The Ericksons

Working with Beta Readers


beta readers

Most authors use beta readers to help them prepare their book for publication. It’s extra work and takes more time, but this is a step you won’t want to skip if you want your book to be as good as possible. How do you get beta readers? What do they do for you?

Beta readers go by several different names

  • Beta readers
  • Street Team
  • Advance Readers
  • Launch Team
  • Book Crew
  • Review Crew

I call my beta readers “Advance Readers,” because they read my book in advance of it being in its final form (more about that later).

What do Beta Readers Do?

Authors not only use a variety of names for their beta readers, but they utilize their beta readers in several different ways, depending on what they need most.

Do you :

  • Need feedback to help you decide what to cut and what to keep?
  • Welcome proofreading from those who excel at spotting typos?
  • Have specific questions you need to have answered?

I personally have my team of Advance Readers read an early version of my book. I ask for feedback, both specific and general and make a lot of changes based on their responses. Then, once the book is ready to publish, I send my beta readers a final copy of the book so they can see the finished product. At that time, I ask them to post a review on Amazon and Goodreads.

There are some drawbacks to my method

The chances of my beta readers reading the book a second time (when they get the final copy) are slim, so I risk getting a review based on a less-than-the-best version. To minimize this, try to have your book in fairly good shape before you send the first copy to your beta readers. I always think mine is looking pretty good and then discover a multitude of problems after I’ve sent copies to my beta readers.

The thing I gain from this method is the insight of my readers. They often see things I missed, so I can fix those issues before the book goes to print.

There are 4 basic methods that a beta reader can use to give you feedback

  1. Call it as they see it

This method works well with Microsoft Word’s Track Changes feature as well as the equivalent in Google Docs. Your reader can make any notes they want as they read. You will get lots of detailed observations and proofreading notes with this method.

  1. Chapter by Chapter

With this method, your reader will make some observations at the end of each chapter. This is especially helpful when you have specific questions such as whether “this chapter” even belongs in the book. One of the great things about it is that it doesn’t feel overwhelming to your beta reader, yet they will be giving you useful feedback.

  1. The Big Picture

This is my personal least favorite, but it’s still better than nothing. With this method, many things bet forgotten or left out of the feedback. This is especially good if you are confident in your editor and just want to know if there are any glaring problems. It is also perfect when you are looking more for a review than for feedback. We will talk more about that in a future post on launching your book.

  1. You can answer specific questions

Often writers have certain things they want to know. Should this chapter be cut? Should I use this ending, instead? Etc. These are often very professional, seasoned writers who are checking out a few nagging issues. When you use this method, put together the questions and let them know that these are the concerns you need them to consider. Some writers prefer to ask the questions after the reader has finished the book in order to get big picture answers. This is often thought to better mimic the actual reading experience. How you approach it will depend on what you need most.

A note about working with family members

It’s fine to have family members be part of your beta reader team. Be aware of how honest they are being with you, though. Sometimes when we are close to someone, they hesitate to give us the brutal honesty we need at this point on the process. If they understand that their honesty is crucial, you will probably be fine.  This is like my favorite example of letting someone walk around with spinach in their teeth. You aren’t being nice if you don’t say anything.

Create a tracking sheet

This will help you keep all of your beta readers on track. Some things to record on this tracking sheet are:

  • Who did you send a copy to?
  • Have you sent a reminder email after 2 weeks?
  • Have you received their feedback, yet?

I also like to create a folder in my email in which to keep any correspondence with my beta readers. If someone doesn’t follow through, you will want to remember if you use them as a beta reader on another book that you might not be able to count on getting a response from them. Some writers choose to draw a line in the sand after 1 or 2 experiences like this. I tend to be a bit more lenient. Sometimes, life happens.

I love my Advance Readers! They make such a difference in the quality of my books. Do you use beta readers? Have you ever been a beta reader? I’d love to hear about your experiences!

What are YOUR thoughts?

I’d love to hear in the comment section, below. I appreciate my readers as well as the writing community. To show that appreciation, I use Comment Luv. Just leave a comment below and your latest post will get a link next to it. Thank you!

About Heather Erickson

I am an author, writer, and speaker and homeschooling mom of 3. Since doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan with stage IV lung cancer in 2012, I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace. My books are available at Amazon.com:

The Memory Maker’s Journal 

Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer

Facing Cancer as a Parent: Helping Your Children Cope with Your Cancer

I also blog about living with cancer at Facing Cancer with Grace.

Have any questions or comments? I would love to hear from you! By commenting, you agree to the terms of my privacy policy.

10 comments on “Working with Beta Readers

That was a wonderful read, Heather. Beta readers can do so much more than I had considered. RT

I like that you call them advance readers. I’ve done some beta reading, and it’s helpful to me as a writer, too. I can see how things fit together in someone else’s story.

I’ve been working with betas for a while now, and I find I use different readers at different stages. You really only need feedback from about 3 people for the glaring problems to come to light. Then there are the literary readers (writers) vs the for fun readers (non writers). Non writers are more beneficial in later stages as far as I’m concerned. And I never use family anymore, except for my husband.

Hi Liz. It really is interesting to see another writer’s process. Sometimes I feel like mine is a bit clumsy, but each time I publish a new book the process gets smoother and more systematic. I have gained a lot of insight from participating in a critique group. As you said, I learn as much from reading their work as I do from their critiques of mine. Have a wonderful day!

Hi Jacqui. I seem to recall that you are part of a critique group. Do you also use beta readers for your novels?

Hi Crystal. I agree with you. Who needs 9 people telling them what they can learn from 3 people? I have a couple of family members who know that I value honesty more than niceties, and they have been helpful beta readers, but all too often, family members want to cheer you on. There’s a place for that, too–just not as a beta reader 😉 Have a wonderful week!

My beta readers have changed over the years, but they’ve always given great advice and helped me make the story better.

It was a privilege beta reading for your last book. So excited it is published!

Hi Patricia, My beta readers change, depending on my book topic. I have really been blessed with amazing beta readers, though. They make such a difference in the finished product. Have a great week!

Hi Nancy. You made a huge impact on Facing Cancer as a Parent. I really appreciate the time you put into being a beta reader. Bless you!

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