Here’s all you need to know about hiring a good and reliable beta reader – which is the best thing you can do after finishing your manuscript draft.
So, after days of burning the midnight oil, fretting over your plot climaxes and cliffhangers, and forcing the words out on paper, you’ve finished writing your book. You sit back, swallow the last dregs of your tea, exhale, and stretch. Then a thought pops into your head: what now?
Being an author myself, I know how tempting it is to dive back into your writing and start editing right away. You’re excited, enthusiastic, euphoric – and any other relevant words starting with ‘e’ you can think of – and you really want to land yourself an agent or a publishing contract (or both). And the first step to landing one is having a polished, clean, proof-read manuscript, right?
But it’s also important to step away from your manuscript and divert your attention elsewhere. You’ve spent so much time and energy on it that you now need to detach yourself from it in order to clearly see its flaws and errors. For that, I’d suggest taking a few weeks off and focusing on other writing projects. Then you can come back to write your second draft.
But while you’re taking a breather from draft one, you can hire a beta reader. The rougher your manuscript, the harsher they’ll be – but that also means you’ll get more critique and feedback to use for draft II. Beta readers come either unpaid or paid, and depending on your budget, you’re free to make a choice.
I would suggest hiring a beta reader over asking someone as a favour. This gives the beta-author relationship some credibility. I’ve heard horror stories of authors sending their precious manuscripts to unpaid beta readers and never hearing from them again. Of course, this doesn’t always happen. Some unpaid betas are absolute treasures, so just use your own judgement.
If you’re still on the edge about paying a beta, take a look at their testimonials! Reach out to their former clients and ask how the experience was. Request for a first chapter read before sending them your full MS. Discuss rates, payment policies, turnaround time and other doubts you may have upfront. If money is tight right now, ask them if you can pay in instalments.
Remember that a beta reader is not going to edit your book (unless they’re also editors, like me, and you’re hiring them for both services). Don’t expect them to point out grammatical errors or fix sentence structure. Beta manuscripts are generally unedited, as the editing process comes afterwards. But do give your draft a quick proofread yourself to the best of your abilities.
You can find reliable beta readers on Twitter and Goodreads. I wouldn’t recommend Upwork (mostly because they suspended my account recently and I’m mad at them, but also because freelancing websites don’t always offer the best quality). Some beta readers also have their own websites (like me!) where you can reach out to them.
It’s their job to point out errors – because they want to help you make your book reach its full potential. Be open to criticism, and don’t lash out at them if you don’t receive positive feedback. They’re just telling you their opinion. For this reason, I’d suggest having at least two to three betas so you can see what the general consensus is.
Good luck getting your book beta read. Feel free to contact me if you need my services. Cheers, authors!