BETA READER SERVICE
Introducing our beta reader service…
The History Quill’s beta reader service gives you the opportunity to share your manuscript with a team of six hand-picked beta readers, who will then provide detailed feedback that will help make your story as strong as it can possibly be.
The beta readers we’ll select for your book are real historical fiction readers. Our beta readers are subscribers of The Niche Reader, a website we created for readers who want to enjoy and explore their favorite genres. We’ll match your book to beta readers whose preferences are aligned both with the historical fiction genre and also with the subgenre/s specific to your book, ensuring they are in your ideal target audience.
Our beta readers fill an important gap in the writing and editing process, providing the kind of feedback that only true fans of the historical fiction genre could give. Alongside the feedback of a professional editor, they play a vital role in the revision process and help ensure your book has the best possible chance of success.
The benefits of our service
Your target audience
The beta readers we’ll select for your book are real historical fiction readers: your target audience. We have detailed information on their interests and preferences, and we always ask why they want to read each book, enabling us to match your story to the appropriate readers based on their profiles and responses. Our beta readers will give you a true reader’s perspective, which is otherwise very difficult to get prior to publication.
Detailed, honest feedback
We gather feedback from our beta readers using a series of tried-and-tested questions. See our FAQ section below for the full list. We also give you the option of adding up to eight additional questions of your own. We instruct our beta readers to provide honest, unbiased feedback covering the things they liked, as well as the things they think need to be improved.
Trust and reliability
It’s notoriously difficult to find trustworthy, reliable beta readers who are in your natural target audience. Our service resolves this problem: we hand-pick beta readers for each project and take detailed information from them, including their address and their biographical information, to ensure trust. We incentivise reliability with rewards for quality feedback and deter unreliability by barring readers who don’t consistently deliver.
We use a secure system to deliver electronic book files to your beta readers, ensuring they can only be accessed by members of your beta team. We also add digital watermarks to each book, consisting of both visible and invisible elements, linking every copy to the reader who downloaded it. This makes every copy traceable and thus creates a strong deterrent against file sharing. These measures help to guard against piracy and protect your book.
Evidence for agents and publishers
If you’re planning to query your novel with agents and publishers, positive beta reader feedback from real historical fiction readers is exactly the kind of evidence you’ll need to persuade them your story is a winner with your target audience. Because of this, we allow you to share the feedback you receive from beta readers privately with other people whom you deem appropriate, including by quoting it in your query letters to agents and publishers.
Once the beta reading process is over, you can request that certain readers join your ‘street team’ for future projects. This means we’ll give them priority if they register for books you submit in the future, helping you get feedback from beta readers who are already familiar with your writing. This is particularly useful if you’re writing a series.
“The History Quill’s beta readers were excellent. They identified things that needed fixing, gave support and criticism generously, and I think they greatly improved my book. The readers were obviously experienced (librarians, teachers, etc.) and had good eyes for what was and wasn’t working in the story. My readers helped me deepen the story and fill out two important characters. I strongly recommend this service.”
“I found the beta reader service speedy and effective. Reports reached me well within the advertised time scale and contained many useful reader insights which – as the author – I was too close to the story to notice. The reports were succinct, to-the-point and easy to act upon.”
“The beta readers made a significant contribution to the completion of my novel. The draft had already been through a structural edit with the support of an excellent editor, but the feedback from actual readers of historical fiction added a new dimension, stimulating me to tweak parts of the narrative to make them livelier and/or more comprehensible.”
How it works
Send us a booking enquiry
To get your beta project started, send us a booking enquiry via one of the buttons on this page. You’ll need to tell us when you would like your project to start – there are two possible start dates available per month, usually either the 1st or the 15th. You’ll also need to tell us about your book.
Complete your booking
We’ll review your booking enquiry and send confirmation that your book is suitable for our programme. We will then send you instructions to complete your booking, including paying the fee.
Send your book files and other information
Before your beta project begins, you’ll need to send us your book via email in electronic format. We’ll need PDF and EPUB files to accommodate our beta readers’ varying reading devices. Please see our FAQ section for information on how to generate these files. Don’t worry – it’s straightforward and free. In addition, you’ll need to send us a short blurb for your book, a longer description, and an author bio, together with any additional questions you would like us to ask your beta readers at the feedback stage. We’ll also ask you a couple of questions about your beta reader selection preferences, if you have any.
