Wednesday, October 5, 2011

We need to talk about Beta Readers

I love the "off-the-page" opportunities afforded to books. New things are happening every day! But I never lose sight (as I hope you don't either) of the fact that books are first and foremost about writing. Writing stories.

These stories might take different forms: images, video, etc. etc. etc...but they are first of all stories. And there are some things about writing stories that will never change.

Stories have to have good pace. The characters have to feel real and deep. The tone has to fit the subject matter. The writing has to be beautiful or fantastic or funny or lively enough to pull someone all the way through your thriller.

All those things take a lot of editing. These will never ever come together all on the first go. And the one universal truth about editing is that you can't edit yourself. Just trust me. You can't!

You're too close to the writing and to the story. Meaning it all makes sense to you because you conceived it all. But how about what your readers will perceive? The only way to find out is to have readers read it.

Please, please get Beta Readers. Please get them before you query me and please listen to them. If they tell you to change something, consider it! If they tell you something and then it's corroborated, REALLY consider making the change. If nothing else, it'll be good for you to feel what it's like to change something because others perceived a flaw--something you'll be doing a lot of if you get agented and get an editor.

Don't know how to find Betas? Leave a comment with your genre and category and we'll see what we can do here for ya. Got opinions about Betas? Leave those too!


  1. I LOVE MY BETAS. My writing would go out flat and nonsensical without them.

    Yeah, that covers it.

  2. I'm seeking a beta or two for mid to late October! My genre is YA fantasy. I'd appreciate whatever can be done. :)

  3. I love my current crit partner - she's good, mean when she needs to be an endlessly supportive otherwise!

    I am looking for more betas though! My genre is YA fantasy/paranormal (mythology - where does that fit exactly?)

  4. I would love a beta or two (got a fish tank and everything). Usually write YA Fantasy :)

  5. I adore my betas. Couldn't live without them!

  6. I'm looking for a beta or to for an upper MG fantasy.

  7. Leave contact info if you're looking to connect!!

  8. I found my in-person crit group through SCBWI and my online betas through Absolute Write. Ladies Who Critique ( ) is another newer resource for finding crit partners and beta readers.

    And if you're wondering what the difference is between a critique partner and a beta reader, I have critique partners that work together while the book is still a work-in-progress (picking it up after maybe the third complete draft) and the beta readers are for when you *think* you have a finished, polished book. So that they can tell you that you still have some work to do, and you don't waste your chance with the agent or editor.

  9. All awesome peeps interested in reading YA Fantasy, please email me :)

  10. I am SO interested in beta readers (and beta reading)!

    YA fantasy/science fiction

    Feel free to email me! :)

  11. I didn't leave my contact info before:

    For anyone interested in beta-ing YA fantasy. :)

  12. I really really need Beta readers who are writers! I have tried to have Friends Beta stuff before and they are lovely but I find I always get more constructive feedback from people who also write.

    So if anyone would like to Beta some YA Fantasy/Sci-Fi (With a fair amount of action/romance) please feel free to email me at :)

  13. I would love to have some more beta readers and get more involved with other writers.

    I write YA Urban Fantasy and Paranormal (not vampires and werewolves)

    My contact: thejasonwallis(at)hotmail(dot)com

  14. I just stalk contests, see which entries I'm obsessed with, and then beg them to crit. It doesn't always work, but I've found some serious writing besties that way. :)

  15. Thanks for hosting this, Meredith! I'm looking for Betas for something a bit different: a fun, down-to-earth how-to guide to HTML. If you *don't* know HTML and would like to be a beta reader, please let me know.

    brendan.d.gannon [at] gmail

  16. I would love to find more beta readers to swap critiques, ideally in MG. I'm just finishing up my latest book, THE BUNGLEWAD SQUAD, about a family of cats in an isolated mountain village who rescue a bizarre-looking kitten from the river. They send it to Cat Boot Camp in order to reinforce its catly instincts.

    This proves difficult, considering the kitten is actually a dog.

    I think of it as WARRIORS meets THE BAD NEWS BEARS.


  17. My MS is done currently, but I put it through several readers on my way there. The girls over at You're Killing Me were especially helpful. Cyna has a good head for not only things that she doesn't like, but why she doesn't like them. It was very helpful. I'm trying to talk her into going back to college to become an editor.

