Do You Need Beta Readers?
Plus questions you should be asking them.
Whether you are planning to self-publish your novel or seek professional or more traditional publishing a beta reader should be an unskippable part of the process - but proceed with caution.
What Is A Beta Reader?
A beta reader is someone who reads your work, whether fiction or nonfiction in order to find issues with clarity.
A beta reader can be hired or even better a fellow writer from your writing circle.
Although the term is easy to confuse with an editor, beta readers are looking at the story and nothing but the story. They are not a developmental editor. They may notice some spelling or grammatical errors and be kind enough to point them out to you, but that's not really what they're looking for.
They are reading your novel and looking at the overall big picture.
While some beta readers are fellow writers, you'll receive the best opinions from beta readers that are simply readers. They're not looking to make sure that your story followed all of the steps of the hero's journey outline points, they are simply making sure that they can follow the journey that your hero takes.
Where To Find Beta Readers
Beta readers can be found all over the internet, but even closer than you realize in your friends and family. Here is where my note of 'proceed with caution comes into play.
When looking for a beta reader you need someone who is going to read your work and give you their honest opinion about it. Your mother loves you and may believe what you write is perfect no matter what, but that's not going to help if there's a giant plot hole in the middle of your story she decided not to tell you about because she didn't want to hurt your feelings.
This is where the benefit of having more than one beta reader comes in. Ideally having three or four should give you enough feedback that you'll be able to incorporate their suggestions and take their opinions into consideration before publishing your novel or submitting it to publishers. Though one or two should also suffice if they have experience with beta reading.
If you haven't finished your novel or are simply looking for a beta reader then going to a writing forum or an online community offering beta-for-beta trades is a wonderful way to form connections. Helping another writer review their work will also help you learn to self-edit by recognizing what you should be looking for.
Questions To Ask Your Beta Reader
- How did you feel reading the story?
- What tone did the overall story set?
- What parts of the story drew you in the most? Did it hold your interest since the beginning?
- Could you relate to the main character?
- Where there any point where the story lagged?
- Is there any point in the story where you felt frustrated? Confused?
- Did the setting have enough description? Too much?
- Did the dialogue seem as if it was believable or too scripted?
- Were there any inconsistencies you noticed?
- Did the ending seem rushed? Where you satisfied with it?
- Was there ever a point in the story where you had to put the book down?
- Was there ever a point in your reading time when you felt as if you didn't want to continue reading the story? Or that it was a chore to pick it up to continue?
- If you could change anything about the story what would it be?
Beta readers are a necessary part of the process. Whether you hire a freelance beta reader or ask a friend, family, or other members of the writing community just remember that what they are saying is not necessarily to attack you, but if you have a reader give you the feedback, ' I hated it, I didn't understand a thing,' but they can't tell you exactly what didn't work in the story for them - then don't take this as something wrong that you did. A beta reader is there to help you improve your story by telling you what worked and what didn't and giving honest feedback with examples.
Like with all professions - watch out for the few rotten apples that have been dropped in the bin.
Best of luck.
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About the Creator
Barbara King is a first-time author of the new dark fantasy novel The Dark Gods. King is a recent college graduate from Southern New Hampshire University where she earned her BA in Creative Writing.
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