One thing I wish I would have known after I finished my fifth round of editing my first manuscript (I self edited it for a full year and a half), was the existence and importance of Beta-Readers. As I sat alone, starring at my manuscript, it never occurred to me that there were people in this world who would be willing to trade manuscripts and exchange opinion and offer suggestions with their skill set to help better my work.
I honestly felt completely helpless. When I finished my sixth pass of my manuscript, I wanted to get serious about being published so I stumbled on the web, found blogs, and learned about hiring an editor. I kid you not, I spent so much time researcher editors to hire. I contemplated forking out up to $2,500-$3,200 to help me. Now, please don’t get me wrong, I think free-lance editing is a great option. But as I researched, I realized it wasn’t what I was looking for.
I mean, what if I wanted to make changes? What if their suggestions were huge structural changes? Then I’d make changes and all of our money (Yes, ALL of our money) would be gone and I wouldn’t be able to afford further help to assess my changes.
Needless to say, it was stressful.
I spoke with three fabulous editors. I nearly signed three contracts, out of desperation. I knew there was nothing else I could offer my own manuscript. I’d edited it to death.
But I also knew my manuscript wasn’t ready for an editor. Sure, friends and family said it was amazing. But I knew it wasn’t enough.
Eventually, I stumbled onto a post about beta-readers. Everything changed. I had to find one of these amazing individuals who would offer their help, as I was certainly willing to offer mine!
So I started my search, and honestly, it was frustrating. I had trouble connecting and receiving responses. I admit to some paranoia too. What if these people were just going to steal my work? My ideas? It was a horrible headache.
Then finally, after a lot of Google searching, I found forums. I found twitter. And I took some risks, and connected.
I thought I’d offer a list of resources for people Googling beta readers.
But, before you dive into these resources, I’d love to offer this advice.
1) Don’t expect to get a beta reader without giving back, whether to them or to another writer. The writing community is about helping others. If you aren’t planning to help others, than go ahead and hire those editors straight off the bat.
2) Don’t expect to have your ego petted. In fact, if a beta-reader writes back “Everything is fabulous! I loved every bit,” this is actually a sign that this person either didn’t read the manuscript or didn’t read it in depth enough to really care about helping you.
3) A good beta reader will offer some praise along with their suggestions. It’s ok if there is more suggestions than praise. Some manuscripts need a lot of work! But, you want to look for a beta reader with kindness. Feel free to ask beta readers their style of beta reading. There’s no harm in that.
4). Be honest with others. Expect honesty. It really doesn’t help anyone to tell someone you liked a character when in fact they annoyed you to pieces.
5). Try to follow through on time commitments. Life happens. Sometimes, you can’t get your response to someone’s manuscript back within the set time frame you agreed (A few weeks, a month maybe). But, if you know you aren’t able to critique a manuscript within that time frame, please be considerate and update that writer before the time frame elapses. Golden rule, do onto others as you would have them do onto you.
So, with all that said, here are some resources to look for beta readers.
Best Bet Resources
1. CPSeek.com: This is my new favorite resource. A group of mentors/critique partners created it. It’s a wonderful place to find both new and egar beta readers as well as seasoned readers.
2. SheWrites.com: This website isn’t a beta-reading website. But it’s a great resource for connecting with other writers, opening the door to possible beta-reading relationships.
3. Twitter hashtags: Look for #amwriting #amediting #amrevising #CPLove . Make friends through these Twitter hashtags and see if you can develop a beta reading relationship with someone. Don’t be afraid to ask. It’s ok if someone says no. I’ve been shot down a few times. I’d rather someone be honest, and say no, then say yes and never get my manuscript back to me with feedback.
4. LadiesWhoCritique.com: I found a great beta reader through this website. It does take a few days for people to respond, sometimes a week. But the website is built in a way that is user friendly.
5. Twitter contest: #PitMad, #PitchMadness, #PitchWars. Look for other people entering the contests. This is where I’ve made my best of best twitter friends and beta reading partners!
6. Reddit.com: I admit I’ve not explored this resource but I hear it’s rather reliable for finding beta readers.
7. How About We CP: This is a new one, just launched today! I’m excited about this place. I can’t wait to dive in and check it out.
So-So Resources – I’ve heard some people find successful beta readers here.
1.Absolute Write Water Cooler : Search the forums. You can find beta readers here if you look for them.
2. Query tracker: Again, forums. Search and find.
I hope this list of resources will help you find some fantastic beta readers!!! This spring, my beta-reading months are full. But this summer, time will open up and I’ll be happy to help!