The Hidden Gems Beta Reader Program

Author FAQ

What are beta readers and why do I need them?

You may have heard of something being referred to in “beta” before. For instance, sometimes an early release of software is referred to as a “beta” release and the programmers look for people to test that software to look for bugs, referring to those people as “beta testers”.

The idea of a beta reader is very similar. In this case though, instead of software we’re talking about a book, and instead of a programmer we’re talking about an author.

After finishing a book, an author often wants to get some honest feedback on it to determine if the story is hitting its mark, or if there are potential issues that can be fixed before publication.

To do this, they give the manuscript to beta readers that are willing to read this unpublished draft and provide feedback from a reader’s point of view. Beta readers aren’t editors – they aren’t looking for typos or grammatical errors – but instead they’re giving feedback on aspects of the story, scenes or characters and whether they work well or not. They might tell you whether things were slow or well paced, which characters were their favorites or those they hated and why, or even whether you created a realistic world for them to live in.

Why should I use Hidden Gems for beta readers over other sources?

Once an author has determined that they want beta reader feedback on their book ahead of publication, the first question many ask is where to find them?

There are a variety of ways to find beta readers, each with their own pros and cons so you need to consider each carefully when deciding how to best meet your needs. 

Friends and family

The whole reason to look for beta readers for an unpublished book is with the goal of improving the story ahead of publication, and to do so requires honest feedback, typically from readers of your genre.

Even if your friends and family are experienced readers of your book’s genre, how sure are you that they will provide you with honest feedback?  More likely, friends or family will hold back on giving feedback that may be critical and instead heap praise on the book in an effort to be supportive or save the author’s feelings.  But critical feedback is what an author needs most, which means they have to be sure that their readers are willing to be completely honest, even when it means saying something negative about specific aspects of the story – especially in those cases!

So while there are potential positives to using friends and family (they’ll usually do it for free, for example), you have to be absolutely sure that the feedback you get is completely honest and that the readers know enough about your genre to be able to comment on your story usefully.

Existing Fanbase

Some authors turn to their own mailing list, or social media followers, when looking for beta readers.  While this may seem like a good idea at first, there are some issues to be aware of before you go that route.

On the positive side, these readers will likely be knowledgeable enough about your genre that any potential feedback would be useful from that perspective, and many of them will also happily jump at the chance to read an early copy of your book for free, meaning you also won’t have to pay them.

However, that doesn’t mean that their advice will be without bias.  Similar to sending the book to a family member, an existing fan of your work may also feel some reluctance to be completely honest about any negative feedback they have, either intentionally (so as not to hurt your feelings) or unintentionally (due to the selection bias aspect – that is, the mere fact that they’re on your list or follow you on social means they already LIKE your writing and there may be issues that are okay with them that other readers would have a problem with, keeping you from being able to expand your audience beyond a specific group). 

And then there’s the fact that sending free copies of your book to fans that were likely already going to buy it costs you money, both in terms of lost sales and the rank boost you’d get from their purchases.

Professional beta readers or beta reader services

If you search the web you’ll likely find a variety of people offering to be beta readers, or offering beta reader services.  As with any service you buy or person you hire, they won’t all be created equally.  Each will offer different things and at different price points, so you need to carefully consider your needs before making a decision.  More importantly though, you should consider whether who you are about to hire is reliable – will you get what you pay for? 

In most cases, before you hire someone try to find feedback or reviews from others that have used them and make sure that those that have are generally happy with their results. 

Hidden Gems falls into this category. We’ve built our reputation off of providing quality and reliable services to authors for over 5 years, with a best in class ARC service that relies on word of mouth and repeat business to send out books for close to 4000 satisfied authors.  It is our goal to run our beta service in the same way, with the same level of quality and reliability that the author community has come to expect from us.

Our beta readers are invited to participate and compensated for the books that they provide feedback for, and the quality of their feedback is monitored to ensure that they are continuing to provide useful and detailed feedback for the books we send them.  Beta readers only sign up for the books that interest them, in genres they are familiar with, and there are no quotas on how many or few books they can read (although they are limited to one at a time so that they can dedicate their focus to that book before being offered another). 

Before launching our Beta Service, we ran through the process manually with some of those readers and authors that were interested in participating in a free trial to work out the system and provide feedback.  The response was overwhelmingly positive in regards to how we ran the service, with some suggestions for improvements that we were able to build into the system. The early feedback on the readers was then also used to determine which ones would be invited to participate after launch – but we will continue to grow those numbers and monitor them on an on-going basis for continued participation.

We monitor the beta readers by both periodically reviewing their questionnaire answers and by a process where authors are invited to rate the quality of the feedback submitted by each beta reader for their book.  On top of those ratings, authors can also choose to block a specific reader from getting future beta books from them, or even request that a reader be selected to get any future books they send out. 

What’s the difference between a beta reader and an editor?

Editing is mainly used to catch issues of spelling, grammar, punctuation, word use, etc.

Beta readers aren’t looking for those types of things.  Instead, they’re paying more attention to the overall story, characters, and with the Hidden Gems Beta Reader program, they’re specifically answering the questions that the author has asked in their questionnaire – which can be about a wide variety of things to do with the book (or even the blurb or cover).