When your project begins, we’ll advertise your book to our list of beta readers and invite them to request to join your beta team. We will select six beta readers from those who apply, taking into account your selection preferences. We will also select two substitute beta readers in case any of the main six have to drop out – see the FAQ below for more details.
Reading and feedback
Once selected, your beta readers will read your book and provide their feedback. We will then compile it and send it to you. Projects for books of up to 120,000 words will take four weeks to complete from the start of your slot. Projects between 120,000 and 160,000 words will take five weeks. Longer books will have bespoke timelines.
Add beta readers to your street team
Once you have reviewed your feedback, you’ll have the option of adding particular beta readers to your ‘street team’ for future beta projects. This means they will be given preference during selections for your future beta teams.
Please select the length of your book below to see the pricing.
Frequently asked questions
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Which countries do you accept bookings from?
We welcome clients who are resident in the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada (excluding Saskatchewan), Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and any EU country. If you are not resident in one of these countries, unfortunately we won’t be able to accept your business at this time.
I'm new to this. What is a beta reader exactly?
A beta reader is someone who reads your draft manuscript and provides you with feedback. They are not a professional editor and could be a friend or family member, another writer, or a reader.
In our view, the best beta readers are real readers of your book’s genre, which is what our service provides. Real historical fiction readers are your target audience, and there is no better test for your book than putting it in front of them. Unlike friends and family, they will be honest and unbiased, and unlike other writers, they won’t ask for critiques in return. They will give you a true reader’s perspective, which is otherwise very difficult to get prior to publication.
Do I need any permissions to use this service?
If you are the sole author of your book and do not yet have a publisher for it or you intend to self-publish, you do not need any permissions.
However, if you have a publisher for the book, you will need their permission to use this service. If you have a co-author or co-authors, you will need their permission. And if you are a publisher, you will need the permission of the author/s. These permissions may already be covered by existing agreements; if not, you will need to seek specific approval.
How many beta readers will I get?
You will get six beta readers. However, to ensure you get six pieces of quality feedback at the end of the process, we also select two substitute beta readers in addition to your six main beta readers. These substitutes will also read your book and provide feedback. If one or two of your main beta readers have to pull out of the project or don’t provide the standard of feedback we require, your substitutes ensure we have things covered. If the substitutes are not required but their feedback is of a sufficiently high quality, we will still send you their feedback at the end, meaning you might end up with more than six, but no more than eight, pieces of feedback. However, six is what we guarantee.
Who are your beta readers?
Our beta readers are subscribers of The Niche Reader, a website we created for readers who want to enjoy and explore their favorite genres. We’ll match your book to beta readers whose preferences are aligned both with the historical fiction genre and also with the subgenre/s specific to your book, ensuring they are in your ideal target audience. All of our beta readers are UK residents and are 18 years old or over.
Should I book in advance?
Yes – we recommend booking at least two or three months in advance, as our schedule can get quite booked up.
How long will my beta project take?
Projects for books of up to 120,000 words will take four weeks to complete from the start of your slot. Projects between 120,000 and 160,000 words will take five weeks. Longer books will have bespoke timelines.
What subgenres of historical fiction do you accept?
We accept a wide range of takes on the historical fiction genre, including (but not limited to) time-slip, dual timelines, thrillers, romance, drama, action/adventure, mystery, alternate history, and historical fantasy. We do reserve the right to turn down any project if we don’t feel it’s a good fit for us. If you’re not sure, just get in touch and ask.
At what point in the writing/publication process should I use the beta reader service?
We recommend you use this service at around the same time you would hire a professional content editor. It should be after you have a complete draft of your manuscript, but before you have completed your final revisions. That means you can use the feedback you receive to inform your edits during the revision process.
We would not normally recommend using this service at a later stage, particularly after you have already made your final substantive changes, as it will be less useful to you.
However, if you have a special reason for wanting to use the beta reading service at a later stage, or if you’re not sure what stage would work best for your project, please do send us an enquiry via email (email@example.com), and we would be happy to advise you.
What if my book is part of a series?
If your book is the first in a series or is a standalone within a series (i.e. it can be read without having to read previous books in your series in order to understand and enjoy it), then you can proceed as normal.
If your book is part of a series, is not the first book, and does not stand alone, we can certainly still accommodate it. We will ask you for a short synopsis of the series so far, which we will share with your beta readers. This will give them the context they need. We will also instruct them to only apply for your project if they are happy to read a book that is part of a series, ensuring everyone is on the same page.
How is this different from your ARC service?
