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January 16, 2014

Ask Jami: Where to Find Beta Readers

Globe on black background with text: Where to Find Beta Readers

Almost two years ago, I posted advice for how to find beta readers. In the time since then, many people have asked me where they can find beta readers. I’d love to be able to offer a mega-list of resources for finding beta readers, and maybe this post can be the first step.

As I mentioned in that older post, if someone can give honest feedback, they can be a beta reader. Beta readers typically comment on things like confusing sentences or plot events, where their attention wavers, and what they think of the characters.

So we’re not necessarily looking for writing craft experts. Instead, we’re often looking for people we connect with, people who will follow through on promises, and people who can read with awareness. That means we want someone who will push us and our story to be better.

Step One: Want to Be Better

Before we look for beta readers, we have to ensure that we’re ready to receive feedback. It won’t do any good to track down beta readers if we’re going to ignore everything they say or if we’re going to get upset that they didn’t love our work as is.

Beta readers are not cheerleaders. We’re wasting their time if we can’t honestly want to hear what they have to say. (That doesn’t mean we have to agree with everything they say. *smile*)

If we waste their time, they won’t want to work with us again. And if that happens, we’re back at square one in looking for beta readers. So if we want to keep beta readers, we have to value their time and at least respect their feedback.

Where Can We Find Beta Readers?

Our Current Circle of Non-Writer Friends and Family:

As long as they can read with awareness and provide feedback for what worked or didn’t work for them—and at least hint as to why—they can be a valuable resource.

Our Current Circle of Writer Friends:

  • Post a request for beta readers on Twitter, Facebook, WANATribe, your blog, etc.
  • Offer to beta read for someone.

For example, when one of those writer memes to “post 2 paragraphs from your work in progress” goes around on Facebook, or when people post snippets of their work on their blog, leave a comment if you love the writing and say, “Let me know if you’re looking for a beta reader. I’d love to read more!” All great partnerships have to start somewhere, and they can start with you reading for them.

Our Current Circle of Writer Acquaintances:

  • Post a request in our writer forums.

In a writing-oriented Google+, LinkedIn, Yahoo, Facebook, NaNoWriMo, or other forum group? Post information with your genre, story blurb, and what you’re looking for in the appropriate area of the forum, and see if anyone responds.

  • Ask around in our writing organizations.

Are you a member of a writing organization? See if they have a matching service, or if they offer a mentor program. If the group has online components, post a request there too.

Outside Our Current Circle—Non-Writers:

  • Ask at book clubs interested in our genre.
  • Ask at the library if they know of any local resources or clubs.
  • For younger readers, ask teachers, friends’ kids, or at school libraries.

Outside Our Current Circle—Writers

  • If we’re not active on social media or members of writing groups or organizations, join and start making those connections. *smile*

Other writers are often our best resource for many aspects of writing and publishing—not just beta reading—so becoming part of a writing community is helpful all around.

Note that I haven’t used any of these online groups, so I can’t make recommendations. Some of these require paid membership, and I noted those where I knew of a fee structure.

Also, some of these act more as matching services (meaning all critiquing is done off-line and in private) and some of these require you to post your work publicly and critiquing is done online. Most of the latter require you to post feedback to others before allowing you to request feedback on your work. Look around for a site that will work for you.

Other Tips and Resources

For a successful beta-reading relationship, communication is key.

  • We should communicate what we’re looking for as far as feedback, maybe explaining whether we’re looking for big picture or nitpicky feedback, or listing questions or concerns we have about our story. For example, I often ask my readers to mark:
    • “Anything that takes you out of the story (confusing wording, voice/characterization seems off, too repetitive, no conflict/tension, etc.).
    • Pacing issues (too slow, feels too “one note,” not enough of an arc, scene goes on too long, etc.).
    • Emotional feedback (I love to see stream-of-consciousness emotional reactions when you notice them/think of adding them).”
  • We can communicate with our beta readers about the style of feedback we find most helpful, like I discuss in these tips for being a better beta reader.
  • If we’re working with readers outside our genre, we can communicate how they can focus their feedback on the big picture, like in these tips for beta reading other genres.