Editing requires special skills and beta readers are not expected to be able to provide editing feedback unless specifically asked as one of the questions (although if it is, it should be more of a general question about whether they noticed any sorts of editing issues, not to specifically list out the issues they found).

How does the Hidden Gems Beta Reader service work?

Once an author has completed their manuscript and decided that they want beta readers to provide feedback on it ahead of publication, they can book the Hidden Gems Beta Reader service.  This service connects authors with beta readers of their genre that will read their unpublished manuscript and provide feedback on it via a questionnaire made up of questions that the author provides designed to drill into the areas that they want feedback on (or even more general, open-ended questions).

Authors already familiar with our ARC program will see many similarities in how the Beta Reader service works, but there are also a number of differences so it is recommended you read through this question (and the rest of the FAQ) carefully before ordering.

Before you can even start the booking process though, you must have an author account in our system. This account gives you access to your Author Dashboard, which some authors may have already signed up for in order to be able to view or edit their ARC or Newsletter orders.  If not, you can quickly sign up for one – it only takes a moment, and all it asks for is for you to create a username and password. 

The reason this account is required before booking is that your dashboard is a much more integral part of the process for the Beta Reader service than it has been for ARC or Newsletter orders.  It not only allows you to view or edit your existing orders, but allows you to create/edit your questionnaire, view your results, rate the readers that participated and even block or request them from participating in any of your future beta reading jobs.

Once you have an author account, you can select a date from the booking calendar and begin filling out your order form.  One other major difference you may notice between this service and the ARC is that you do not pick your genre first, before booking your date.  Instead, you book your date and then select up to 3 different genres that your book may fit into.  And of course, you can still also further define your book through a more freeform sub-categories field.

Because of all of the factors that go into determining the price of the beta reader service, as you fill in the various fields, your final price estimate will automatically update at the bottom of your order form so that you can see it before clicking to complete your order and pay your deposit.  If all of your info stays as entered, this will be your final price.  However, as some info may change by the time we send out the sign up for your book, that number may change.  It’s important to note, however, that while it may change to a higher or lower amount due to changes to your info that you make (for example, if you originally indicate wanting to ask readers 15 questions but then later decide to ask 12 (which would make your price lower) or 20 (which would make your price higher), any changes that come from us would only make you price lower (for example, if you asked for 5 beta readers but only 3 signed up).

Also note that unlike the ARC, the deadline to get in all of your updated info AND book files is 3 days prior to your scheduled date.  This is because beta readers get the sign up information about your book 2 days prior to your scheduled date, and included in that info is the amount that they will be paid for completion of the questionnaire for your book.  That amount is dependent on the details of your order and book, like number of questions and number of words, and thus we have to have all of that information finalized before that email goes out.

It is up to the author to make sure that these deadlines are met, and failure to meet these deadlines means that your service may be cancelled and no refunds are given for your deposit as it was used to hold your date and prevented others from booking it.

These dates will also be noted on your booking confirmation email (make sure to whitelist us if you haven’t already, as it is all too common for emails to be lost or hidden to overly aggressive spam filters) and on your order edit forms. 

Once potential beta readers sign up, they will be sent the book and the questionnaire which they have until the due date (determined by how many days you allowed on your order form) to submit their completed questionnaire.

The day after your due date (or earlier if ALL questionnaires have been submitted early) you will be sent an email with an excel file of the questionnaire answers.  These answers will also be available via your dashboard.

At this point the job is complete, however authors are highly encouraged to rate the beta readers that participated as that helps us monitor whether or not the readers continue to provide useful feedback to authors.

Sample timeline:

Here is an example timeline for a book scheduled for May 10th that is allowing readers 10 days to read before completed questionnaires are due.

  • May 7th – All book info must be entered into your order, questionnaire questions must be completed and submitted, and book files must be uploaded
  • May 8th – Details of your book are emailed to all beta readers signed up to at least one of the genres you entered on your order form
  • May 9th – Final invoice is sent via Paypal based on your book details and reader sign ups
  • May 10th – Selected Beta Readers can download your book and fill out the questionnaire answers when ready (this counts as day 1 of the 10 days they have to read)
  • May 19th – This is the final day that readers can submit their completed questionnaires
  • May 20th – Questionnaire responses and wrap up will be emailed to author
What type of feedback should I expect from beta readers and what should I do with it?

The main reason that authors use beta readers is to get honest feedback about their book, which they can then use to determine if improvements can be made ahead of publication. While we do expect our beta readers to be respectful in their answers, they would be of very little use if they were afraid to provide negative feedback to questions you’ve asked.  So if a reader has an issue with something in your story that you’ve asked about, you should expect (and hopefully want) to hear about it.

Given that, authors that use beta readers should have a thick skin and be able to hear criticism about their work, although they are never under any obligation to act on any of it. 

Everyone comes from different backgrounds and have their own personal biases, and this sometimes colors how we see the world or react to certain things.  Thus any feedback you get on your book, whether it be from a random stranger, on a review, or even through a beta read, should keep this in mind. Some types of questions have the potential to be more affected by this sort of thing than others, which is why an author needs to carefully think about all the feedback they get before deciding on whether it warrants making changes to their story. 

