writing and editing

Why You Should Work with a Beta Reader

You’ve been working hard on your manuscript. You’re almost finished writing it and you’re wondering what you should do next. If that’s you, then your next step should be finding a beta reader.

If you’re shocked at this suggestion, don’t be. I know you’ve probably had friends and family read your manuscript. You’ve asked for their impressions and suggestions. But will they give you honest opinions or will they avoid hurting your feelings? My hunch is they’ll do the latter.

Here’s what a beta reader can do that friends and family can’t:

  • They’ll give you honest opinions.
  • They’ll read your manuscript objectively.
  • They’ll make suggestions on how you can improve your manuscript.
  • They’ll comment on and read your manuscript for the things you ask them to.
  • They’ll point out inconsistencies.

Granted, your family and friends might do the same, but beta readers might be more objective. They know how to give their opinions diplomatically, and they also know what you mean when you ask them to read for point of view, plot development, back story, inconsistencies, and character development.

You can find beta readers who will read your manuscript without charging you anything. Some beta readers are doing the job to break into editing, while others are doing the job to help authors strengthen and improve their manuscripts. And some are beta reading because they like reading manuscripts in their favorite genre.

Beta readers who work for free may be found in writing groups, online, on Facebook, or in local writing communities and online. Think of a beta reader as your test audience.

Some beta readers charge for the service. There has been a great deal of discussion about this, and the findings are mixed. When I beta read, I charge a small fee, either by the word or the manuscript. I also have a questionnaire that I complete and return after every project.

Look for beta readers who are passionate about the genre you’re writing in because they routinely read books in that genre and understand that it. They’ll make suggestions about plot, point of view, and character that will help you.

Beta readers who aren’t familiar with the genre you’re writing are beneficial too. They understand plot, character development, and head hopping, but they may read for the pleasure of reading. Maybe they don’t read horror or erotica. Maybe they’re beta reading for practice and to add beta reading to their résumé. They may be more beneficial to asking friends and family to read your manuscript, but they won’t be as beneficial as looking for a beta reader who specializes in the same genre as your manuscript.

For instance, if you’re writing a middle-grade children’s book, consider asking children in third grade to act as your beta readers. Contact a third grade teacher and talk to them about the possibility. Show the teacher a few pages of your manuscript, provide a summary of the plot, and explain why you would like students to read your story. Then set up a time that works for everyone.

This is a great idea because the students are part of your intended audience. They will give you their honest opinions, and they will tell you what works and what doesn’t. They will also point out words they aren’t familiar with and let you know if they can identify with the characters. They will also like the idea of being asked for their opinions.

Looking for a beta reader and asking for their help should be considered the first step in the editing process. It’s a good idea to work with a beta reader before thinking about the manuscript evaluation. You should consult a beta reader while you’re finishing your manuscript or beginning to revise your story.

Beta readers can point out holes in your manuscript. They can read with an open mind and make suggestions about connecting with your audience that didn’t occur to you. They can provide suggestions when you’re too close to the story and can’t look at it objectively anymore.

Beta readers are a positive addition to any writing project.  If you’re at the stage in the manuscript and need a beta reader and have some questions, let’s talk about how I can help.



Back to list

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *