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  • Mark K. McClain

Free vs Paid Beta Readers

Updated: May 10


This week, I’d like to chat about Beta Readers. These are the folks, like myself, who basically give you another set of eyes on your novel. They provide general feedback on pacing, characters, plot, and if the story believable, etc.

The most frequent question is, why would anyone pay for a reader when they can find them for free? Excellent question. Let’s throw a few thoughts out here.

Firstly, I take my hat off to those who do this service for free. If done properly, the task takes an enormous amount of time. One benefit is it can be rewarding. Unfortunately, when done incorrectly, and if the author follows bad advice, a Reader can derail the novel in a very short time. New writers are especially susceptible to this quagmire.

Personally, I’ve seen comments from ‘experienced’ Beta Readers that, if followed, would have led the author to literally delete half their work and do a rewrite. When, in actuality, a few properly placed additions and edits would have solved the problem.

Writing is hard enough for published authors, let alone those trying to find a foothold. Add to it the pressure of making multiple changes, deciding which Reader to believe, and so on, and it can be overwhelming. Some, simply give up.

Please understand, there are no rules governing Beta Readers. Anyone can volunteer, even though some should not. (As with anything that is free) Even paid readers can be deceptive. In some cases, they are merely folks who enjoy reading and decide they can charge for their services on that premise. Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case. Don't get me wrong, there are many outstanding paid readers to choose from. But, before turning your money, and manuscript, over to a stranger, strike up a few text or email conversations to get an impression, first.

On the positive side, good Readers definitely come in handy for making a story strong before it goes to an editor, or prior to agent or publishing house submissions. They can aid your work immeasurably in the long run.

Some people argue that if Beta Readers get paid, then so should reviewers. However, that’s another can of worms that we may open at a later date. Let’s stick to the readers, for now, for you can see a vicious circle forming there.

Here is where the warning comes in. When seeking readers, it may be best to shy away from ‘free’ sites. In my opinion, here are a few red flags and a list of warning clues if you want to join a Beta site. Avoid these:

1. If you must earn points before posting your work.


2. If you must review/ critique your Beta Reader.

3. If Readers can win prizes.

4. Or, they promise money for critiques and reads.


5. If you must sit in a queue. (This is the lesser of the evils)

I suggest exercising caution. Here, I will interject another personal opinion. These sites simply foul the ‘system.’ They have a ‘pay to play’ mentality. Just as authors offer to read another authors work in exchange for a ‘5 star rating.’ That’s simply underhanded, unscrupulous, and again, deflates the purpose of the entire rating system.

You may be asking yourself, then, ‘why do you charge?’ or ‘you’re simply trying to sell yourself.’ My reasoning for a fee has several aspects. Mainly, as a full-time author, father of a teenager, blogger, martial artist, and active in my community and hobbies, my time is indeed precious.

And, I should be compensated for my time. In return, you'll receive quick responses, my full attention and dedication to your work, a professional, caring attitude, and all my years of experience. Of course, all of which is driven toward one goal . . . your success. For, I honestly enjoy helping writers watch the novels come to life.

Naturally, this discussion has many facets, and we could literally write pages on the subject. But, it comes down to what are you comfortable with and what your wallet allows. On a final note, I made a comment to a fellow author recently that summed up my feelings. When you pay a Reader, or editor, as a team, you automatically become invested in the process and work together to fruition. It is a far different experience, albeit a more expensive one, but worth every penny to watch you novel blossom and take wings.


Best of luck, make wise decisions, and always keep writing.

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