Series: Beta Readers

Beta Reading: What is a Beta Reader?

Hey, reader!  And welcome (back) to Writer Central.  I’m not exactly sure why I decided to post again today – I just felt like it.  It’s the weekend, I don’t have much to do – why not write another blog post?  It’s fun, anyway.

Right now I’m going to talk about a topic that some of you may be familiar with – and that is beta readers.

By definition of Wikipedia, a beta reader is “…a non-professional reader who reads a written work, generally fiction, with the intent of looking over the material to find and improve elements such as grammar and spelling, as well as suggestions to improve the story, its characters, or its setting.”

I think this quote really does explain what a beta reader is quite well.  But to put it in my version, a much simpler, less intricate version, a beta reader is the secondary person who reads your manuscript and helps to edit it.

To me, a beta reader does not revise the small mistakes, like grammatical errors.  They are of more use in the deep, long term sense – they help with character and plot development, and so much more.  They really are just a random person who may just pick up a published version of your book and read it.

Some commonly asked questions I’ve seen are:

  1. When do I need a beta reader?  Because a beta reader did not sign up for the job of cleaning up your manuscript, you want your manuscript to be as tidy as you can get it before you begin.  The reader’s job is merely to read and answer questions.
  2. Do I really need a beta reader?  The truthful answer is no.  A lot of authors have gotten off fine without betas, but I promise betas will make everything so much better.
  3. How do I communicate with my beta readers?  Through Facebook chat, Hangouts, over the phone, even meeting them personally at Starbucks or something.  Guys, there are so many ways of communicating these days!  The options are almost endless.
  4. What do I ask my beta readers once I’ve found them?  There are so many things to ask betas, so I’m going to link this question to another blog post when I write it.  For now, here’s something I found on the web at killzoneblog.com.  (Wow, I just realized how much I sounded like Siri.)
  5. How do I handle the information my beta readers give me?  I make a document for each beta reader containing the same list of questions (some are slightly different if I find the need to change them).  I then copy and paste the exact answer the person gave me (if you’re communicating by phone or in person, then you should be taking notes on everything they say so you can keep the notes for later) and put it in the document.  This way I have all of the information in a place where I can come back to it for reference.
  6. How much content do I give my beta reader at a time?  It really depends on how much they’re up for.  I’ll have a beta contact me when they’re ready to read something so I can be prepared to question them immediately after.  Give them as much as they feel like they can handle, from a scene, to a chapter, to three chapters.  Just make sure you interview them right after each segment to get fresher answers.
  7. When do I give them their first set of questions?  I give my betas a set of questions after each chapter, and sometimes scene, depending on the length and intricacy of the section.  This is a nice way to narrow down their responses and analyze more efficiently.

That’s all I’ve got for today!  Thank you so much for reading my blog this week.  Also, feel free to contact me (via blog or Instagram comment, e-mail, social media), if you have a blog suggestion.  I love helping people and would love to answer a writing question you might have!  Also, comment down below if you would like to beta read for my book, or have a need for some betas yourself.  Please come back next week for new content.  Thanks for visiting!

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