In the video below, Janet Syas Nitsick and I talk about beta readers. I’m also writing down the main points below for your convenience.
A beta reader is a person who reads your book before it’s published. A beta reader is a person who can look at the overall story and give you their impression of it. But they are not an editor. The editor is the one who goes in and polishes it up so it’s ready to be published.
So what makes a beta reader good?
1. He makes deadlines.
You should have a schedule set out on when you’re doing your first draft, when a beta reader goes over your book, when you add their input, when you give it to an editor, and when you publish it. When you treat your writing like a business, you will have deadlines that you need to make. In order to better make those deadlines, you need to give the beta reader a deadline. A good beta reader will have the book in by the deadline or let you know, in advance, if he can’t make it.
2. He knows the subject matter.
For example, someone who is familiar with horses would make a good beta reader for your book where you use horses a lot.
3. He enjoys the genre you’re writing.
Ideally, the beta reader will be a fan of the subject you’re writing. They need to read your book as your target audience would in order to best help you.
4. He needs to be honest (but nice).
You need to be able to trust this person. While it’s important the person tells you what’s good, they should also be comfortable with letting you know what you can do to improve the story. But do pay attention to how they tell you the stuff they didn’t like. Saying, “What happened? Did your kid write this part for you?” is different from saying, “I would like to see more angst in your hero during this scene.”
How do you find this good beta reader?
1. When starting out, you pretty much have to go to people you know and trust.
These can be friends, family, or other writers. The key is that you trust them to be honest about your work (as explained in #4 above).
2. Social Media
You want to broaden out your search and find readers in your genre who are avid readers. They make for the best people to beta read books because they love to read and know what your target audience wants.
You can find these people on various social media outlets. I prefer Facebook for social interaction, but there’s also Twitter, Google +, discussion boards, blogs, and other places I’m probably missing. The key is to establish relationships. Don’t go in with the attitude you’re going to get something from someone. Be a participant. Engage. Be friendly. Give something of value to the group. Share and exchange ideas and information. Talk about your favorite books and authors. Be yourself. Sooner or later, you’ll come across a couple people who will become your friend.
3. Another way is to let readers come to you and offer to beta read.
People who love your books are often more than happy to have a part in helping you get your book into the world. These are the perfect beta readers because they share your vision for your work. They already love it. They are in tune with you and have the same goal you do.
So those are the tips Janet and I came up with to finding good beta readers. Anyone else have any tips they’d like to add?