This is why we have a minimum order of 2 beta readers per order, and definitely suggest more when possible. With only a single opinion it is much harder to determine if any possible personal bias or preference came into play in an answer.  But with multiple responses to the same question, you can look for common issues or complaints.  If more than one person has the same sort of issue with a character or aspect of your book, this is a good indication that you need to examine that problem closely.

How do I get the most out of my beta readers?

While we encourage all beta readers to provide as much detail and thought into each answer they give, there are a number of factors that will help this process.

  • Give readers enough time – On your order form you can determine how much time readers have before their questionnaire’s are due. Note that the time you enter is the maximum amount of time, but if they complete earlier they’ll likely submit it right away as they can only sign up for a new book once they’ve completed their current one.  So it’s always best to provide as much time as possible.
  • Make sure your book details are accurate and detailed – the more information about your book you provide, the better match you’ll get with potential beta readers. Use your blurb/description field to add details of the type of reader you’re looking for (if applicable), or at least hoping for. Also make sure to send your book to the correct genres, and if important to you, restrict sign ups to certain demographics via the fields on the order form. Just be careful not to be overly restrictive or you may end up with no one signing up.
  • Make sure your questions are clear and uncomplicated – don’t pack too much into a single question as you may find that readers only answer part of it. Asking something like “Did you think Bob was an effective villain?  Why or why not?” is fine, but something like “Did you think Bob was evil enough?  Could he have been more evil?  Would that have put you off?  What if he was less of a villain, would that have made him less effective but more likable?” packs way too much into a single question and will likely end up with a response that doesn’t answer all your points or may just be confusing to understand.
Why should I provide feedback on my beta readers?

When a new beta reader joins our service, they are assigned a unique, non-identifying ID.  The questionnaire results you are sent after your beta job is complete will include this ID next to each answer so that you know which answers came from which readers. 

You will then have the ability (via your dashboard) to rate the responses given by each reader.  This is just a simple 5-star rating and only takes a moment, but is vitally important to the continued usefulness of the program.  While Hidden Gems can also view the questionnaire answers given by readers, this rating provides us with an early warning sign that a beta reader may have stopped providing useful feedback. 

To help the beta reader rating, we just ask that you rate the reader in terms of how much detail and thought you think that they put into their questionnaire answers overall, not about whether you agreed or disagreed with their views.  

Ultimately it is up to Hidden Gems to decide whether any particular beta reader should be removed from the program, and while we will take these ratings into account, we will also use our own judgement of their responses and previous responses to other jobs (if applicable). 

But whether or not we remove a reader from the program, as an author you still have the ability to block that reader from participating in any future beta read jobs you might book.  Alternatively, if there is a particular reader that you thought gave you great feedback, you can also request that they be chosen for any future beta books you send out (assuming that they sign up for them).

There is one other very important case to mention.  Newly invited beta readers join the program on a trial basis, and they must complete one free book before being promoted to full, paid status.  Authors that book the beta reader service may, on occasion, have one (or more) trial readers added to their book (at no charge to them) which may lead to even more questionnaire answers than you paid for.  In these cases it is especially important that these new trial readers get rated to help us determine if we should promote those readers to full status.

You can rate, block or request any beta readers that have worked on your book via the My Beta Readers link on your dashboard.

Note: The rating you see next to the reader ID is the average rating you have given them across your beta books, but to actually rate them you must click the + sign next to their ID to expand to show the book that they worked on.  If a particular reader has read more than one of your beta books, you can rate their responses for each one.  You can also view their responses directly, if you need a reminder of what their answers were by clicking View Results.  Don’t forget to click Submit Rating once you’ve added their star rating for it to save.  Once submitted, that rating cannot be changed.

What rating should I give my beta readers?

Once your Beta Reader service job is complete and you’ve been sent your completed questionnaires, you’ll be asked to quickly rate each Beta Reader’s answers out of 5.  This is just a very simple star rating that you can do via the My Beta Readers link on your dashboard.

But how do you determine what star rating to give each reader?  On some level the star rating is subjective and thus when we evaluate readers for continued participation in our program we won’t use these ratings exclusively, but they are still a big help to us.  How you choose to rate the readers is ultimately up to you, but try to be fair about it. 

If needed, here are a few ideas of what we would suggest you use to determine the star ratings.

5 Stars – Gave paragraphs of thoughtful answers to most long answer questions. Answers were well thought out and I would probably want to use this reader again and/or recommend them to others.

4 Stars – Gave detailed answers to most questions but on others they could have given more thought. I might use this reader again and would probably still recommend them to others as their answers were still helpful.

3 Stars – Gave an average amount of feedback but most answers lacked enough detail and not all of it was necessarily that useful. Not sure if I would use this reader again or recommend them to others but it’s possible this just wasn’t their type of book so they may do better with other books.

2 Stars – Gave short answers lacking detail, some useful stuff but nothing to dig in to.  I wouldn’t want to use this beta reader again and wouldn’t recommend them to others.

1 Star – Gave short and/or useless answers. Didn’t seem to spend much time on this or give it much thought and would never want to use this reader again nor recommend anyone else to use them.

Note: Regardless of the ratings, if you believe one of your beta reader’s responses to your questionnaire were non-sensical, overly rude/mean-spirited, or you think that they aren’t taking their job as a reader seriously, please let us know via email (make sure to send us their Beta Reader ID).

Can I request/block a specific beta reader from any future beta books I schedule?

