Last month for the #AuthorToolboxBlogHop I talked about how to receive feedback on your work. In the past couple of weeks it’s come to my attention that many writers I know are still struggling with a completely different problem: how to get beta readers and critique partners so they can actually receive feedback. So today I’m going to share a few things that have worked for me, and a couple things other people have suggested.
What are beta readers & critique partners?
First, let’s quickly discuss the difference between beta readers and critique partners (sometimes one person can be both, but typically they’re different people):
Beta readers read a completed manuscript and give feedback from a reader’s perspective. Unlike critique partners, beta readers are often voracious readers with extensive knowledge of your genre rather than other writers. Usually you only want to send them manuscripts that are already quite clean, although sometimes I ask for beta readers on an early draft if I’m struggling with a big structural problem and want an outside opinion.
Critique partners read your work chapter by chapter and offer constructive feedback. This feedback is typically more nit-picky, focusing on individual moments rather than the story as a whole. Critique partners are usually writers you have a reciprocal relationship with–so you read their stories too (or, in my case, you wait impatiently for your critique partners to finish something & feel guilty sending them 1,001 stories).
Often there’s some overlap between these two categories. Some beta readers will also be writers, and sometimes you will trade manuscripts. You may also have people work as critique partners on one project and as beta readers on another project. The important thing is that you have people doing both of these things (and eventually an editor, but that’s a whole different article).
So how can you find them?
There are dozens of ways to find critique partners and beta readers. Many writers suggest physical writing groups, but these can be challenging to set up, especially if you live in a rural area. I’ve never actually participated in a real-world critique group, so today we’re going to focus on social media.
1. Ask in groups/chats
Several social networks offer group chat capabilities. There are hundreds of author groups on Facebook, and many let you seek beta readers/critique partners. Some, like the 10 Minute Novelists group, have a specific day each week for seeking out beta readers/critique partners/other help. Others, like the #Writestuff group, allow you to ask for help at any time.
Twitter chats are another great way to find beta readers. Sometimes chats will be themed around beta readers/critique partners and offer a specific time to seek them out. More often, you’ll have an opportunity to share what you’re struggling with or working on. At this point I’ll say something like “I’m almost finished editing! I WILL be seeking beta readers”. So far I’ve gotten 4 beta readers this way.
2. Use tags
I can’t be certain about other social media networks, but I know Twitter has a #betareader hashtag. Tweet out a short description of your project (including genre & length) and ask for help! You might be surprised how quickly people respond.
3. Ask your fans
Do you already have published work? Or a dedicated social media following? Some of your fans may be willing to help out. You may even want to create a private Facebook group for your most dedicated fans and post beta requests there.
4. Use designated sites
There are also many sites dedicated to helping writers get quality feedback. Critique Circle is a great one for short stories, but you can really only get good feedback on a novel if you pay. Ladies Who Critique is specifically for woman writers, and has connected me to some of my best beta readers.
Unless you decide to pay them, you’re probably going to go through several beta readers/critique partners before you find some that work for you. I went through easily a dozen critique partners and half as many beta readers before settling on the group I have now. Some had a work style that didn’t match up with mine. Others grew too busy to take on critique/beta reading requests. Still others disappeared without providing any explanation.
You will go through similar struggles. There will be trial and error. But eventually you will build a consistent group of quality readers, and they’ll push your work to new heights.
Have you worked with beta readers/critique partners? How did you find them? Let me know in the comments section below!