What to send to Beta Readers? What to include?


I'm sending my 90,000 word novel to a set of beta readers this week. I have done a first and second draft – I'm on month 19 in the writing process. It's a 40-chapter political thriller set in contemporary Washington DC and West Virginia. Reads like a John Grisham novel (my apologies to John Grisham). I've published two previous books, both non-fiction, back in the 1990's and early aughts (a long time ago). This is my first try at a novel.

I'm now ready for a large-ish group to read the novel and give me feedback.

The group includes:

a) Close friends and family.

b) A small book club that has agreed to beta-read, even though I'm not a member of their club and know only a couple of the people.

c) A few kind strangers on the internet. (These are the readers I'm most excited about – I'm betting they will be my best resource.)

d) Anyone else who wanders by over the next week or so. PM me if you are interested.

My goal is to have it out to everyone this later this week.


1) I have the novel is two formats – a regular Word document, and a Word document formatted to read like a paperback novel. I'm thinking I will send google doc links to both, allowing the beta reader to choose either option. Does this sound good? Or does this create problems keeping track of everything when their comments come back?

2) Is it currently customary to only send google doc links? Can I expect at least some of the readers to want hard copies? What's the protocol there? The regular Word document is 220 pages and the paperback-formatted one is 425 pages. What about sending copies of the actual .doc file?

3) I'm assuming the google doc links should be set to "edit and share," correct? Give them full access? If not, how should I set the google docs up?

4) What do I say in my cover letter/email beyond a huge thank you? Do I give a blurb? Do I give an outline? Do I tell them my writing process?

5) What types of "instructions" do I give? Should I set a timeline/deadline? Should I tell them to only do X and not do Y? Should I ask them to inform me if they choose not to read it after they get through a few pages?

6) Regarding grammar checking – I think the grammar in my book is pretty clean. It's not a major concern for me, although I am also certain it's far from perfect. Do I tell them I'm not overly concerned with them grammar checking every comma? But then, if I say that, I might miss out on some excellent suggestions. Any thoughts here?

7) Should I tell them what parts of the book I think are the weakest? Like "I'm really worried about Chapter 6-9," or "I'm concerned my flashbacks are sequenced in the wrong spots." ??

8) Lastly, I want to take some time off from the novel – do the Stephen King thing. And I initially was thinking that I could do this while the beta-readers have it. But now I'm thinking that I'll probably start getting feedback fairly quickly, and will need to stay on my toes. Is that correct? Should I plan on my time off later – after the beta readers have concluded their work?


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