Okay, so you’ve written an amazing manuscript or screenplay, you LOVE IT, your family and close friends love it…but now what?? The next step is possibly the scariest, because it requires you handing over all your hard work to a stranger and asking them to give their honest feedback.
I know I am not alone in thinking this is one of the hardest parts. Its gut wrenching getting any negative feedback on your manuscript or screenplay, especially after all the hard work you put in, BUT it’s necessary to improve.
Constructive feedback helps you LEVEL UP!
So how do you find the right beta reader or script reader? There are many places to find this type of service, but you want to find the RIGHT one. I wanted to offer you all a few tips on how and where to finding a good readers because I know how hard it is. I’ll also offer suggestions on what to do with the feedback you receive, and a few next steps once you have.
I want to first preface by saying I will be focusing on paid beta readers and script readers. There’s a reason for this, and I’ll explain why, but do know there are exceptions to this rule. There are a lot of beta reading groups on Facebook or reader websites, but in my experience, when it’s done for free readers are more likely to do a poor job. They might ghost you, give next to no feedback, take a very long time, or simply not provide constructive feedback. Now, as I said, this is not a hard and fast rule! There are readers who will do it for free and be fantastic, but they’re the exception (again, in my experience). So my focus will be on paid options that shouldn’t break the bank!
TIME OUT – You are probably thinking, “Um, but AJ…where do I look for these ellusive readers?”
I’m glad you asked. Below are my recommended that I personally have used, for beta reading or script reader services…but there are a few key things to consider when booking any service (again, focusing on paid services here).
- Fiverr: This is my go to! There are reviews, detailed descriptions of listing, secure payments (and the ability to dispute if something goes wrong) and a wide variety of services. They have script reader services and beta reader services and there are a lot of options for not very much (starting at like $15-$25!)
- Reedsy: In terms of beta readers, this one is only for manuscripts…BUT this site does offer screenplay edits or feedback in other ways so I encourage you to look through it if your strictly a screenwriter. This site has verified users who are often very experienced, but there is a cost that comes with that, so keep that in mind. ($100+ for services)
- Coverfly: For my screenwriters, this is probably one you already know about, but with Coverfly they count paid coverage towards their scoring system which equals more views on your script! This becomes a win win and one I recommend, but again, it can get pricy. (Classic notes currently at $69.99 as I’m writing this)
There are other services out there I haven’t tried yet, but here are a few things to consider if you find a service elsewhere:
- How do they take payment? DO NOT sign up for a service that requires you to e-transfer them or PayPal money that isn’t through a secure site (unless you know the person or have built a relationship you trust).
- Look for reviews. If a site or reader’s website has no reviews you can ask for testimonials to find out what they’re like.
- Ensure they are real. This may sound silly, but sending a message before purchasing will confirm you’re not about to get scammed…
How to find a good reader? The real reason you’re here!
- Genre/Audience is KEY: You first want to make sure you have your genre/audience set, and that the reader you’re looking to hire reads/watches that genre:
- Know the genre of your book or script and include any crossovers. If your book is technically YA Fantasy, but maybe it’s portal fantasy and includes a bit of horror elements, be sure to mention this (see step 3).
- Find comps either in authors, writers, books, shows, movies…even if it’s just simply an author you read a lot, but it might have inspired your style, and mention it!
- Read the reviews/feedback:
- Through Fiverr and Reedsy you can see the individual’s reviews and testimonials from actual users, Coverfly isn’t quite the same but they are vetted readers who are selected based on the genre you picked.
- Check what sort of comments people make. Most reviews will offer insight into the readers style which will help you determine if it is a good fit.
- Look at both the positive and negative reviews more than the number of reviews…some users may have just started but they’re fantastic, while others have been there a while and have a lot of reviews. Both could be great readers!
- Message them BEFORE booking the service:
- This is an important, and often missed, step. Simply emailing with “Hey, I was looking at the service you offer and am wondering if you think my project would be a good fit with what you read.” This is where you can write a brief description of the story, genre, comps…and HOPEFULLY the reader will be honest if they don’t think its for them. This might sound obvious, but you’ll get better feedback if the reader likes to read your genre.
- You can also get a sense of their communication style, if they (like me) reply back with three paragraphs of information, or if they write back “yup” and that’s all. That may be all you want, short and sweet, it’s totally up to you!
Okay, so you found your perfect reader, you’ve booked their service, and you’re patiently waiting for their feedback…now what?
FIRST…always remember that this is your book! The feedback you’ll get from readers are suggestions and you can take them or leave them. There are a few steps I suggest on what to do with the feedback you get, and next steps once you’re done:
- Read the feedback then STEP AWAY! It is in our nature to get a bit defensive when a reader tells you something isn’t working (I do it ALL THE TIME). This is your baby! You’ve worked so hard to make it perfect! How could anything be wrong with it?? Well…if that were true you wouldn’t have asked for feedback. So here’s step one:
- Read every comment (whether its in the actual document or it’s own word doc) one time. Then close it.
- DO NOT make any changes, just let it sit.
- Take a full day to process the feedback and determine what might be a good point, and what you might not be willing to compromise on or change….but DO NOT make any changes yet.
- On day 2, go back and re-read the feedback in full. I know this sounds repetitive, but I promise you will see the feedback from a new lens the second time.
- This is when you can start making the changes YOU want. Don’t be afraid to say, “No! I disagree!” but also take a look at the feedback from a readers point of view, not the author. Is there some truth to the comment? Could you make minor adjustments to fix it? Is it simply poppycock?
- Once you’ve made changes and are satisfied with the revisions you made, now’s the time for another beta reader. I suggest doing them one at a time, but I know others do them all at once and compile feedback before making changes, and there is no right or wrong answer. I tend to like to do it consecutively so I can test out the revisions I chose to make and see if they work with a new reader or if there’s still issues. Same goes for that feedback I chose to ignore and leave in…if another reader agrees I might need to consider changing it.
- 3-5 readers is idea. An odd number means there won’t be any disputes if there is conflicting comments on something. Say two people love a character but one doesn’t…well, you’re not going to please everyone and you know it’s not a terrible character, but you still might make some adjustments. If all 3 hate them then it might be time for some revisions.
- Consider asking for one specific area of focus with each reader. For me, when I have script readers checking out my stories I first ask for feedback on overall plot and premise. Then I ask reader two about the action descriptions. The last reader I ask for a focus on the dialogue. This is all touched on by each reader, but when you ask them for a particular focus they’ll pay more attention to that, then you get a good sense of everything without asking someone to focus explicitly on everything.
- Ignoring the negative. Now…this doesn’t mean that you just throw away every negative comment on your book and only accept the positive, this means understanding some feedback just might not fit. It’s a tricky balance to decide what is garbage, and what is something you’re simply fighting but know needs fixing. Trust your gut!
- Some readers just might not get what you were going for.
- As much as we tried earlier to get the right reader, there are times we find out it’s not a great fit at the very end. It sucks, but it’s reality, and we simply move on!
- You won’t please everyone!
- Is there anything constructive in the negative feedback or is it simply just “I don’t like this”?
- Don’t hold on to the negative! (This is also why I suggest 3-5 readers, because what one person hates…another might love. The last thing you want to do is leave this experience feeling like your book/script is terrible and wanting to walk away from it!)
Beta readers and script Readers are tricky to find, but they are worth the time and effort if you want to make your story strong and stand out!
I would be foolish not to mention my own beta reading and script reading services, but be sure to still follow the steps I suggested. If you are looking for either service, see if I’d be a good fit first 🙂
I hope this article was helpful and that you find the task of searching for a beta reader or script reader a little less daunting!