ARC readers read a polished version of your book that is ready for publication, with the aim being to generate early reviews, whereas our beta readers read a rougher draft of your book during the revision stage, with the aim being to generate feedback to inform your revisions.
What if my book is over 160,000 words?
No problem! Use the booking enquiry form, and we’ll get back to you with a bespoke price and timeframe.
What if my book is very short or a novella?
We are happy to accept short novels and novellas, but we do not offer discounts for these.
Does my book have to be perfect before submitting it to the beta reader service?
No! The whole point of the beta reader service is that it’s designed to help you improve your manuscript when you revise it, so it’s expected that the draft you send us will be far from a finished, perfect product.
Furthermore, your manuscript does not need to be perfectly formatted or copy-edited in order to use this service. Our beta readers are told to expect typos, minor grammar issues, and some formatting issues with beta projects.
All we ask is that your manuscript forms a complete, cohesive story, e.g. don’t leave out the ending!
How can I send you my book?
Books must be sent to us electronically, via email. We require PDF and EPUB book files to accommodate our beta readers’ reading devices. These files are straightforward to create and convert using free tools. We recommend Calibre, but you can use alternative software if you prefer. We can provide assistance with this process if required.
What questions will you ask my beta readers as standard?
We ask the following fifteen questions as standard in order to elicit quality, detailed feedback. In addition, you can contribute up to eight questions of your own.
1) What was your overall impression of the story?
2) What did you like about it the most?
3) Was there anything you didn’t like about it? If so, what?
4) Did the story grab you from the beginning? If not, why not?
5) Were there any points where you started to lose interest in the story or became less excited to find out what would happen next? If so, where?
6) Was the story easy to follow? If not, why not?
7) Was there anything particular in the story that you found confusing?
8) Did you find the main character engaging? If so, what was most engaging about them? If you didn’t find them engaging, why not?
9) Overall, which characters did you find the most engaging, and why?
10) Overall, which characters did you find the least engaging, and why?
11) Were you able to keep track of the characters, i.e. who was who? Were there too many?
12) Was there anything in the story that you had trouble believing or that seemed illogical?
13) Did you notice any inconsistencies in the plot, with the characters, or with anything else?
14) Did you find the ending satisfying? If not, why not?
15) How was the general standard of grammar, punctuation, spelling, and formatting?
Tell me more about the selection process for beta readers.
Before we select your beta readers, we’ll ask you a couple of questions about your selection preferences. We’ll then invite beta readers to register for your book, and we’ll assess their suitability based on their history of beta reading with us, their own interests and background, and the reason they give for wanting to read the book. We’ll take your preferences into account to ensure we pick beta readers you’ll be happy with.
My book contains graphic violence, sex, and/or bad language. Will this upset my beta readers?
Before we advertise your book to our list of beta readers, we will ask you whether it contains any of these things. If it does, we will put a warning on the application form recommending that beta readers who might be offended by them should not proceed. This helps to ensure the right people apply.
With whom can I share my beta reader feedback? Can I share it with agents and publishers when I'm querying?
You’re not allowed to publish your beta reader feedback in any public forum, such as on your website, but you are allowed to share it privately with people whom you deem appropriate. This means you can quote it in your query letters to agents and publishers if you’re taking the traditional publishing route. However, please only share the actual feedback – never the names or other personal details of your beta readers.
How do you prevent piracy?
Whenever you share your book with others, there is always a risk of piracy, and no one can eliminate that entirely. However, we have taken a range of precautions to substantially reduce the risk. Your book files will be uploaded to secure servers that only allow authorised people, including your beta readers, our team, and the company that manages the servers, to access them.
We also add digital watermarks to each book, consisting of both visible and invisible elements, linking every copy to the reader who downloaded it. This makes every copy traceable and thus creates a strong deterrent against file sharing.
Moreover, we require our beta readers to provide us with a range of information to help us ensure they are acting in good faith, including their biography and interests, why they want to join your project, their contact information, and their physical address. We also require all our beta readers to agree to our terms and conditions, which legally obligate them to keep your files confidential.
How do I pay?
You can pay by credit or debit card.
Which payment currencies do you accept?
We accept three payment currencies: USD, GBP, and EUR. The currency you pay in will depend on your country of residence. People resident in the UK will pay in GBP, people resident in the EU will pay in EUR, and people resident in the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa will pay in USD.
What are the full terms and conditions?
You can view our full terms and conditions here.
If you have any additional questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.