Through this process of taking my writing seriously, I’ve learned a thing or two about beta readers. I wanted to make it easy for people to find each other, to find beta readers who might fit for their story, so I made the Beta Reader Matchmaker–but I’ve learned it requires some explanation.
The Matchmaker spreadsheet has two sheets–one for readers and one for writers.
Your best bet is to look through both sheets. On the “Willing to read” sheet, you’ll find people who are… yeah, willing to read other people’s work. It’s a good idea to check with them and see if they have work to potentially swap with, too. On the “Looking for readers” sheet, you’ll find writers, as well as the information about their story. Again, swapping stories is a great idea. To add your name, simply fill out the form(s) and your information will be added automagically!
Please, please, be safe. Vet your readers first–don’t just dump your story on them and run! Talk to them, discuss your work, provide them with a blurb, and then–And this is IMPORTANT–send them just the first page, OR first five pages OR first chapter before sending them your entire manuscript!
Readers, please remember that the books you read are the product of a lot of work from the author. Respect their copyright and be prepared for them to ask you questions before sending you a snippet. Remember that personal preference does not make a book bad and always refrain from personal attacks. However, DO tell them what you thought and how the book made you feel.
Readers and Authors can end the relationship at any point. Treat each other with respect.
Are you just looking to beta read? This form is for you. Thank you for volunteering your time to a writer- this is absolutely invaluable.
I’ve heard from some writers “Well, I don’t have time to read anyone else’s work.” In that case, this form is not for you. Your best bet is to find a paid beta reader, because if you’re not going to give your time in return, you’ll have to part with money. Be careful though, because paid betas can be shady. Also, it’s important to note, beta reading other writer’s works helps to improve your own writing. It’s a huge learning experience. Don’t miss out!
“But SK, I need a CP, not a beta reader.” Great point! Still, your best bet is to look at this sheet, and as your conversation moves along, ask if that person might be interested in a CP relationship down the road. Skipping beta reading and going straight to a CP relationship can work out for you, but it’s super risky skipping that step! It’s like going into business with someone without ever seeing how they work or what their strengths and weaknesses are. Like getting married without dating first.
My advice is to 1) talk to the person, see what their goals are. 2) Swap a page or first five pages. See if the writing style is compatible with what you like. You don’t want to CP (or beta read) with someone if you hate their writing style- that’s just simply not a good match. Then 3) Give them their feedback, and read through the feedback they gave you. Does it make sense? Do your critique styles mesh? Sometimes you’ll love a person’s writing but hate their critiquing style. That’s fine, it just isn’t a good match. Nothing wrong with either of you, but not a great relationship. Finally, 4) see if you’re about the same skill level. CP’s tend to be about the same skill level writing-wise, as well as being compatible with critique style and writing style. They get what each other are trying to say, and see the heart of the story, and they help each other bring that out. That’s the magic of critique partners.
Beta readers, while invaluable, may not hit all those marks, and there is nothing wrong with that. A person may be a cherished beta reader but just not be a great CP match for whatever reason. But you’ll know if your beta reader is CP material, and that relationship can grow and it can also change, just like any other relationship.
Beta readers, CPs, and critique groups are all important resources to use, and none are inherently better or worse than any others. They each serve a different function, and that’s the beauty of it!