5 Ways to Find Beta Readers

What is a beta reader?
Let’s start by defining what a beta reader is, and why they’re so important. A beta reader is someone who reads your book before it’s published and offers constructive criticism. This feedback informs your final run of edits to make your book as good as it can be before publication or submission.

Why do I need beta readers?
Editing and proofing your own work is an almost impossible task. You’re too close to the project, you know what it’s meant to say, and you become blind to its problems and mistakes.

Betas can also read your work as readers would, with a detachment you can never achieve yourself. They’ll pick up on plot holes and typos you’ll overlook. They’ll react to the emotions and tension, be surprised by reveals. They’ll find parts that need clarification, or that move too slowly, characters that don’t work, dialogue that’s unrealistic, things that need more description, or less. They’ll tell you what works and what doesn’t with a perspective you can’t have yourself.

What makes a good beta reader?
Finding beta readers is easy, but finding good beta readers is hard. A good beta reader can be anyone; a reader, a writer, even a close friend or family member. You’ll hear it said that friends and family aren’t good options because they’ll try to save your feelings. This isn’t always the case. If you can trust them to be brutally honest, then they can be just as useful as any other beta.

Because good beta readers do need to be brutally honest. They need to be able to tell you when something isn’t working, when you’ve made a mistake. They also need to offer constructive criticism. “This doesn’t work”, or “this is boring” is no use to you if they don’t explain why. They don’t need to offer up solutions, that’s your job, but they do need to be able to explain their responses.

Good beta readers are worth their weight in gold, so when you do find some, make sure you keep hold of them.

Where can I find beta readers?

  • Ask friends and family. You need to be careful with this option and only choose people you can trust to be brutally honest. Beta readers are no use to you if they’re just being polite not to hurt your feelings.
  • Find reader groups in your genre. Search places like Facebook and GoodReads and you’re sure to find lots of keen readers.
  • Use fellow authors. Again, a search on Facebook or GoodReads will offer up several beta or review exchange groups.
  • Use your network. Post an open call for beta readers on your social networking profiles, and ask people to share.
  • Ask your mailing list subscribers. These are already fans of yours, and many of them will jump at the chance of reading your book before anyone else.

Where else have you found beta readers? What makes a good beta reader for you?

Why I’m an Indie Author

Bogus Caller Press Logo greyMy publishing journey began in the world of short stories, anthologies, and small presses. I love writing to a prompt, I work (quite) well with deadlines, and I enjoy trying to fit a story into a strict wordcount limit. I love trimming them down and editing the hell out of them.

But I wanted to spread my wings, stretch my legs, and switch from sprints to marathons. I knew I had something bigger inside of me.

When I first considered self publishing, it was still in its infancy; still viewed with suspicion, still considered to be the route for writers who weren’t good enough to get published. The first people I told about my plans actually laughed. But I wasn’t deterred.

I love learning new things and gaining new skills, so I decided right from the off that I wanted to learn how to do everything myself. There’s such a wealth of information out there, and so many people willing to help you on your journey.

When I published my first book, it came with such a huge sense of accomplishment. Not only had I acheived a long-held dream, but I’d done it by myself.

There are so many things I love about being an indie author, and so many reasons that it’s such a good fit for me:

  • I’m in control of everything, from start to finish.
  • My deadlines are more flexible. As the mother of two young boys, I’m not always as reliable as I’d like to be, but when the deadlines are self-imposed, they can be moved to fit my life.
  • I’m not waiting around for news. I always know what stage the project is at, and there’s no agonising wait for updates.
  • There’s always something new to learn.

Of course, there’s a lot of things I’ve struggled with. Marketing is a big one. I’ve heard it said by authors so many times, and I’ve said it myself: marketing is evil. Somehow, the creativity of writing feels totally at odds with the business of marketing. Marketing often feels dirty, like it sullies the creative work.

If you feel this way, all I can recommend is that you take a marketing course. There are lots out there specifically aimed at indie authors. Get recommendations from people you trust, and sign up. Doing a marketing course changed everything for me.

There are also things you need to outsource. And there are things you’ll want to outsource. I know how to format an ebook, but I outsource it because it’s a fiddle, and I just can’t be bothered with it. But I do format my own paperbacks. Any part of the publishing business you don’t want to do, there’s people out there to do it for you.

Always outsource your editing and proofreading, you just won’t see all the mistakes yourself. Always use beta readers. And, unless you really, REALLY are good at it, always outsource your cover design. It’s your shop window, and people do judge books by their covers, every time.

