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.

Sometimes my clients offer free copies of their books for readers who swear they’ll post timely, positive reviews on Amazon and Goodreads.

Beta readers are regular people who are willing to read an unpublished manuscript and give honest feedback to the author. Ideally, they like to read books in that genre and are drawn to the book naturally — 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.

What do beta readers do?

  • catch glaring errors
  • look for inconsistencies
  • leave comments where they laughed, cried, cringed, and — most importantly — put the book down

 What don’t beta readers do?

  • edit for style, voice, sound, or substance
  • be mean or rude if they don’t like the book

What does an early reviewer do?

  • receive a free advance review copy (ARC) or new release
  • read the book in the next two weeks
  • if they’d give the book 4 or 5 stars, post a review on Amazon
  • if they’d give the book 1, 2, or 3 stars, or put the book down before finishing it, tell me why (this is priceless information)

Check out our sample beta reader questionnaire.

Our beta reader program

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 50+ 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 try to 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

Domesticated betas

Our domesticated 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 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.

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