I hope that’s a start for a mega-guide to finding beta readers (or critique partners). If you have additional suggestions, please let me know in the comments and I’ll add them to the list!

Are you looking for beta readers? Did this post give you new ideas for where to look? If you have beta readers already, how did you find them? Do some of these methods work better for you than others? Do you have recommendations or positive comments for any of these sites? Or do you have cautions or negative comments for any of these sites?

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66 Comments on "Ask Jami: Where to Find Beta Readers"

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Tamara LeBlanc
Tamara LeBlanc

Morning, Jami!
I love how you use the word awareness in reference to betas. Awareness of what their reading, how it resonates, if it makes sense, if it flows, if its stale, boring or to much action are all critical. And if your beta isn’t aware of these things, they probably aren’t as useful.
What fantastic resources!!! can’t wait to check them out.
I LOVE my betas. I’m so glad to have them and hope that wasting their time isn’t an issue 😉
Have a great day!!
Tamara

Leslie Miller

I’ve had no luck with beta readers so far. Either months go by and they haven’t read read the book, but have produced a book’s worth of excuses why not, or they finally do read it but cannot give a single useful comment about what they like or don’t like.

I’ll be trying again when I get my latest WIP into shape, definitely with different people. Perhaps I’ll try some of the organizations you mentioned instead of friends and relatives.

Mike
Mike
Hi Leslie! Your comment is some consolation that I am not alone with beta readers emailing they are excited and going to read, then never hearing from them again. I went to a paid matching site and originally paid on 12-31-16. I waited 8 weeks and none of the five readers who were all eager to read answered my email that I had rewritten on my own and if they hadn’t read by that point to let me know or ignore my new draft and keep reading the old one. Only 1 of the 5 answered and said they would soon read. The owner of the service reposted my story and another 4 were eager to read. Now 4 weeks later and all 4 stating about a week to read my novel and comment I’m afraid the same condition is setting in except for one reader who liked my story a lot and read it once to grasp the overall flow of the story and will read again for critique after she surpasses some medical issues. Still though almost a month later and I’m afraid of the same phenomenon and this is a paid beta reader matching service. Can I email you somehow direct as I’d like to learn if you know a way to finally find a beta reader. I hope to find at least 3, or anyone else here. I feel I must find a paid service as going to the forums and online writers groups and even… Read more »
Glenda Poulter
Glenda Poulter

I have a running list of beta readers on my Resources for Self-Publishers (and everyone else). The link is http://imtogfer.wix.com/resources-self-pub#!beta-readers/c23z8. Not only beta readers but also editors and cover designers, formatters etc.

Carradee

I believe I’ve mentioned before that I regularly post pieces of a first draft on Wattpad. A foreseen but not sought-out effect is that I have fans who volunteer to beta read my work.

A very small percentage of readers find my postings rude. Most enjoy it, and some have expressed gratitude and make comments as a form of payback.

But before I did that, I had experience interpreting beta reader feedback. For instance, I know I’m prone to omitting transitions, so when someone’s confused or misunderstands something or says it took them a few tries to follow a scene, I know that I’m having transitions issues.

I’m not recommending folks follow my example—I get the comments because I have a lot of followers, and I work well with posting a WiP in public. A lot of writers don’t do well in that environment, and getting followers on Wattpad is tough, until you get in the recommendation engine. But in that respect, it’s comparable to FictionPress.com.

DC Lozeau
DC Lozeau

Useful info, Jami. I, too, have fallen victim to non-helpful beta readers. But your advice here has given me new insights. Thanks for sharing.

PS: Are you a beta?

DC

Ashley
Ashley

This was immensely helpful, Jami. I’ve recently finished my first manuscript and was contemplating beta readers, so this couldn’t be more timely. Thanks!

