What is a beta reader?
Let’s start by defining what a beta reader is, and why they’re so important. A beta reader is someone who reads your book before it’s published and offers constructive criticism. This feedback informs your final run of edits to make your book as good as it can be before publication or submission.
Why do I need beta readers?
Editing and proofing your own work is an almost impossible task. You’re too close to the project, you know what it’s meant to say, and you become blind to its problems and mistakes.
Betas can also read your work as readers would, with a detachment you can never achieve yourself. They’ll pick up on plot holes and typos you’ll overlook. They’ll react to the emotions and tension, be surprised by reveals. They’ll find parts that need clarification, or that move too slowly, characters that don’t work, dialogue that’s unrealistic, things that need more description, or less. They’ll tell you what works and what doesn’t with a perspective you can’t have yourself.
What makes a good beta reader?
Finding beta readers is easy, but finding good beta readers is hard. A good beta reader can be anyone; a reader, a writer, even a close friend or family member. You’ll hear it said that friends and family aren’t good options because they’ll try to save your feelings. This isn’t always the case. If you can trust them to be brutally honest, then they can be just as useful as any other beta.
Because good beta readers do need to be brutally honest. They need to be able to tell you when something isn’t working, when you’ve made a mistake. They also need to offer constructive criticism. “This doesn’t work”, or “this is boring” is no use to you if they don’t explain why. They don’t need to offer up solutions, that’s your job, but they do need to be able to explain their responses.
Good beta readers are worth their weight in gold, so when you do find some, make sure you keep hold of them.
Where can I find beta readers?
- Ask friends and family. You need to be careful with this option and only choose people you can trust to be brutally honest. Beta readers are no use to you if they’re just being polite not to hurt your feelings.
- Find reader groups in your genre. Search places like Facebook and GoodReads and you’re sure to find lots of keen readers.
- Use fellow authors. Again, a search on Facebook or GoodReads will offer up several beta or review exchange groups.
- Use your network. Post an open call for beta readers on your social networking profiles, and ask people to share.
- Ask your mailing list subscribers. These are already fans of yours, and many of them will jump at the chance of reading your book before anyone else.
Where else have you found beta readers? What makes a good beta reader for you?