I have been very fortunate to work with some amazing beta and advance readers. Recently, I realized that although some of these readers are very helpful, they don’t always understand the difference in the role they play when acting as a beta reader versus an advance reader.
This made me realize that sometimes when I work with beta and advance readers, I assume they understand what they are supposed to be doing which is unfair of me. Other authors may view this differently, but here's how I define the roles of a beta reader and an advance reader.
What are they?
I like to think of beta readers as the equivalent of beta testers. Beta testers try things out before they’re ready for the general public, report any issues, and comment on what they liked and didn’t like. That’s essentially what beta readers do.
Beta readers are best used after self-editing, but before hiring a professional editor. This can potentially save time and money when working with an editor if you’ve got a great team of beta readers. Saving money on editing fees isn’t the main reason to work with beta readers though.
Having extra eyes on my manuscript is extremely important to me. I don’t know about you, but I often read what I want to see and not what’s actually on the page when I’m self-editing, so the more eyes I can get on my work, the better. Beta readers are also less emotionally attached to the story and characters so they are objective readers that can provide essential feedback regarding how well the story is working.
How to work with them?
You can find beta readers a number of ways. I like to ask people I know that read the types of stories I write. The most important thing for a beta reader is that they are able to be honest with you. They have to be able to tell you the things they didn’t like about your story and what didn’t work for them, so you can improve your story. Posting on social media or emailing your subscriber list are also great ways to find beta readers.
To get the most from working with beta readers, it’s important to prepare a list of questions for them to answer once they’ve read your book. In a previous post, I identified five key questions to ask your beta readers, but you can ask anything you want relating to your manuscript. When I wrote Murder Audit, there were certain scenes I was worried about being believable, so when my beta readers were finished reading the story, I asked specifically about those scenes.
What are they?
Sometimes a beta reader can also be an advance reader. Advance readers are certainly just as valuable as beta readers, but their help is needed at a different stage in the publishing process.
An advance reader will get a copy of your book when it’s just about ready to be published. How far in advance depends on the publication date and how much time you want to give people to read your book.
The job of an advance reader is to help spread the word about your book. They can sometimes notify you of typos and formatting issues, but at this stage in the publishing process, they aren’t going to influence your story or any major changes in your book like a beta reader can.
How to work with them?
Having an advance reader team is a way to create excitement about your book. Advance readers are encouraged to leave a review of your book once it’s published and if they enjoy the book, hopefully they will tell their friends about it too.
The important thing to remember with advance readers is that not everyone will end up leaving a review even if they’ve said they would. Life gets in the way and sometimes people don’t end up liking the book and don’t want to leave a bad review. In my experience, about 20-30% of my advance readers left book reviews. So, the more advance readers you have, the better your chances of getting lots of book reviews.
Following up with both beta and advance readers is important. People get busy and a friendly email reminder will help them remember to provide feedback or leave that review.
Do you have questions about working with beta and advance readers or about being one? Leave them in the comments below.