Improve Your Next Beta Read with Incentives & Gamification – Guest Post

Improve Your Next Beta Read with Incentives & Gamification

A guest post on from author S.C. Barrus

If you’re writing or have written a book, you’re likely familiar with the concept of beta reading. The thing is, while we’re all aware of what a beta read is and what benefits it offers your work, most of us have no idea how to run an effective beta read.

Over the past year, I’ve made it my life’s mission to discover the formula for running a perfect beta read while researching for my book Running the Perfect Beta Read: The Indie Author’s Guide to Harnessing Incentives, Technology, and Communication for the Most Effective Beta Read of your Life

There are several facets to running a silky smooth beta read but today I’m going to talk about one which I rarely see people address: incentives.

What are incentives?

Incentives are all around us. They are the little nudges that push us to do tasks better, quicker, and more reliably. Often, companies will utilize clever incentives to convince us to buy something. Grocery stores have loyalty programs, employers have benefits, and the government has recently started experimenting with incentives to nudge us to pay taxes on time.

When used right, incentives are powerful tools. Why not use them in throughout beta reads to encourage our beta readers to respond quicker, to leave more comments, or to interact with us more. If we can do that, our beta readers will have more fun, leave more valuable feedback, and are more likely to become our super-fans spreading the word for us.

If all of that sounds like it’s worth a just a couple hours of work, then read on.

What kind of incentive can I use in my beta read?

There are several ways we can use incentives, but in this post, I’m going to focus on one haven’t seen discussed: gamification. It’s a fancy word for adding meta-gaming elements to important tasks which in turn makes those tasks more fun by offering small, often intangible rewards.

Gamification is prevalent. It likely drives aspects of your life right now. Most obviously, gamification is used thoroughly in the video game industry to add an extra level of fun by adding the meta-game of earning “achievements” to the games you’re already playing.

An achievement system rewards players for accomplishing certain in-game tasks by giving players a digital badge once that task is complete. Notice the badge is digital. It’s not real. But the feeling these badges evoke, that feeling of accomplishment and recognition, is very real.

In video games, achievements drive players to do things in-game that they otherwise might not consider doing. This fulfills the game developers goals of increasing your play time in their game.

With an hour or two of work, you can create a simple achievement system for your beta readers which will incentivize them to be more productive and offer better feedback while also giving them the opportunity to have more fun. When you gamify, everyone wins.

How can I add gamification to my beta read?

You can add a simple achievement system to your beta read with little effort and no money. When you begin the beta read, send out a welcome email which will introduce the achievements the readers can unlock. Come up with three or four that are simple to track and give them a time limit to earn them—a week works well. 

Some example achievements include:

    •    Getting Started – Leave one comment in the manuscript by Jan 5th. This is a perfect intro achievement for your first interaction.

    •    Weekend Warrior – Be among the beta readers who leave feedback in the manuscript over the weekend. This is good right before the first weekend of your beta read. Also worth bringing back if you’re beta read is dragging on.

    •    Most Comments – Leave the most comments in the manuscript by Feb 3rd to win this prestigious honor. This is good when you’re getting ready to end the beta read. Let readers compete for this one.

    •    First! – Be the first beta reader to finish the manuscript to win this achievement (and bragging rights). Another great one for your intro email. Remind beta readers about the badge, and when it’s unlocked, introduce Second.

    •    Checking In – Reply to one of my beta read updates with a thought, comment, or suggestion to unlock this badge. This one is good for getting beta readers to communicate with you more. Any one-on-one communication you have further supports your relationship with your readers.

The possibilities are limitless. As long as you can track these things, you can award them. And once you do, you’ll find your beta readers are much more engaged, even though these achievements are just as intangible as the ones in Red Dead Redemption. Just remember to introduce new achievements in your periodic update emails.

But will it work?

This concept may sound a little silly. I thought it was when I first implemented it in my beta reads. But incentives and gamification in specific are incredibly effective. When I introduced badges into my beta read, suddenly beta readers were reading faster, commenting more, and even interacting with other beta readers and myself on a daily basis. You can’t buy this kind of engagement.

So the next time you run a beta read for your upcoming book, consider taking a little extra time to add incentives through gamification with a very basic achievement system. You’ll find the little bit of extra work well worth the effort.

If you’d like to learn more about running a perfect beta read, you can on my overview blog post where I outline many of the basics, including how to track when your readers unlock their achievements. And if you’re looking for an even more in-depth guide, sign up to be notified when I release my book Running the Perfect Beta Read: The Indie Author’s Guide to Harnessing Incentives, Technology, and Communication for the Most Effective Beta Read of your Life.

S.C. Barrus is the author of boundary-pushing genre fiction and writing related non-fiction. Learn more about him at and follow him on Twitter @SCBarrus.

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