Should you pay for beta readers?
Beta readers—to pay or not to pay?
The answer is quite simple: IF you can find trustworthy and reliable beta readers who will review your manuscript for free, then of course you should take them up on their offer.
The reality is more complicated: it can be difficult to find free beta readers, and even more difficult to find reliable beta readers who will finish your entire manuscript and get back to you with helpful feedback.
Wait a minute—what's a beta reader?
The term "beta reader" means different things to different people. Some writers refer to their critique partners as beta readers, or even friends and family who take an early look at their manuscript. However, a beta reader is traditionally someone who reads within your genre and who can offer you a pre-publication perspective.
To be clear, beta readers are NOT editors. Their job is to tell you how your manuscript is currently landing. Is your story immersive and engaging? Are your characters coming to life on the page? If they bought your book in a store, would they gobble it up, or would they stop reading on page ten?
The benefits of paid beta readers
If you decide to pay a few beta readers, you are much more likely to receive the feedback you seek. Free beta readers tend to "ghost" on manuscripts, leaving authors waiting and wondering. Also, paid beta readers tend to have more experience, either as fans of a particular genre, or even with some background in narrative structure and other craft fundamentals.
Here at the Darling Axe, we offer a curated beta reader experience. We have a roster of reliable readers who are available to start on relatively short notice and who have a great track record with previous clients.
How much do beta readers charge?
There is no standardization in the rates beta readers charge. The main factors are how quickly they can read and how much experience they have. The more experience, the more demand. The more demand, the higher the cost.
The Darling Axe currently offers two packages, but we are open to custom arrangements. Three beta readers will cost you $0.01/word USD. Or you can recruit five readers for $0.015/word USD.
Recruiting free beta readers
There are a number of groups (on Goodreads, for example) where you can potentially recruit free beta readers. Just keep in mind that without an incentive, there is no guarantee these readers will finish your manuscript or give you any feedback.
Your best approach is to come up with another incentive. One of the best is reciprocal feedback. This means you find beta readers who are also writers, and you take turns reading each other's work and swapping feedback.
How many beta readers should you have?
Readers are diverse; they each bring their own expectations and preferences to any story they read. As such, it's best to get a wide range of opinions about your narrative. When one person doesn't like your protagonist, you can't necessarily conclude that your characterization is misfiring. However, if several readers are all coming to similar conclusions, you should probably bring that advice back to the workshop.
Again, the Darling Axe offers two packages—three or five beta readers. However, custom requests are welcome.
Are beta readers safe?
This is a big topic worthy of its own blog post. (Coming soon!)
The short answer is: generally, yes, beta readers are quite safe and most authors use them without any issues.
Is it possible for a beta reader to steal your manuscript or even ideas? Yes, it's possible, but it's quite difficult. First of all, proving copyright is quite simple in the digital era. Second, anyone can "borrow" your ideas, just not your words, but only a talented writer has a chance of bringing your ideas to life. If they put in that effort, the final product isn't likely to resemble your story anyway.
This is another benefit of contracting professional beta readers—their professional reputation is on the line, so authors can expect discretion and integrity.
Here at the Darling Axe, non-disclosure is part of our terms of service.
Run the gauntlet with our hand-picked team of experienced beta readers
Let's chat via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please include the following information:
- A brief synopsis, including your manuscript's genre
- Your ideal audience (age, interests, etc.)
- Potential trigger warnings or disturbing content
- Your manuscript's word count
- How many beta readers you'd like to hire
Thanks for visiting the Darling Axe! We look forward to hearing from you.