A Beta Reader is someone that reads a newly finished (or sometimes even a work in progress) book with a critical eye, looking for areas that need improvement. This is different from an editor in that you aren’t really looking for spelling or grammar issues, but rather ways to improve the story. Are the characters strong and make choices that fit their personality? Are there issues with the setting or continuity? Is the language usage above or below the intended audience? That sort of thing. Specific questions will be provided as an electronic questionnaire by the author, which means they’ll be different for each book.
Instead of just giving a normal review of the book, the author is looking for a much more in-depth look at what worked or, often more importantly, what didn’t work. They can then take your feedback and incorporate anything they agree needs to be changed BEFORE it gets published and reviewed by the masses.
Beta Readers aren’t used by every author, but the ones that do find the process very helpful in creating a much stronger and more successful book.
Beta reading can be done in different ways, so even if you’ve been a beta reader before, be sure to read the details on how the Hidden Gems Beta Reader program works in case we do things differently!
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 would be more of a general question about whether they noticed any sorts of editing issues, not to specifically list out the issues they found).
Here is a basic rundown of how it works, but you can drill in for more information about each section.
After being invited to become a Beta Reader, those that accept will fill out a short survey about themselves and their interests, and will then begin getting emails about new beta books that they can sign up to read and answer questions about.
Sign up forms are sent out a couple of days before the Beta Book is due to be sent, and will include all of the necessary details about the Beta Book job. This includes not only the standard details like cover, blurb and genres, but also the number of questions on the questionnaire, length of book, due date and payment amount. Beta readers can also sign up for available books via their dashboard.
Interested Beta Readers that are selected for that Beta Read job will be paid that amount provided they complete and submit their questionnaire by or before the due date, and that they are not in their Trial stage.
Once a Beta Reader has finished reading the book, filled out the questionnaire about the book in detail and submitted it, they will be available to sign up for new ones (in order to ensure readers are paying enough attention to the Beta books we’ve already sent to them, Beta Readers can only do one at a time, which means new offers will only begin once they have submitted their completed questionnaire for the previous book they committed to reading.)
Authors will be encouraged to rate the Beta Readers that have read their books based on the quality of the feedback provided, and this information may be used by Hidden Gems to help determine which readers should get the books they requested and even whether they should be removed from the program.
Payments will be made to the Beta Reader’s Paypal account at the end of each month for any Beta Books they were sent where ALL of the following criteria has been met:
The Beta Reader program is not available for open enrollment. For now, readers can only join the Beta Reader program after being invited by Hidden Gems – which is an essential step in ensuring that the quality of our Beta Readers remains high. That is, that the Beta Readers consistently submit thoughtful and useful feedback on the books they’ve been sent, and always meet the deadlines they’ve agreed to meet.
If you are invited to be a Beta Reader, you need only have a love of reading, the ability and desire to give detailed feedback about the book you read in the form of written answers to specific questions by the deadlines provided, and a valid Paypal account for us to pay you for the feedback you submit on time once your trial period is complete.
When they first join the program, Beta Readers are asked to fill out a brief survey about their general background and interests. This information is used in cases where the author requests that potential Beta Readers meet specific criteria or fall into specific demographics, since their book may be targeted to a specific group. For instance, if they are writing a Young Adult book, they may want to restrict their book from being offered to Beta Readers over a certain age since the book isn’t targeted to them. Or a romance author might decide that they only want to get a female point of view from their Beta Readers, so may not want it sent to men.
So while most of those survey questions are not mandatory for the Beta Reader to fill out, it does mean that if the Beta Reader does not fill out a specific survey question and an author wants to use that info to restrict his audience, that Beta Reader will be restricted automatically since we won’t know whether they fit the criteria or not.
Readers can update their info via their Beta Reader Dashboard at any time, and if new questions are added they will be automatically directed there when they next log in.
Restricting readers by any criteria is optional to the author, and many won’t restrict at all because their books are written for anyone, and the more they restrict the smaller the pool of potential readers – but the option exists for those that want to use it.
