if you can’t find someone you’d be able to work with.

      Sign up for a writing class at a local college and then network with the other writers there. You won’t be the only one looking for beta readers.

      If you really want to meet your beta readers in person and can’t find a local group, start one. Meet at a library or coffee house or community center once or twice a month.

      Visit writing forums. When you find one you like, see if they have a service for soliciting beta readers. Or check to see if it’s okay to solicit for beta readers in the forums themselves.

      No matter where you meet readers, if they’re strangers to you, start small, with maybe a few chapters. Agree on what you want them to search for. Agree on what you’ll do in return for them.

      Developing a trusted group of beta readers won’t happen over night. And it’s likely that you’ll find some readers who simply won’t work for you and your genre or style or even your style of accepting feedback. And even when a beta reader does work out, they eventually may tire of the task, so you may have to always be on the lookout for new readers.

      Can you use any of these ideas to get you started?

  2. mar says:

    I can’t even find good critiquers, much less beta readers.

    • Mar, you could try any of the options I suggested to Cillian.

      Are you looking for something specific in your critique partners/group? Or I should ask, what seems to be missing from critiques you’ve gotten? What kind of help are you looking for that they’re not providing?

      A writing group filled with all beginners means that the critique offered a more experienced writer probably won’t be sufficient. Some of the critique will be accurate, of course. But with a critique partner or critique group, you want someone who will challenge and push you. Writers just learning how to critique probably won’t be able to give you what you need. That means a more experienced group is what you should be looking for. And that may be harder to find. Still, many writers are helpful, willing to work with other writers. As I suggested to Cillian, you might want to start your own writing and/or critique group in your area.

      • mar says:

        I’ve tried everything, except paying someone and that’s because I can’t afford it. I’ve tried on-line and face-to-face groups; I’ve gone to writers festivals, workshops… I’ve taken classes; and yes, I even tried my own group (there was not much interest because the location wasn’t right).

        What is missing from the critiques I’ve received?
        Constructiveness. The critiques I normally get are centered around the likes and dislikes of the critics and don’t include any explanations, suggestions or examples.

        What am I really looking for?
        I’m looking for a capable, committed and supportive writing partner and/or mentor to read my work and give me well thought out feedback aimed at helping me improve my work. My ideal writing partner/mentor should be interested in a variety of genres and forms of writing, specially MG and YA and the novel and short story forms. S/he should be at my writing level, at least (no newbies), and be serious and passionate about writing.

        • Mar, your needs, then, go beyond what a beta reader can do for you. For a mentor or critique partner, I still think the best place to find one would be in a writing group. Whether that means online or local, I don’t know. Either should have other writers looking for readers.

          For help to improve your work, you’re looking for someone who not only can teach, but who’s willing to do so. Someone with the time to do so. You’re looking for a partner to share the writing journey, if I understand what you’re getting at.

          A good critique partner would be an excellent find, but finding the right person could well take a while. You don’t want just anyone, but someone you can trust and who can trust you (because if you’re talking critique partner, you’ll be critiquing in turn).

          I suggest giving writing groups another shot. Or try a writing class, workshop, or seminar where you spend time with a small group of dedicated writers. You may need to pay for the class or seminar, but it’s likely you’ll meet a couple of people you can then get together with outside the class. A bit more time is involved here because you’re talking relationship, not only asking for someone to just read your work one time.

          Finding a mentor rather than a critique partner may be even more difficult. A mentoring relationship is likely one you’ll build into out of another kind of writing relationship. Maybe a teacher or writing professional who attends a writing group might agree to take you on. But a mentoring relationship is either based on pay or the mentor’s desire to help other writers. A mentor goes well beyond the activities of beta readers and even beyond those of critique partners. If you want someone to teach you, you’ve either got to do something in return or simply find an individual who’s gift is mentoring.

          I have a small group of writing friends who first met online as part of a writing community. A group with like interests broke off of that group and then the very small group broke off of that second group. We’ve known each other for eight years now and have built up a lot of trust. I suggest you find a community online—search writer’s forums and communities. Get to know the group members and eventually (I admit it can take a while) pick out a couple of people to approach about being critique partners. Go into the relationship knowing that it might not work out.

          You can also approach a teacher or group facilitator (at the local level) about a mentoring relationship. Some people are naturally great mentors and if they have the time, they welcome helping out other writers.

          ———–

          I wish you success at finding the right mentor and critique partner (even if they’re two different people). Maybe you’ll keep us updated so we can know how this works out for you.