Yes!

After each beta reading job is complete, you’re encouraged to rate the beta readers that participated via the My Beta Readers link on your dashboard (which only shows up after you have run at least one beta book through the system as you won’t have any readers to rate ahead of that). 

From that same screen, you have the ability to either block a reader from being able to sign up for any of your future beta books, or request that a reader be selected for any of your future beta books (provided that that reader signs up for it).

These flags can be changed or removed at any point, but must be set at the time your sign up email gets sent to readers for it to be applied.

When should I schedule a Beta Read of my book?

While we don’t anticipate that the schedule for beta reading will become nearly as full as our ARC program, we still recommend that you place your order as soon as possible to ensure you get the date you’re looking for.  During our initial rollout we will be limiting the number of beta books to only one or two per week maximum, but eventually we expect to allow daily bookings.  However, we do not anticipate allowing more than one beta booking per day.

In terms of when an author should ideally have their book beta read, typically you would do so after completion of your manuscript – and often even closer to a final draft.  There is little point in having beta readers comment on an early first draft that you already know needs a lot of changes.  It makes more sense to get their feedback when you think your product is almost ready and you want to make sure that readers feel the same way about your story as you do.  While this may mean you find problems late in the game and have to edit a manuscript you thought was just about done, this is usually a better scenario than publishing a book that has major issues and putting your release at risk for bad reviews or poor sales.

Ultimately, though, it is up to the individual author.  Hidden Gems has no firm rules in regards to at which point in your manuscript lifecycle it can be sent to beta readers.  However, if you are sending something that is in some sort of early or awkward state, you should consider making that clear in your blurb/description.  Especially if there are specific issues you want readers to ignore or pay close attention to.

Can I book a beta read for the same book more than once?

Yes, we have no rules regarding sending the same book through the beta service multiple times and there are reasons why some authors may want to do this. 

For example, if you send it through and there are multiple or major issues discovered that requires a lot of rewrites to your story, especially if it significantly changes your plot or character development, you may want to get another round of feedback once all of those changes are made.

It’s important to note, however, that Hidden Gems cannot guarantee that you will get the same (or different) readers signing up for a book that they already beta read.  However, you can make this more likely by using the request/block checkboxes on the My Beta Readers page of your dashboard.

For instance, ahead of your book running the second time, you can request that the readers that read it the first time be selected if they sign up again, or alternatively you could block those readers from signing up again.  Just remember that if your intention is to just request/block them for that one particular book that you undo those changes after that book is sent to readers, otherwise those readers will be requested/blocked from all your future books until those flags are removed.

When will I get the results of my scheduled beta read?

When you sign up for the beta reader service, you fill out your order form and one of the fields is “Number of Days for Reading”.  The default here is 10, which means readers will be given 10 days to read and submit their completed questionnaire.  This means you will be sent the results the day after the questionnaires are due.  In the case where all the questionnaires are submitted early, your results may be sent earlier.

Note that you can adjust the number of days to a number that suits you, however if you enter less than 7 days then your price will be increased as it will be considered a rush job, and you cannot give less than 4 days.  Also note that if you give less time, you may end up with far fewer sign ups or readers that feel rushed. 

You can enter more than 10 if you wish to give readers more time.  If you do, readers are still able to submit their questionnaire sooner if they finish ahead of the due date, and as stated above, if all of the readers submit their questionnaire early we will send the results at that point instead of waiting.

How much does it cost?

With most services, the price is either a fixed amount or based on a single factor (like number of ARC readers) making it easy to simply display an amount or give a chart to show what prices would be under certain scenarios.

However, with the beta reader service there are a number of factors that go into calculating the cost, which makes it more difficult.  For instance, we’re paying the beta readers that are answering your questionnaire but it wouldn’t be fair to give them the same amount for a book that has 40,000 words and 10 questions as they would get for a book that has 120,000 words and 25 questions.  If we ran it that way, we’d likely find that no one would sign up for those bigger books, so what we pay them is dependent on the elements of your order that make the job take longer or require them to work faster or harder.

So since the price is dependent on these factors, we’ve created a calculator you can use to find out what the price would be for your specific order details.  Below are a list of the factors that affect the price, and then the calculator tool you can use to figure out what your order would cost (or model different scenarios to find something in your budget).

Factors that make up/affect final price.

Base price: A fixed amount is charged per book that includes payment towards running the service.

Number of words in your book: Not only do longer books ask more of a time commitment on the part of the beta reader, but as readers cannot sign up for new books until they have completed the last one, bigger books also prevent them from starting new jobs for longer. So part of your final price includes a per word charge so that readers are compensated based on length of book. Note that to make the payout worth it to the reader, all books will be charged at a minimum of 20,000 words.  That means that it’s fine if you submit a book with less than 20k words as long as you are aware it will be charged as if it were 20k words. Books longer than 20,000 words will be charged as normal based on their word count.

Number of questions in your questionnaire: Similar to number of words, the more questions you are asking a beta reader to answer affects your final price. Note, however, that 10 questions are included as part of the base price so you can/should include at least 10 questions. An extra charge per question will only be applied to the number of questions beyond those initial 10.

