Finding your ideal beta reader might seem to be daunting task, especially if it were your first time using the services of a professional beta reader. Let us talk about some of the qualities that you might want to look while you choose the ideal beta reader for your next manuscript.
Choose the ideal beta reader
While it is true that finding a good beta reader is important, the success of the partnership largely depends on finding someone who is the best fit for you and your manuscript. Here are a few qualities that may seem vital in choosing your next beta reader for your MS.
Do they belong to your target audience?
Ideally your beta reader should fall into the demographic of your target audience in terms of age, gender, interest etc. Or someone who is capable of putting themselves in those specific shoes for you, hypothetically.
For example, if you are writing a middle grader story with a strong female, your best beta reader should be a female, middle grader or someone who is capable of responding from the point of view of a middle grader.
If your book is about a special field (say a sci-fi about volcano and geothermal stuff) or set in an exotic location, you may have to narrow your search to that. It would be great to have two beta readers – one a specialist and a non specialist.
Are they regular readers themselves?
It goes without saying that a good beta reader should be a voracious reader of different genres. And even if they don’t specifically enjoy reading the genre you are writing in, they should be able to appreciate it.
If it is possible take look at some of the book they have reviewed in the past on their blog or on Goodreads and make sure their style will suit your needs.
Are they publishing savvy?
Your next beta reader should be savvy enough to know what makes a well written book great in terms of writing, credibility and marketability.
They should have both good instincts and knowledge of the present publishing scene to suggest relevant changes for your manuscript. They should know what appeals to the mass market and your target readers alike.
To ensure your beta reader hits all these notes, it is probably a safe bet to find out your next beta reader through recommendations and referrals. At least go through the testimonials from the past and present clientele.
Do they know what is expected of them?
A good beta reader should know what type of suggestions and opinions would matter to you, aka an author. They should be honest and opinionated but at the same time they should ensure those criticisms/opinions are valid and relevant.
While catching typos and grammatical errors maybe helpful, that is not their job nor it is vital at this stage. For example, they should be telling you if the narrative voice was interesting enough, but not about the high school grammar.
Do you prefer they were writers themselves?
I know many authors use their peers to get their manuscripts beta read, and that is wonderful. But I would suggest looking for strangers, who are not writers themselves or a professional beta reader.
A fresh set of eyes would always bring in newer perspective to your manuscript . Also you need not worry about them using your unique ideas themselves or them attempting to help you by “fixing” your book.
A professional beta reader would at best tear open the book for plot holes and weaknesses and would help you rebuild them, as a reader. Not as a writer, which would still be you.
Are they too close to you?
Your ideal beta reader should preferably not be someone who is too close to you – like your partner, mother or a close friend, for many a reasons.
Are they regular readers who are publishing savvy? Are they bringing in a fresh pair of eyes or have they read your other writing and have an idea about your style already? Would they be brutally honest about their reading experience? And would you and your relationship be alright, if they tear your book apart and criticize it?
Were you able to think of two or three specific people who would tick off these boxes? Then you have got your dream team of beta readers. And if you still have a spot left on your team, you can take a look at hiring me as your beta reader.
And here are some testimonials from past and present clientele to tell you how I can be your ideal beta reader.
Here are some more posts on the topic
Let us chat
What do you think as the qualities of a good beta reader? How do you choose the ideal beta reader for your manuscript? And readers, let me know if you have the qualities of an idea beta reader? Let’s talk.
Finding a good and trustworthy beta reader is just a part of getting a feedback. Knowing what questions to ask your beta readers would ensure you have a chance to know how to make your manuscript better.
Asking questions also open up a dialog between the beta reader and yourself and that could bring better understanding and more dimensions to your book.
Of course, a good beta reader would anyway be explicit and descriptive in their feedback, but asking them specific questions would/might take it a step further.
Also, discuss about this Q&A feedback prior to them before sending your manuscript to avoid discrepancies.
Questions to ask beta readers
Here are some questions to ask beta readers to receive meaningful and constructive feedback.
These questions are based on the questionnaires I have received during the course of my beta reader journey and they are indicative only.
- How interesting was the first chapter? Were you hooked or mildly interested?
- At what point did you think “ah now the story begins”?
- What were your expectation levels about the book based on the first few chapters?
- Were you able to understand the setting (where and when) of the plot?
- How predictable was the plot? Were you able to see where and how the story was moving along?
- Was there a suspense/tension regarding the conflict?
- Did you notice any foreshadowing for the third act?
- Was there something in the plot that kept your attention from the main plot?
- Did the climax work for you? Was it believable?
- Were you confused about the story line or the time lines in the plot at any point?
- Were the protagonists likeable and believable? What can be done to make them more likable?
- Which character did you relate to the most?
- Did you ever get confused in terms of who is who in the characters or their names?
- Were there any characters that needed a better arc/development?
- Who are your most and least favorite characters?
- Which character did you want to see more of? Which side character are you curious about, after finishing the book?
- What do you think of the relationship between the main characters?
- What do you think of the relationship between the main character and the bad guy(s)?
- Is there a character you wish didn’t exist?
- Did the dialogue sound natural and keep up with the general pace of the book? Were there any conversations that looked forced and artificial?
- At any point of the book, did you feel the storyline lag and you had to skip over? Did any part make you re-read for it to make sense?
- Did you find yourself skimming pages? At which part did you put your book down/take a break?
- Does the writing style match the genre? If not, how so?
- Were able to “see” the action sequence in terms of ‘who did what’?
- Did you notice any obvious, repeating spelling, grammatical, punctuation or capitalization errors?
Credibility & Sensitivity
- Were there any apparent discrepancies or inconsistencies in time lines, places, character details, etc?
- Was there something culturally incorrect or offensive to any particular section of readers? (question to be asked to the beta reader if they were from that marginal section)
- Did any part of the book confuse/annoy/frustrate you? Which parts and why?
- Did this book remind of you any other books you read? In what way?
- Has the book been tagged under the correct genre? If not, why and what genre could be a better fit?
- If you could add/delete one thing in the book/plot/characters, what would that be?
- Will the topic be interesting and useful, if you had no prior interest/knowledge about it?
- Was the topic well researched and have enough information?
- At any point, did the book stopped following a narrative pattern and overwhelm with an information dump? If yes, where?
- Did the book get boring at any point? If so, which part(s)?
- Did the book have any redundant/repetitive pointers?
- Were you able to feel the enthusiasm towards the topic from the author’s writing?
- Did the book provide helpful next steps in terms of action plans etc?
Some tips before you send the questions
- Use the list as a guideline and choose only questions that are relevant to your book and that will help your next draft
- Keep the questions simple and do not ask them to quote examples for each pointers.
- Do not overwhelm them with a huge questionnaire. Keep them few and it is better to give them the questions after they finish reading the book.
While it is a good practice to send a questionnaire to your beta reader, ensure that you need one. If you are still not sure what to ask, it is better to leave it to the beta reader to send a detailed report in their own template and style.
DO NOT FEEL PRESSURIZED TO SENDING QUESTIONS, for the sake of sending it. You are helping no one here.
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Have you ever used a beta reading service and before? If you are a reviewer, can you think of any other questions that might help you decide if a book works for you or not? Let us talk.
It has been a hot minute since I had my last guest post by an indie author, right? But don’t worry, I am not going to make you wait any longer, for we have Sue Gilad writing about “Paid to Proofread”, which happens to be her book’s name as well. Let us get reading shall we?
Say hello to Sue!
Balancing a career as a producer, a mother, and a professional proofreader, Sue Gilad is a living example that you can have full-time income without having a full-time job. Gilad began freelance proofreading to subsidize her acting career, and has proofread over 1,200 books.
Gilad’s proofreading endeavors evolved into copyediting and content editing, eventually becoming a full-service editing company. Her client roster of book publishers includes Random House, Simon & Schuster, John Wiley & Sons, St. Martin’s Press, Oxford University Press, Workman Publishing, and Kensington Publishing, among others.
She is the author of COPYEDITING AND PROOFREADING FOR DUMMIES and the co-author of THE REAL ESTATE MILLIONAIRE.
Let’s get on with it shall we?
Do you feel as though the stress of a nine-to-five work ethic takes too much time out of your day? The time that you would like to use for reading books or discovering new pieces of literature based on your favorite genres? Or perhaps you are now realizing that you want a career where you can work from wherever, yet still have the ability to make a six-figure income?
Well my friend, if you said yes to any of these questions, then it looks like you are on the right path to becoming a paid proofreader. And guess what? We are here to be your three-step guide.
I’m going to share all the information you need to start proofreading professionally so that you can get paid to read all day long. So let’s get started.
1: HOW to do the job
Just like me, you may be thinking, “But where do I even learn how to become a paid proofreader Where do I begin?”. The simple answer to this is to just START.
Sure, you can spend money on classes and read endless “how-to” books, but you won’t get the practice you need until you just do it. As my favorite teacher once said, “the best way to learn is to do.”
Let’s be real here. Not everyone gets the best proofreading jobs right off the bat. Your first few proofreading gigs may not be as prestigious or lucrative as you’d like, but remember that it’s EXPECTED and ALRIGHT to be in this starting level.
Believe it or not, these small gigs are super important because they are there to add experience and worth to your resume to then get those big paying/incredibly interesting proofreading gigs.
2: WHO can get you the job
Reaching out to friends and family is the place to begin in any experience-building adventure. To put this in simple terms, it’s all about networking. This is the most productive and successful form of spreading your name in order to land opportunities that’ll inch you closer to getting that dream proofreading gig.
Who knows, maybe that aunt that you haven’t spoken to since she drank a little too much wine at the family get-together is a friend of someone who works at your favorite publishing house! Maybe that friend can land you your first big proofreading gig.
