Beta readers are people who read your book and give you feedback prior to publication. In my case, they are a mix of people I know, complete strangers, and a professional beta reading company.
I’m writing this blog to share a behind-the-scenes look at the process and to offer insight I’ve gained through my experience to help other aspiring authors.
How Much Do Beta Readers Cost?
My beta readers ranged from free (family and friends) to $25 – $50 for individual freelancers to $100 for a professional beta reading company, a price that was based on the length of my manuscript.
What Kind of Feedback Will You Get?
One of the first questions I asked potential beta readers was “How will you deliver your feedback? (ie. at the end of each chapter, in-line, or as a separate document after reading the end of the book?)”
I chose beta readers who would give me chapter by chapter feedback because I wanted to get their thoughts as the story unfolded and before the plot resolved itself. Beta readers who wait until the very end for feedback might forget that they were unsettled by something in chapter three.
The professional beta reading company will give me both chapter by chapter feedback and also an analysis of each character in the book.
What Qualities Should You Look For in a Beta Reader?
My family were my earliest beta readers. But let’s face it: family, friends, and your own self can be biased. Second opinions are important. So, my next step was to reach out to people who didn’t know me personally.
I looked for freelancers who were avid readers of my genre. Before I hired them, I asked them what their favorite YA and Sci-Fi books are, what the most recent YA book they read is, and then chose readers who like books I also enjoy. If the most current YA book they’ve read was published 10 years ago, they weren’t the right reader for me.
When I posted a job listing for beta readers on a freelancing platform, I got a ton of requests from professional editors and fellow authors with many published books under their belts. I chose to steer away from those applicants at this time because I was searching for people who would look at my book with the eye of an average reader.
However, I know of many writers who have had great success swapping manuscripts with each other for feedback. When it comes down to it, everyone’s situation may be a bit different. Maybe an editor giving you beta reader feedback is exactly what you need. The process above worked for me, but you have to do what works best for you and your manuscript!
What Questions Do You Ask Beta Readers?
I researched questions other authors ask their beta readers (shoutout to Abby Emmons for some great ones!) and then came up with some of my own to create my ideal list of questions. Here are the 10 most important questions I ask my beta readers:
- Did the opening scene capture your attention? Why or why not?
- At what point did you say to yourself “Ok, now the story has really started!”?
- Were there any parts of the story you felt were boring? Or parts that you felt yourself skimming? What parts?
- Who is your favorite character? Why?
- Who is your least favorite character? Why?
- What do you think of the title?
- What is your favorite scene?
- What was the most suspenseful moment in the book?
- Was the ending satisfying?
- What is the theme or message you took away from the story?
Should You Incorporate All Feedback From Your Beta Readers?
Readers will have varying perspectives and tastes, and it’s impossible to please everybody all the time. But if a lot of your beta readers don’t understand a specific plot point, it may be a sign that something should be clarified in your story.
Look for common themes in the feedback you receive to pinpoint weaknesses in your manuscript. Anything else, take what opinions you agree with and leave the rest on the cutting room floor.
I was on the fence about whether or not to include beta readers in my process before querying, and I’m so happy that I did. So far, the beta reader feedback I’ve received has been very constructive. It has helped me see my manuscript through a fresh set of eyes, which after having edited it myself a gazillion times, is just the refresher I needed.
The moment your manuscript leaves your hands and gets in front of a reader’s eyes is super exciting! It’s one step closer to getting your book out into the world. I wish you joy and luck in all your literary adventures. Happy writing!