Number of days given to read: We’ve found that most readers tend to be able to read a book in about 7-10 days, so we recommend that you give readers at least that long before requiring them to submit their questionnaires.  You can absolutely give them longer if you’re not in a rush, as that may entice more readers to sign up (and generally they will submit their questionnaire as soon as they’re done, they don’t have to wait until the last day).  However, if you are in a rush, you can reduce the number of days to as little as 4 (although that may lead to less sign ups).  There will be a charge for each day less than 7 that you set.

Number of Beta Readers: As we pay each beta reader for each book that they complete on time, your final price is dependent on how many readers you’re looking for.  Further, all of the above price factors (except the base price) are multiplied by the number of readers you’re looking for.  For example, let’s say you want to ask 12 questions to 3 beta readers.  10 questions are included, so we’re charging an extra fee for the additional 2 questions, but that fee is multiplied by 3 because it will then be distributed between those 3 readers. There is a 2 beta reader minimum, but more are recommended. (Use the calculator below to see how the number of readers will affect your price, but also note that if less sign up you’ll only be charged for those that do even if it is less than you ordered.)

Booking Deposit: As with ARC orders, a $20 deposit will be charged upon booking your order that will be applied to your final balance. However, this deposit is also used to secure your booking date (preventing others from booking it) and is thus non-refundable if you decide to cancel (or if the service is automatically cancelled because you have not completed your order form and attached the files before your deadline).  So please only schedule a beta reader service that you are sure you wish to run.

Pricing Calculator

This tool always uses our current pricing model, so the price you see would be the price you would be charged if you were to then go and book the service immediately.  However, prices are subject to change – especially now that this service has just launched and we may need to make adjustments as we go.  So it is always a good idea to use this calculator before booking, but even if you don’t, your final price will also be shown at the bottom of your order before you have to pay your deposit. That price will be honored even if the price increases after you’ve booked but before your service runs.

Price Calculator

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Total Amount : $0
Deposit Amount : $20

Can you explain how to fill out the beta reader order form?

These are the fields on the beta reader order form and the expected values.  Only the fields with an Asterix(*) next to it are required at the time of booking.

Email Address*

This should pre-fill with the email address you used when you created your author account, but you can edit it with a different email if you wish.  Note though, that the email you enter here is the one that all confirmations and reminders will be sent to, as well as the final Paypal invoice.

Genre*

Select all of the genres that your book fits into (max 3), and only beta readers that have signed up for any of those genres will be invited to sign up for this book.

Book Title*

The title of your book.

Pen Name*

The author name on the book.  This can be your real name, or your pen name – whatever you put as author for this book.

Book Blurb/Description*

Please enter the blurb or description for your book. Even if your final blurb or description is not finalized, potential beta readers will be using this information to decide whether they want to read your book. You can use this as an opportunity to test your blurb/description and ask questions about it on your questionnaire later, if you wish.

Sub Genres/Sub Categories*

This is a free form field that you can use to further define your book within the overall genre you entered.  Please separate with commas and capitalize each sub category. 

Example: Contemporary Romance, Small Town, Bad Boy Billionaire

Number of Words*

Enter the number of words (not pages!) of your manuscript. You can enter an approximate number if you don’t have the final word count when booking, but note that this number is one of the factors that affect your price, so if you’re off by a lot it may significantly change your final price from the estimate you see at the bottom of this order form.  Please make sure to enter the final word count before your order form is locked down for final edits.  Your final balance will be based on the number of words in the document we send to beta readers. If the different formats (EPUB, PDF, etc) have differing word counts, the higher of the provided formats will be used.

Publication Date

What is your expected publication date (if known).

Book Cover

Please update your book cover and try to keep the file size as small as possible.  Ideally under 500kb but there is a hard limit of under 1 meg.

Book Files*

Select all of the file types that you will be providing with this order.  You must select at least one, but the more you can send the better as some readers can only read some types.  You can upload them now if ready, but the final files must be uploaded at least 3 days prior to your scheduled date.

Number of Questions*

Enter the number of questions you plan on asking your beta readers. You can estimate the number for now if you aren’t sure, just keep in mind that your price is based on this number so your estimate at the bottom of this order will be based on the number you enter here, but if your final questionnaire includes a different number of questions, that number will be what your actual bill is based on.

After you complete your order you will have a chance to enter your questions, or you can always do it at a later date via the link sent in your email or found on your edit form or dashboard.  Just make sure that your questionnaire is complete at least 3 days prior to your scheduled date.

Number of Days for Reading*

This is the amount of time you are giving beta readers to read your book.  We suggest at least 7-10, but you can enter as little as 4.  Note that any number under 7 will affect your price, as readers will need to be compensated for having to read it in a rush. You may also find that giving less time leads to fewer sign ups.  If you give more time, readers are still free to complete their questionnaire’s early and if they all do so before your due date, we will send the results early.  If not, you’ll get the results the day after the final due date of your questionnaire.

Number of Beta Readers*

This is the ideal number of beta readers you wish to send your book to, with a minimum order of 2 but we definitely recommend sending to more if your budget allows.  Regardless of the number you enter, if less sign up we will only charge for the number that sign up.  If only 1 signs up, we’ll give you the option to cancel, and if 0 readers sign up we will cancel automatically and refund your deposit.  We also reserve the right to send your book out to a few extra beta readers on occasion.  We do this to allow our trial members a chance to participate so that we can determine if they can be promoted to full readers.  If any trial readers are included on your beta, you will be sent their responses as well (and thus you may end up with more responses than you paid for) but we do hope that you will rate these beta readers as that will help us determine whether to promote them to full readers or not.

