Frequently Asked Questions

Here are answers to some of the most common questions we receive. If you have a question that's not on this list, or you want to know more, please feel free to email us:

What is a Beta Book?

A Beta Book is a finished manuscript in it's first or second draft stage. It's ready to read, but the author knows it still has some issues. Getting some people to read the book and give big-picture feedback is a great way to identify and solve those issues.

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What is a Beta Reader?

A Beta Reader is anyone who is reading and giving feedback on a Beta Book :). Wikipedia has a bit more to say about it, if you're interested.

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Is this free?

Beta Books is free, and will always be free for readers. This project is a labor of love for us, but we'd love to find a way to make it our day job. If we can create something that enough people find valuable and find a fair price for it, then at some point we'll do that.

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Does everyone have to create an account

Readers and authors both have to sign up. This is how we ensure your work is private and protect your publishing rights.

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Do readers and writers have the same type of account?

Yes. That may change in the future but currently there is one account type. That means if you were invited as a reader and are also an author who would like to upload a book and start your own beta go right ahead.

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Am I responsible for finding my own readers and bringing them to the site?

In other words, is there a match-making component to help authors find beta readers?

This one requires a two-part answer:

Today: You need to bring your own beta readers. In our experience, most people who have gotten to the finished-manuscript stage have collected a handful of friends or family who act as beta readers already. What they do is email files back and forth, and the author painstakingly stitches together feedback. That’s what we did in the past, and we hated it, which is why we made this app :)

The Future: We are hearing that some people would like a match-making service, and think it might be reasonable to add that to the app. To the extent that we can find ways to help new people connect without distracting from our core mission of building awesome software for writers, we'll do it. This will probably happen gradually over time, rather than being some big feature release.

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Can anyone search for and find my book on beta books?

No. Only people you explicitly invite to read your manuscript can read it.

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Does a reader have to be online to use beta books?

Yes, for now. We are thinking about ways to support offline reading while keeping it super easy to access a book and fully protecting the author’s publishing rights. We don’t have an answer for that yet, but it’s certainly something we'd like to support in the future.

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Can my readers print out chapters?

Yes. Chapters will print nicely from just about any browser, so if you have readers that want to print first and then read, they can. Remember, only people you invited to your book can read it, so only your invited readers can print chapters.

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I use X word processor, can I upload my manuscript?

Yes! You can always copy and paste chapters into the app, and adjust formatting in the app if needed.

Hundreds of writers are using BetaBooks with all kinds of different software, so we're sure your format will be ok. But, if you are having a problem uploading your book please email us and we will help!

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Can I use fancy custom formatting or images?

No. BetaBooks limits formatting to paragraphs, italics, blockquotes, and section breaks.

This is a carefully considered choice. The reason we do this is, there are nearly infintely many devices and screen sizes out there, and it's critical that your book look nice and readable on all of them. More than half of readers use their phone or tablet to read on BetaBooks. When you do fancy formatting designed for print or wide screen monitors, it might look right on your screen but it probably won't look nice on everyone's screen. We've done the hard work of desiging a simple manuscript format that looks professional and clean on every device.

Keep in mind, your readers understand they're here to Beta your book. They don't expect it to be fully illustrated or have extra fancy fonts, colors, or typography at this stage. They just want a nice, clean manuscript to read and comment on.

Another benefit of simplifying formatting is it keeps the app nice and easy to use, so you spend your time writing, not fussing with software :)

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Some places where I had italics, I see asterisks instead.

This is an artifact usually caused by poorly formatted documents in your word processor. Specifically, it happens when you have whitespace italicized before or after a word. It might look alright when you copy/paste, but when the text is saved the italics doesn't stick right, and you see asterisks instead.

We realize that sucks. We're trying to teach the computer to recognize that and fix it for you automatically, but computers are very dumb and it might take a little while. In the mean time, the problem can be avoided by being careful not to italicize the whitespace in your text.

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Why should I use an app instead of just emailing my friends a Word doc?

Yeah, it's easy to email a file, but that's just the beginning of the process. We've done the beta process the "old way," and it's always turned out to be a pain in the neck. At least one person has a problem opening the file, and everyone submits feedback at different times and in different formats. You never know whether someone is actually reading or has forgotten.

Using BetaBooks for feedback solves a bunch of the problems we experienced:

  1. Anyone with an internet connection can read your book on any device with a web browser. That, by itself, is a big time saver for you and your readers.
  2. Readers get a simple feedback form at the end of each chapter, so you and your reader can both track how much they've read and how much they have left to go.
  3. You can reply to reader feedback easily, and all your feedback from your readers stays organized in one place. Never lose track of good feedback again.

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Can a reader highlight sections and make inline comments, like Track Changes in Word?

No, not right now. Currently feedback is limited to end of chapter comments. This was a carefully considered choice. If you're interested, here's the rationale:

We found free form end of chapter comments facilitates the best beta reading and generated the best feedback. We want to encourage as natural a reading flow as possible and let authors control when a reader pauses to consider what they have just read.

Positive differences we found with end of chapter feedback:

  • With inline feedback, people often made long comments, only to note one paragraph later: “Oh, never mind, now I get it. Cool.” This slows the reader down and misses the point of a beta read, which is to read the story like a normal reader.
  • With end-of-chapter feedback we received more big picture reactions from readers. They were not getting hung up on the wording of a single sentence, but they would still say things like: “I didn’t really believe character X reaction to situation Y.” That’s more helpful at the beta stage. If something small really bothered them enough to stick out until the end of the chapter you know it really bugs them.
  • Readers not mentioning the really little things helps keep an author (or at least us) from feeling overwhelmed, and helps us focus on the Can a reader highlight sections and make inline comments, like Track Changes in Word? big issues.

That being said, we are interested in the potential to one day use beta books for earlier stage work. At that point, inline feedback would make perfect sense. So, in the future we may add an option for authors to allow inline feedback.

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I love this so much! What can I do to make sure BetaBooks sticks around?

Aw, shucks, thanks! Just use the site to polish your work, invite your beta readers and fellow authors to use the site, and let us know how we can improve.

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