Ultimate Guide to Alpha and Beta Readers

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Hello Lovelies and welcome back to the blog.

If you’ve been in the writing community a while you’ve maybe heard of two terms, alpha readers and beta readers, and wondered what they are and why you need them. We’re going to be going over that today and a lot more.

Alpha? Beta? What’s the difference?

An alpha reader is one of the first people who gets to read your book. Those who read your really, really rough manuscript and give you feedback. They have to be built of sturdy stuff if they are to read something so rough. This can be your family and friends. They can be trusted readers of your series. You can expect decent feedback from them, or you can just get general feedback and have them hype you up.

Beta readers see your manuscript after it’s been worked on and is closer to publication. Those who read your touched up manuscript to give you feedback after you have fixed the mistakes the alpha readers pointed out. 

What do alpha readers and beta readers do?

Alpha and beta readers primarily give you feedback. They are non-professionals who read a manuscript prior to publishing or read a pre-release of a book. You can often ask them specific questions about characters, scenes, and the story as a whole, or have them give you general impressions. Often they can help you identify things that aren’t working within your story, long before it goes to publication.

Where can you find alpha readers?

When you have something finished that you want to share with someone, you may already have that person in mind. Often it’s a writer friend, your spouse, or some other family or friends. If someone seems interested in what you’re working on, they could be a potential alpha reader.

If you’re in a local or online writing group, consider workshopping early chapters with them and utilizing your fellow authors as alpha readers.

Where can you find beta readers?

If you are already building a following on social media, you can and should put a call out for beta readers on all your social media platforms. These people are already invested in you and your brand and want to read what you’re writing next, and maybe before anyone else.

Searching hashtags online, and going to places where other writers hangout and making connections is the second best way to get eyes on your work. Some places, like Goodreads, even have sections of their website specifically for beta readers, so keep an eye out.

I have some alpha and beta readers. Now what?

Now some decisions need to be made and some work needs to be done on your end. You need to decide how much of the book to give your readers at a time, how you’re going to distribute it to them, and what specific questions you have for each section, if any. You also need to come up with a timeline for when you want their feedback to be given back to you and how you want to receive it.

Finally, you need to have a non-disclosure agreement that they sign and return to you before you hand them your work. I am not an attorney and am not going to be able to give you any kind of legal counsel, so I suggest you contact someone in your state who can draw up the legal contract for you to use.

I have the feedback in hand. Now what?

Just as with critiques, you get to decide what to do with the feedback that you receive from your readers. If one person doesn’t like one of your characters, but everyone else does, it’s probably not a big deal. But if a ton of people are coming back saying some plot element isn’t working for them, it’s probably a good idea to take it seriously.

Discussion Questions

  1. Who do you consider your Alpha readers?
  2. Who do you consider your Beta readers?
  3. Where have you found alpha and beta readers?
  4. Do you ask for specific feedback from your alpha and beta readers or do you want more generalized impressions?

Click this link to hear this blog post as a podcast with your favorite podcasting app!

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