This post applies to all writers but I think it is exceptionally important that self-publishers beta far and wide. Since we are only going to pay to have one or two editors look over our manuscripts before publishing, it’s essential to get other writer’s feedback. Now of course, having Uncle Jim and your best pal Sally read through and give you their reader’s critique is fantastic, but there is nothing like having another writer line-by-line critique your novel.
This is especially helpful if you find a beta that writes in the same genre you do. Each genre has different rules (pacing, word count, voice, world building, details, language, etc.) and only someone who writes this will be able to tell you what you’re doing right and–more importantly–wrong.
So where can you find these extremely important people who will read your book, weighing every blessed word and handing you back hundreds of critical comments for free? (Well, some beta read for nothing in return but it’s usually good manners to offer to help them with critiques on their works-in-progress).
The best place to find beta readers is on some of the writers forums offered free of charge. I’ve become a member on Absolute Write and I’ve already found so much helpful information on there. It’s best if you register and get to know all the rules and start reading backlogs of priceless information (many, many late nights spent reading). The moderators prefer that you give feedback and get to know the board for a bit before sharing your work and requesting beta readers–although, you can gather 50 posts very quickly just welcoming other members on the forum.
Those on the board suggest the best way to get beta readers is to post up your first chapter under the genre thread that applies and sometimes people will offer to beta read or if you get a wonderful critique you might private message them asking if they would be willing to read more. I went to their section on beta readers and read through the post of willing beta readers. I found three that sounded like they might like my novel and private messaged them. One got back that they wanted to read something of mine first (I never heard back from them), another never got back at all, and the last one began swapping chapters with me slowly–always best to trade a few chapters at a time to see how you work together first.
Well, she is awesome! I was so happy to find someone who’s work I really enjoyed. Reading her novel was not work for me and I truly loved helping her improve things, and better yet, just enjoyed cheering her on. She has helped me so incredibly much and seen things no one else has picked up that I can’t imagine not having had her input. I know I’m so lucky to have found someone so supportive, observant, hard-working, professional, and critical so soon. She’s not afraid to tell me when something doesn’t sound right, seem plausible, or flow well. She takes my critiques with so much appreciation as well. She flew through my 70,000 word ms in no time and now she’s helping me with the sequel! I know, I’ll stop rubbing it in and get back to this post at hand.
So those are all the key qualities you must look for in beta reader so get out there and search, because even if it takes some time when you find the right one it will do wonders for your book and hopefully your novels to come :)