          • mar says:

            Thank you for the advice and good wishes. I know you mean well, but I think you got me all wrong. When I said I needed someone to give me “well thought out feedback aimed at helping me improve my work”, I didn’t mean I needed someone to explain every little detail. All I want is what every single writer serious about writing wants: constructive feedback. I mean, if someone tells me they don’t like my male protagonist because he doesn’t have any redeeming qualities and that it’d be better if he shows some vulnerability at some point, I can work with that. But if someone says that I should get rid of my protagonist because he reminds her of her jerk ex-boyfriend, that’s just not good enough– I don’t write about anybody’s ex boyfriend, including mine. Honestly.

            I definitely don’t need someone to “be able to teach” me. I’ve been writing and studying the craft for nearly two decades. I’m not saying my work is perfect because it’s not, but I know it’s not bad either. What I lack the most is confidence.

            As I already said, I’ve been doing the critique and workshop thing for years (I’m currently an active member of two face-to-face groups, plus several online ones). I’ve given hundreds of critiques and a few beta readings. I know a lot about writing, but I’m not able to finish many MSS. Halfway through most of them, I lose confidence and start procrastinating. And no, it’s not to do with ideas or plot… I just start doubting myself. I’ve tried so hard to fight this. I even enrolled in a writing and editing course just so I could be pushed. I managed to write over 30k words in a year and a half. To me, that’s huge. You might want to know why I didn’t continue with the course. The course only had two novel writing classes and I did them both. And yes, I did look around for similar classes but couldn’t find any.
            It was my novel writing teacher who actually suggested I get a mentor. He said my work was good enough and that all that I needed was someone to help me tame my inner critic.
            Of course, I didn’t just take his word for it. I also did an on-line workshop with an agent (I did the research, all legitimate) to find out if I was good enough. The agent corroborated what my teacher had said. She even requested to see more of my work. Unfortunately I didn’t have anything in the specific genre finished.

            I don’t want charity. I’d pay a mentor if I could afford it. There are a few writing organizations offering free mentorship, but I have to have a complete draft in order to apply. I’ve been trying very hard to finish my current MS. I sit in front of the computer everyday. It’s not happening. I’m frustrated. But I’m not giving up. One way or another, I’ll do it.

          • Mar, I do wish you success with finishing a manuscript. I was obviously a bit confused regarding what you were looking for.

            I’m not sure how to encourage you to finish the ms. There are tricks you can try—write the climax and/or the resolution, write a highly emotional scene, write any scene that you’ve already plotted or outlined. Or write a scene that has no plot or outline. Don’t think that you need to write in a straight line, tackling the next chronological chapter. Write something that interests you. This might free you up, at least help you get a few more chapters done.

            I’m sure you’ve tried many options, but my suggestion is to simply start writing. Introduce a new character, take your main character to a new location, write a scene from the viewpoint of the antagonist or the main character’s best friend; write a scene of dialogue with the main character talking to his psychiatrist or neighbor or God.

            Write a scene with the main character wondering what he’s doing.

            You don’t have to keep anything you write. You don’t have to polish any of the wording. Nothing even has to make sense. You just want to get writing. Once you get into the characters again, it’s likely that you’ll be able to write scenes you can actually use.

            As for confidence, I’m not sure what to tell you. Maybe reminding yourself that it’s okay to write garbage on a first draft will help. All first drafts are incomplete. They all need work, and not one writer creates a perfect first draft; yours won’t be any different. Allow yourself permission to simply get the plot events down in some kind of order. Then you’ll be allowed to rewrite and rewrite to make everything just so.

            Can you promise yourself something in return for writing X number of pages or scenes? Can you withhold something you want until you finish those pages?

            I will suggest you simply take the pressure off (as if that’s simple) by recognizing that no matter what you do, you won’t be creating a masterpiece simply by finishing the manuscript. There’s a lot more to do after that point—there’s so much more to do that once you start rewriting and editing, you’ll wander why you didn’t simply push through at this earlier stage.

            I know you know these things, but I’m guessing that at some level you don’t feel them. Maybe you fear that you’ll look at the finished manuscript and think that’s it’s crap or that it’s been a waste of your time.

            But even if you never publish the story, it’s likely that the experience of writing all these years and the experience of writing this particular story will have given you pleasure, will have taught you skills, will have opened up new worlds to you.

            But don’t let a lack of confidence stop you now. If you’ve gotten this far, you can finish—you know you can. If you can write 30,000 words multiple times to start manuscripts, you can write another 30,000 and then another to finish a manuscript.

            As I suggested, consider writing your story’s ending if you haven’t done so already. The excitement of building to a climax should be fun. Maybe challenging.

            And when you need to tackle the middle, look for scenes you know you want to write. Look for introductions of new characters that should prove entertaining. Look for ways of getting your main characters into trouble.

            Don’t consider the ms. as a whole—that can seem daunting once you get past the excitement and fun of the opening chapters. Instead, concentrate on writing one section of text—a scene or a chapter where several events must take place. Concentrate on one scene of dialogue. Ignore the full story and turn your focus to a single event.

