So you’ve waded through the murky waters of writing a first draft, you’ve self edited as best you can for the time being… now it’s time to get some feedback on all this hard work, blood, sweat & tears! Now in my time as a writer, I have gone through the beta reading process many many times, both as a reader & as a writer needing feedback so I’ve got some nuggets of information for you to make the process less painful.
There are two options for beta reading & I’ll go through the pros & cons of both so that you can make an informed decision about what will work better for you.
Free Beta Reading
The obvious pro to this version of beta reading is that it doesn’t cost you anything. Now free beta reading can be found in two ways – either you can ask friends, family & people you know to beta read your novel. The other option is to find people within the writing community. The pro to asking friends – you know them, you already know if they’ll be constructive & kind with their feedback. The con – they may not know the industry or genre standards, & the kind of feedback that would take your novel to the next level. The pro to asking people within the writing community – they are more likely to know the industry & expectations of the genre, their feedback could be more beneficial to your edits. The con to asking people from the writing community – you don’t know them personally, they could be overly cruel in their feedback, they could hate the tropes you use. The point is you don’t know.
Regardless of where you find your free betas, here’s my biggest piece of advice. SIGN A BETA READER AGREEMENT (BRA). Now people are put off by the idea of a contract, but really, it does no harm to your betas. If they have any sense they will understand that you are merely protecting yourself & your work. You may think, ‘I trust these people I don’t need it in writing’, I’m here to tell you people can let you down. I’ve had people literally take things I’ve written & re-write them almost word for word for their own use, some even put out there online. I won’t ever make that mistake again. It is ALWAYS better to be safe than sorry.
Paid Beta Reading
Now obviously this first off seems like the worst option as you have to pay BUT I’m here to tell you… there’s benefits. As a writer using free betas (friends) I’m here to tell you, it doesn’t matter how good a friend they are, it doesn’t matter that they’ve signed a BRA – so many of them will not end up reading it at all. My last session of betas ended up as around 10 people. I had 10 people agree to read my novel, sign a BRA & have me send them the novel. I only received 3 lots of feedback & only 2 of those were actually helpful.
Paying a beta reader means you’re guaranteed to receive detailed feedback & not only receive it, but you can be promised to receive that feedback within a set time frame. I offer beta reading services myself… I guarantee for the minimum package a detailed 25 page questionnaire filled out with additional notes with a 2 week turn around. I waited for 2 months with free betas to give them time to read… I still didn’t get what I’d been promised. Now I’m not writing this blog post to push my own services. Simply having gone through it before, in future I will be paying for beta readers. My two best friends are writers themselves & we all beta read for each other for free in our little group, they are the only people I will be trusting in future to beta read for me. I will be paying for beta readers to get solid, detailed feedback from a couple of sources for all future works. That is my choice personally.
Now obviously you need to work out what is best for you. If you truly feel you have people in your life who will read it, who will give you good, constructive feedback then by all means go for it with free beta reading. Know how lucky you are to have those people in your life.
If you don’t & can afford to pay for beta reading (even if it’s only one beta) it’s worth it. Beta feedback is so beneficial to the editing process, it is crucial. Beta reading is your way of gauging audience interest before your work hits the shelves. I hope you feel better informed with beta reading now & receive some marvellous feedback on the work you’ve put so much effort into. If you have any questions, I’ll be happy to answer them for you as best I can.