Why pay for a Beta Reader?
A while ago I read an ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) for a soon to be published book. It was a huge struggle to read this book. The book was very slow going. The movement of the story line was over saturated with detail, settings and situations that didn’t lead to overall development of the main storyline. Grammatically speaking the book was well written. Characters were well thought out and had depth. It had a trope that was well done and a nice twist that added complexity to the storyline. However, with a storyline that was overly written and a way too long book, this book was not ready to be published.
This is where there is value in a good Beta reader. This story should have had a strong Beta Reader in the beginning to help the author realize where some of the problem areas are. It was a story that needed fresh eyes to give the author some honest feed back about the story and what worked and did not work. This is not the job of an ARC reader.
As a Beta Reader I have heard all sorts of theories about BETA reading and who is the ideal beta reader. Some author feel that this role could be a close friend or maybe a super fan of their offerings. Many authors don’t feel they should pay Beta readers. Sometimes many authors only use Beta readers early on WIP but not necessary to use them once you have the whole story together. Some authors only use a beta read right before sending their final draft to their editor, a half step before it would go out to ARC readers. While there is no one right way to engage with a beta reader. I do think it is an important step, especially if you are making the choice to not use a developmental editor.
The piece that is going to be so important in engaging with a beta reader is to expect honest feedback about your manuscript. A good Beta Reader can be so much more than a yes person. If you are not using a copy editor or a developmental editor a very solid Beta Reader could truly help you produce a well written and thought out book. Beta Readers are a great source to helping to find possible plot holes or character missteps. Authors are human and mistakes will happen but by engaging a well read and professional Beta Reader it is another resource to make sure you are producing the best story possible.
What is the value in paying a Beta Reader when you former college roommate will do it for free? My argument would go back to the adage you get “what you pay for”. By using a professional you would get more than just a “this is great” feedback. You should expect them to give you feedback on storyline, character arcs, plot holes and over all book thoughts. By engaging with a professional you should receive professional feedback. It also takes out the personal piece. Their goal in the end is to help you present your best work to market.
We offer not just an overall read but I will make editorial notes as far as setting issues, character development, and overwriting. Your Best Friend will know the work and time you have put into a book and might not be as honest as you need to present a polished copy to your readers, editor or agent. By allowing a professional to have eyes on your book in the long run it might help avoid last minute rewrites.
The Beta Reader is also on your timeline, so if deadlines are looming a professional is only going to take the work they can get to by the assigned due date you give them, versus using your cousin, they might get busy with kids or work and not meet agreed upon due dates, leaving you with out that final over all read.
A couple things you should look for in a Beta reader. One, they should be well versed in your genre and possibly your sub-genre. Two, make sure that they are willing to take guidance from you, communication between an author and beta reader will help the process so much. Three, be willing to listen to your beta reader. Likely they have read 100’s if not 1000’s of books in your genre and have a strong working knowledge as to what is out in the world and what readers are looking for. Also consider giving them a list of things you are seeking feedback for. After they have completed the read through ask them very targeted questions especially if you are unsure of certain segments of the book.
When charging for Beta reading, we have set a fair price that makes our service accessible for self-publishing and indie authors. We do understand that sometimes cost can be an issue, please reach out. The goal of a beta reader isn’t to break your bank but there is value to their time and feedback. Some beta readers have a hard-set rate. Talk to several Beta readers before you settle on one. Make sure you feel like they can be a part of your team or someone you can work with.
Most people in the field are trying to help your craft. They want you to present the best possible product to your audience. A Beta Reader wants you to succeed. Being a Beta Reader is more than just a job, it does take a lot of passion on their part and a love of the craft of writing to read a rough copy of a book.