I Tested Out Paid Beta Readers So You Don’t Have To
To beta read, or not to beta read, that is the question
Oh, beta readers. If you’re a writer in the midst of writing and editing a novel, you’re probably quite familiar with the term. It’s the idea that you need a second group of people to read through your book — your beta readers — after you’ve finished writing said book. Ideally, beta readers are the type of readers who would actually read your book, not just any run-of-the-mill reader you can pick up off the street. This means that if you write fantasy and your mom reads romance, she might not be the best beta reader for the job. Similarly, if you’re having to bribe friends or family to read your book, they might not be the best beta readers, either.
Finding beta readers can be hard — especially for those writers who are not involved in large writing groups and who may not have a plethora of friends who actually enjoy reading willing to lend a hand. I know finding beta readers was one of my biggest concerns when writing my romance novel, and I also know that I’m not alone. I’ve talked to several of my writing friends who are in the same boat — writing a book without a viable beta reader in sight.
What, then, is a writer to do once they’ve finished, revised, and edited their first draft?
This is where paid beta readers come in.
Why pay for a beta reader?
You’ll see lots of advice on the internet to never pay for a beta reader. In fact, lots of people who give writing advice on the internet advise against paying anything to anyone ever, which just isn’t feasible for most writers. In my humble opinion, the days of money always flowing towards the writer and not away from the writer are gone — there are simply some parts of being a writer that are “pay to play,” so to speak. And there’s nothing wrong with that!
That being said, I also think that you should be smart with your writing budget. Do just that — give yourself a budget before endeavoring on your writing journey. Budget for things like writing software and conferences and, yes, even beta readers if needed.
You need to get another pair of eyes on your book, and sometimes friends and family aren’t helpful. Or maybe you don’t want to share your book with friends and family when it’s in the beginning stages. That’s okay, but that can leave you in a bit of a bind. Unless you’re willing to pay for beta readers!
Where to find paid beta readers
Just like there are many marketplace-style websites where writers can offer their services for a fee, there are websites where beta readers and editors offer their services for a fee. The most common website where beta readers are available for hire seems to be Fiverr, a site you’ve likely already heard of. If you’re not familiar with Fiverr, it’s a website where you can hire creatives for a variety of work — from editing, to voiceover, to graphic design, to, you guessed it, beta reading.
I first heard the suggestion to hire beta readers off of Fiverr when I attended a writing conference earlier this year. An author asked the presenter of a session that covered self-editing for writers about beta readers — the always-present question of how to find beta readers (which gets exponentially more difficult the more books you’re writing, I might add.) The moderator for the session suggested Fiverr, and I started looking up what kind of readers were listed on the site during the rest of the session (the beauty of an online conference where Zoom can be open in one browsing tab, Fiverr in the other.)
Let me just tell you — there are a ton of beta readers available for hire on Fiverr! And not only are there tons of options, but there are also tons of price ranges available, too. I saw beta reading services for anywhere from $25 to $300, and much of the pricing difference depended on how long your book was. I ended up going with two beta readers off of Fiverr — one who charged around $40 for my 71,000 word book, one who charged $71 for the same book.
My budget for hiring beta readers when I decided to go this route was around $100, so I ended up going slightly over budget, but getting two different readers to look at my book instead of one (which would have been easy to do since so many of the beta readers advertising on Fiverr charge over $100 right from the start, regardless of word count.)
My experience hiring paid beta readers
The first step to hiring my beta readers was to message them. It seems like most of the beta readers on Fiverr ask that you message them first so they can give you a customized quote. For both of my beta readers, the quote pretty much matched the advertised price, though there was one additional beta reader I messaged who ended up being out of my price range once we started chatting about specifics.
Once I was given a quote and the readers explained their individualized processes, I paid for their services and sent a copy of my manuscript. Both readers had approximately the same timeline of about three weeks to finish their beta read of my novel, though one of my readers was done several days early.
Both of the sellers I worked with to beta read my novel, Kit and Amber, gave me lots of great feedback about how I could improve my novel, but their processes varied quite drastically from one another. Kit’s beta reading report was super thorough and took into account things like overused words, grammatical errors (though it was not a line edit by any means,) and overall ways to improve the quality of my writing in the book. Amber focused more on the overall plot and pace of the book, taking note of chapters or scenes that drew her in and spots where she felt like putting the book down. Both beta readers gave pretty thorough after-reading summaries of their thoughts on the book including the characters, beginning, middle, and ending.
Was hiring paid beta readers worth it?
I know this is the question you’ve all been waiting for, and my answer is a resounding yes! The main reason I wasn’t sure about getting beta readers before hiring two off of Fiverr was simply that I didn’t know where to find beta readers. I did some research and had all but talked myself out of getting my book beta read because I simply didn’t know where to start.
Is it necessary to pay for beta readers? Definitely not if you have some readers readily available and willing to read your book and, this is key, readers who are familiar with your genre and would actually pick up your book to read if they were perusing the bookstore. My writing friends read entirely opposite genres than what I read and write — they wouldn’t even be in the same section of the bookstore as my book after publication, so, of course, they wouldn’t be the best beta readers.
You may hear from sources all over the internet that you shouldn’t need to pay for beta readers or editors if you are going to be traditionally published, but I view paying for beta readers as a way to invest in myself and my future success. Don’t go into this process without a budget, and definitely don’t pay hundreds of dollars for a single beta reader, but know that a little investment into your book can go a long way to realizing your dreams of publishing a novel.
Armed with feedback from my beta readers, I’ve edited my manuscript and ventured into querying. I’ve even had some success so far. Next stop, publication.