Y'all know where I stand on beta-readers: They usually aren't worth it.
But things have changed. Historically, the "beta-reader" used to refer to a strange volunteer online who was neither vetted nor credentialed in terms of critiquing. The trade-off was that a would-be reader gained access to an author's unpublished work in exchange for a free and quickly delivered critique.
Now this was, of course, a crapshoot. Over the years, I've watched authors cast a wide net in terms of beta-readers. They would "hire" over a hundred readers, and then subsequently sift through their feedback for common denominators. This philosophy just didn't work for me, as I'm more of a quality > quantity sort of gal, and thus I dismissed the beta-reading stage of the editing process.
But now that I'm looking to publish a book that's incredibly complex, plot-wise, and thereby prone to plot-holes, I can see the advantages of casting a wider net — and not with Critique Partners, who tend to be friends, but with experienced beta-readers who're willing to create a professional relationship.
*A FEW DISCLAIMERS. While it's helpful to cast a wider net, resist the urge to go overboard and hire 100 beta-readers per manuscript. Remember, they will *all* provide feedback. The more feedback you solicit, the more likely you are to get overwhelmed, and that's not going to help you at all.
My official advice: Hire around twenty beta-readers per manuscript. Try to find a beta-reader company that facilitates a professional relationship between yourself and your readers, which will help to keep them aligned with your personal goals as an author. REMEMBER that most beta-readers only offer overall feedback — not line-by-line notes — so be sure to analyze the specifics of what you're looking for before hiring anybody. And last but not least, be prepared to spend money. While these services aren't expensive, they do usually cost something, so budget accordingly.
With those disclaimers being said, I shall now present a comprehensive list of beta-reading resources for those of you interested in getting some fresh eyes on your manuscript, starting with BetaBooks.
This seems to be the most highly recommended beta-reader company I've heard of, which is why I'm mentioning it first. The only negative feedback I've gotten is that its website is prone to technical issues, especially when signing up. I plan to personally test this out, so I'll report back with an update if I experience this.
*Free: You're able to post one book and receive up to three beta-readers. This seems like a risk-free way of testing the waters of BetaBooks's interface, ability to interact with betas, and ability to organize and manage feedback.
*$14.99 monthly subscription: This will get you unlimited books and 20 total beta-readers, as well as the unique offering of in-line comments, reader surveys, and access to the reader directory.
*$34.99 monthly subscription: This provides unlimited readers; a beta-reader hierarchy with assigned roles, such as collaborator vs. view-only; the addition of "images" (whatever that is meant to indicate); and "other tools" (which are hard to identify, as there isn't really an obvious place to find this information).
If you're looking for a cheaper option, HeyBeta may be your best bet! What I love about this company is that it offers direct in-app messaging between author and beta-readers, as well as the ability to provide readers with specific guidance in terms of what sort of feedback you're looking for.
*Free: Unfortunately, it's only free to sign up.
*$7.00 monthly subscription: You'll get two pen names, unlimited books, and 25 beta-readers per book, as well as access to all other features.
$14.00 monthly subscription: You'll receive 10 pen names (who the hell has the time!?) as well as 100 readers per book — but again, I advise against this, as that seems like a surefire way to overwhelm yourself.
The final beta-reader company I'll be discussing today is CritiqueMatch. I didn't learn about this company until a few days ago, when I read about it in a newsletter released by one of my favorite industry professionals. Apparently what stands out most about this company is that its focus includes cultivating a strong, professional relationship between author and readers.
A few other details that make this company a top contender for me: If you're looking to find critique partners for FREE, there's a specific search for that. Of course, you are also able to pay to hire professional, experienced beta-readers. It focuses a lot on privacy — so, after a beta-reader has critiqued your work, it disappears from their account forever. You also have the option of remaining anonymous throughout the critiquing process.
What's even better? This company is in BETA MODE. Meaning, everything is free!
The only negative thing I've heard about CritiqueMatch is that its website and interface is a bit unintuitive, clunky, and challenging to navigate — but really, that's the case for almost everything when it's in beta, right?
Whelp, that's all I've got for you today, Patrons! I hope you benefitted from today's post. Are you planning on trying out one of these companies? If so, which one? Definitely let me know so we can exchange feedback! For now, I've got my eyes on CritiqueMatch. — AV