Even if they do not restrict their potential readers, though, Hidden Gems may provide the author with some of the general survey info collected from their group of beta readers for the purposes of context. However, none of this info will be tied to any personally identifying information about any reviewer. Authors are never given Beta Reader names, email addresses, etc. It just may be helpful for an author to know that 80% of the questionnaires were filled out by females, for example.
Brand new Beta Readers who have never completed a Beta Read for Hidden Gems before are granted the status of Trial.
The Trial reader period is an evaluation period, sort of like a job interview. A Trial reader can only sign up for a single book, and for that book they will not be paid (nor will the author be charged for that reader). The purpose of this unpaid period is for the Beta Reader to go through the entire process of reading the book, filling out the questionnaire and submitting it by or before the deadline. How they do on this first book will be evaluated to determine if they will be promoted to full, Active Beta Reader status.
Authors will be asked to provide feedback on the quality of responses for all authors, but their evaluations (along with those of Hidden Gems) of readers in the Trial stage will help determine whether that reader is promoted to an Active reader status or not. Note that it’s not so much about the content of the questionnaire answers, but the quality of them. That is, how much thought and effort was put into the responses, whether the questionnaire was submitted on time, etc. If the author and Hidden Gems are satisfied with the responses of the book completed by a Trial reader, that reader will be promoted to full active status and begin to be paid for any future books that they Beta Read and fill out the questionnaire on time for.
Note, however, that the decision on whether to promote a reader to Active status is at the sole discretion of Hidden Gems. Further, Beta Readers will continue to be evaluated by authors and Hidden Gems and if it is determined that they are no longer providing useful or thoughtful feedback for the books that they sign up for, they may be removed from the program. Once a reader is removed, they will no longer receive any books, but will still be paid for the books that they completed on time in the past (if any amounts are still outstanding).
Remember, it isn’t about whether you liked or disliked the book or any aspect of it – after all, the whole purpose of the program is for an author to get honest feedback on what worked and didn’t in their book. Rather, it is whether you’re sending your feedback in a detailed manner, and on time.
If you follow these two key points regarding your questionnaire, you’ll likely make a great Beta Reader:
After a Beta Reader has gone through their Trial phase and been accepted as an Active reader, they will be paid for any other beta books that they are accepted to read and that they submit their questionnaire for on time.
Exact amounts will differ per book, but can be found in the sign up email (and the sign up section on your dashboard) so that the reader knows the payment amount before deciding whether to sign up.
Payments are made once a month to the reader’s Paypal account and the amounts are based on a variety of factors, such as length of book, number of questions in the questionnaire, length of time to complete, etc. This makes it hard to give an estimate, but the expected amounts will usually be in the $5-$20 USD per book range.
Example: Under the current pricing model (which may change as the program evolves*), a 60,000 word book that only has 10 questions on the questionnaire and with at least a week to read would pay each Beta Reader $8 USD, whereas an 80,000 word book with 20 questions would pay $15 USD.
IMPORTANT: In order to be paid for a book, the Beta Reader MUST complete AND submit their questionnaire by or before the due date of the book.
The due date will be listed in the sign up email (and sign up section of your dashboard) for each beta book, so it is up to the readers to make sure they will have enough time to complete the job prior to signing up. As the authors submitting these books are paying for the service and have deadlines to meet in terms of their publication, meeting your commitment to each due date is critical. Not only does not meeting the questionnaire deadline mean that the Beta Reader will forfeit payment for that book, but it also may put their continued inclusion in the Beta Reader program at risk.
Remember that unlike an ARC, not liking a beta book is NOT a valid reason not to finish reading the book and completing the questionnaire. In fact, if you don’t like a book for some reason, your feedback is probably even MORE important to the author.
*Note: If the payment model does change, whether up or down, it only affects future books. Any books that you signed up for prior to the change will still be paid out at the rate that was listed in the sign up info you were originally sent for that book.
