Finding Beta Readers

It was only after I wrote a few drafts of my novel that I learned about beta readers. I’d heard of critique groups and manuscript swaps, but the first time I learned about this kind of reader was on a writing list-serv. Beta readers came highly recommended and were regarded by some as a necessity. Particularly to the novice writer. That would be me.

So what is a beta reader? Someone that gives feedback on a finished manuscript before it’s let loose on the world. Sounds fairly simple, but this type of reader doesn’t necessarily advertise. So where to find one? I did research on the Internet. Beta readers came in the form of friends, acquaintances, librarians, people one meets on Twitter/Facebook, pawn shop owners and practically anyone on the street who likes to read.

I didn’t want a beta reader who knew me and who might not want to be totally honest lest I hold a grudge for life (I would never despite what you may have heard).

A deeper search on the Internet unearthed an author who had a unique formula for finding such readers. I contacted this writer and asked permission to use her formula and to plagiarize her means of finding beta readers. She kindly agreed.

Her formula involved placing an ad on Craigslist and paying $10-$20 for a reader to read the manuscript. I changed it by requesting a read of the first 100 pages. I included these questions in my ad:

1) What did you like most about Murder and Other Unnatural Disasters?

2) What did you like least?

3) Where did your attention begin to wonder? (you can mention chapters and/or scenes or page numbers)

4) Where did you find the most difficulty in putting the book down? Where were you most excited? (you can mention chapters and/or scenes or page numbers)

5) At any point (and please mention where) were you confused? If so, where and what was the cause of confusion?

6) What would you change about the book in broad terms? This can be a scene, character, beginning, end, etc? Please be as descriptive as possible.

7) If the suggested changes you mentioned above were made, would you buy the book if it were published? Why or Why not?

Look for beta readers who like your genre and who fall in your highly anticipated audience. I closed my Craigslist ad by asking why they think they’d be a good beta reader. I ended up using four readers and found the suggestions from two of them quite valuable. They helped me make my book better. What more could I ask for?

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4 Comments on "Finding Beta Readers"

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Hi Lida. When is your second book going to be published?

Keith D E Walker

Hi Lida, when’s the next book? :-)