            That’s not necessarily the advice I’d give to everyone at the same stage of writing, but it is advice I’d suggest to someone who’s overwhelmed by the size of the task or by what’s left to do or by the specter of either failure or success.

            To get writing, you may have to focus not on the story as a whole, but on a single event or scene to the exclusion of all else. You can always fix what doesn’t work. The point of your task is to actually get writing.

            Another trick may be to get away from your computer. But a spiral notebook, sit at the kitchen table (or go the library), and simply drop your main character or your antagonist into a setting and make something happen. Have someone attack the character (verbally or physically). Have the character do something out of character. Have the character lash out at others.

            Give yourself permission to write something that will never make it into the book as a means of priming the pump. Think broadly and outside the story box—you’re just trying to get a flow going, not trying to write a memorable scene. Once the words start to flow, ideas should begin flowing as well. And you should be able to segue directly into scenes that will fit the story.

            —————
            As for getting helpful critique, maybe it’s time for a new writing group, one where the writers have learned how to provide helpful critique. Or maybe you could present a lesson on critiquing to one of your groups, showing them possibilities for improving their critique methods.

            Talk to your writing groups and tell them what you’re looking for—you won’t be the only one. See if as a group you can’t commit to learning to critique in truly constructive ways.

            I still hope you’ll keep us updated, so we can know how you’re coming along. I promise to celebrate with you when you push past this block and you’re well on the way to completing your current manuscript.

  3. Judy Manske says:

    This is wonderful advice, and I will be implementing it right away. I’ve just finished my first novel, and will take this advice before querying an agent-thank you!

  4. Alex Hurst says:

    Critters is also a good place to find anonymous critiquers, but you can’t build up a relationship over time. I’ve found really good beta readers through an online group I joined, but now help admin. I won’t post a link (don’t want to be spammy!) but you can find us at Fiction Writers Group on Facebook. :)

  5. Darien says:

    Thanks Beth,

    I wish your site came up when people look for betas, because every time I beta for someone, I feel like I’m channeling your advice and sending links to here for a more in-depth discussion of the problem. I would advise anyone to read your advice, both creative and technical, and get those issues in order before going to beta.

    An example is when you suggest doing a word search on hedging words etc. It can be humbling to see how many times you do something! LOL! I know . . . even having done due diligence, I’ve had betas point out things I hadn’t even noticed. “that” used a million times was the last one, and yes, I thanked her profusely!!! It was awesome to see how easily they could be eliminated. And I’m really fussy about overuse and have done multiple book-wide searches for things . . .

    Mar, I’ve been finding betas on Goodreads. Some just want to read free books and give you kind overall impressions (which were great too!) And some do line edits. I’ve been doing swaps as much as I can, too. If you exchange an early chapter or two, you can get a feel for what kind of beta-ing you’ll get in a swap. Maybe there are people who don’t have finished things and want to exchange for a confidence boost. Go ahead and post your own ad, and ask for what you like. With your experience, many writers would be lucky to have you beta for them.

    Lastly, helping others by doing swaps has also honed my own skills and given me that treasured “distance” from my own work so I could take my editing even further. I would recommend it for anyone!

    Darien

    • Darien, this article on beta readers is fairly new, so maybe it will rise some in Google rankings. If not, I’ll tweak the keywords to see if I can’t make it show up higher in searches.

      Thanks for sending folks this way—I hope I can provide what they’re looking for. And thanks for the tips for Mar—there are great writers in great groups out there—I hope she finds some helpful critique partners.

      You are so right about the ways critiquing and/or editing for others helps a writer. It’s a wonderful way to get insight into reading dispassionately in order to make changes based on what’s on the page. Like you, I would recommend it for any writer.

  6. darien says:

    “Thanks for sending folks this way—I hope I can provide what they’re looking for.”

    You can! You have the best site and advice I’ve ever found! I only hope the folks I’m sending here use it!!! : )

  7. darkocean says:

    Where do you find beta readers?

  8. BookHive says:

    Our company, BookHive actually tests in Fiction, YA/Middle Grade & Memoir with eight to ten beta readers, and the results are a 35+ page report, both qualitative and quantitative, full of feedback. Coupon code BUZZ for $100 off. http://www.bookhivecorp.com

  9. Thanks for writing on this topic.

    I am a teen guy and have done a number of gigs as a beta reader for YA writers. Personally, I find Fiverr as a good site to connect to authors. Authors can read reviews and can also reach out and ask questions before they submit an order.

    I also keep up a website to help share more information for writers. If anyone has questions, I can be reached at GoGetMikey.com and Fiverr.com/tazbot

    Thanks again for posting on this topic

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