So far in this series, we’ve talked about the difference between Beta Readers (Betas) and Critique Partners (CPs), how to find the best CP for you, and how to be a good CP. We’re going to continue that trend this week by talking about some of the qualities of a setting up a good group of Betas, and where to find them. This content is inspired by three of my favorite Youtubers, who have countless videos on this subject, Jenna, Kim and Vivian Reis. If you haven’t checked them out, do it. They rock.
Things to Know
- Create a diverse environment: In talking about the qualities of a good CP, I mentioned that you’re probably going to want someone who has similar interests in terms of what they like to write. Mostly because they are going to be looking at your manuscript several times. With Betas, you almost want to do the opposite. Of course, you can still find people who have similar reading interests, but don’t restrict yourself to them. Open up the opportunity to a wide, varying audience. Recruit people of all ages, walks of life, those who love your genre, those who don’t… Toss a net into the ocean and see what you catch. There are a few reasons this can be helpful:
Intended Audience vs. New Audience
|Intended Audience||New Audience|
- Ask questions and set requirements: At first glance, this probably seems counterintuitive to my last point. However, you still have to make sure that you don’t end up with an audience that is not even close to the one you hope your book will reach. If you’re writing a post apocalyptic angel story meant for those 17 & over, but all of your applicants say that they hate post-apocalyptic and they’re underage, that’s probably not going to be a great set of betas for you. Toss in a few willing to read the book even if they usually don’t like postapocalyptic to see if your audience is wider than you think, but make sure to look at their reasons for wanting to beta in the first place before you accept or disregard anyone.
- Communicate, and be okay with change: This is something that Jenna and Kim mention in their Beta and CP videos, and it is undoubtedly the most important thing to look for in a Beta. You’re going to go through a lot of people before you find a solid group that works for you and your book. Be ready to let go of those who don’t. If you ask them for feedback and all they give you are bland the statements like, “It was good,” or “I liked it,” explain that you need more than that if they really want to help you. If they don’t comply, let them go. Also do this if you have a beta who only ever makes negative, snarky, rude comments that make you feel bad about your writing,
Where To Look
- Join a local writing group: Whether online or in real life, writing groups are great places to find people to read your work. Not just because they’re writers, but because to be a good writer, you must also be an avid reader. They will likely read your work with an open mind and honest eye, not only looking out for writerly concerns such as grammar, but big picture things as well.
- Be active on social media: Advertise, advertise, advertise. Get the word out. Like with CPs, Twitter and Facebook are great places to find betas, as is Wattpad and any other online writing platform. Kim also made a google docs form which is how I signed up to beta her book Keeper just under a year ago (Wow!) It was super easy to fill out and helped her keep track of all the requests she received. I highly recommend this avenue in addition to posting everywhere online.
- Don’t use your friends and family as the first group of beta readers: Unless you have a super honest group of family and friends, they are probably not going to be the first people that you want see your book. Not because they won’t want to help you, but because they are already unintentionally biased toward liking your work because they like you. This does not mean that they can never read your work, but I recommend going through a couple of rounds of other betas before handing your manuscript off to those who know you best.