What Is a Beta Reader and How Do I Find One?
So you’ve finished your book. It’s your best work to date. You’re sure people are going to love it. But stop. Before you start sending it off to agents and publishers this is the perfect time to engage the help of a beta reader to help you polish up the manuscript as much as possible.
What is a beta reader?
A beta reader is someone who will read your novel in its entirety and provide feedback on what they liked about the story or characters, and what they didn’t like or found confusing. Think of a beta reader as a test reader – someone who will give you honest feedback from the viewpoint of an average reader.
A beta reader reads an early draft of your novel and offers constructive criticism regarding the flow, plot holes or inconsistencies in character development. They offer honest, unbiased opinions that can help you make changes before submitting the novel to agents or editors.
Where to find a beta reader
Beta readers come from all walks of life. Some beta readers are authors themselves, while others are avid book lovers who enjoy reading a wide variety of fiction. There are a number of ways you can build a small team of beta readers:
- family and friends or a member of your local book club
- online writing communities on Goodreads or Facebook Groups. You could do a book swap – “I’ll read yours, if you read mine”. Look for other authors who have knowledge in your genre. I’ve personally connected with other authors on Facebook Groups such as KIDLIT411 and The Manuscript Academy’s Ten Minutes with an Expert Chat
- Wattpad is a good place to test your novel on readers. I’ve been writing and posting young adult stories on Wattpad for years and am continually amazed by the insightful feedback I get from teen readers on this site.
How to work with beta readers
- Make it clear what type of feedback you are hoping they will give. You are not wanting an edit – but overall feedback on the story, the characters and the pacing. Ask them to keep track of anything they found unbelievable or confusing.
- Let them know how many pages or words you are asking them to read and if you have a deadline that needs to be met
- Perhaps send them a sample of three chapters before they commit to reading the whole novel – to see if it’s going to be of interest to them.
- Send them the manuscript as a word document or PDF. They can make comments within the document or as a written report.
- It might be nice to say that you will mention them in your acknowledgements or offer them a free copy of the book when it is published
- Be open to their feedback, but don’t rush in and make changes until you have sat with their suggestions for some time. I find that I often need a week or two to process people’s suggestions in a meaningful way.
Remember, choose beta readers who are well-read and knowledgeable about the genre you are working in. Look for beta readers who will be supportive and encouraging, while helping you hone your craft and give you honest feedback on the story.
Have you worked with a beta reader before? Where did you find them? And were they helpful?