5 tips to working with beta readers

5 tips to working with beta readers

Working with beta readers might be overwhelming, especially if it is your first time. Beta readers are the test audience to your manuscript and they can play an important part in making your book better.

5 must do tips to working with beta readers

Every beta reader or manuscript critique is different but the process of their work is similar. In order to make the best of their professional services, here are some of the not-so-secret tips to working with beta readers!

Prepare the manuscript

Beta readers are not just your friends or family, (even if they sometimes are.) They are professionals, even if they volunteer or exchange favors with you, who know what they are doing.

Related: Can beta readers steal your work?

And it is imperative that you send them a “clean” copy of your manuscript. In other words, do not send them your draft.

They deserve to read the self-edited and complete version of manuscript and it works better for both the author and the beta reader to do so.

And also, ensure you send your manuscript in the format (physical or ebook formats) they require to make things easier for them.

I have heard of horror stories from authors being charged hundreds of dollars extra because the beta reader preferred a printed copy to read. I think this situation would have been salvaged if the author had printed the pages herself.

So before sending off the manuscript ensure that you both are on the same page.

Brief them about your requirements

It is also critical to voice out your critical expectations from the beta reader. This step would minimize the disappointments and more importantly, save time for both of you.

Most professional beta readers have a feedback report format and they will be able to share what you can expect from them.

Related: 35+ questions to ask your beta readers for a better feedback

But if you have some specific questions to be addressed and answered, it is better if you share it with them. This might help you to zero in the edits you make later in your manuscript.

Share a time frame

Talking of requirements, one of the most common problems in using a voluntary beta reader or use an “exchange of favors” between your critique group is the delivering within the time frame.

More often than not, when people volunteer to do something for you, it becomes difficult to enforce a time schedule upon them.

But in this case, it is necessary to be clear about the timeline because there are several other things (like revising and editing) to do after receiving their feedback.

Be open to criticisms

As we all know, the main goal of beta reading is get feedback from strangers (or not so strangers) about your manuscript.

It goes without saying that you need to be open to accepting those criticisms and it is not an attack on your writing ability or yourself. Do not take them personally, nor you have to defend yourself.

If you are using more than one beta reader (and you probably should), collect the feedback from all of them in an orderly fashion. Create a master list of all comments and work through them one by one.

Related: Choose the ideal beta reader: Qualities to look for

That being said, you needn’t accept every suggestions or criticism of every beta reader you engage. It is usually better to trust your instinct when you are not convinced with their reasoning.

Send in feedback

Do not forget to thank your beta reader for their services, and return the favor if need be. You can ask them for a quote about the book to use in your book marketing, and most readers would be happy to see their name in “print”.

In case of a professional or even some volunteer beta readers, a testimonial or a review of their services would be appreciated.

Also if you are taking part in an exchange of critiques with your writing group or another author, do send in your beta reading report of their manuscript as agreed upon.

Treat your beta reader in a respectful and professional manner. And your relationship with them can make your book better and more successful.

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5 tips to working with beta readers

Finding a beta reader for your project

Finding a beta reader for hire to provide a critical and honest feedback is an integral part of your publishing journey. And that might sound a bit overwhelming, especially if this is your first time.

Why do you need beta readers?

Every writer wants and hopes his new manuscript to be a masterpiece. They put their best efforts into it and are ready to launch it into the world for readers and publishers. They might not know how it will be received by their target audience.

And here comes the tricky part, finding someone who volunteers to read your finished manuscript and provide an honest feedback about it.

Without using a beta reader you might be missing out on a chance to have a trial run of having your book read by a reader, even before it is out of your hands – and thereby giving you a chance to edit it out, if needed.

Qualities to look for in a beta reader

Here are a few pointers to look out for when choosing your next beta reader.

Finding a beta reader

Finding beta readers who are knowledgeable and trustworthy might prove to be difficult, especially if you are working on a deadline. So here are some places where you can start when you look for manuscript critiquing or beta read services and even some volunteer beta readers.

Writing groups

More often than not, your writing group – be it local or online, would offer critiquing services. Or better, make friends with the other writers in the group and you can swap reviews between yourselves.

Some of the places to get started are as below:

Some communities may have restrictions on the number of pieces you submit for reviewing.

Goodreads

Goodreads groups are often a great place for finding beta readers and even critique partners. Some of the famous groups are:

Social media

You can also search for beta readers on your Twitter or Facebook. There quite a number of Facebook groups for the writing community, who also help finding a critiquing partner for yourself.

Be when choosing your ideal beta reader – someone that will work for you. You might wanna read about the safety of your manuscripts when they are sent out for beta reading.

Your author website

Another option is to call for beta readers on your website and your newsletters.

If you are a published author and have a sizeable following already, there might a few volunteer beta readers who might be interested in your next MS.

Hire from Upwork or Fiverr

While there is always an option to hire beta readers from freelance portals like Upwork or Fiverr, exercise maximum caution when it comes to checking their credentials.

Working with beta readers

Before you choose and hire a beta reader, be explicitf about what you are looking for and explain your working style. Usually I follow these

  • Send a copy of your blurb/synopsis of the plot to ensure you are a good fit.
  • Establish a deadline. Usually I take around 3-4 weeks.
  • Send them the copy of your MS in their preferred format.
  • Discuss their feedback and clarify if needed. Ask a lot of questions.
  • You can also send a questionnaire for your beta reader to answer.

Once you receive the feedback from all your beta readers, implement only the changes that you want to. At the end of the day, it is still YOUR book.

Also, do not forget to be grateful for the time and effort poured in by the beta readers. Good beta readers are your best defense against bad writing.

Having some experienced beta readers in your kitty and implementing changes based on their feedback will go a long way in making your good story into a best selling one.

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5 tips to working with beta readers

Choose the ideal beta reader: Qualities to look for

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?

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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.

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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.

5 tips to working with beta readers

35+ questions to ask beta readers

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.

Opening

  • 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?

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?

Characters

  • 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?

Writing

  • 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)

General

  • 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?

Non Fiction

  • 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?
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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.

Final word

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.

5 tips to working with beta readers

Paid to Proofread: Indie Guest Post

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!

Paid to proofread Cover

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.

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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.

Reach out Paid to proofread

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!

Paid to proofread Network

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.

Paid to proofread

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!

Paid to proofread 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.

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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.