What is a Beta Read?
A beta read is the first step in the process of preparing your written work for publication. Beta reads occur prior to professional editing, and consist of a hired or volunteer reader that scrutinizes elements of your written work to improve its quality and comprehension.
Why Do I Need a Beta Read?
While we’d like to convince ourselves that our work is perfect after we type “the end,” the harsh reality is that our manuscripts are constantly in need of revision.
Beta reads typically focus on big picture elements in written works, such as:
- Character development
- Plot holes
- Any specific detail the author requests
Catching these errors in the beta read phase decreases the chance of having to hire a developmental editor, which can be costly.
A beta read also provides the first reaction to the story, and may offer their opinion on the entertainment value of the book and which characters they liked and disliked. (Note: Remember, no two readers read the same story identically, so take opinions into consideration.)
Who Do I Get to Beta Read my Manuscript?
Family and friends may seem like the perfect people to beta read your novel, especially if they’re free, but trusting someone familiar runs the risk of receiving false praise. Instead, it’s suggested that you hire an outside source who will have no emotional attachment to you as the author.
Reaching out to another author can be a great way to find a beta reader. You can offer to trade manuscripts and beta read for one another. Asking a fellow writer outside your genre is a good idea, too. Often times, beta readers who double as authors in your genre will see right away what you’re trying to convey, whereas a reader who rarely or never read your genre will be exploring and understanding for the first time.
Hiring a seasoned beta reader is ideal. They will likely view the story from a more critical and less opinionated lens. In all honesty, we as authors don’t want our beta readers to respond with, “It was good!” We want the truth, “It wasn’t the best it could be, and here’s why…”
For best results, hire 2-3 different beta readers.
Where Can I Find a Beta Reader?
Writing communities online are a great source for finding beta readers. Send out a “Beta readers wanted” Tweet or DM bookstagrammers on Instagram and Tik Tok.
Fiverr is my recommended source for hiring experienced beta readers. (Yes, I am a seasoned beta reader, and yes I am going to market myself here. No, that’s not why I wrote the post, and no, I’m not going to try and woo you with my 66/66 5-star reviews.) If you do hire a beta reader from Fiverr, here are my recommendations:
- For manuscripts under 100k words, don’t pay more than $35 for a beta read. Most beta readers are going to give you less feedback for more money. I charge $25 for 100k words and under, and I provide embedded notes throughout the manuscript as well as an “Overall Thoughts” section at the end with suggested edits.
- DM the beta reader before submitting an order. The clock starts ticking for the beta reader as soon as you submit the requirements for the order on Fiverr, and the beta reader might not be able to complete the manuscript in the time frame offered on their gig. This could be due to custom orders they are currently running or a special circumstance your book requests that may require more time to complete. It’s best to DM the beta reader first to see if they are able to meet you and your book’s needs.
- Hire a beta reader with a 48-hour response rate. This matters most if your book is on a tight publishing schedule. The longest I let a message stand is 24 hours, and that’s usually only because they message me on Sunday (the Sabbath I honor by doing no work). After DM-ing the beta reader to check their availability, expect a 24-48 hour response. This response shows how the beta reader prioritizes their buyers and how likely you are to receive your manuscript on the delivery date should you hire that particular beta reader.
A beta read is one of the most critical phases of your book’s journey to publication. Remember, you don’t want the ego-boost feedback, you want the constructively critical feedback. Don’t pay an overpriced beta reader to do a half-invested job. And offering a beta-read-for-beta-read boosts your networking for sales.
Good luck out there! Thanks for reading!
I Can Beta Read Your Book!
As an active member of the Writing Community, I have beta read for authors all over Twitter for two years. I provide thorough feedback, constructively critical suggestions, and I always want what’s best for your book!
2 thoughts on “Why Do I Need a Beta Read?”
As an author and customer, I can completely attest to the necessity and value of independent beta readers. I’ve used quite a few, so can confidently endorse you, Danny, as one of the very best.
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Oh wow, thank you so very much, Oliver! Thank you for reading this post for my birthday, and thank you for appreciating my hard work as a beta read. Can’t wait for The Repurposed Spy to be on my bookshelf!