Should you use beta readers? Reassessing beta readers

As mentioned in my previous post, I was pretty high on beta readers. I had a great experience right out of the great, so, of course, I just assumed it would always be great. To steal from Stephen Colbert: At night it’s dark outside, so, of course, it’s always going to be dark outside. Much like a Colbert night, my beta reader experience wasn’t always great.

Overall, it was a positive experience, and I’d say it was worth it, but I’m still deliberating if your interests as a writer wouldn’t be better served going with an experienced editor. The feedback from my betas was a mixed bag – everything from a reader who was a pro editor to one who might have been on a personal mission to crush my writer’s spirit.

So I’m not sure I’d recommend beta readers. After using them, I have a bit of a new perspective on them. If you’re just looking for readers, that’s fine. But unless the beta reader is a professional editor, don’t let their feedback sway you too much. Take the beta readers’ assessments as a whole – if many of them have the same type of feedback, you probably have to correct that issue. Don’t be overly influenced by the opinion of one reader.

For me, I’m done with beta readers for this work. I’ll update my story and have an editor read it over, someone who’s been doing this professionally and has edited other books.

I’m not set against beta readers. I might use them, again, in the future. They’re just another way of getting feedback on your work. I think it was a good place to start, a good first step before sending a work off to an editor.

Use beta readers with a touch of salt: they might give you good feedback, they might give you bad feedback, and you’re likely to get everything in between. If you’re looking for opinions about something you’ve written, beta readers are a great place to start. Just keep in mind, they’re opinions.

Beta readers work

Finding beta readers was easy. I was a bit surprised how easy. There are lots of good people in the world willing to read your work for free and provide some feedback.

I joined goodreads – I had always been a lurker in the past – and posted to their community boards, asking for beta readers for my novelette. I got replies that very day.

I’m pleased with the results, too. I got helpful suggestions and positive feedback. What more could I ask for?

I’m waiting for a couple of others beta readers to get back to me; after that, I’ll try to find a good editor.


Finding a beta reader.

All of this would probably be easier if I was a member of an online writing group. That might be in a post for another day. Think of this as a learning experience and you all get to come with me.

How do I find a beta reader?

That’s my current task.

How does anyone find anything these days? We ask our friends. Haha. Noooooo, we don’t. We google it.

A quick search (Are there slow Google searches?) gave me a variety of results. I searched on beta readers and finding beta readers. This brought up some of the more popular writing sites, plus some interesting articles. I’ve listed a few below:

How to find a beta reader by Belinda Pollard – Belinda has an entire section on beta readers. Her site comes up first in the finding beta readers search. Good job on the SEO. 😀

Beta Readers’ HubA tumblr for beta readers

Writing Feedback: The Ultimate Guide to Working with Beta Reader by Amanda Shofner

I also found what looks like a pretty good writing community, Absolute Write. They also have a beta readers forum. I might take a look at them, later on. But right now (write now?), I’ve decided to go with the goodreads beta reader group. Why? I like goodreads. As good a reason as any.

Tonight or tomorrow, I’ll try to find a beta reader for my novelette. I’ll probably get a couple of people to beta read it, then try to find a pro editor. Then, on to finding a graphic artist for the cover. I’d like to get the novelette up on smashwords by the end of the month. Too optimistic? Maybe. We’ll see.


What’s a beta reader?

Happy New Year, everyone. May your new year be filled with love, peace, and lots of music.

I’ve decided to indie-publish a work I’ve already written. It’s called, Myzaal Nightthorn and the Illegal Upload. The work is about 8500 words; that’s about novelette length. It’s a bit hard to find a magazine or journal that will publish a story that long. It’s not exactly a sweet-spot length.

What I plan to do with Nightthorn is take the novelette through the entire publication process. I think that will be more interesting for all of us – even me – than reading about how much I’m writing*.

The first step I took on this little journey was to download a guide on indie publishing from smashwords. Their indie publishing guide is called The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success. These free guides are available at all the indie sites, such as Amazon KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing), Bookbaby, and other sites. I didn’t pick smashwords for any particular reason; it just seemed as good a place as any to get started.

The first thing they recommended is to have someone else read your work, someone besides your friends and family who will probably be reluctant to give you objective feedback. Unless of course you have a hypercritical, withholding family, in which case their criticism might make you curl up into a ball and never write, again.

Smashwords suggested getting started with beta readers.

I had no idea what beta readers were. That gives you an idea of how out of touch I am and how this is a new experience for me. I’ll try to be quite honest about what little I know.

What’s a beta reader?

A beta reader is someone who will read your writing before you publish it, i.e. the beta version (Tech terms are everywhere.), and give you constructive feedback on how to improve your work. This might include correcting grammar and spelling, as well as recommendations on how to improve the structure, pace, and composition of the book.

Typically, beta readers work for free as part of writing communities or in exchange for you reading their work or just because their nice. Some beta readers charge for their services. I’m a bit of the opinion, that if they do, they’re more editors than beta readers, but I might change my mind about that.

My next task is to find a beta reader. I’ll let you know what I came up with.


*I’m writing 250-750 words a day, probably around 500 on average, if you’re curious. I’m in rewrites of my novel, now, so I think that affects the up and down averages. That’s also fiction and doesn’t include non-fiction, such as these blog entries and my freelance work. If you include the non-fiction, I’m writing over 1000 words a day.