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My question is similar to one asked previously. I'm writing non-fiction, topics on the intersection between science and religion--quantum mechanics, cosmology, evolution. I've published ebooks on these (with minimal sales). The problem is to write about the science so it's understandable to someone who has a typical American education. And for that I need beta readers, but can't seem to find them. Any suggestions?

  • try the Editorial Freelancers Association at the-efa.org – Lauren-Reinstate-Monica-Ipsum Jul 27 '17 at 21:01
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    Welcome to Writers! Thanks for the interesting question. Please feel free to have a look at our site tour if you haven't already. – Neil Fein Jul 27 '17 at 23:29
  • You might be approaching this wrongly. You seem to make the correlation that because Americans may have lower standards for education, they are unable to read your book. Should they have the knowledge, then everyone would read your book. Unfortunately, that isn't how marking goes really either. I love quantum mechanics but I don't go out and buy books on them. I simply don't care ENOUGH to read them. I would rather use my time to go into a fantasy world to escape life for a bit. Maybe you need to dumb down your writing some, but more importantly, you should try to make it interesting. – ggiaquin16 Jul 28 '17 at 16:23
  • How have you looked for beta readers? It might help to know what approaches you've already tried. Also, what does your target audience look like? – Terri Simon Aug 1 '17 at 20:00
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Getting eyeballs on the manuscript is a good way to reality-check what you've written. I can think of a couple of options:

One strategy is to try posting on discussion boards where fans of science and religion hang out, trying to find test readers that way. Your best bet is to participate in the community before doing this.

Another option is to look for an editorial read-through, as Lauren has suggested. This would involve paying a read fee to an established editor.

You could also combine these approaches - a read-through by a pro editor would be a great way to put the finishing touches on a beta-read manuscript.

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Personally I would not favor looking for anonymous online beta readers for a project like this. Any project on the relationship of science and religion is going to attract cranks on both sides of the spectrum and the opinion of cranks is of no value.

There are really three types of beta readers worth having for a non-fiction project:

  • Experts who can check your facts and your conclusions and alert you to any relevant research you may have missed.

  • Members of your target audience.

  • Editorial experts who can check your grammar and style.

My current non-fiction book is in this stage now (though the publisher calls it "technical review" and administers it as part of the publication process). The publisher provides the editorial expertise and finds some of the technical and audience representatives (I have also done reviews for other of their books in the past). I recruit the rest myself from people I know in the industry. Some of these are people I have met and some I only know from online. LinkedIn is a great way to find and establish a relationship with these people.

As I said, this beta reading program was set up and is being administered by my publisher. This highlights an important point about non-fiction. Non-fiction should be sold before it is written. You sell non-fiction based on a proposal and your credentials to write about the subject. The publisher then works with you to plan and shape the book, which often includes reviews such as I have described. Publishers want their non-fiction titles to be authoritative (or at least to seem authoritative) and since they can't always judge the subject matter themselves, the credentials of the author and the judgement of other professionals in the field are key to them in making their publishing decisions.

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