Memoir Tip: Try a Beta Reader!
I confess I hadn’t used Beta readers, until my latest book (a novel). But now I’m hooked! My goal in assembling a Beta reader team was simple: encouragement to write regularly. Knowing I had readers eagerly awaiting my next chapter helped keep me on-schedule. That accountability thing, you know!
Turns out working with my wonderful team of Beta readers brought unexpected benefits. My Betas not only offered support and encouragement but also spotted all sorts of things in my manuscript (good and bad) that I simply didn’t see!
They cheered me on when a passage worked really well. They let me know when my brown-haired person in Chapter 2 suddenly morphed into a blonde in Chapter 16. And yes, just as expected, they provided consistent, supportive encouragement to just keep going. My book got done faster, and turned out far, far better, thanks to their help and feedback!
Here’s how a Beta team might help:
- Beta readers offer accountability – a way to encourage yourself to keep writing. You’ve promised them that next chapter, and don’t want to let your team down, right?!
- Unlike a family member or best friend, a good disinterested Beta reader can offer you honest (though also kind and constructive) feedback.
- Beta readers can provide a great sounding-board for changes. You can’t overwhelm them with rewrites, of course. But if they suggest a clarification or improvement, you can send a short paragraph and ask if this new version answers their concern.
- Beta readers are often voracious bookworms, so their opinions can help you better target your anticipated readers’ expectations.
- It’s still your book. You don’t have to take any suggestions a Beta reader might offer. Even if you decide to make no changes at all, you’ll come out more confident in your end result, just knowing that your choice was a deliberate one.
Remember, of course, that Beta readers aren’t the same as editors. So don’t expect that level of detail in their feedback and responses. On the plus side, the cost of a Beta reader is very minimal – some Betas even read for free!
How do you pick a good Beta reader? Well, be clear about your expectations up front to help make sure you’ve found a good match. And like anything else, reviews from previous clients are often very helpful.
Like to know more about Betas and what to expect? Professional Beta Charmaine Uy kindly shares her thoughts and experience in this short Q&A!
Q&A With Charmaine Uy:
Q: How did you happen become a Beta reader? Do you have specific training. . . are you just great at grammar, spelling, organization?)
A: My peers have always told me that I recommend such great books, and that I always talk about them with such passion that maybe I should consider working in the literature field, but I just shrugged it off. But the opportunity presented itself when I was scrolling through Upwork and saw some writers were looking for Beta readers to help them with their manuscript. So I tried applying to some of them and, thankfully, I was chosen to be one of the beta readers. It all started from there.
Q: How can a Beta reader help writers? What are the benefits of working with a Beta?
A: Beta readers are able to see loopholes or inconsistencies that the writer may have missed while writing. We point out areas that need more work, or areas that we found unconvincing. We also highlight the things that we find interesting, and everything that stood out to us. Beta readers are solid bookworms, so they have a keen eye when it comes to reading.
Q: What’s the biggest challenge for a Beta reader?
A: The biggest challenge I’ve faced so far was reading a manuscript that was incomplete. Telling the writer about what was missing felt like I was walking on eggshells. I wanted to be honest but gentle. But that’s what being a Beta reader is for; being able to tell the writer your honest and unbiased opinion without coming off too strong. In the end, it is still their manuscript, after all, and tearing the book apart with unkind words would not do anyone any good. Being selected as a Beta reader is a privilege in itself, and supporting the writers we’re working with should be our first and foremost priority.
Q: Where might memoir writers get “stuck” that a Beta reader could help them?
A: Beta readers could ask them what areas they want to focus on, and help them pull their thoughts together before putting those thoughts into writing.
Q: In general, what does it cost to work with a Beta reader?
A: It really depends. Some base their fees on the word count of the whole manuscript, like $1 per 1,000 words (example: $79 dollars for 79,000 word count); others settle on a fixed price no matter how long or short the book is. And there are also Betas who do it for free.
Q: Where can people find Beta readers?
A: Betas could be found anywhere. As for my experience, I found my Beta reading gigs on Upwork and Goodreads. And some writers were able to find their Betas on Twitter, Reddit, and even Facebook.
If you’d like to reach out to Charmaine Uy for more information about her Beta-reading services, here’s her email: CharmaineAUy@gmail.com