The entire purpose of an author asking for beta readers on their book is so that they can get detailed feedback on their story before publication, giving them time to address any potential issues if needed. In order to do this, they put together a questionnaire for the Beta Reader to answer about their book that will help them focus in on the areas that they are most curious about (although some questions may ask for more general feedback as well).
When a Beta Reader is chosen to read a book, they are sent an email with the links to download the book and to the questionnaire that needs to be filled out by or before a specific due date (questionnaire link will also be available on their dashboard).
This questionnaire is the key to the entire Beta Reading process, and authors usually need this feedback by a certain time in order to be able to take action or make any changes before their publication date. This is why Beta Readers must ensure that they always submit their completed questionnaires by the due dates or they will not be paid for the job.
The questionnaire will be different for each book, as the questions are put together by the author based on the information they want from readers about their story. Most questions will be open-ended requiring written answers, while others may be more specific with pre-defined answers (e.g. multiple choice).
It’s up to the Beta Reader whether or not they prefer to review the questions prior to starting the book in order to keep them in mind, or wait until after they’ve read the book to look at them.
Beta Readers are asked to give honest and constructive answers to each question.
If you liked something you don’t have to make up a problem with it, it’s okay to say that something worked – but on the other hand, if something didn’t work don’t try to be nice by not mentioning it – the whole point of this process is for the author to hear about any potential issues before the book gets published so that they have time to fix them. That being said, be mindful of how you give your feedback – that is, authors are people too, so you can and should call out issues, but refrain from being unnecessarily rude or hurtful in your answers. Detailed and actionable feedback is best – give them something to work with. For example, “I didn’t like the character Bob” isn’t very useful, as it doesn’t tell the author WHAT you didn’t like about the character, which means they won’t know what, if anything, should be fixed.
How many questions an author asks will be up to them, but we expect on average there will be about 10 or so. The number of questions will be included in the sign up form (and on your dashboard) for each Beta Book so readers will have an idea of how much work is involved before signing up. The actual questions will be made available once the book is sent out so they can be answered as soon as the reader has finished the book (but must be completed by the due date).
Questions will be different for each book, with most being specific to their story and elements in it (for example, if it was a Mystery book maybe they would ask whether you figured out who the killer was, and when, and what gave it away?) and others more generic (for example, were there any spots in the book that you felt dragged or were unnecessary?). They may even ask questions about the blurb, or the cover, or the potential audience they’re targeting.
As much as possible!
Remember that the authors are looking for detailed feedback that they can take action on, if necessary, and so the more details you provide about your thoughts on the book and the specific question being asked, the better.
Authors will be asked to rate the quality of responses they get from each reader after each book is complete, and readers that give short and unhelpful answers will be unlikely to be rated very well. Readers that are getting consistently poor ratings will be offered less books and may even be removed from the program entirely.
On the other hand, authors that found a particular reader’s questionnaire helpful can request that reader be selected for their future books – giving that reader an advantage if they choose to sign up for them over others that have also signed up.
Authors can choose between 4 different types of questions when putting together their questionnaires, although the exact questions they ask will depend on their book and what sort of feedback they’re looking for. Readers can open these forms and enter their answers directly beneath each question, and then submit their completed questionnaire (or save it as a draft if you wish to come back to complete it at another time (as long as it’s done by or before the due date). Note that ALL questions are REQUIRED and must be answered before your questionnaire can be submitted.
Long Answer – This question type is used to ask open ended questions where the author is looking for a detailed answer from the reader. Beta Readers can type their answers directly into the box. Note that if the Beta Reader’s answer is larger than the default size of the box, they can simply expand the box by dragging the right corner. Beta Readers should expect the vast majority of questions (if not all) to be of this Long Answer type.
Number – This question type is used if the author is simply looking for the Beta Reader to enter a number as an answer to the question.
Single Selection – This type is used if the author wants to provide a pre-set list of choices and wants the Beta Reader to just select one answer from that set.
Multi Selection – This type is used if the author wants to provide a pre-set list of choices but the Beta Reader is allowed to select one or more answers from that list.