Amanda
I actually found two of my beta readers at my very first writers conference! While one of them has sort of dropped off the radar (we’re also friends now, and I completely understand why) I still use the other one regularly…to the point where I’m afraid I’m overworking her *cringes* I write fast, so I know my output can be a lot to keep up with. The other reader I’ve used a few times I met through my blog, and can I tell you how incredibly helpful it is to have a male perspective on romance writing? I adore him. He’s fantastic. I would like to find at least one new reader, though, mostly because while my regular beta offers super helpful comments, I get a little paranoid when she starts raving about the book…and then all it nets are rejections. I’ve looked into Why Don’t We CP because I love Jessica Sinsheimer but haven’t used it yet. I might once I get another project polished. Oh! And NA Alley also has CP/beta matching, so if you have a New Adult manuscript that could use a reader, that’s another source: http://www.naalley.com/p/cp-beta-bulletin-board.html As far as the other ones you’ve listed, I used Scribophile years ago. It’s a credit-based system (although they do offer paid memberships). In order to receive a critique/read, you have to read a certain number of posts first and offer feedback. Also, the queue for fiction (or was it novels?) is LONG. I remember waiting several weeks for… Read more »
Anne R. Allen

Great, comprehensive post, Jami! I’ll link to it in my post this Sunday on why you shouldn’t use agents or customer reviewers as your beta readers, as some misguided newbies do. I agree that paying beta readers takes you into unknown territory and I’d be very wary. Better to hire an editor, IMO.

Melissa Maygrove

Thanks for posting this. And perfect timing–I’m almost ready to seek out a few myself. 🙂

I gather from your post that the typical beta compensation is to swap beta for beta with no money changing hands. Am I right?

Crystal Collier

Awesome! Let me just throw in a plug for Critters.org. I’ve been a member there for about 4 years, and they’re pretty great. Online, anonymous, give and take for fantasy, horror, and sci-fi.

Joanna Aislinn

HNY, Jami! As always, wonderful tips and an excellent and varied assortment of links! Thanks!

Robyn LaRue

A good critique/writers group is ideal (at least mine is). I also use a few family members I can trust to be honest. That’s for first round. For second round, I find non-writing readers that are in my target audience. So far so good anyway. 🙂

Donna Hole
Donna Hole

Well written Jami. This will be helpful.

……..dhole

Jillian
Jillian

I’ve been using critiquecircle.com, and it has been invaluable. I highly recommend it or a similar online critique site. It didn’t take long to connect with some of the other writers on the site, and now I have a whole crew of passionate, talented writers with whom I exchange feedback. Plus, seeing what works and doesn’t work in other people’s WIPs has been a crash course in storytelling, and my writing has improved exponentially. I cannot overstate how much it has helped me.

Vanessa
Vanessa

Hi Jami,

Wonderful blog post as always.

I found several betas back from when I wrote fanfiction. I also found great writing betas by asking around on twitter. I don’t think an author should have to pay for someone to beta their manuscrript because that beats the point. If an author wants a manuscript assessment they can hire a professional editor for as much as s$100 and they will do a 10 page assessment on the strength and the weakness of your manuscript (I did this before and it helped me see the problems with my story).

Thanks for letting me comment!

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SG Daniels

Jami, This was helpful information. I started like Leslie Miller, I couldn’t find faithful betas at first. After a couple of months, I finally asked the right people. All of them I know personally, and knew they would give me the honest, no punches pulled feedback I needed. They were fantastic, and asked to stay on for the whole series. I will check out some of the groups you mentioned to see about helping other authors as a beta. I found that helping others actually stimulated me on my own WIP.

Mary Ann Clarke Scott

Thanks Jami,
This is a great resource and exactly what I needed. I’m looking for beta readers right now (in case anyone’s interested) and this not only includes excellent ideas for finding them but great guidelines in asking for what I want! Thank you.

pirkko

Thanks for sharing. I will need these ideas later.

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Jeff @ GetBetaReaders.com

Hi Jami – Thanks for the plug! We’re close to sending out invites for our closed beta, in case anyone else is interested in getting in soon. Thanks!

Jeff

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