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.
All of our beta readers are real historical fiction readers. They are subscribers of The History Quill Book Club to whom we send opportunities for beta projects. They joined our list because they love historical fiction, and if you’re a historical fiction writer, they are your 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
All of our beta readers are real historical fiction readers: your target audience. We have detailed information on each beta reader’s interests and preferences, including preferred subgenres of historical fiction, which means we will match your book to the kind of readers you need. 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 (unless you wish to do this yourself, which we also allow). We take detailed information from them, including their address and their biographical information, to ensure trust. We incentivise reliability with rewards for quality feedback, both positive and negative, and deter unreliability by barring readers who don’t consistently deliver.
You’re in control – if you want to be
When it comes to picking your beta readers, you have two options: either you can indicate your general preferences and leave the selection process to us, or you can pick your beta readers yourself from those who have applied to join your team. Once the beta reading process is over, you can request that certain readers join your ‘street team’ for future projects. This means you have the option of playing a direct role in managing your beta team if you want to.
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.
We have created a secure system for delivering electronic book files to your beta readers, ensuring they can only be accessed by members of your beta team and, even then, with expiry limits. 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 vet everyone who applies for a beta project, even when you’re making the selections yourself. Together, these measures help to guard against piracy and protect your book.
The following testimonials are from authors who participated in a free trial of our beta reader service in order to test it before making it more widely available.
“It was refreshing to get critical feedback from readers who didn’t already know me and had no desire to flatter. The feedback I received was detailed, honest, and very insightful. I appreciate that The History Quill carefully vets the beta readers and ensures they are a good fit for your story, which meant the feedback was good quality and I could trust that my book was in safe hands.”
“Every single one of my assigned beta readers gave high quality feedback. To be able to find readers who are my target audience is worth a lot to me, as it’s so difficult to find reliable, well-matched beta readers otherwise. As I continue to hone my story, the feedback I received is already proving invaluable.”
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. You’ll also need to tell us more about your book, including its subgenre/s, historical period, and word count.
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, EPUB, and MOBI 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.
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. You then have the option of providing us with your general preferences for selections and letting us do it for you, or you can select your beta readers yourself from those who apply.
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 receive special notice of future projects and will be automatically selected to join your future beta teams.
Our beta reading schedule shows the availability of slots over the coming months. Each month contains four slots for beta projects, and in most cases there are two possible start dates: the 1st of the month and the 15th. Once all slots are used up for a given month, regardless of the start dates, it will no longer be available for bookings.
If a month is coloured a mixture of red and green, it means there is only one slot remaining, so we recommend booking as soon as possible if you want to secure it.
Your team will consist of six beta readers. 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. Please select the length of your book below to see the pricing.
Frequently asked questions
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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.
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.
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?
All of our beta readers are historical fiction fans. They have signed up to our reader-facing book recommendation service, The History Quill Book Club, and they are interested in a diverse range of subgenres, from action/adventure and mystery/thriller to historical romance, drama, and historical fantasy. All of our beta readers are UK residents, and we plan to expand our beta reader base to other countries in the future.
How long will my beta project take?
Projects for books of up to 120,000 words will take five weeks to complete from the start of your slot. Projects between 120,000 and 160,000 words will take six 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, children’s, YA, 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.
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!
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.
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.
How can I send you my book?
Books must be sent to us electronically, via email. We require PDF, EPUB, and MOBI book files to accommodate our beta readers’ reading devices. These files are straightforward to create and convert using free tools. We recommend Reedsy Book Editor and Calibre. 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 become 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.
We can conduct the selection process for your beta readers, or you can do it yourself.
If we do it, we’ll ask you a couple of basic questions to gauge your general preferences, and then we will complete the selections using our own judgement. This can be advantageous for you. First, it saves you time. Second, we have the benefit of having built personal relationships with many of our beta readers and having detailed knowledge of their preferences. We will use that to vet the applicants and hand-pick the right people for your project.
If you prefer to have more control over the process, we’ll give you detailed information about the beta readers who have applied to join your beta team, including their biographies, reading preferences, the reason they want to join your team, and any pertinent history related to prior projects they have completed for us. You can then decide for yourself. This can be a good option if you want to be more involved.
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. Even then, there are limitations on how much time your beta readers have to download 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. Whether you’re selecting your beta readers yourself or we’re doing it for you, we will review this information and make sure it stands up to scrutiny before the selections are made. We require all our beta readers to agree to our terms and conditions, which legally obligate them to keep your files confidential.
Do you accept international clients?
Yes! We welcome clients who are resident in the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, 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.
How do I pay?
You can pay by credit or debit card. Your payment currency is determined by your country. UK clients will pay in GBP, US clients will pay in USD, and EU clients will pay in EUR. All other clients will pay in USD.
What are the full terms and conditions?
You can view our full terms and conditions here.