After all of the questions, at the bottom of the form, there are some instructions and reminders along with two buttons.
Save Draft – Use this to save the answers you’ve entered so far, either because you want to close the form and come back to it later to complete, or just to save what you’ve written so far in case of power failure or accidentally closing the tab. Note that even if you have entered all the questions and saved your draft, that is NOT the same as clicking the Submit button. It is the Beta Reader’s responsibility to ensure that they click the Submit button on their completed questionnaire ahead by or before the due date or they will not be paid for the job, and risk being removed from the program.
Submit Completed Questionnaire – When you have completed your questionnaire and are sure that no further changes are necessary, click this button to submit your answers. Once you have clicked this button, you CANNOT come back to edit your answers so only click it when you are sure you are done. Only once you have submitted your completed questionnaire for a book will you start getting offers to sign up for new Beta books, so if you finish early feel free to submit it right away – there is no need to wait until the due date.
HINT: A good idea would be to refresh your dashboard after you submit your questionnaire, in case there are available offers that are open that you didn’t get the sign up email for since they went out before you had submitted your questionnaire.
For now, payments can ONLY be made through Paypal in USD, so readers MUST have a valid Paypal account to participate.
Payments will be made once a month, on the last day of the month, for any beta book projects that a reader has submitted that have met the following criteria:
Any books that are still in progress that a Beta Reader is due to be paid for when the month changes will be paid at the end of the following month (assuming the criteria above has been met). The payments will be sent automatically at these scheduled times, so please do not request payments to be made separately at different times.
By agreeing to become a Beta Reader, you are agreeing to wait for these payments to be made as per the schedule.
Once you’re past your Trial stage and become an Active Beta Reader, there is no limit to the number of books you can sign up for, however you can only participate in one job at a time so if you are already selected as a Beta Reader and been sent a book, you won’t be sent any other sign up emails (or see any sign up offers on your dashboard) until you’ve completed and submitted your questionnaire for that book.
There are a number of factors to consider here. The most important one is that each book only goes out to a limited number of readers, and we have thousands of readers signed up to our ARC program. While each book only appeals to a subset of those readers, in some genres there are still often more sign-ups for a book than copies we can send out. So while there is an element of chance that goes into things when all else is equal, here are some other factors that we may consider when making our reader choices in cases where there are more sign-ups than copies available.
Authors are paying to send their Beta Books out, with the purpose of receiving back useful and thoughtful feedback (in the form of completed questionnaires) that they can use to improve their books ahead of publication. The Beta Readers chosen are being paid to provide that feedback.
As is the case in any job, if someone is consistently performing their job poorly, they are not usually asked to continue doing the job. And while it is always solely up to Hidden Gems whether or not to continue sending books to any particular reader, we need the feedback from the authors to help us determine if the readers are doing a good job.
As such, after all questionnaires are submitted and the Beta Book job is complete, the authors are encouraged to give a rating (out of 5) to each of the Beta Readers that worked on it. They are also given the option to either block any of those readers from signing up for any of their future books, or request a reader to be given preference if they sign up for any of their future books.
Hidden Gems monitors the ratings and if it looks like a reader is being poorly rated, we will investigate. We may determine that the rating given by an author wasn’t justified (perhaps they just didn’t like the answers that were given, as opposed to the answers being of poor quality) and thus ignore them, or we may determine that a Beta Reader isn’t really putting in enough effort in answering their questionnaires to justify sending them any more books.
It is always up to Hidden Gems to determine this, and each case will be different. In some cases we may send an email to the reader for their feedback on the situation, and in other cases we may not. Sometimes we may not remove a reader completely, but may send them less books so that we can watch closely to see if their performance improves. In most cases, we would likely be looking for a pattern of poor performance before removing a reader from the program, as opposed to just a single case where their questionnaire lacked useful detail. However, there are at least a couple of exceptions to this:
As part of your Beta Reader profile, you’re asked to sign up for all the genres that interest you. If you’re an ARC reader with us already, you’ve already signed up for genres for that, but we’re asking you to do so again for the Beta Reader program because your selections for each may differ.
