Beta readers and early reviewers

“If there is an amateur reader still left in the world—or anybody who just reads and runs—I ask him or her, with untellable affection and gratitude, to split the dedication of this book four ways with my wife and children.”

– J.D. Salinger, from Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters & Seymour, An Introduction

What is a beta reader?

Beta readers and early reviewers are authors’ darlings. They’re regular people who offer to read an unpublished manuscript and give honest feedback to the author. Ideally, they like to read books in that genre and are organically drawn to your book — by its title, maybe, or its description or jacket copy. They don’t have to be pros, writers, teachers, students, or, God forbid, grammarians. They just have to want to read that particular book for fun.

Beta readers’ responses can be invaluable to authors (especially indie authors) because they give a glimpse of what the reviews might look like if the book went live as is. Because, after all, Amazon is forever.

Our beta reader program

For a flat fee, we’ll send your book out to our betas and bring their responses back to you a month later. We have 75 wild and 10 domesticated betas and we’ll help you determine which would be best for your book right now. A month later, we’ll send you honest feedback from qualified strangers you won’t have to sit down with at Thanksgiving.

Wild betas

Our wild betas (also lovingly referred to as feral) are unpaid, untrained, and come with no guarantees. They may or may not finish your book. They may or may not meet their deadline. They may or may not fill out our questionnaire, or fill it out completely.

Sounds like a great investment, doesn’t it?

It is. Because knowing whether someone DOESN’T finish the book is just as valuable as knowing what they thought of it after they finished it. These are readers who were drawn to your book by all the available information: Your title, your tagline, your book description, your bio. They’re the ones who might pick it up off the shelf or buy it online or borrow it from the library. Don’t you want to get their reviews before the book is published?

Our wild beta service will send a call out to our list of (as of May 5, 2018) 75 volunteers and send your book to all takers. We’ll stay in touch with your readers from start to finish and find out how their reading experience goes. If they get stuck or don’t finish the book, we’ll find out why. We’ll compile their anonymous answers and send them to you with our interpretation of your possible next steps.

Become a beta reader

Civilized betas

Our civilized betas are professional, paid readers we know personally. They are carefully matched to each manuscript and are well versed in your genre. They are sworn to finish the book, meet your deadline, and fill out our customized beta reader questionnaire completely and thoughtfully.

As with our wild beta service, our domesticated betas’ anonymous responses will be compiled and sent to you along with our thoughts on the best next steps for your manuscript.

Bring Your Own Betas

If you’ve gathered your own beta readers and want to get the most out of them (read: want them to tell you the truth, even though they live with you/work with you/grew up with you/raised you), we can manage them for you. Send us your manuscript and their email addresses and we’ll handle them like wild betas.

Here’s a link to our last campaign, which brought in 41 volunteer readers. (Requests are closed.)

Here’s what we send to our betas:

Dear reader,

Thank you for volunteering to beta-read this manuscript!

Your responses are invaluable to authors because they give a glimpse of what the reviews might look like if the book were published right now.

What to do

All you have to do is read & respond to the book as a reader. You don’t need to be a writer, a teacher, a student, or a grammarian — just a reader.

Look for inconsistencies and illogic.

Make a note of wherever you smiled, laughed, or loved something, as well as wherever you were confused, irritated, bored, or stopped reading. That information is invaluable to a writer!

If the manuscript you’re reading is an Advance Reader’s Copy that’s about to go to print, you’re welcome to look for errors, but please don’t go nuts on editing. Most of your suggestions will probably be ignored since the book has been (or is being) professionally edited, so you’ll be wasting your time. Even so, no one person will find every error in a 300-page manuscript, so if you’d like, go ahead and flag mistakes when you find them.

Answer the questions below to the best of your ability.

Your time and input are greatly appreciated. Happy reading!

Meghan Pinson and Sunny Cooper

My Two Cents Editing’s Beta Reader Questionnaire

Demographics

  • Name
  • Email address
  • Gender
  • Age group
  • What genres and books have you enjoyed over the last year?
  • Do you usually buy print books or ebooks?
  • Where do you shop for books?
  • How much do you usually spend for a book?
  • How do you prefer to interact with readers and authors? (Goodreads, FB, Twitter, workshops, conferences, libraries, book clubs, book signings, book blogs, etc.)
    • Among friends in person
    • At libraries
    • In bookstores
    • In book clubs
    • At book signings
    • At writers’ events
    • Through book blogs
    • On Goodreads
    • On Facebook
    • On Twitter
    • Other

Notes on expectations

  • What did the title make you think the book would be about?
  • What drew you to the book in the first place?
  • Did the book description accurately reflect the book’s content?

Notes on the reading experience

  • Did you finish the novel?
  • If you didn’t finish reading the novel, where did you put it down, and why?
  • If you were browsing in a bookstore, would the first chapter have made you want to keep reading? Why or why not?
  • Did you find the premise believable? Would these characters really behave this way in these situations?
  • Which character did you find most compelling or sympathetic? Why?
  • Did you think the characters were well-developed?
  • Was the novel ever confusing? Where and why?
  • Did you ever lose interest in the story? Where and why?
  • Did the settings (time, places, geography, mood) anchor you to the story? Did they seem accurate and/or believable?

Notes on the writing style

  • What are your thoughts on the book’s voice or style?
  • Did the dialog ring true?
  • On a scale of 1 to 10, how many spelling or grammatical errors did you notice?

After “The End”

  • What did you think of the ending?
  • What do you see as the strengths of this novel?
  • How would you summarize what this novel is about?
  • Would you recommend this book to a friend?
  • Did the novel remind you of other books or authors? In what ways?
  • Do you feel this novel is ready for publication? Why or why not?

Notes to the author

If you’d like to leave a note for the author, this is the place to do it! Feel free to ask questions about the novel, write a compliment, or leave positive feedback on this beta-reading experience. Unless you indicate that you’d like us to share your name with the author, we’ll pass your notes along anonymously.

Thank you!

Your time, attention, and honesty are incredibly valuable and very much appreciated. Many, many thanks to you, reader!

Want to work with our wild and domesticated beta readers?

Rates start at $250. For more information, write to Meghan Pinson for wild betas and Sun Cooper for domesticated betas here.

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