Reader Age Range*

Some authors may prefer to restrict which beta readers are offered their book by age.  If you have no preference and wish to allow anyone to sign up, just leave all boxes checked.  Otherwise, please uncheck the boxes with the age ranges you do not wish to have participate in this beta read.

Reader Gender

Some authors may prefer to restrict which beta readers are offered their book by gender.  If you have no preference and wish to allow anyone to sign up, just leave this box on “No preference”.  Otherwise, select either Male or Female and then only that gender will be invited to participate in this beta read.

Add special instructions

This field should ONLY be used for specific important job notes that you want to convey to potential beta readers.  For example, “Only sign up if you read book one” or “Don’t sign up if you’ve read earlier books in the series as I want feedback on whether it can be read as a stand-alone from readers unfamiliar with the series.”  Please do NOT send any external links or email address info in this (or any other) field as it will be removed. 

Note: To ensure this field isn’t used accidentally, you must click the “Add special instructions” checkbox for it to show up.

Are you living in Canada

For tax purposes, only select Yes if you live in Canada, and then select your province.

Product subtotal section

At the bottom of your order form you will see the pricing estimate based on the values you entered.  If these values change ahead of sending out your sign up form, this total may change.  A $20 deposit is charged to complete your booking and hold your date.  This amount is applied to your final balance, but is not refunded if you cancel so please only complete your booking if you plan to use the service. 

Once you have filled everything out and want to complete your order, click the Proceed to Paypal button to pay your deposit and complete the order.

How do I create my questionnaire?

After you place your order, you’re prompted to create your questionnaire which you can choose to do right away, or later via the link to the questionnaire builder form you’ll find on your author dashboard. (Just make sure you complete AND submit it at least 3 days prior to your scheduled date).

Using the Questionnaire Builder Form

Once you enter the questionnaire builder form, you’ll see a set of instructions at the top along with your questionnaire status of Draft, and below that you’ll see your empty questionnaire. 

Empty Form

To the right of the empty form is a list of the types of questions you can add to your form, and below that are the buttons used for clearing, saving, submitting and previewing your questionnaire.

Question types

 

To create your questionnaire, simply drag the type of question (or header) you wish to add from the list on the right over to the form on the left. You can place them down in the order you want them to appear, but if you change your mind you can also drag them around on the left to re-order them as necessary.

As each new question is added, the Total Questions above the form displays the total number of questions added so that authors can keep track. 

IMPORTANT: The total number of questions added to your final submitted form is the number of questions your final invoice will be based on, even if this number differs from the initial number you added to your order form.  This is done specifically so as not to restrict an author from changing their mind by adding more or less questions than they originally thought they would need, but the author is still responsible for making sure they do not add more than they are willing to pay for.

Types of Questions

There are four different types of questions you can add to your form, as well as headers to separate them out into different categories.  Here are a list of the different types and a brief description of each.

Note that regardless of question types, beta readers are REQUIRED to answer EVERY question on your reader form.

  • Header – Headers can be used to break up a long questionnaire into different categories, but are completely optional and their use is up to the author putting together the questionnaire. Headers will display as a bigger and bolder font than the question and have no reader input component – as such, headers do NOT count as one of your questions.
  • Long Answer – The long answer question type provides a big box for beta readers to enter in a free form answer to the question asked. Readers can enter in as much or as little detail as desired, so it is the least restrictive of all the questions. While this means that it can be the most useful of the question formats, allowing readers to enter in whatever they felt about the question, it may not be as useful in cases where the author is looking for very specific types answers.
  • Number – A number question type can only accept numeric values. This type will probably be the least useful for most authors.
  • Fixed choice (Single Select) – With this question type, authors can define a pre-set list of answers to their question where the reader must select one, and only one, of the given answers by way of a radio button type format.
  • Fixed choice (Multi Select) – With this question type, authors can define a pre-set list of answers to their question where the reader must select ONE OR MORE of the given answers by way of a checkbox type format.

Important Note: Because answers are required for each question on your form, if the fixed choice questions are used and the author wishes to allow the reader to not choose one of the given answers, they must include a possible answer for them to select, such as “None of the above” or “Not applicable”.

Editing Your Questions

After you drag a type of question to your form on the left, you’ll see that question displayed with the type of question it is, and if you hover over it you will see 3 icons appear on the right. 

Long answer

  • Delete – First icon is used to delete your question
  • Edit – Second icon is to edit your question
  • Copy – Third icon is to create a copy of your question

For each question you add, you will need to click the Edit icon in order to change the default text of the question from the type of question it is (in the example above, that is “Long Answer”) to the text of the actual question you want to ask the reader.

Long Answer Filled In

What you type in the white box is your question, and it will display above.  Click Close when you’re done editing that question and repeat for the next question.

Headers, Long Answer and Number type questions all work similarly to the above example, but the Fixed Choice single or multi select questions have some additional steps so that you can define your possible answers.

Single Select

For these types, you fill in your question as with the other types, but you must also define your possible answers.  You do this by filling in as many of the options below.  To add more options, click the Add Option button, and to remove an option click the X button to the right of the option.  Click Close when done.