The important difference is that the expectation with Beta Readers is that they give useful feedback on the book being sent, which means it is most helpful if you are an avid reader of that genre AND of any of the sub-genres that you sign up for. Typically, if you have never read the genre or sub-genre before (or if you have read the sub-genre but aren’t typically a fan of it) it is NOT a good idea to be a Beta Reader for it as you may not understand the expectations of readers of that type of book.
So that means, only sign up for genres and sub-genres that you have read before, enjoy, and feel that you would be able to provide valuable insight on.
You can request to have the book links re-emailed to you via your Beta Reader Dashboard. Remember that after you sign up for a book, it is your responsibility to meet the deadlines for reading and submitting your completed questionnaire, and failure to do so will result in you not being paid for that book, and possibly being removed from the program. So please ensure you check your Beta Reader Dashboard regularly if you think you may have missed an email, as the dashboard will have a list of the books you have read or have been sent to you to read, the ability to have the download links resent, the due dates and the links to the questionnaires.
And if you have missed an email about this or anything else from us, please whitelist us immediately.
Books may be sent in a variety of popular formats, each with their own benefits and uses, and readers can choose the one that works best for them and their device. Note that to use any of these files, just click the corresponding link in the email we sent you and the file will download to your computer or device.
A PDF file can be read by most devices and you can usually open it just by clicking on the link we sent. This normally opens the book up and the user can begin reading immediately.
Samsung users please note: Samsung devices can sometimes cause issues when attempting to view PDF files due to application defaults. You can reset these defaults using this method:
Most eReading devices, including Amazon’s kindle, support the EPUB format. For kindle devices and apps, the EPUB can be sent to your @kindle.com email address (more details below). Other devices may have different ways to load your EPUB, so you may need to consult with the instructions of your particular device if you aren’t sure how.
NOTE – Amazon is dropping support for this format as of August 2022, and so we will stop sending that format out completely by then as well, and start phasing it out immediately. EPUB files will now be required instead of MOBI and can now be sent to your kindle directly instead of MOBIs.
While some devices may open a MOBI file directly so that you can begin reading, many readers prefer the book on their kindle or kindle reading app. For instructions on sending MOBI files to your kindle, see below.
In order to send the book to your kindle device so that you can read it on there, please see this quick video or follow these directions:
For future books, you will only have to repeat steps 4 and 5 to get them onto your kindle.
In order to view your ebooks within your Kindle reader app, the steps depend on what sort of device you’re using, but these simple instructions should help.
Here are some specific steps to try if you’re using a Kindle Fire device:
Note: Once you’ve set up your Collection via steps 1-3, you will not need to repeat those steps to add more books. Simply add new books to the Collection you’ve already created.
Most important – these book files are for your personal use only. Please do not share them with anyone. Instead, why not just encourage your friends to join Hidden Gems themselves?
You should only ever sign up for a Beta book if you are sure you can read and submit the questionnaire by the deadline in the sign up information for that book.
And while we understand that sometimes unexpected circumstances arise that are outside your control, failure to meet the deadline does mean that the job was not completed as agreed and thus you will not be paid for that beta book job (that money will be refunded to the author).
However, if you know you won’t be able to meet a deadline ahead of time, please contact Hidden Gems ASAP to let us know. While you still won’t be paid for that job, depending on the circumstances of the situation and how far in advance of the deadline you let us know, it may help in regards to staying in the program. Especially if this isn’t something that occurs with you often. If it is, it is an indication that this program may not be for you.
And even if you can’t get it in on time, you are still encouraged to send it in as soon as you can as that will also go a long way to maintaining your status as an Active Beta Reader. And incomplete questionnaires prevent you from being sent any further book offers.
