Where do your fellow writers hang out?
It’s much easier these days to establish communication with other writers. I remember back in the 90s, before the internet, when I was a member of a writers’ group in London. There were about eight of us, usually. We met once a fortnight, for a while at a central location, and then for a further period in each others’ homes. In either case, we had to travel, determinedly, no matter what the weather or how tired we were, usually using public transport, through crowds and cold and discomfort, to finally get to that little room, wherever it was, where we could sit down, get all the social banter and the tea making and the rearranging of chairs out of the way, and read our own story and get feedback, and listen to others’ stories and give feedback.
What a lot of effort that seems today.
Today, we sit in our comfortable armchairs or even in our beds, and, using only one or two fingers perhaps, we can have conversations with writers all over the world. We don’t have to move; we don’t even have to speak. Perhaps we’ve lost something in the process; perhaps we value the feedback a little less because it took less effort to acquire it. But the internet and social media have transformed our ability to get hold of qualified and competent beta readers, and to provide the same service to others.
Here are some specific ways in which you can use social media to contact other writers and get them to act as beta readers for you:
1. Join Facebook groups.
This is probably one of the easiest and most useful methods. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of writing groups on Facebook which are probably suited to you and your work. Just type ‘writing group’ into Facebook’s search bar and select which ones seem appropriate. Some you will have to wait for permission to join, some may ask you questions to qualify you, but many are just public groups, open to all. If you engage with the group and follow conversations and threads, are polite and helpful and display some competence, pretty soon you will come across threads in which people are discussing beta reading and offering to provide services for each other.
2. Check out other social media sites.
LinkedIn, for example, has a lot of writing and publishing groups. Get to know people, visit their blogs and websites, engage in conversations.
3. Use social media to find a local writers’ group.
Once you have made friends, you will probably find that they do what writers have done since time immemorial: get together socially and share their stories. Go along to some meetings and find out how they do this.
4. Find seminars and conferences.
These are widely advertised on social media. Attend the free ones, and pay to attend some ones which really catch your interest. These things usually allow plenty of time for social interaction and you will find that beta reading is a part of what they encourage.
5. Join Twitter.
Twitter is useful for writers, but perhaps its greatest benefit is in helping writers meet each other.
6. Visit blogs and websites.
Many, many writers have their own blogs and sites - it’s an indispensable part of being a writer today to have some kind of presence on the internet. It won’t take you long to find dozens of such things which are in your genre or field and which are interesting in their own right. Engaging, exchanging, participating, will all inevitably lead to beta reading.
The same ingredients apply in getting some beta reading done as apply in getting anything done: generosity, patience, good manners, understanding. Writers are busy people, you know that; very often they are introverted types for whom social interaction is a challenge, but almost all recognise the value in beta reading as a step towards publication and so almost all will be open to some kind of discussion about it.
The easiest and most useful way to find good beta readers is to network with other writers.
Try it, you’ll probably be pleasantly surprised.