Why I don’t use Beta Readers #WriterWednesday #AmWriting

As many of you know, I’ve just finished the draft of my latest novel (insert shameless plug for new novel here). Now that the manuscript is off to the editor, it should be time to send the ARC to beta readers. Notice me rushing off to do that? No? That’s because I no longer use beta readers. Oh, the shame! Who the hell do I think I am not using beta readers?!?

I could go into a long background story of all the mistakes I’ve made with beta readers and even the heartbreaking story of losing a good friend over it all, but I’m just going to get to the heart of the matter.


Beta Reader _1

Reasons I don’t use Beta Readers:

Timing. In order to plan my book marketing properly, there is a two-month gap between the time I finish the novel and it goes to the editor and the release date. If I use beta readers, I have to either increase that gap time or pressure my beta readers into reading the novel in a week or something ridiculously similar. I hear you saying: “But you can send the manuscript to the beta readers while it’s at the editor!” No, I really can’t. I KNOW there a ton of typos and grammatical mistakes in the current manuscript. And, yeah, if I’m being entirely honest, there are probably some plot inconsistencies as well. There’s no sense sending that document to beta readers. They’ll just make comments on issues that won’t exist after the editing phase anyway.

beta reader 2Lack of valuable feedback. When I first started using beta readers, the feedback would be something like It was fun. I liked it! That’s super sweet but not very helpful. So, I decided to make a standard questionnaire for my beta readers. Less than half of them filled it out. The others, who did fill it out and were quite useful, said they’d never beta read for me again as it was too much work, and they didn’t have the time for it. There were also some who – realizing that I was taking this writing and beta reading thing seriously – didn’t want to beta read as they were afraid any negative commentary they made would damage our relationship.

Conflicting feedback. The first chick lit novel I wrote was not very popular with my initial beta readers. I completely flipped out and sent the manuscript to a bunch of new beta readers. Then, when I had all the feedback, I realized it wasn’t helpful as it was all conflicting. Some readers hated the heroine, while others absolutely loved her. Some thought it was funny, while others thought it was trite. You get my meaning. So, after an extended beta review timeline, I ended up with zilch advice I could use. This was in fact the straw that broke the camel’s back. I was done with beta readers at this point.

beta reader 3I’m not a complete know-it-all. I do realize I need feedback on my novels. How do I do this? First, I encourage my editor to give me commentary (above and beyond the grammatical stuff), and I listen to it! Next, I do have my husband read the novel prior to publishing. English is not his first language, so he’s not concerned with grammar or typos. He concentrates on the story and inconsistencies. Also, I read my book reviews, and I pay attention to their criticisms – after I get angry and scream and shout at my computer. For future novels, I’m considering adding a second editor to my editing process.

What about everyone else? Do you use beta readers? How has the experience worked out for you?




38 thoughts on “Why I don’t use Beta Readers #WriterWednesday #AmWriting

  1. annakalingauthor says:

    I wouldn’t do without beta readers – I definitely wouldn’t want reviews to be the first time I heard about reader feedback! Finding good betas (who give you feedback beyond “Yeah, I liked it”) is trial and error, but there are plenty of them out there and I would cling onto them tooth and nail.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. jenanita01 says:

    I have used beta readers twice in my writing career, and they were helpful. The problem, as you say, is usually timing. Some readers take so long you think they have given up, and the other problem is finding good and efficient beta readers in the first place. I think the onus falls on the writer to bring the work to the best standard, and then have it edited.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Eric says:

    This reminds me a lot of why I don’t do workshops or peer groups with my short fiction too much anymore. Maybe like 1 or 2 of the pieces of feedback are helpful, the rest are just focused on grammar and typos. Don’t get me wrong, those 2 people that really paid attention are amazingly helpful, but having to weed through the rest can be numbing, especially when the feedback contradicts. If I ever finish my first novel, I don’t think I’d be able to do the beta reader thing. I guess it’s more me than them.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. vanderso says:

    I’ve had trouble finding good beta readers. Committing to read a full ms. is a big task and not everyone whose opinion I’d value has that kind of time. When I have enlisted colleagues to read for me, I’ve run into the same problems you describe.

    I’ve had good luck by joining more than one writers’ group. I get the same range of responses you do, from the comma-inserters to the ones who think I should have written a different book, but I get to see how a much wider audience responds and can sort out the valuable insights–and there are many! And it’s free. Unfortunately this can be a long process, and I’ve had to learn to manage the comments, not taking them all to heart. In my view, readers of some sort are essential, and if I found a good beta reader I’d cling to him or her with every tentacle I could summon to my cause.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. alfageeek says:

    I use beta readers as subject matter experts. On my most recent novel, I asked a reader in her twenties to make sure my young characters were using the right lingo; I asked a Mexican-American reader to make sure my representation of her culture was right; I asked a medical doctor to review some specific medical stuff. In every case, they suggested changes that were valuable.

