Beta readers. I know, everyone talks about them, but it’s always going to be important to any writer, so it’s always going to be worth talking about.
I’ve always liked the idea of beta readers, a way to unleash my (what I consider) finished beast on unsuspecting readers and wait for the glorious praise to come rolling in. I’ve written a masterpiece after all, haven’t I? I posted on several forums I am active on: Goodreads, Reddit, and others. I tried to dangle a bit of a carrot for would be readers, a mention in the acknowledgements in the finished item along with a free copy of said book, plus my eternal thanks. I sat back with a smile on my face and waited for the offers to come in.
After two weeks, nothing. Not a single bite on any of my comments, not one person offering their much wanted services. It was then that I realised a major issue. My post was one of hundreds, with hundreds more rolling in on a daily basis. I scrolled through to find my post, only to find it shunted to the deepest depths of the forum. I kept watch of new posts as they arrived; they asked for the same as me, and offered very similar, and I watched as they were swiftly swept to their deaths with nary a post between them. Upon seeing this I decided to take action.
I used a paid beta. Yes, you read that right, a paid beta. I can hear the cries of outrage and horror from behind my monitor as I type this. You’d be correct in thinking that you can get people out there who will do it without being paid, and if you can then that is great. For those of us who struggle to get a bite, I can only say how impressed I was for a reasonable price.
I chose my beta from the fact that they were actually an editor as well. I received regular updates on the progress of the read, with their thoughts as they piled through my manuscript. Come the end of the two/three week process I received at five page document covering both story and technical elements, with their true thoughts on what worked and what didn’t. It was swift and concise, and the beta was friendly and was happy to answer any extra questions as well. I don’t want this to act as a sales post, so if anyone is genuinely interested in using the same service, drop me an email and I will pass the details on.
I understand this won’t work for everyone, and that is understandable. I’ve been on both sides of the beta fence, and I know the frustrations of each. I’ve given in-depth feedback on technique, characters, plot, and received not even a thanks back. It’s all too easy to get burnt when it comes to an honour system. It’s always best to keep in mind that you are asking for a person’s most valuable commodity – time.
So, if you are searching for beta readers and have no luck getting a bite, it’s not the end of the road. There are other options out there to get feedback, they just might not be deemed as conventional as the status quo. But then again, when was it any fun following the status quo?