brittneycanna said: Hello! First things first, I must say that I really love your blog. It’s very helpful :) I wanted to ask about beta readers. I’m currently writing a novel and I wanted to find a beta reader that could beta read each chapter as I complete it. In the past, whenever I found a beta reader they all disappeared on me. Some never returned or others would returns months later. I understand people get busy, but do you know of any places to find a reliable beta reader? Thanks in advance!
Thank you for the love! Now, down to business.
Beta readers are pretty common in the amatuer writing community these days, especially so in the realm of fan fiction, but finding a good one, one that will stick with you throughout your entire project, can feel nigh impossible.
The first problem is experience. Many beta readers have not trained professionally as editors or proofreaders. This fact can rear its ugly head in various ways: uneven proofreading, pushiness, lack of reliability, etc. Professionally trained beta readers usually want some kind of payment for their work, as is absolutely fair, but most writers aren’t able to pay for the services of a trained professional. If by some miracle you can find an experienced beta reader, professional or no, who is willing to beta for free, you’re often at the mercy of other demands on their time to work on your project together. This could lead to slow turnover and feelings of neglect.
The second problem has nothing to do with the beta readers and everything to do with the writers. It turns out writers aren’t very reliable. We might churn out chapters for a month then fall into a slump and ignore the project for weeks (or years). We might communicate effectively with a beta readers at first, but slack off as the feedback we don’t like comes in or else become clingy in a manic effort to please our audience of one.
We might create a mountain of work for our beta readers, but fail to show our gratitude for the sweat and blood they’ve poured into the project. We might come to resent the feedback from a beta reader. We might ignore their advice, lash out at the criticisms, and accept only the compliments as valid commentary. Writers like to dump all of the blame on their beta readers if a project dies, but it takes two to tango, you know, which leads me to my third point.
The third problem is compatibility, and I don’t just mean that your personalities must be are well-matched. It can feel like the two of you, writer and beta reader, must jive on a level bordering on telepathy upon your first meeting in order to be functional collaborators. That’s a lot of pressure, and that pressure can make it difficult to communicate your goals and limitations to one another.
What writers need from their beta readers changes. Sometimes it’s just someone to clean up the grammar. Sometimes it’s a relationship cloer on co-authorship. It can be hard to clearly define these needs to a stranger, and even harder to define them to a friend or writing buddy. The compatibility issue here lies not with personality but with professional expectations. This is a business relationship, and if the specs aren’t outlined properly, the whole project could fall apart.
But no pressure, right?
What beta readers need from their writers also changes. Feedback from the writer on what the beta reader has had to say is not always necessary or welcomed. Inconsistency of output on the part of the writer can cause an upset for the beta reader, either in overwhelming them with work or in leaving them with nothing to do, both issues that can cool their interest in the project pretty quickly.
If you’re in different time zones or one or both of you has limited internet access or problems understanding your chosen method of feedback, you’ve got technical issues as well.
You see, finding the perfect beta for your project is sort of like scouring the ocean for your very own giant squid. They exist. You know they’re out there somewhere (rolling in the deep). But finding one could easily take a decade of searching.
So, how do you go about finding your giant squid?
- It helps to have a plan. If you can provide a comprehensive summary of your project and your needs to prospective beta readers, it’ll be easier for them to decide if they’re interested in working with you. Having a good idea of your story and what you need from your beta will show how serious you are about the project, and that’s attractive to beta readers. Be clear, concise, flexible, and open to questions and suggestions. You can learn from every beta reader, even the ones who turn you down.
- Do your research. Check out a beta reader’s previous projects and other qualifications and specifications before making contact. If they beta sci-fi and you’re writing contemporary, the partnership is probably doomed. (But maybe not! If you want a certain beta, don’t be afraid to ask!)
- Be professional. Writing, even amatuer writing, is a job. So is beta-ing. Treat all beta readers with professional respect no matter what.
I have a few resources for you:
Places where beta readers can be found:
I hope you find your beta reader/giant squid, anon! Thanks for your question!