On your Beta Reader Dashboard, there is a checkbox at the top right labeled “Stop Sending Beta Reader Offers”. When selected, you won’t be sent any *new sign ups for Beta Reader books until you uncheck the flag. This can be used to temporarily pause your membership while you go on vacation, etc. Just don’t forget to uncheck it when you are available again!
When you click the checkbox, your status will change to Paused and when you uncheck it, your status will revert back to Active.
*Important Note: If you check the flag after you have already been sent a Beta book that you have requested, you are STILL RESPONSIBLE for completing the questionnaire by the due date for that book. This flag only affects whether you are sent any further book offers, it doesn’t cancel any of your existing sign ups or books you were already sent. That means that if you sign up for a book and THEN click the flag, you may still end up being selected for that book, in which case you will still be responsible for completing it on time. So if you have signed up and the book hasn’t yet been sent and you want to pause, please send us an email immediately so we can remove you from the list before it gets sent, if it isn’t too late.
While it’s great that you want to support the author with a positive review, please refrain from doing so on Amazon. If you want to leave one, use Goodreads or somewhere else instead.
The issue is that Amazon has strict rules around book reviews, one of the most important of which is that reviewers are not compensated. Beta Readers are paid to read and fill out the questionnaire for the books they are sent, and while they aren’t being paid to leave a review, it may still be considered as such by Amazon. That is, they may interpret the fact that you were paid to read the book as a Beta Reader as the same thing as being compensated for leaving the review – so best to err on the side of caution here and simply NOT leave an Amazon review for a book you were sent via our Beta Reader program.
It is up to the Beta Reader to ensure that they follow this rule as we have no way to formally track it, however, as Amazon may penalize not only the person leaving the review, but also the author of the book or even Hidden Gems, this rule is very important and anyone found breaking it may be removed from the Beta Reader program.
If you’re already an ARC reader with Hidden Gems, you’re familiar with the ARC dashboard, however the Beta Reader Dashboard is different and requires you to sign in to access it. Links to access (and login to) your dashboard will be available in all of the Beta Reader emails you’re sent, however if you’ve forgotten your password or have any other issues logging into your dashboard, see here for more help.
It is recommended that you bookmark your dashboard so that you can access it at any time.
Unlike with ARCs, completing your Beta Reader books by the due date is not only essential to remaining in the program, but also to getting paid for them. If our emails end up lost to Spam or elsewhere, that is no excuse for not getting them done on time because your dashboard has all of the same information. Whitelisting our emails is your best bet to make sure you’re notified, but checking your dashboard regularly, especially after signing up for a specific book, is essential as well.
Here’s how the Beta Reader Dashboard looks in general (each Dashboard will have some differences based on your specific books and settings), followed by an explanation of how each section works so that you can use it most effectively.
Use this to pause or unpause your account temporarily
This section shows any Beta books available to you that are open for sign up. If you’re already signed up, the red sign up button will be replaced with a message that you are already signed up. All of the book details can be found on this form, similar to the emails you are sent. Make sure to pay attention to ALL of the relevant info (Questionnaire due date, # of questions, word count, etc) before clicking the sign up button to ensure you will be interested in this book and able to meet all of the deadlines and requirements.
Use this to change the filter of the table that displays your current or completed jobs. By default (unchecked) you will only see in progress and unpaid Beta Books that you have been assigned. By checking the box, you will also see your past completed books.
This table displays the beta book jobs you have been assigned, along with their status and the links needed to complete each one. You can use the filter checkbox or search box to show more or less records, as well as the navigation and show entries dropdown to determine how many results are shown or to navigate to the next page if you have many entries. The table shows the following fields:
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.
In general, once you log into your Beta Reader Dashboard you can remain logged in so that you don’t always have to enter your email and password, but if you do get logged out, you can log back in from this page.
If go to that login page but can’t remember your password, simply click the “Forgot your Password?” link that is right above the login form.
It is recommended that you click the Remember Me checkbox so that you don’t have to login each time, and that you bookmark your Dashboard so that you can easily get back to it in the future.
For all other login issues, please contact us.