Most writers dread promotion. They want to focus on the writing and let others do the marketing part for them. Yet, nowadays, promotion has become an essential part of a writer’s work. Even traditionally-published authors are now expected to do most of the promotion on their own.
Whether you are an aspiring writer who has written a first draft, or an author with several self-published books, you must overcome the fear of showing your work to others, and start pursuing constructive criticism from serious readers in your genre.
In his book Smashwords Book Marketing Guide, Mark Coker wrote that the aim of any beta reading round is “honest and critical feedback.” The need for a group of critics is even more urgent for non-published writers.
The good news is that we live in a time when it is easier than ever to find and connect with readers in any genre, age-group, or demographic group.
So, Why Should You Find Beta Readers?
Finding a group of beta readers, and exclusively distributing a copy to them is the best preparation for a book release. They will help you polish your manuscript. Some of them will write you a general critique of the structure or tone of your book. Many will help you find typos, and some will spread the word about you to their audiences.
Even if you are convinced that it is important to have a group of readers willing to beta read almost anything you write, you might wonder how you can find them?
Free Tactics to Find Beta Readers and Critique Partners:
The 20Booksto50K Group:
With more than 60,000 indie authors as members, this group is the pinnacle of the self-publishing world. Over the years, I’ve witnessed many starting writers without any fanbase turn to the group and ask for beta readers, and they get their first beta readers there. And although you need prior acceptance from moderators before posting, once you post to the group you will be amazed by the relative ease with which you will connect with fellow readers and writers in your genre.
The Wide for the Win Group:
This group comes second to 20Booksto50k in terms of members and authority in the self-publishing community. And although this group is primarily concerned about going “wide” with your books—meaning not being exclusive to any one platform, like Amazon KDP—members often post seeking beta readers in one particular genre, and often end up encountering their first serious critique partners.
Other Facebook groups where you can find beta readers:
- 10 Minute Novelists
- Beta readers and critique partners
- Beta and ARC Readers
- Writers, Beta Readers, Critique, Advice, Writing Exercises & Rainbows!
Goodreads isn’t reserved for reading challenges only. You can use it as a medium to reach out to readers in a specific genre. What makes Goodreads awesome for finding beta readers is the groups you can join and the connections you can make within those groups.
For instance, you can target an African -American beta reading group if that represents a substantial portion of your readership.
The reciprocal nature of the interactions you make on the platform makes it a perfect place to establish long-lasting connections with writers you look up to and admire.
CritiqueCirlce is a platform that requires you to critique the stories of other writers, get credits for that, and with those credits get feedback on your work from fellow authors.
The platform has more than 2,000 reviewers who are dedicated to reading and critiquing across genres. The best way to leverage Reedsy when you are still looking for your first beta readers is to sign up for a reviewer account yourself, set up a professional profile, and start directly reaching out to reviewers to beta read your manuscript.
There are endless online forums with vast and passionate user-bases. Reddit is a perfect example, with subreddits for every imaginable topic.
When looking for beta readers on forums, it is best to target those that are directly relevant to your book. For instance, if you wrote a YA novel about basketball, /r/Basketball might be a good place to start.
Your Friends and Family:
You can always ask your friends and family to be your beta readers, but this comes with a few caveats.
First of all, you should make sure that they actually enjoy reading, because the last thing you want is for someone to read your book out of obligation and give you feedback that is less than helpful.
Secondly, it is important to manage expectations from the start, because you don’t want anyone to feel like they are being taken advantage of.
Be sure to let your friends and family know that you value their feedback and appreciate their help, but also make it clear that you will be taking their
Other Paid Strategies for Finding Beta Readers:
Edelweiss via IndieReader:
The Edelweiss database is still reserved for traditionally-published authors. Yet, there is a workaround for indie authors to get listed on the database.
IndieReader has partnered with Edelweiss to let indie authors get listed on the database using IndieReader as a publisher.
And although the service costs $399 the widespread use of the database by reviewers, librarians and independent bookstores worldwide might make the deal worth it for authors who are still cultivating a readership.
If you are willing to pay for beta readers who will read your manuscript till the end and give you in-depth feedback regarding your plot, your characters, and the overall flow of your story, then the Fiverr marketplace is one of the best places on the internet to find those beta readers without paying an arm and a leg.
Fiverr can be a bit of a mixed bag, so it is important to take the time to read through the profiles of different beta readers before settling on one.
The Swedish-based platform offers both a free and a paid plan for authors and publishers. Therefore, it is a great place to start getting a couple of beta readers for writers who are just starting out, and who are yet to cultivate an audience.
You cannot afford not to search for beta readers in every possible place when you are just starting out. The Writers and Readers groups on Meetup are one of those places. The upside is that these groups often have regular meetings, possibly near you, hence making the idea of finding your next beta reader among them an exciting idea.
How Do You Manage Beta Readers Once You've Found them?
If you’ve just started searching for your first few beta readers, then once you find them consider sending them one test chapter before sending the entire manuscript.
Oftentimes, readers know by just reading a couple of pages if they would ever finish the book. This will save both you and your critique partners a lot of time.
Once you gain enough beta readers to justify using a paid service like BetaBooks or StoryOrigin, you should go for it.
These services will make managing your critique partners easier by allowing access to features like releasing one chapter at a time and receiving smart in-line comments within the manuscript.
Start Small, Experiment, and Tweak with Your First Beta Readers:
Remember that self-publishing is hard work. As an indie author, you often have to edit, and proofread your own manuscripts because paying a professional would surge your expenses before you even release your book to the world.
Evidently, paying for beta readers would raise your expenses even further, and therefore, you should stick to looking for volunteer beta readers who are familiar with your specific genre, and who will make polishing your manuscript a smooth process.
Upgrading and paying for them later, as you grow, would be a wise decision.
- Smashwords Book Marketing Guide, By Mark Coker (2018 edition)