    On the subject, make sure that your beta-readers aren't just cheerleaders who constantly tell you that your work is awesome. A bit of that is good, certainly, but you're asking them to find the problems in your work. Hence, your mother, girlfriend/boyfriend, or close buddies may not have the necessary detachment.


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  19. @Nicole Zoltack...

    I'm really interested in connecting with someone in the MG fantasy genre, though perhaps more on a two-way crit-partner level than just beta reading, if that would be of use to you? Otherwise, I am equally happy to just be a beta reader for your MS.

    In the interest of full disclosure, I should say I'm actually one of Meredith's clients, though she didn't sign me for MG. I have crit-partners and betas for my other stuff, but they're all less at home with MG and I have a long-standing project I'm working on there.

    Please email me if you'd like so we can chat, no obligations unless we feel comfortable with each other for this.


    emmatrevayne (at) gmail (dot) com

  20. This is exactly what I'm looking for! I have great cp's, but I could use a beta! I have a YA Goth Romance for anyone who reads that genre.

  21. In addition to my crit group, I used about 25 beta readers. I blogged some suggestions about finding and getting feedback from beta readers here

  22. Forgot to leave my contact info earlier:

    Genre: YA paranormal/fantasy (focus on Greek mythology).

  23. Hi!

    To everyone who posted about looking for MG fantasy beta readers I would be happy to both read for some of you, if anyone is interested. And I'm also looking for someone to beta read my MG manuscript.

    I've written some YA as well and am in the process of writing one as my next book but I'm having a much harder time getting a good group of betas for my MG work.


    rcianci @

  24. I'm integrating the last level of writing group feedback on my urban fantasy novel (topic includes angels and demons) and am looking for a beta reader to go over the entire draft and point out if/where it's not working. This draft will be available to send as of October 15th.

  25. Leigh Ann, I love your tactics. I think we were both in a contest recently at Mother. Write. Repeat, so consider yourself stalked!! : )

    To others out there, I'm writing YA at the moment, mostly with a magical realism bend to it. Would be happy to help anyone that needs help, but I'm not big on high fantasy or sci fi.

    And to Meredith. Very good of you to do this!

    mclarenoz (at) bigpond (dot) com

  26. Forgot to leave my contact info!

    YA Gothic Romance beta readers needed

    sandibjonesYA [at] gmail [dot] com

  27. I'd love to find betas and critique partners, but it's been really hard to have much success since I write historical fiction, a genre that's always in the minority when I enter contests and go to places where writers are supposed to find betas and critiquers.

    I do 20th century historical fiction, in the preteen, YA, and adult age categories. Some of my historical fiction also crosses over with women's fiction. My adult books are also very long, so I'd need someone who's not afraid of saga-length books.

    CarrieAnne79 [at] yahoo [dot] com

  28. I am looking for a beta or two for my YA Urban Fantasy, twist on Sleeping Beauty and Helen of Troy!! email me at angelhett (at) gmail (dot) com

  29. I'm more than happy to beta for people - I tend toward YA but love MG, too, and anything with a science fiction/paranormal/fantasy. That's what I read most of so that's probably where I'd be most helpful.

    I have my own work (YA dark fantasy) that will eventually need betas I imagine, but for right now, I'm just offering my service as reader. :)

  30. I'll be looking for a beta in a couple of weeks once I finish this round of edits. I'll swap with anyone who's interested. I write YA urban fantasy.

    Nmrunyan (at) gmail (dot) com

  31. I am interested in finding beta reader(s) -- however, I know that my genre is outside of your usual (category romance) -- is the offer available for that? I do have one additional question: Who are the alpha readers?

    My contact: Heidi (at) HormelWriting (dot) com

  32. I know I'm late, but I'd love a beta reader, either readers or writers. I write funny paranormals (almost urban fantasy) and historical romances with a humorous flair.

    Any takers would be appreciated.
    robindelany -at- yahoo -dot- com

    @ Heidi.
    Alpha readers, or first readers might be crit partners, or someone you show it to before you'd show it to anyone else. The person who catches when you use witch instead of which, or write taht instead of that.