The Importance Of Beta Readers

With today’s ease of ebook creation and distribution, more and more authors are choosing to take the self-publishing route.  This is fine for experienced authors who know the ropes, but many freshmen writers are skipping over or incorrectly handling important aspects to readying a book for publication.

The internet is full of marketing guides for authors and useful sales tips.  It’s also easy to find articles written on the importance of hiring a professional editor.  Unfortunately, there seems to be a lack of information on Beta Readers.

Who Are Beta Readers

Beta readers are people who agree to read your completed manuscript and give their opinion.  It’s best to use at least three so you end up with a broad view, not just the likes of one individual.  They should be avid readers who enjoy the genre of your story.  Don’t expect them to find errors in grammar or punctuation.  They are not editors. 

Who Is Not A Beta Reader

Family and friends will be prejudiced in favor of your book, so they make poor beta readers.  Surprisingly, other authors are also not the best choice, as they tend to see more of the mechanics when asked to be a reader.  You are looking for emotional connection with the story.  However, I do like to include one writer in my mix.

What do Beta Readers Do

When you entrust your manuscript to a reader, let them know you hope to publish, and if they share it with others, that goal could be jeopardized.  Make sure they understand you are still making changes.  Some people will be less forthcoming with problems if they think your book is completed.  Provide a list of questions you would like them to answer.  This should include things like:

1.      Were you pulled into the story in the first few pages
2.      Did the characters seem real, did you care what happened to them
3.      Was the conflict believable
4.      Did the dialogue sound real and did it fit the character’s personality
5.      What did you like best
6.      What didn’t you like
7.      Were there places where you felt confused
8.      Did the ending answer all your questions

These are just a few general questions to give you an idea of the type of information good beta readers will supply you with.  

Where To Find Beta Readers

My favorite source for beta readers is a local book club.  Not only do they enjoy reading, but they enjoy talking about what they’ve read.  All you have to do is show up at their meeting and listen.  If that fails, ask friends about their friends.  They don’t know you, so you’ve eliminated the personal friend factor, while at the same time your mutual friend can vouch for them.
Now that you know what and who you are looking for, don’t skip this very important step in the creation of a novel.  After all, do you want to make changes after a beta reading or after you receive poor reviews from unhappy paying customers?