    I also beta read for my author friends, and what I’ve learned is that nobody is getting their money’s worth from their editors. I find grammar, punctuation, and typo errors in every book I beta read. Every one of them. (In contrast, my beta readers often comment on how they were shocked to not find any such errors at all in my books, which I edit myself. So I guess I’m just a hell of a good proofreader or something.) But anyway, my point is that everyone else needs beta readers because their editors are lousy proofers.

    One other thought: Stephen King said that you should have your book read by a bunch of people, but ignore all their plot/storytelling feedback unless almost all of them point out the same thing. On the off chance they do line up on an issue, you have to fix it. Seems like sage advice.

    Liked by 1 person

    • D.E. Haggerty says:

      Huh. Interesting. With my current novel, I’ve run the German and Turkish by native speakers and discussed the Jewish cultural issues with Jewish friends, but I never thought of that as beta reading more like spot checking.

      Liked by 1 person

      • alfageeek says:

        In my new novel the things that needed checking were so infused throughout the novel that a full beta read was the only way to get that done. Fortunately, I have a rabid fan base from my previous novels, so it’s pretty easy to get very motivated volunteers.

        Liked by 1 person

        • D.E. Haggerty says:

          I think you hit the nail on the head of my problem. My first 5 books, when I was using betas, were in vastly different genres. Maybe it would be easier if I stuck to the same genre.


  6. Felicia Denise says:

    I feel your pain. My experience with betas has been dismal. Since I beta read also, I try to be mindful of their time… but they’re not of mine. Wish I knew the secret to building a good team but until I do, copy edits are the order of the day. ☺

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Meka James says:

    I’ve had a hard time with betas. They didn’t give good feedback, but more than that, they’d flake out and not finish the project. This year that changed and I found a great group of women that all read and write in my genre. Their feedback has been honest and helpful. Finding good ones is the key! But they aren’t for everyone and you have to do what works best for your process.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. A.C. Melody says:

    Wow, I guess I really lucked out with my beta readers. I’ve only had one that was mostly useless praise, but she had one great suggestion I’ve taken to heart. I personally couldn’t self-publish without beta readers, because that’s not an avenue available to me through my publisher and their editors suck.

    So, I take advantage of all the ways I’m able to make my self published books as good as they can be and for someone who has experience in traditional publishing, trust me a month or two is a very short time to wait to see my book on the market. I found all of my beta readers on Goodreads, but it is a little trial and error as was already mentioned.

    Liked by 1 person

      • A.C. Melody says:

        Oh, I hear you – it’s one of the reasons why I started self-publishing on the side! And I think, if I’d had your experience with beta readers, I probably would’ve stopped using them, too. I’ve just been really lucky so far *knock on wood* 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Stevie Turner says:

    I do it all myself. I’ve tried beta readers in the past, but they all have different opinions and you end up getting nowhere. I’ve been a medical secretary for 13 years, and our new hospital in-house system has no spell checker, so accuracy is the key.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Stevie Turner says:

    Reblogged this on Stevie Turner, Indie Author. and commented:
    Good one here from D. E Haggerty. As I said in the comments, I have to be accurate as regards spelling and grammar in my job as a medical secretary. I’ve found in the past that beta readers often have different opinions of your work, and if you chop and change the manuscript to suit everybody you end up getting nowhere.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Yecheilyah says:

    Great write-up and I definitely feel your pain on the timing. Far as the valuable feedback and conflicting feedback that it’s about balance and finding what works for you to echo Didi. I am using Betas for a WIP now and I’ve never intended to apply everyone’s advice to my work. For me, Betas have never been about that. The worst way to go about doing anything is to try and please everyone. It is also how you end up confused and editing your vision. Instead, I expect there to be differences of opinion. Lots of them. To discern what feedback to accept and what to ignore, I use a 2-3 witness rule. At the mouth of 2-3 witnesses, let all be established. This means that if two or more people report the same issues with the manuscript, it’s safe to consider revising that particular part of the book. If one person is confused about something, that could just be that person but if two or three or four people are confused about the same part, it’s safe to say that part needs revision. If five of your teachers said you talked too much then I think it’s safe to say you talk too much! This is the logic I apply to feedback from Betas. I do not nor have I ever intended on applying everyone’s opinion, just those opinions that are logical and thus valuable and reported by at least more than one person.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Ericajean says:

    As a book reviewer/writer I totally get how you feel. As a reviewer who has received egalleys before publication, I do take that into account and never hold it against the author. Sometimes I make notes that the book is not in final stages and am sure to post it to my followers. I typically read for the story itself and initially not for “glamorous writing”(unless the writings is too crazy)

    On the otherhand, I have so many books to review and each author has a deadline I can never truly fulfill 100%. Plus the job is free so all I get are the books.

    Secondly, as a writer, I prefer to just wait for the reviews. No beta readers. Seeking two editors may be your best bet.

    Good luck!😊

    Liked by 1 person

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