Beta readers are amazing. They can help find plot holes, grammar mistakes, and other issues with manuscripts. They help save you time and money with editing. And they are part of your fan base, and a great first marketing step for a book.
According to Belinda Williams, it’s important to find the right kind of beta readers in order to get the most out of their feedback. She lists being honest, reading a lot, having a sharp eye, and having time as important qualities in a beta reader. It can also be helpful to have multiple beta readers with different strengths.
As Molly Greene writes, there are different types of feedback you can get on your book’s manuscript. This includes developmental feedback, which looks at the big picture, structural feedback, which focuses on the way content is organized, copy-editing, which looks at the manuscript line by line, and proofreading.
However, according to Anne R. Allen, sometimes you have to take your feedback with a grain of salt. She explains in detail the different types of writer critique groups and what feedback can be ignored.
The Book Designer has an excellent post about crowdsourcing editors and readers. The idea is to figure out what kind of editing you want or need, and what to expect from different types of people. One site that makes this easy is Advance Editions.
My own experience with beta readers has been great. For How to Create Your First Ebook, I had five beta readers. I found them by asking for readers on LinkedIn, Bibliocrunch, and my email list, and I promised a free copy of the ebook in exchange for their time. Everyone was helpful, and they pointed out misspellings, helped make the content more coherent, and gave me input on what information they wanted included or expanded upon. In some cases, multiple people pointed out the same issue to me, which helped me see what really needed to be fixed.
Because of my beta readers, I saved a lot of money on the next phase, editing. I ended up only spending about $300 for editing and proofreading.
UPDATE: Helping Writers Become Authors has compiled a great list of 10 rules for beta reader etiquette.
Have you worked with beta readers? Please share your experiences in the comments!