Previewing, Saving and Submitting Your Questionnaire

There are a number of buttons that can be found on the right, beneath the list of question types that can be used for various purposes.

  • Clear Form – Only use this button to clear your form entirely and start over.  This will delete all of your questions and work you’ve entered so far, so only use it if you are sure you want to start over.
  • Save Draft – As with anything, it’s always a good idea to save your work periodically so that nothing is lost in case of some sort of issue, or if you need to stop for a time and come back to finish up later.  You can do this with the Save Draft button. Click this to save your questionnaire.  After you do that, you’ll be given the option to return to editing or go back to your dashboard.
  • Preview Questionnaire – You can click this button at any point to see a preview of your questionnaire. Note that to do so, however, you will first need to save your draft if you’ve made any changes since your last save. 

Questionnaire Preview

Your preview is useful for seeing how your questionnaire will appear to the beta readers that will need to fill it out.

  • Save and Submit Questionnaire – When you’re happy with your questionnaire and think you’re done adding to it or editing it, use this button to save it and submit it.  Remember that your questionnaire MUST BE SUBMITTED 3 days prior to your scheduled date or we cannot send out the sign up email to potential beta readers on time, which may lead to the service being delayed or cancelled.  However, even if you submit your questionnaire but later still decide to edit something, you can do so provided it is at least 3 days prior to your scheduled date.  Just remember that you will have to click the submit button again if you do so, in order to get your questionnaire back into the submitted state.

The status at the top of this form will indicate if the questionnaire is submitted or in a draft state, as will the order on your author dashboard.

What types of questions can I ask about my book?

What you ask is up to you and dependent on your book and what sort of feedback you want on it, but we do have some sample questions if you need help getting your creative juices flowing.

However, there are four different types of questions available.

Long answer – We recommend using this type for most (if not all) of your questions, as it allows the reader to provide a comprehensive response to your question.  Readers can add as much detail as they want to answer your question.

Number – This type of question limits the answer that the reader can provide to just a number value.

Fixed choice (Single Select) – This type of question allows the author to provide a fixed set of responses that the reader can choose from, and they can only select one of the choices.

Fixed choice (Muli Select) – This type of question allows the author to provide a fixed set of responses that the reader can choose from, and they can select as many responses from the list as desired.

You can add these questions and customize them when you build your questionnaire.

Do you have any examples of questions I should ask my beta readers?

Below are a few sample questions designed to give you a starting off point in thinking about what sort of questions you want to ask, but the actual questions you ask should be largely determined by your book and the sort of feedback on the story that you’re looking for, thus each set of questions asked by authors will vary greatly. While you are free to use or not use these questions as written, you are encouraged to at least modify them to be more specific (or general) regarding your particular story.

  1. What was your overall impression of the book?
  2. What were the things you liked most about the book?
  3. What were the things the author needs to work on?
  4. Did you care about the characters and want to see what happened to them?
  5. If you could change one thing about this book what would it be?
  6. Did the story hold your interest from the very beginning? Why or why not?
  7. Was there an emotional connection between the main characters? (i.e. Did you feel the love build? Was the friendship between x and y believable, etc)
  8. Was there a point at which you felt the story started to lag or you became less than excited about finding out what was going to happen next? If so, where and why?
  9. Were there any parts that confused, frustrated or annoyed you? Which parts and why?
  10. Did you notice any discrepancies or inconsistencies in time sequences, places, character details, or anything else? If so, where and with what?
  11. Did the dialogue keep your interest and sound natural to you? If not, whose dialogue did you think sounded artificial or not like that person would speak?
  12. Were you able to easily visual the world created by this story?
  13. Did you have a favorite character/moment and if so, who/what was it?
  14. Was the ending satisfying and believable? If not, what did you feel was missing?
  15. Did the story hit the target market (author should give details specific to target market/genre)?
  16. Have you ever read other books similar to this one? If so, please list.
  17. Did the writing make you interested in the author’s work, enough so that you would want to read more from them?
    • Yes
    • No
    • Maybe
    • Unsure
  18. Please note anything else you feel you wish to comment on regarding the story.
How many beta readers should I order and how are they selected?

When you place your order you can choose how many beta readers you want, with a minimum of 2.  As beta readers are paid to read and answer your questionnaire, the price of the service rises with each beta reader you request (and are sent).

Still, it is recommended that you request more than 2 whenever possible with about 3-5 being ideal for most authors.  The reason for this is that, as with any opinion, it’s always best to hear from more than one source to help you determine if a particular issue is a real problem or just due to personal bias. If more than one reader feels the same way about a particular question, you can have a lot more confidence than if it was just from a single source.

The details of your book are sent to all eligible beta readers, with eligibility dependent on a number of factors (some of which is within your control and some not).  The following is a list of the factors that must be true for a beta reader to be invited to sign up for your book.

  • Not already reading another beta book
  • Hasn’t been blocked by the author
  • Meets the criteria of the book on the order form (genre, gender, age range, etc)

Note that beta readers that are new to the program are in a trial stage, where they must read one book without being paid and then evaluated to determine if they are a good fit for the program.  One or more (but no more than 2 or 3) may be added to a beta book at no charge to the author, which may result in the author getting back more completed questionnaires than beta readers requested.  We request that authors rate the beta readers that read their books for a variety of reasons, but it is especially important for our evaluation and potential promotion of these new beta readers.

