Every writer knows that completing a draft is one of the initial steps when publishing a book. It’s close to impossible to publish a first draft as you would always need to re-read and rewrite, sometimes changing the whole plot. At such points, you would find that you have looked at your work for so long that it doesn’t make sense and the only thing that could save you would be a fresh perspective. This is where beta readers and critics come in.
So, what do these terms actually mean? A beta reader is a test reader who reads and reviews a work from the point of view of an average reader. This enables the writer to fix problems with plot, consistency and other issues with the general flow of the narrative. Beta writers are usually unpaid, non-professional readers and should not be confused with editors who focus on sentence structure, vocabulary and grammar. Critique partners are usually writers who give reviews from an author’s point of view. They give professional advice helping with plot holes, character development and specific aspects of your writing that you request them to review.
Here are a few platforms where you can find them.
To use their own words, Scribophile is a respectful online writing workshop and writer's community. Writers of all skill levels join to improve each other's work with thoughtful critiques and by sharing their writing experience.
It focuses on workshops and discussions on writing. The unique thing about this site is that you have to write critiques for other people before you can post your own work. You earn ‘karma points’ by doing this and once you earn enough, you can post your work to be critiqued. This seems to work well at all levels. While reviewing other writers’ work, you will be able to rethink techniques and different methods of writing. Scribophile assures the safety of the writer’s work and you retain all rights to your work.
The site has the option of being a free user as well as a premium one. The first option limits how much work you can upload for reviewing, while the second one has unlimited uploading scope. You can also meet like-minded writers and make new friends. This site focuses more on critiques than providing beta readers.
An online writing workshop for all authors of all genres. This a space for writers to give and receive feedback on their work, and learn from one another. The site also includes forums and writing tools that help in manuscript progress, deadline tracking, character generation and more. This site which provides a social forum for interaction with other writers is free to anyone interested in improving their writing skills as well as helping other writers. Critique Circle caters to a variety of genres, including science-fiction, fantasy, romance, children's novels, horror and suspense. It is writer-friendly and secure too. People have full control over their submissions, including the ability to either hide them from all other users or delete them at any time. People can also choose to have the stories only visible to those who regularly critique, or those who have critiqued recently. The critiques are sometimes said to be harsh, but very helpful to a number of users.
This site is mainly dedicated to children’s books. They have a manuscript swap programme that enables writers to review each other’s work. If you are not looking for critiques but rather beta readers, then this site has the option for you too. The advantage of this site is that you can choose to have a critique partner or just a beta reader. However, because this site specialises in children’s books, it may not be a suitable destination for writers from other genres.
Putting out requests on social media
Yes, you read that right. It’s not a particular site. Sometimes the best way to find a beta reader or a critic is to ask. There are a large group of people who love reading and would do a good job of giving feedback. They too must be looking for a chance. Putting out a request for a beta reader specifying your genre and conditions on a public social platform will give you a wide reach. Obviously it will be hard to filter through all of the applicants, but if you clearly state your genre, writing style and what you expect from a beta reader, things will be smooth.
In addition, platforms like Facebook and Tumblr have groups formed by critics and beta readers. Going through the information on their pages will give you an idea of what works they review and whether they will be suitable for you. Some examples of such groups on Facebook are; Beta Readers, Beta Readers Here, 10 Minute Novelists, The Indie Author Group and so on. Tumblr too, has groups like Betafinder that you could look through. Another good place to explore is goodreads. Goodreads is a well known site among authors and also has groups like Beta Reader Group that are dedicated to helping authors.
Another important term that needs to be understood along beta readers is sensitivity readers. Who are sensitivity readers? These are readers who read through your work and point out issues of representation and bias. For example if your draft contains diversity, especially one you are not extremely familiar with, they help to weed out internalized bias and negative language. Make sure to choose your sensitivity reader very carefully, as you are dealing with very sensitive matters. (No pun intended)
A good place to find sensitivity readers would be Write In The Margins.
Have you ever worked with beta readers, critics, or sensitivity readers before? If so, how was your experience and do you have any other suggestions other than the ones mentioned above?
About the Author
Christy is a student, part-time writer, and a full-time Wannabe. She devours books and binges shows.