A Short Guide To Selecting And Working With Beta Readers

“Can beta readers help take my writing to the next level?”

Alpha, Beta, Charlie…. These words sounds more like things that should belong in the military and IT environment. Well, actually, yes and no. Beta, more specifically beta readers are a common phenomenon found in literature and publishing.

So what exactly is a beta reader I hear you ask? A beta reader in plain definition is a person that reads your unpublished manuscript. These people are unpaid and not necessarily qualified in the industry. They are just normal folks with a love for reading. The purpose behind this is to get a basic idea of the flow of your manuscript. To see if everything makes sense and the story line and character profiles work.

Beta readers are an important part of the whole book writing – publishing process. But where can they be found? Tracing a good beta reader can be done via the internet / social media / writing groups.

Points to Ponder

There are a few things to consider when deciding on a beta reader:

  • Find someone interested in your genre of writing. This will help when you don’t have to constantly try to explain the type of novel to the reader, especially with something as complex as science fiction writing.
  • Get someone objective. Preferably not your spouse or your mother who will aim to please, and also not someone who dislikes you. Extreme comments to either side can be harmful and breakdown your confidence.
  • The person doesn’t necessarily need to be an experienced writer or editor. The purpose for this is just to have someone read and make sure that your story makes sense. The more advanced editing and proofreading can be done at a later stage by a paid professional.
  • Find a dedicated individual. This is a time consuming process which needs focus and attention. Give definitive deadlines to avoid future heart ache and stress.
  • If you make use of a beta reader or more than one, have a set of questions ready. This will help to guide your reader on what to look for and focus on when reading the manuscript. After this, you will also have more focused and constructive feedback to work from.
  • Confidentiality! A very important aspect. Make sure to bring this point under your beta reader’s attention. You don’t want everyone to know the whole plot line of your book even before it hits the shelves.

“Confidentiality and non-disclosure are important considerations before asking the assistance of beta readers. “

Create A Network

It is wise to create a network of beta readers. You can then distribute various manuscripts between them, always having a pair of “fresh eyes” on your work.

Most of the time, beta readers work for free. But you may agree to compensate them in a different way for work that they do for you. This can possibly be in the form of a copy of your published manuscript or even a voucher of sorts. This must not be seen as a bribe for them to tell you what you would like to hear, but rather a “thank you for your honest critique”.

The publishing process of books has changed dramatically over the past few years. Nowadays it is even possible to self-publish your own work. Whatever route you decide to follow, and even if you are an amateur or professional writer, make use of beta readers.

They are the golden life line that will help you to create a successful manuscript.

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