No, You (Usually) Shouldn't Pay Beta Readers
Beta readers are just one of the many tools authors learn about and incorporate into their writing journey. For many writers, myself included, beta readers are an essential part of creating the perfect story.
So how do you say thank you to them? And should beta readers be paid?
Don’t worry, dear author, because we will give you the answers you need. In this article, we will answer:
- What is a beta reader?
- Should you pay beta readers?
- How can you repay beta readers?
- Are the other readers you should pay?
A quick note: If you’re looking for beta readers, check out this article. It will walk you through everything you need to know to find a high-quality beta reader. You need to use one before you can properly thank them!
What is a Beta Reader?
If you’ve been hanging out in writing circles online or making some author friends over at the Story Craft Café, you’ve probably heard of beta readers. For some folks, beta readers are a crucial part of the writing process.
Beta readers are people who read a revised draft of your book to provide feedback and helpful information from a reader’s perspective. They don’t normally read your first draft (because you should be doing some revising yourself) or even the earliest drafts that are reserved for critique partners.
Beta readers come along after that to read an almost-finalized version of your book, though you might have a handful of revisions and potentially some big changes based on their feedback.
Some people don’t use beta readers. I remember being in a Twitter conversation with bestselling fantasy author Margaret Weis, and she said that no one reads her draft until it goes to her editor. Weis has sold more than 30 million books, though, and has a dedicated editor from her publisher, which newer authors won’t have.
I, on the other hand, owe my soul to some beta readers who helped me make my first book so much better than what landed in their lap.
This isn’t an article about the ins and outs of beta readers, though. If you’re looking for more info on these helpful people, check out this article.
Just remember that a beta reader’s primary objective is to provide feedback from a reader’s perspective.
Let’s get down to business: should you pay these people?
Should You Pay a Beta Reader?
In the vast majority of cases, the simple answer is no, you shouldn’t be paying beta readers.
Traditionally, being a beta reader means contributing your time pro bono in order to be a part of the writing process, help shape the book, and support an author you care about or are a fan of. This is why some authors turn to their biggest fans for beta reading, sometimes.
That doesn’t mean you won’t repay beta readers somehow, and we’ll cover that in the next section. Understand, however, that you’re asking someone to contribute hours of their life for free to help you with your book. Reread that sentence.
So be respectful, polite, and thankful when working with beta readers, even if their feedback isn’t all that helpful or if they don’t finish reading everything (both of these things will happen at some point).
Hiring Paid Beta Readers
There are paid beta readers out there that you can seek out and hire. My fellow Dabble writer, Nisha, hired beta readers and loved the process. Some folks find great success with hiring beta readers, while others feel like they’ve wasted their money (though you could say this about basically any service).
My advice? Look for paid beta readers after you’ve explored other options. If the pool of betas you’ve assembled are just stroking your ego rather than providing feedback or are providing poor quality feedback, turning to a professional might be a good idea.
But you also might be able to assemble a team of awesome beta readers who are fans of your material, know your genre, and are willing to provide real, honest feedback.
At the end of the day, think about your budget, look into reviews, testimonials, and references before you hire a beta reader, and do what works best for your process.
How You Should Repay Beta Readers
All that said, most beta readers out there are not financially compensated for their work. But how do you say thank you to someone who has analyzed every sentence in your book and provided pages worth of feedback?
Here are a couple ways you can repay beta readers:
- Send them a copy of your book. This can be a paperback or e-book, whichever they prefer.
- Thank them in your acknowledgements. Honestly, some people act like you just paid them if you include them in your book’s acknowledgements. It’s a simple yet heartfelt act to include their name in print within the confines of your cover.
- Give them a shoutout on social. If they want. Some people will wish to remain anonymous. For those who don’t, share how they helped in the community. Bonus points if you can point to a particular scene or passage they helped perfect.
- Buy them a coffee. Maybe this counts as paying… but not for tax purposes. If your beta readers are nearby, take them out for coffee to discuss their feedback. If you prefer tea, hot chocolate, beer, etc., substitute your (and their) drink of choice here.
Always remember, beta readers are doing you a huge favor. Make them feel appreciated.
Are There Other Readers You Should Pay?
While most beta readers won’t be paid, there are some other professionals you might use along your writing journey that should be paid.
If a culture or demographic plays a big role in your book—whether in the setting, as a main or secondary character, etc.—that isn’t your own, you should consider hiring a sensitivity reader.
These professionals make sure you’ve been accurate in your depictions of people, are not using offensive language that you don’t even know is offensive, and are showing basic respect.
Sensitivity readers should be paid for their time. Often the process of sensitivity reading can be difficult and sometimes traumatic, so don’t ask people to take on this emotional labor for free.
There are many different kinds of editors and, depending on what you need, they come in at different times in your writing process. For a full breakdown of the types of editing, click here.
Beta readers are like a lite version of developmental and line editors. They’re looking for the qualitative stuff, but they likely don’t have the education, training, experience, or processes that editors have.
If you’re willing to invest the time and money in hiring a developmental editor, it will elevate your book to the next level (but it isn’t cheap). Line editing will make your words resonate with your audience and your prose flow beautifully .
At the very least, however, you should be hiring a copy editor. These are the folks who look out for errors like spelling, grammar, and punctuation.
Note: Tell your beta readers not to look for typos that a copy editor would look for. That’s not their role and, despite their best intentions, they might lead you astray with some misguided advice on the technical aspects of writing. Besides, this isn’t your final draft.
You Can’t Have Beta Readers If You Don’t Have a Book
Before you can even ask yourself if beta readers should be paid, you need a book for them to read and a place to incorporate their feedback.
Guess what? Dabble helps you with both of those.
By having a clean, modern platform with tools like the Plot Grid and Goal Tracking, Dabble actually makes writing your book easier. And with Sticky Notes, Comments, and automatic syncing to the cloud, incorporating beta feedback is a breeze.
I used Microsoft Word to incorporate beta feedback before and, because it didn’t have that handy auto-sync, I ended up losing days worth of rewrites because my laptop crashed. Yes, I had OneDrive, but it seems that turns off syncing every five seconds.
I’d say let that be a lesson to always save your work, but Dabble does it for you.
And the best part is that you can get started with all of Dabble’s features for fourteen days, absolutely free, no credit card info required, by clicking here.
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