Getting feedback from beta readers is an exercise I regret not starting sooner. I was so nervous about receiving negative feedback that I hit publish without anyone (besides my publisher) reading my first book. Honestly, as a first-time author, that’s what it took to get my manuscript out into the world. Getting negative feedback would have crushed my spirit, and perhaps I wouldn’t be the accomplished self-published author I am today. However, by my second book (Affording Travel), I was ready and open to it all, even criticism. Eager to improve my writing, I reached out to a few people who I knew followed my blog closely. They shared their thoughts, and I considered what suggestions I would implement. Today, before I publish any book, I ask a small group of trusted beta readers to read it first. If you’re wondering how to find beta readers for non-fiction books, here’s where to start.
Who are beta readers?
I consider beta readers my super fans. They are the people who are invested in my work and want to be involved in shaping the final product. In exchange for a book draft, beta readers are willing to read and provide feedback before I send the semi-final draft for editing.
Best Practices: Establish reasonable deadlines which allow your beta readers ample time to read and share their thoughts without comprising your timeline and workflow.
Ideally, my beta readers are interested in the book topic, but they do not have to be an expert. The less experience they have, the better because they can pinpoint areas where I may have lost them along the way. On the other hand, more experienced beta readers may suggest insights I may not have included in the book.
While writing Traveling With A Full-Time Job, I got critical feedback from one of my beta readers. Specifically, I asked if there were sections where she felt bored. When she mentioned a few chapters, I decided to remove them altogether. I repurposed them into articles featured on this blog, like tips for business travel, so nothing goes to waste!
I share this because I trust my beta readers. They are my ideal readers, so I want them to be on board with what I’m doing. Overall, beta readers can be instrumental in helping you create the best version of your book.
Do beta readers get paid?
Most beta readers do not get paid, but as a courtesy, I recommend sending volunteer beta readers a free copy of your finished book. Consider praising them in your acknowledgments and sending them a signed copy.
Should you ask your significant other or family members to read drafts of your book?
It depends. I know many people who share their books with their loved ones. But they are likely subjective. At this point, you need an objective take on your book. Your family loves you, and unfortunately, they may not tell you how it is. I encourage you to look for beta readers outside your inner circle who want to see you succeed and encourage them to candidly share ways you can improve.
Where to find beta readers?
I recommend finding beta readers while you’re writing your non-fiction book.
I start the recruiting process as soon I have a book cover (visuals are everything). As I’m generating excitement and buzz around the book, I ask if anyone would be interested in reading a draft and providing honest opinions.
Follow me on Instagram @thedanielledesir — let me know you read this blog post!
How many beta readers do you need?
I recommend recruiting more than one but no more than three so you do not get overwhelmed with suggestions and comments.
Strategies For Finding Beta Readers
Build an Author Platform
Create an author website dedicated to your author brand.
I recommend hosting with SiteGround.
This website is my author platform. Here, I share free chapters of my books and author tips and resources. On my website, there are also several places where readers can join my newsletter (scroll to the bottom of this post to enter mine). Remember, take every opportunity to collect email addresses so you can reach out later. Don’t be afraid to ask for emails. Creating a newsletter allows you to contact people directly as often as you like with offers, updates, announcements, and more. Without collecting email addresses, this would not be possible.
Instagram Stories is my favorite place to share the behind-the-scenes of my book writing process. While I’m writing a book, I ask my audience if anyone would be interested in joining my small team of beta readers. I add a ‘Questions’ sticker to a story, and those interested respond with their email addresses. It’s that simple.
Create an Email List
As indie authors, growing your email list is essentials at all stages of your journey. Always be list building!
After you’ve gathered emails, send your beta readers dedicated emails. Keep them up to date with what you’re working on and how they can help.
For example, I recently shared with my team a book cover design. I wasn’t 100% sold on it. I asked for their honest thoughts. While I only received one response, it was all I needed. I took their feedback and went back to the drawing board. Now, I have a book cover design that I love (see image on the left).
Read Next: Best Tools For Indie Authors
Overall, beta readers have been instrumental to my growth as a self-published author. Since many of my beta readers have read most of my books, I’m confident they know me, my intentions, and my no-fluff writing style. I sincerely trust their feedback, and I’m sure they will point me in the right direction. Although I may not take all of their advice, I will strongly consider it.
After reading this blog post, listen to the accompanying podcast episode where I share more writing tips.