As a self-published author you probably already know the importance of beta readers. As Carla King explains in her must-read post, Use Beta Readers to Perfect Your Story and Cultivate Fans, a beta reader can help you improve your writing, jumpstart your marketing and avoid embarrassing mistakes.
That is, if they are the right beta reader for your book. If your betas love romance and you’re writing sci-fi, you may not get the feedback you most need.
So, if you don’t yet have any beta readers, or if your betas are not true fans of your genre, read on to find out where to find those all important early readers that match your target audience.
When Beta Readers Don’t Help
Though many authors know that beta readers are important as part of the writing process, only a few realize they can also offer valuable marketing support, as beta readers can become part of a street team and leave those crucial first reviews.
However, the trouble starts when a writer selects any beta reader, as preferable to having no betas.
This can lead to all sorts of problems, as the beta readers give feedback that isn’t appropriate to the author’s genre, or worse state that they don’t like the book. This may not reflect the quality of the book, but rather that it’s not a great fit for that particular beta reader.
Target Your Search for Beta Readers
In my previous posts, I have explained the importance of identifying your target reader, and your beta readers should match this avatar as closely as possible if you want to find out from them if your book resonates, as well as learn about areas for improvement.
Any experienced beta reader will be able to tell you if there are pacing issues, plot holes, or underdeveloped characters, and they are always preferable to non-reading friends and family.
However, an experienced beta reader who is passionate about your genre is what you really want, but how and where do you find them?
Don’ts for Beta Reader Selection
The solution is pretty simple; the main thing you need to do is make a conscious decision to select betas who are readers of your genre—do not just pick anyone who agrees to read your book.
Don’t use friends and family unless they are fans of your genre and they can be objective. Friends and family usually fall into one of two camps.
—They love you and will say all good things about your book, either because they genuinely believe it’s great for the simple fact that you wrote it, or because they don’t want to hurt your feelings.
—They love you but the way they choose to show it is to ridicule you at every opportunity. (Perhaps this is just a British trait?!). The teasing could get worse the better your book actually is, but it’s hard to know what they really think.
Don’t use readers who are not fans of your genre or type of book. There is a reason why people prefer one type of book over another; it’s because they are different! The structure, pacing, and emphasis on characters change depending on the category, so asking someone who understands the conventions of one genre to read something different could lead to confusing feedback.
Don’t use previous beta readers if you’re writing in a new genre or style. You may have a trustworthy group of betas who supported you brilliantly with a previous book, but if your genre has changed significantly, they may not be right for your new work.
Changed Genres? Change Your Beta Reader
I worked with a client who wrote an urban fantasy series. Her betas were fantastic, but when she sent the first book in her new series, they were disappointed. They tried valiantly to provide feedback but in the end, one beta made it clear that this new book was too dark for him. She was now writing dark fantasy and needed to find fresh beta readers.
If you have a team of supportive betas who suddenly struggle to read one of your books or simply don’t like it, pause. Before deciding that your book is dreadful, consider whether you have changed your writing, even if only slightly, and therefore changed your target reader. If you have, look for at least one or two new betas. Your marketing will also need to change accordingly.
Do’s for Beta Reader Selection
Do ask your list. If you have already started a mailing list you can seek out beta readers simply by asking if anyone would be interested in being one. Be sure to ask them some qualifying questions to ensure that they are a good fit for your book.
Do ask for feedback from writing groups. You could ask your own group if you are part of one, but you can ask other groups too if you think their members may be a better fit. This also gets around the problem of asking friends, if you think members of your own group are too close to give impartial feedback.
Do seek feedback from readers in Facebook groups and Reddit forums, but again make sure they are the right ones! The key is to look for groups where you know fans of your genre hang out. There are lots of writers’ groups on Facebook and many authors help each other out with beta reading. While it can be beneficial to get another writer’s eyes on your work, remember they may not be your target reader.
Implementing the Solution
When choosing beta readers it is preferable to have a range of people looking at your work. You can have writers and editors who can spot technical problems and readers who just love free books and will tell you whether they enjoyed it or not, or places where they got confused.
But the most valuable beta readers (and you want to be sure you have two or three of them) will be the ones that match your target reader. They don’t need to be writing experts; they will instinctively know if your book is on track based on their experience of reading the genre.
Take on board feedback from all your betas to ensure your book is the best it can be, but pay particular attention to what your ideal beta reader says, as that is the best indicator of whether your book will do well in the market.
Like what you just read? Get more author tips and access into exclusive indie resources when you become a BookWorks member. Join our Community now. Click HERE to sign up!