And decide if you want to write under an imprint. I do. Purely because I thought it would be fun to think up a name. So I publish my books under Bogus Caller Press. Some indie authors do, others don’t, I don’t think it makes much difference to readers.

Jumping into self publishing is a big decision, and a big commitment. If you’re willing to research, to learn, to take risks, to be flexible and to change your opinion about things, to ask questions and work hard, the benefits can be enormous.

Bogus Caller Press Logo

The Visionary (The World of The Paper Duchess)

The Visionary modelThe Visionary is the third book in The Paper Duchess series, and introduces Corinn; a powerful psychic who enjoys playing games with other people’s lives.

It begins up on Lynstock, the next terrace up from The Hope. Lynstock is quite different to Falside’s other terraces, and suffers from an increasing issue of over-population. Living on this terrace is the growing number of single men, and the lower class married couples and families.

Lynstock is home to most of the city’s industry and places of work, it is built up with tightly packed terrace houses and tall blocks of flats. It’s the activity hub of Falside, running 24-7, never sleeping. Even married women aren’t permitted to work, but there is one female profession that thrives here, and for the right price, the administration turns a blind eye. The oldest profession in the world; prostitution.

But the brothels on Lynstock aren’t like the dingy affairs on The Floor. On Lynstock, they’re gentlemen’s clubs; they’re classy, upmarket, and the slum girls that work there are clean, and well looked after, and very good at what they do.

Lynstock supports the polarity of the two traditional roles offered to women: mother, or whore.

The Matching (The World of The Paper Duchess)

The Matching modelThe Matching is the second book in The Paper Duchess series and follows the story of Tale and Freda; two young women living under the control of the administration on The Hope.

Girls in Falside are removed from their families at the age of 16, and housed on The Hope; the terrace dedicated to unmarried women, where they are protected and trained for their futures as wives and mothers. Because that’s the only future they have; and it starts with an arranged marriage to a stranger. If they’re lucky, the man they are married to will be kind and treat them well, if they’re luckier still, they’ll give birth to a girl and be heralded a hero of Falside.

At birth, girls are fitted with an ID tracker in their wrist, allowing the administration to track their movements for the rest of their lives. Every doorway in Falside is fitted with a scanner, and the administration are alerted every time any woman passes through a doorway. There are places women are expected to be, and there are places that are forbidden to them. But, of course, there are other ways to enter a building than through the front door.

Filled with cafés and little shops, The Hope is perfectly designed for women, forbidden to work, to pass away idle time. And while the little bells on the shop doors might sound merry, life on The Hope is anything but.

The Bottle Stopper (The World of the Paper Duchess)

The Bottle Stopper modelThe Bottle Stopper is the first book of The Paper Duchess series and follows the story of Maeve; a young woman who has grown up living on The Floor: the slums of the city of Falside.

Falside sits on the cliffside at the edge of the stinking Falwere River, and The Floor is the bottom terrace. People here live within the actual silt of the river itself, and the majority of their work, their supplies, and their sustenance comes from the water. While some of the houses are more established, boasting luxuries such as electricity, running water, and indoor bathrooms, many dwellings on The Floor are little more than makeshift shacks.

But it’s not all mud and smelly fish down here. The slums lie beyond the overbearing jurisdiction of the administration, and doesn’t suffer the rules, regulations and controls that the rest of Falside does. And in a city where women are owned by the administration, that’s a big bonus. In addition to that, the inability to conceive a girl is an affliction that the people of the slums seem to be immune to. Their women are many, and they are free.

So, if you’re happy to trade a simple existence, and a bit of hard graft for your freedom, for your right to choose who to marry or, indeed, if you marry at all, then the slums is the place you want to be.

The World of The Paper Duchess

Falside Map

The Paper Duchess series is set in Falside, a city that sits on the edge of the stinking Falwere River. It climbs up the cliffside, arranged across six terraces, each distinct from the others.

The books are set some 100 years from now, but it’s certainly not the typical science fiction view of the future. For the general residents of Falside, technology has largely been abandoned after the administration started using it to spy on every moment of their lives. They don’t carry phones, or use the Internet. They live in a way that we would consider to be a regression.

And technology isn’t the only thing that’s regressed. In Falside, women living under the administration’s rule are removed from their families at the age of sixteen, when they begin their preparation for life as a wife and mother. The only role that most women in the city will ever have.

Falside is suffering a crisis. The birthrate of girl babies has fallen to catastrophically low levels, and the city is running short of women. The administration’s answer to this plight is to take ownership of every girl born, subjecting them to strict controls, constant tracking, and arranged marriages. But, as with any system, there are those that embrace it, and those that fight against it.

It’s not fun being a girl in Falside…