What are Beta Readers And Why Do you need them?
In the last 4 months, whenever I have delivered a lecture, I am ALWAYS asked about one particular topic, each and every single time with no exception at all – What is a Beta Reader?
Beta Reading is a concept well-known in the writing community but often misunderstood and misinterpreted by the new writers. So, finally, I’m writing about one of the most exciting parts of writing a book – Beta Reading!
But before we proceed, make sure to check out my Resources For Writers page in order to learn more about fiction writing & novel writing.
WHAT ARE BETA READERS?
What is a Beta Reader?
Beta Reader is a person who reads your book and provides you with detailed feedback on your manuscript from the perspective of a reader.
When I say ‘detailed feedback,’ it does not mean a review. What it means is that the Beta Reader should tell you about what they thought of your book overall, what was good in the book, what aspect they did not like or appreciate, what they thought could be better, what felt missing and what they thought worked and what did not in its favour.
You can even create a particular questionnaire for them to help them aid in Beta Reading Report, or simply leave it to them. It is entirely up to you.
WHO CAN BE A BETA READER?
Anyone who is a voracious reader, and by that I mean a hardcore bibliophile, who reads at least 40-50 books a year and has read over 500 books in their life are perfect for Beta Reading.
Good command of the language is very important as well as a good sense of grammar and syntax is necessary when you’re looking for a good Beta Reader.
Where To Find A Beta Reader?
Beta Readers can be a little tricky to find. You’ll have to either get involved in particular circles online or will have to do a lot of research and hunting online. If you are planning to write consistently, meaning it is not a one-time stint for you, then I suggest the former way.
Join the online Beta Reading groups – you can find these on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. You can follow the #betareading on Instagram and Twitter and go from there. Or you can join or become a part of the websites or forums dedicated to Beta Reading. Remember, being a part of these groups means, you’ll have to volunteer to beta read for other writers as well. Many times people prefer to exchange works with each other for beta reading. That is a good way to start.
Otherwise, I’d recommend starting your own blog/website and interacting with fellow bloggers because most of the bloggers who blog about writing and reading are into Beta Reading.
How many Beta Readers do I need for 1 manuscript?
You can have as many Beta Readers for your manuscript as you can find, but make sure to have at least 5 of them.
10 is a great number but only if you can manage to find that many.
Do they charge money?
Traditionally speaking, no, Beta Readers do not charge money. They can either do it for free or ask for your feedback on something they’ve written in return for their feedback. But in recent times, things have changed drastically and the rise in the ever-growing demand for Beta Reader has given birth to Professional Beta Readers.
Professional Beta Readers are Beta Readers who deliver quality work and therefore are in high demand. Their time is money because everyone wants them, therefore, they charge money and give out their time as per the availability. While looking for Beta Readers, you can always hire 1, or maybe 2, of these professional beta readers and the rest voluntary ones.
But, be careful. Just because a person charges for money doesn’t make them professional. Make sure to check their background, read their reviews or testimonials for their service and make sure to have a sample done for free before paying anything.
And now for the second part fo the topic.
Why Do You Need Them?
The answer is simple, you need Beta Readers in order to make sure that your manuscript reads the way you intended it to. You may know the whole story in your head, hell it might have played in your mind more than a couple hundred thousand times already by the time you finish writing your manuscript, but that does not mean that you have written it all down the same way. As a writer, our closeness to our works posses the biggest problem when it comes to seeing our own mistakes. Therefore, a fresh pair of eyes could easily find out the mistakes that won’t stick out to an author even after multiple read.
Along with zeroing in on possible mistakes, potholes and problems with your plot and characterisation, Beta Readers will also let you know how ‘readable’ is your book. No that is something hard to describe but trust me, just because you’ve poured hours and hours of hardworking in a book doesn’t necessarily mean it reads good. And readability is one of the most important things when it comes to a manuscript.
And lastly, you need them because they will provide you with an important perspective of a reader for your story and will help you analyse if you need to change, develop, add or remove some aspect, scene, chapter or sub-plot in your final manuscript before you do the final round of revisions and edits and start considering the submission process.
I’ll be covering more ground on Beta Readers, the best way to approach as well as brief them and some important dos and don’ts, so keep an eye out for my next couple of posts.
In the meantime, do check out some other articles I’ve written on writing fiction: