The importance of an earnest beta reader #authortoolboxbloghop

Here is the next article as part of the #Authortoolboxbloghop organised by author Raimey Gallant.

The #AuthorToolboxBlogHop is a monthly event on the topic of resources and learning for authors. Feel free to hop around to the various blogs and see what you learn! The rules and sign-up form are below the list of hop participants. All authors at all stages of their careers are welcome to join.

A longer version of this article was originally written as a guest post for the blog of Publishdrive. You can read it here. I also menion blog hops in the long version and #authortoolboxbloghop is one of them! Publishdrive is a company helping authorpreneurs publish and distribute their books so that might also be interesting for some of you.


The importance of an earnest beta reader

Being a writer is no easy feat, especially if one chooses the path of self-publishing where, to misquote a classic, with great freedom comes great responsibility.

One has to oversee every step of the production and one has to to be in control all the time. This, however, doesn’t mean that you have to be alone. Quite the contrary,  you should have a team of professionals around you who can assist you whenever you need them. Today I am going to tell you about the importance of beta readers /critique partners and give you some ideas about where to find them.

Betas and cps: who are they? 

You finished your novel yesterday and you’re already planning to publish it tomorrow? I would strongly advise against it. After you let it rest for a few weeks, give it another read with a fresh eye and edit it like there’s no tomorrow. You’ll probably find a few typos, unnecessary digressions and things to rewrite completely. When you are more or less happy with the result, it’s time to ask for a second opinion.

Critique partners are usually other writers who look at your story with the eye of a writer, trying to help you fill in plot holes, make your characters more believable and also to spot grammar mistakes. Very often you exchange stories and you can even form a long lasting partnership.

I started writing about five years ago, that’s also when I found my two long lasting critique partners who have helped me along my writer’s journey ever since.

The advantages of long term partners is that you know each other’s strength and weaknesses, so you know what to look  out for; you know each other’s working methods and you can even become close friends.

The disadvantages are roughly the same: sometimes you know the writing of the other almost  as well as your own and it makes it difficult to remain impartial and spot mistakes.

That is why I’d suggest having a few occasional cps beside your trusty old ones.

A good place to look is Scribophile, a website aimed at writers where you can upload your stories and get some useful criticism. The system works well because to upload your story, you have to earn “karma points” by reading the writings of others, this way it encourages interaction and gives everybody a chance to read and be read.

Signing up is free, but you can only upload a limited amount of works, so it’s really worth checking out the premium option. It is also a great place to find like minded writers with whom you can later exchange stories. Being a member helped me both with my writing and with networking in the writing community. If you want to know more about critique partners, I suggest reading this very informative article on Bridgid Gallagher’s blog.

Betas or beta readers can also be writers themselves, but as the name suggests the focus is more on the reading aspect. They can tell you how they found the story on the global level, if they liked the characters, figured out the mystery etc. You can ask friends or even family members to read your story, but it is the best to find someone who can give an objective and unbiased opinion. It is also advisable to try to find readers who with diverse backgrounds, different age groups, genders, occupations to be able to have a varied input on your work.

If you write about characters with markedly different background than yours, you might also want to consider consulting some Sensitivity readers who would help you avoid unwittingly hurting someone. You can find out more about sensitive readers on the Writing in the Margins website.

My previous post in this blog hop:

Find my August #Authortoolboxblog hop post here.

Find my September #Authortoolboxbloghop post here.

Find my October #Authortoolboxbloghop post here.

Find my January #Authortoolboxbloghop post here.


10 thoughts on “The importance of an earnest beta reader #authortoolboxbloghop”

  1. I definitely believe in long term readers. Providing constructive criticism can be a very delicate thing, and while a story may need a lot of work, how that feedback is worded is just as important. In some ways I think it’s important to ration the feedback. Pick a few topics to focus on, both in the structural big picture and the small picture of grammar and sentence structure, and save the rest for another draft.
    Scribophile definitely sounds like a strong resource. Often times there’s a great deal to learn as a reader.

  2. Great post, Fanni! Such a process, this editing novels thing, isn’t it? I’ve been reading some other great post on sensitivity readers lately, and I’m struck by how short-sighted some can be on this topic.

  3. I’m new here and appreciate your thoughts about beta readers. You provided some great ideas. I’ve never tried Scribophile, but I’ll check it out. I have a couple reviewers I’m fortunate to use. My wife is also a a former newspaper and book editor and very critical. A book can’t be over-edited.

  4. I’d personally be skeptical about using a website or service to get beta readers, but only because I’m private and naturally shy away from things like that if I don’t know them. When I needed my first beta readers, I asked my blogging community because they knew me and I trusted them. All of my beta readers are writers themselves and people I know, which I like because there are no surprises for either of us. Now, I have a small street team I can go to for beta readers if I need them, and these are readers of mine who know what to expect but can still be objective, too.

  5. Good critique partners are so important. Too many people just get a friend or family member and think they are going to get quality feedback. While they may say they liked or didn’t like something, only another writer is going to be able to pinpoint the actual issue.

  6. Great insight on the benefits and downsides of long-standing cps, Fanni. Being relatively new in my personal journey I am just starting to have anyone reading my work who could be considered long-standing, but I know I will have fresh eyes look at everything too. The perspective of others is so critical to writing. I am thrilled you have found your community and have had success with Scribophile. I have an account and have critiqued others but still haven’t posted my own work, yet. I think I may on this next edit pass. Best of luck.

  7. I have the same 5 beta readers for years. I love them. They all have different skill sets and contribute in a different way. Sometimes I’ll try a new one, but when I do, I’m very specific about what I’m looking for. I find beta readers to better with a bit of guidance.

    For example, early on I found it hard to get people to give me hard feedback. I wanted to know if they were bored anywhere and no one said. But when I asked them to mark any spots they skimmed, they did. That told me the passage was boring.

    Now my beta readers don’t mind giving tough feedback.

  8. Great post I’m on Scribophile but I haven’t done or uploaded any writing for critiquing in a long while. When I first started writing again it was one of many online writing groups I joined. And it’s the only one I still use. The critiques were always informative and encouraging. And helped me to spot holes to fix, plug up and improve.

  9. Great topic. I have three long term beta readers and for each book I try and find one new person just for that book. That helps bring in a new view on my writing. Beta readers are the best!

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