Beta Readers: Who, What, Why and How?

Beta Readers

Okay, you have finally finished slaying your evil maniac villain and now your hero and his gal can live happily ever after, or at least until your next installment. What next?

Have you beat up yourself reading the manuscript again and even self-edited it? TWICE?. Kudos.

You are on the right track. Let us get on to the next step – beta reads.

Don’t you think the manuscript should be read by someone not-so-closely related to it, a.k.a not you, before you send it out to the ruthless publishing world?

Someone who would not mind reading an unpolished, raw version of your manuscript and tell you their opinion.
Someone who will tell you honestly about the parts that moved them to tears as well those were plain boring.
Someone who will encourage you to do some revisions, without being judgmental about the number of times your character says ‘What up?’.
Sounds too good to be true? You need a beta reader.

Beta Readers

Who are beta readers?

Yeah, you guessed it right. Beta readers are very similar to the beta testers in the software world, but about books. Just as the beta testers try to kill all the bugs before the software gets released, beta readers would read your unpolished manuscript and provide critical pointers in terms of its credibility, readability, and even marketability.

Beta Readers are critical readers, in short. They could be your dearest friend, your mom or your writing buddy, anyone who can give you an unbiased opinion about your work.

But are they adequate? Most often than not, the answer is no. If you want a truly unbiased opinion you can, you should get yourself a professional beta reader.

Most publishing houses have had their own set of beta readers and they make their decisions whether to choose your manuscript or not, based on their opinions. In the indie industry, the term ‘beta readers is relatively new but they have always been present and doing their parts.

Why do you need a professional beta reader?

Every writer needs a beta reader, even if they think they don’t.
What for, right?

  • The writers need to make sure the readers hear exactly what they want to say.
  • They know their concept and characters so well that they tend to overlook the obvious.
  • A writer can write for himself, but an author writes for others.

How do you know if your masses would like your book?
Unless someone else reads it and tells you, even before you hire an editor or spend more money on it. That is where the beta reader comes in.

Beta Readers

How can these beta readers help?

Professional beta readers come from different backgrounds and usually are avid readers themselves who read different genres.

They read your manuscript with an open mind and have a prejudice towards you or your writing, like your writer group or your mom. Sometimes, beta readers may not even be familiar with your genre, which can also be a good thing.

Most beta readers provide their pointers on the

  • credibility of the plot
  • readability of the script and writing style
  • gaps in character/ story arcs and plot holes, if any
  • point out sensitivity issues

and many more..
Some professional beta readers answer your Q & A as a part of their feedback process.

What are beta readers not?

  • Beta readers are not predisposed to love your work. They will, however, provide their honest opinions.
  • Beta readers are not editors. While they may point out garring errors in syntax or spellings, their services do not include them.
  • They will not attempt to take away your voice nor will they rewrite your book for you.
  • They are not agreeing to on other portals after your book has been published.

Beta reading is not a one-way process. It often leads to open dialogues and suggestions which the author may or not take up.

Beta Readers

Have you used beta readers for your works? Do you beta read for others? How has your experience been with other authors and beta reads? Tell us more about your revision process.

12 COMMENTS

  1. I’ve been a beta reader, the hardest part is coming up with the gentlest words to tell the author they have dull spots, dead areas, plot holes, etc. and staying alert and mindful while reading those dull spots 😉

  2. Thanks for such an informative post! As I am getting through the edits on my book, I have been thinking about beta readers. I’ve never used them before so it’s all new to me. Definitely going to be something I look more into. Thanks!

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