Today we’re continuing our beta reader series, and we’re going to talk about what to expect from the beta reader process! I’ll be breaking down how many beta readers you should have, whether you should have multiple rounds of beta readers, how long beta reads typically take, and some general things to expect throughout the process.
How Many Beta Readers Should You Have?
Minimum 3. It doesn’t matter how short your piece is because a minimum of three people will let you see trends in feedback and doesn’t let a single opinion drive your revisions. It can also help to have an unbiased tie breaker if there are conflicting opinions with your beta readers.
If you’re writing longer pieces you probably need more. Part of the reason you need more for longer pieces is because you’re much more likely to have ghosters with long pieces and you want to ensure that at least three people who signed up actually get to the end. After many years of working with beta readers and talking to boat loads of other authors, I’ve discovered it’s not actually unusual to lose about a third or a half of your beta readers through the course of longer projects. This could be for a multitude of reasons – the story just isn’t for them, life gets busy and they can no longer commit, they underestimated how much time it would take, etc.
This is why it’s really valuable to recruit more beta readers than you think you need to start. If you do the first chapter test like I recommended in our last episode, that will likely give you a good idea as to who might be dropping out. For example, see if you can get about ten people on board for each round. If you’re doing multiple rounds of beta readers, do the same. I know 20+ readers might seem like a lot, but if you’re organized it’s actually quite manageable.
How Many Rounds Of Beta Readers Do You Need?
Honestly, this will depend on the writer. How clean are your drafts? How confident are you in those drafts? Are you intending to hire editing professionals? How much time and effort can you put into this particular piece?
If you’re not sure what a “round” is, that just means each time betas read your manuscript from start to finish. You should be getting fresh eyes for each round, but if you have a couple particularly enthusiastic betas you can have some repeat eyes on subsequent rounds.
If everyone is happy on the first round and you trust that they’re giving you honest feedback then you’re probably good to go with one round. BUT you really do need to have critical readers on your team for this. Your betas should be equally willing to praise and correct, because all praise, while great for the ego, is bad for the story. If you get zero corrections and all praise, be suspicious.
You should consider an extra round of revisions and beta readers if your readers are pointing out some big issues. Some people may be confident in their own ability to make the needed corrections, but it’s never a bad idea to see if you changed things enough to fix the issue with fresh readers. Alternatively, you can ask your beta readers if they’re willing to review sections that have had significant changes to see if it clears up the issues that they reported.
How Long Should A Beta Read Take?
This very much depends on the beta readers, but a reasonable estimate is about one week for every ten thousand words. Now you might hear that and wonder how it could possibly take that long, because maybe you read an entire novel in a day, but I really do have to stress that beta reading is not the same as for-fun reading. Beta reading requires critical consumption and pauses to provide feedback. Depending on how thorough that feedback is, you could be increasing your read time from double to ten times as long as a fun-read would take.
Some beta readers will be very fast and devour your story in a couple of days. Others have shit going on and other things occupying their life that aren’t you and will need extra time.
If you are on a tight deadline then you will need to be very clear about that in your recruitment so betas can decide if it’s a project they’re able to take on. They don’t want to ghost you over unclear info and you don’t want to be ghosted, so be sure you know what you need from them and when. The more flexible you are on timing the more betas you’re likely to attract.
Now, could you send a whole book to someone and ask for it back in a weekend? Yes. Would that be mega stressful for everyone involved? Also, yes. Will most people be able to accommodate schedules like that? Probably not. I have beta read for people under those kinds of circumstances in the past and it’s honestly a bit of a nightmare and so stressful trying to pack everything in to stay on schedule.
Please give yourself and your beta readers a little time to breathe with your projects. Plan ahead as best you can. Everyone will be happier for it.
What To Expect In The Beta Reading Process
- It’s very likely you’re going to get ghosted by at least one beta. It’s happened to me, it’s happened to every author I’ve ever talked to about this, so make sure you’re prepared. The longer the project the more likely you are to have a ghost.
- A lot of betas are newbies to the process and they’ll rely on you to explain what you need and to give them guidance so they know how to help you. That means you need to know what you’re doing even if you’re a newbie yourself. Don’t be afraid to ask other authors for guidance if you come across something you don’t know how to deal with.
- You might want to argue about feedback or get the urge to fight with your betas over it. Don’t do it. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200. If you want to fight, take a break. Accept what feedback will help your story and ignore the rest.
- People are probably going to fall behind. You have to get good at communication to keep everyone on track. If you have a specific schedule you’ll need to help people stick to it. Please check in BEFORE a due date. That gives people time to finish if they’ve gotten sidetracked and you’re not put behind schedule. On larger projects a weekly check in can be very helpful.
- People are probably going to tell you things that you will NEVER be able to unknow about them. Their responses to things will reveal stuff. Sometimes that stuff is hilarious and endearing. Sometimes it reveals that someone is a racist/misogynist/all around garbage person. Buckle up. This is one of the big reasons I caution people against using family as beta readers because you could make family dinners VERY awkward.
- Your feelings are likely to get hurt. We writers are a sensitive bunch about our stories and it’s going to happen at some point. You have to be prepared for this and make sure you’re consuming feedback when you’re in a good state to do so, and to be able to look at things objectively, rather than a personal attack. Critical feedback is there to help your story improve and for you to grow as a writer BUT if a beta is being a genuine dick and not giving you constructive feedback, ie. they’re making rude, sexist, racist, etc. comments you can drop them for your own well being.
- A good beta is worth their weight in gold. Treasure them. Be sure to thank the people that are helping you out of the goodness of their own hearts.
The beta reading process can be a roller coaster. I hope that this video has helped expand your understanding and that it will improve your experience with beta readers.
Be honest. Be organized. Be clear about what you need. You’re going to rock this.
That’s all for now. You can find all of my books and platforms in the description below. If you have questions or suggestions for future episodes, please do let me know. And if you’d like early access to these videos you can join my Patreon where I yeet them at people whenever they’re ready to roll. Thank you so much for listening and I’ll see you soon for another episode!
First Heat Series – m/f, 3rd person POV
First Heat: https://books2read.com/FirstHeat
First Heat: Second Chances: https://books2read.com/FHSC
First Heat: Tying The Knot: https://books2read.com/FirstHeatTTK
Heat Play Love – m/m/m, 3rd person POV https://books2read.com/HeatPlayLove
Conference Confidential – m/f, 3rd person POV https://books2read.com/ConferenceConfidential
2021 Omegaverse Collection – contains First Heat, First Heat: Second Chances, Heat Play Love, Conference Confidential, and 2 bonus shorts https://books2read.com/OV2021
Nicky and the Night Owls: Part One – polyamorous (m/f/nb/f/nb/m), multi 1st person POV https://books2read.com/NickyNightOwls
Nicky and the Night Owls: Part Two – polyamorous (m/f/nb/f/nb/m), multi 1st person POV – currently on preorder https://books2read.com/NickyNightOwls2
Knotty or Nice Christmas Anthology – (my story is based on Nicky and the Pack) – currently on preorder https://books2read.com/knotty-or-nice
Salacious Salvation – m/f, 3rd person POV https://books2read.com/SalaciousSalvation
Playtime with Professor – m/f, 3rd person POV https://books2read.com/PlaytimeWithProfessor
PARANORMAL Into The Depths – f/nb, 3rd person POV https://books2read.com/intothedepths
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