You’ve finished your first novel, done the self-editing, and now you’re looking for the next step. Of course, you’re going to need another set of eyes on your book, but where do you even begin?
You could hire a Developmental Editor, which we highly recommend, but they can be expensive, and not everyone truly needs one. This is where Alpha readers come in. They are trusted writing partners that can see through your typos and misnamed characters to give you a detailed and fair critiquing.
You follow their edits, but is your story ready to send out to publishers? You need a test audience first, your beta readers, a variety of casual readers to give you their many opinions on the broad strokes of your novel.
Alpha and beta readers are critical to the editing process, but they’re not always easy to find.
Finding Alpha Readers
It is very important for your alpha reader, the first person beside you to ever lay their eyes on your work, to have knowledge of writing and literature, or at the very least, a patience for the common mistakes all first drafts are riddled with.
Ideally, your alpha reader is someone you are already friends with, a fellow writer who has been encouraging you to write, and maybe you’ve read some of their early drafts as well. However, if you don’t have a close writing partner, there’s always a way to find one.
Check local shops and community centers for information about writing groups in your area, or check the newspapers for your nearest large city. Maybe people form creative writing classes and regular discussions in their community, and these are the perfect place to connect with fellow authors.
Another great resource is the internet.
You could find professional alpha readers online through Google searches and on freelance websites like Upwork.com, but they will cost and it isn’t the easiest way since most of them are actually developmental editors. The nice thing is you can always be certain you’re getting an unbiased and expert opinion. Some will even do a little of the grammar and spelling editing for you. Just be sure to check their credentials before you hire someone. Do they have a writing degree? Have they been published themselves? While not the end-all of determining if they are good for you, these factors can be good things to note.
Most importantly, you want to make sure your alpha reader is fair, knowledgeable, and willing to critique, not someone who is going to tell you your work is perfect. Perfection gets you nowhere, after all.
Finding Beta Readers
Once you’ve gotten a few alpha readers and made your changes, the hardest part is over. Your book should be in pretty good shape, both storywise and grammatically, and ready for the next step.
Beta readers are far easier to find, and they should be since you need to have more of them than you do alpha readers. Beta readers don’t need to be professionals and can be anyone who would be a casual reader of your book.
Friends and family are a great place to start because even if they’ll be quick to give you the good things and maybe hesitant with the bad, you can still tell by how genuine they are whether your book actually excited them or not.
You’ll want to branch out from just your friend’s group, however. Give your book to the rest of the writing group you found, or post it in private groups online. Facebook is a great quick way to find groups of other writers and get their opinion.
Or, if your novel fits into a certain genre, find a group that is a fan of that genre and ask if anyone wants to read your work.
The key to beta readers is to find different readers and types of readers as possible. The wider your variety of readers, the better you will be able to predict how publishers and the general population will react to your writing. Plus, your beta readers can become your early reviewers after you get published!
Interested in branching out and meeting new writers? You’ll find over 2500 like-minded alpha readers, beta readers, editors, and more on our facebook group. Come join us!