15 ways to find a beta reader or critique partner
In one of my last articles, I talked about how important beta readers are. Most writers I know agree with me on that. Unfortunately, finding a (good) beta reader is easier said than done. After all, we need to find a person who is not only willing to help us with our novel but who is also qualified.
At least once a week, a desperate writer sends me an e-mail, asking me to beta read for her or to tell her where to find a beta reader.
Here are a few suggestions that can help you find a beta reader:
- For most writers, the first beta reader they ever have is a friend or relative. When I first started writing at the age of eleven, my poor twin sister had to read all my stories. Most people will tell you that it’s not a good idea to have a friend or family member beta read for you. They will either spare your feelings and give only positive feedback, or if they’re brutally honest, it might hurt your relationship with them. It’s amazing how much it can hurt when someone close to you criticizes “your baby.” And let’s face it, most of our friends and family members are probably not writers (or even avid readers), so most of the feedback you get from them might be, “I liked it.” I’m not saying having a friend or family member beta read for you can’t work, though. My best friend is one of my beta readers, and she does an excellent job. Try it; just don’t solely rely on them.
- Search websites that provide directories of beta readers. Usually, these websites list e-mail addresses and specify the skills and preferences, e.g., preferred genres or story length, of each beta reader. For lesbian fiction, The Athenaeum and Passion & Perfection have the largest directories of beta readers.
- Join a local writers’ group. If there is no writers’ group in your area, you could start your own. There are even books that describe how to start and run a critique group, for example The Writing and Critique Group Survival Guide or How to Start and Run a Writers’ Critique Group.
- Join a writer’s organization or online writing group. Many organizations for writers have online critique groups or forums or discussion boards where you can search for beta readers. Some examples for writers’ groups:
- Romance Writers of America (RWA) is one of the largest writers’ associations in the world with over 10,000 members. Despite the name, membership is not just for writers in America. RWA has several local and online chapters. One of the special-interest chapters is the Rainbow Romance Writers for professional authors of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender romances.
- Absolute Write is one of the biggest and most active forums for writers with almost 43,000 members. Absolute Write’s Water Cooler has a “Beta Readers, Mentors, and Writing Buddies” forum, which is designed to help writers find suitable beta readers and critique partners.
- myWritersCircle is another large forum with over 39,000 members. They also have a workshop where you can ask for feedback or search for beta readers.
- Writer’s Digest has forums in which you can get and give critiques.
- Golden Crown Literary Society is an “organization for the enjoyment, discussion, and enhancement of lesbian literature.” The GCLS has a Yahoo! discussion group (mailing list). As a member of the GCLS, you can access a (short) list of beta readers under the group links or you can post a request for beta readers.
- The Lesbian Fiction Forum has a “Private Workshop” that critiques lesbian fiction.
- C-Spot, a forum for readers and writers of lesbian fiction, has a subforum that matches writers of lesbian fiction and beta readers.
- Querytracker, a website that helps you track your query letters, has a forum for finding critique partners or groups.
- Forward Motion, founded by Holly Lisle, has a “critique connection” for members.
- Critique Circle is a workshop in which members can receive and give feedback. You earn credits by critiquing other writers’ stories and pay with credits for getting feedback on your own story.
- Critters is a large workshop that critiques mostly science fiction, fantasy, and horror. You will receive in-depth critiques as long as you write one critique a week.
- Participate in mailing lists for writers or mailing lists where writers and readers meet. You’ll always find readers willing to beta or test read for you. Two of the biggest Yahoo! groups for lesbian fiction are Lesfic_unbound (678 members) and the Virtual Living Room (509 members). Lesfic_unbound has a list of beta readers and experts in the group’s “database” section. Or you can just post a request for beta readers.
- There are even critique partner matching sites. On Ladies Who Critique you can search for a crit partner based on genre, experience, interests, and more.
- Put a notice on Twitter or Facebook. Give some information about your novel and what you’re looking for in a beta reader.
- Goodreads, a social-networking site for readers about which I blogged before, has several book clubs, discussion groups, and even a beta reader group, where you could search for a beta reader.
- Save your feedback e-mails. When readers e-mail me to give feedback for one of my published books or short stories and they go into more detail than just saying “I loved your book,” I write down their e-mail address—especially of readers who point out mistakes or weaknesses in my books. I’m looking for people who can help me improve my work, not a fan club.
- Writers’ conferences are excellent places to establish networks and get to know other writers and readers. Here’s a great site to search for writers’ conferences worldwide.
- If you participate in online writing classes or workshops, you can meet other writers aiming to improve their writing skills.
- I’ve even seen some writers search for beta readers on the Amazon Discussion Boards.
- Post a request for beta readers, test readers or critique partners on your blog or website and explain what you’re looking for. When I posted a request for test readers for Hidden Truths on my blog, I had over sixty volunteers. Or you could ask the people who left comments on your blog if they would be interested in beta reading.
- Connect with other writers on their blogs, leave comments, and build networks. If you follow other writers’ blogs, you’ll learn a lot about what kind of writers they are and whether they might be good critique partners for you.
- Just send out e-mails to fellow writers, maybe people who write in the same genre, and ask if they would be interested in a critique partnership. It never hurts to ask. The worst thing that could happen is that they say no.
So, to sum it up, the best way to find beta readers is to search for a critique partner instead. If you have trouble finding a beta reader, then other writers are in the same situation and you can help each other out by trading beta reading services.
Also, try to be more active in writing communities in which you can establish networks and connections with other writers and readers. The more well-known you are by participating in discussions or helping out other writers, the easier it becomes to find beta readers.
So, how and where did you find your beta readers or critique partners?