Do you know the difference between beta readers and launch team members? Here's what they do and how you can expect them to support your book.
I was recently asked to be a book beta reader, only to discover that the author was actually recruiting volunteers for a launch or street team.
Not long after that, an email from another author showed that she was using “beta reader” and “launch team member” interchangeably.
But a beta reader and a launch/street team member aren’t the same thing. They serve different purposes.
Here’s what you need to know so you don’t confuse the people you recruit for the important tasks involved.A beta reader and a launch/street team member aren’t the same thing. They serve different purposes.Click to tweet
What’s a beta reader?
Beta readers, known collectively as a “beta group,” help improve the manuscript before the book is finished.
You typically ask beta readers to read the close-but-not-quite-there-yet manuscript for specific details.
For fiction, ask about specifics that concern you. Consider plot, character relatability, story plausibility, whether anything was confusing, and so on.
Nonfiction beta readers can serve different purposes, so they fall into two categories:
- Subject matter experts
- Target audience members
Subject matter experts read for content accuracy and to see if you’ve overlooked anything important. Depending on the book, you might recruit several expert beta readers, sending each only the table of contents and chapter(s) relevant to them.
Nonfiction target audience readers provide feedback on things like:
- Were they confused at any point?
- Did you go into enough depth in each chapter?
- Did they feel satisfied that they learned enough about the topic?
- Did they expect to see something that wasn’t in the book?
What’s a launch team?
A launch team, also known as a street team, writes reviews and shares information about the book online. Your launch team kicks in after the book is done, but before it’s released.
You provide team members with a pre-publication copy of the final book as well as the team “rules.” They will read the book, write an honest review, and post that review on retail sites as close to publication date as possible.
You also ask them to help launch the book by sharing book announcement images and text that you provide. They can do that with email or on the social networks they use.
Depending on the situation and relationships, some of your beta readers might volunteer to be on the launch team, too.
One is a critic, the other, a reviewer
Beta readers critique early versions of the manuscript, helping you make it as good as possible. You might end up doing more than one round with beta readers.
Launch team members don’t see early versions of the book. Because they’re reviewing the manuscript after it’s been edited and proofread, they critique the book differently than beta readers will.
Beta readers read and comment for an audience of one: the author. Launch team members read and review with other book readers in mind. Their goal is to help readers decide if they will like the book.
Note, too, that while it might not be too late to fix an errant typo when you’re at the launch team stage, you’re past the point where you will re-structure the entire book based on a single team member’s feedback.
But if a few team members provide the same “this doesn’t work” feedback? Consider postponing your publication date so you have time to fix the problem.
Should you skip the beta readers?
Authors often ask if beta readers are really necessary.
The answer depends on a number of factors, including your writing experience and comfort level with the topic or genre. For example, if I wrote mysteries and was trying historical romance instead, I’d probably want beta readers.
A professor with in-depth knowledge on the nonfiction book’s topic might not need a content review, but could benefit from feedback on readability.
A professional writer with a subject specialty might feel confident skipping the beta reader process altogether.
Be honest with yourself when deciding
That said, be honest with yourself. If your pattern is to be overly confident (admitted no person ever . . .), factor beta readers into your schedule. If you’re unsure of your writing ability, positive feedback from a beta group will boost your confidence.
The last thing you want to do, though, is skip beta readers because you think they’ll slow down an arbitrary publishing schedule. Make time for anything – anything – that will help improve your book’s quality.
You want your book to be as good as you can make it. Beta readers can help with that. Launch/street team members can help share that good news with others.
If you’ve recruited beta readers or launch team members, please share your best recruiting tip in a comment.
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