It’s also super important to focus on lending a hand to people that work within fields that require any form of writing. This act exercises your skills and adds to the strong portfolio you are trying to build.
Reaching out to friends in the business, law, and/or creative industry is a great starting point when offering your services. Even the simplest task of looking over a business card can take you a long way.
3: WHERE to get the jobs
Reaching out to friends and strangers isn’t the only way to network. Put yourself on blast by using social networking apps. Post Instagram stories that focus on telling your followers that you are now pursuing a career in proofreading.
You can screenshot and share that post so that your proofreading services get spread around. Write up a nifty Facebook status or Tweet on Twitter that highlights the proofreading services you are willing to provide.
Even a goofy TikTok that showcases your proofreading skills can go a long way!
Profile building on job-networking sites is also a good free advertisement. LinkedIn, Indeed, Glassdoor, Handshake, you name it! Apply, apply, apply.
Send a warm email to the company in order to inform them of your interest in proofreading for them. Make sure you are aware of current events, such as having COVID-19 etiquette during the current pandemic. Make sure you are both friendly and professional.
I had some fun reaching out to potential proofreading companies: I liked to add at the end of my missives: “P.S.: Forgot to mention, I never make mistakes.”
Don’t be afraid to cold call/email companies even if they aren’t hiring. Don’t hear back? Email or call again. This is a standard business convention.
So there you have it, three easy steps to get you on the right proofreading professional track. Always remember that the internet is your oyster. Building experiences means building referrals which results in more proofreading gigs.
Before you know it, you’ll be getting paid to sit on a beach and proofread a piece from your favorite genre.
I wish you all the best in your journey to discovering the gifted proofreader within yourself starting with these three steps.
Thank you, Sue!
And I am back to thank her for taking time off her busy schedule to write us a guest post. You can follow and contact her through these links.
If you have something to add to Sue’s story, drop a comment here or send her a word of thanks on the social media. Both of us would love that.
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Linkedin | Pinterest |
Also, if you are interested in writing a guest post for the independent publishing community, write to me right away. I am still accepting guest post submissions.
Let us chat
Have you ever considered proofreading as a freelancing option? Are you good at catching errors in books, in general? Do these errors affect your reading flow? Let us talk.
One of the major concerns for indie authors when hiring a beta reader is about the safety of their manuscript. Can beta readers steal my work? Will they publish my manuscript as theirs? Will they rip my beloved characters off me? These questions must plague your mind, and for right reasons.
As someone who is producing digital content on multiple channels every single day, I understand your concerns. I worry on similar lines every night about my posts and graphics.
I get it.
How can you just hand over your manuscript that you have spent weeks and months on to some random stranger off the internet?
As someone who attempted fiction and poetry writing many moons ago and struggled at it, I have a great respect towards you all.
To come up with a plot and an outline is hard. But to sit down and pour the words on a paper (or screen?) is just mind blowing. You don’t deserve getting your hard work stolen/misused by anyone.
So if you are worried if the beta readers whom you entrust your manuscript with, can steal your work, I am here to put your concerns to rest.
The answer is no!
Professional beta readers do not steal your work because their job is dependent on their integrity and trustworthiness.
Things to do to avoid your work getting stolen
That being said, one can never be too cautious right? So here are some things you can do put your fear of getting your work stolen by your beta reader
1) Get to know them
Getting to know your beta reader would be a great way to start a relationship with them.
Evaluate their reviewing and feedback style and ensure they fit your needs.
Go through the testimonials of their previous clients.
Have a conversation via mail or through call. Meet them over a coffee, if that is something you are both comfortable with.
2) Get someone who is not an author
Another way to minimize the risk of your work stolen by the beta reader is to avoid sharing your manuscript with a writer who is writing in the similar genre as you, or just avoid peer authors altogether.
I know this sounds a little too extreme but one can never be too careful when it comes to the internet right?
You can still get feedback from friends and family members who read or hire a professional beta readers.
3) Get a contract
Many professional beta readers are willing to sign a contract and a Non Disclosure Agreement before they even receive their advance and your manuscript. I sign up these NDA, too
The contract binds them legally from discussing or sharing your manuscript, plot or anything from your work with anyone else or using your plot, character or words for any other purpose.
It explicitly states that the manuscript is for their eyes only.
4) Get a professional beta reader
Many a times, authors share their manuscript with other authors and the members of writing community for a feedback in exchange for feedback on of theirs.
Well, the system works.
But is it the most safe and effective method? That is arguable.
On the other hand, a professional beta reader is someone who has been doing this for a while and they have a track record. This automatically improves their chances of not being professional aka they don’t have to steal your art/product.
I can’t insist more on the importance of reading the testimonials from the past and present clients, if they are available.
Despite all these precautions, it is true that someone else can steal your work or misuse your manuscript and call them their own. But the chances are quite low.
I am sure you will find someone whom you can trust to get a relevant and honest feedback from.
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Do you use a professional beta reader? Are you worried about someone else stealing your idea or work? Who is your go to beta reader? Let us talk.