What is the beta reader Author Dashboard and how do I use it?

As an author registered in our system, you have access to a dashboard that displays all of your current, past and future ARC, Newsletter and Beta Reader orders.  From this dashboard you’re able to view the details of past orders, update missing information, and edit the details of future orders.  To login (or sign up), just click the Author Login link at the top of the Hidden Gems website.  It may also be a good idea to bookmark your dashboard so you can access it anytime directly.

Here’s a look a the author dashboard and how to use it effectively.

Author dashboard

Above the table

My Beta Readers – This link will only show up if you’ve already booked a beta reader order with us and it’s been completed.  If you then click this link, you’ll see a list of all of the beta readers (by their beta reader ID) that participated and you can rate each one based on the quality of feedback they gave for your questionnaire.  From here you’re also able to block or request specific readers from participating in your future beta reader orders.

Show Future/Current Orders Only – This checkbox is selected by default, which means it will only show your orders that are not yet complete.  To see past orders as well, unselect this box.

Orders table

This table shows all of your ARC, Newsletter or Beta Reader Service orders with the following columns:

  • Product – The type of product ordered (ARC, Newsletter, Beta Reader)
  • Book Title – The title of the book scheduled for this order
  • Scheduled Date – The date this order is/was scheduled for
  • Amazon Rank – Used to automatically track the Amazon rank of your published Newsletter or ARC books
  • Order Status – The status of this order (Beta Reader order statuses listed below)
    • Questionnaire Incomplete – Your future order requires you to complete and submit your questionnaire
    • Scheduled – Your book is scheduled for the future and your questionnaire is complete and submitted
    • Running – Your service is currently underway
    • Results Available – All the questionnaire answers are available and can be viewed
    • Completed – Your order has been marked complete
  • Details – This column contains links depending on the status of your Beta Reader order
    • View Order/Edit Order – Use this to view your old order details or edit your upcoming ones
    • Enter Beta Questions/Edit Submitted Questionnaire – Add or edit questions to your questionnaire for an upcoming order
    • View Questionnaire – View your questionnaire for an order that is no longer editable
    • View Results – Click to download your questionnaire answers in excel format (these are also emailed to you)
What happens if one of my beta readers doesn’t submit their answers?

As part of their beta reader terms, all readers understand how critical it is that their questionnaires be submitted on time, and failure to do so means that they will not be paid for that beta job and may even be prevented from participating in any future jobs.

Still, despite our best efforts at finding reliable beta readers that are committed to deadlines, there may be the occasional issue that prevents a reader from submitting their completed questionnaire by the deadline. 

If that happens, we will contact the author to let them know and ask if they would like to give the reader more time (some authors are not in a hurry for their results) or if they would rather we simply refund the difference in price that that reader (or readers, if there are more than one) added to the cost of the beta service to the author. 

In the case where the author wants to allow more time, we would still immediately send the results of the readers that had submitted their questionnaires on time to the author, but we would then also contact the reader to see when they can get it done and whether that timeline is acceptable to the author.

In the case of a refund, we would send that back to the author via Paypal. We’ll handle that on our end, however if you were curious as to what that price difference might be, you could use the pricing calculator to figure it out. Simply enter all of the information for you book and click calculate – that will show you what your total price was.  Then simply change the “Number of beta readers” value to reduce it by the number of readers that didn’t submit their questionnaire on time and calculate again (for instance, maybe you asked for 5 but one reader didn’t submit, so you would change that value to a 4.) The difference in the total price is the refund you should expect to receive.

Why didn’t I get the confirmation/reminder emails about my beta book?

As emails are so important to the beta reader program, it is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED that you take a few moments to whitelist our email.  Many email providers have overly aggressive spam filters that may cause our emails not to show up in your inbox, even if you’ve gotten them fine in the past.  The best way to combat that is to follow these simple instructions for whitelisting us immediately.

Hidden Gems cannot be held responsible for emails that do not reach you do to your email provider deliverability restrictions.

My book won’t be ready in time, can I move by Beta to a later date?

We’ll always do our best to accomodate schedule changes, but the more time you give us in advance the better and easier it is to move your book. Beta books moves are subject to the same author-initiated date change policy as our ARC books.

These details and fees apply to authors requesting to move their scheduled date to a later one (for whatever reason), and are subject to availability based on the schedule, meaning the new desired date may not always available. We’ll do the best we can to get you the closest opening, but if we can’t find one suitable to the author, they are free to cancel their Beta completely (forfeiting their deposit).

Requests made 2 weeks or more from the scheduled Beta date:
1st move request – Free
Subsequent move requests for the same book – $10 (billed and due immediately)

Requests made less than 2 weeks (but more than 3 days) from scheduled Beta date:
$10 (billed and due immediately)

Requests made 3 or less days from your scheduled date cannot be accommodated as your details need to be sent out 2 days before your scheduled date. Any author whose order is not ready to send (which means all required fields are filled out, beta questionnaire completed and submitted and book files attached to the order) will have their order cancelled although they are free to rebook their spot. No additional fee is charged for this, but your initial deposit on that cancelled order is non-refundable.