What is a Beta Reader and Why Should You Have One on Your Team?
A beta reader tends to be a fan of the author’s works without any formal editor training. They read through an author’s manuscript in order to spot plot inconsistencies, loopholes and bits and pieces that don’t mesh with the author’s style and story as a whole.
They might help out with fact-checking, or rating believability. They can also flag up points where an author got too excited or too close to the story and left out some of the important details that can make or break a story (and a reader’s understanding of that story).
What Should You Look For in a Beta Reader?
Ideally, your beta reader should be someone who is actively interested in the genre of story that you’re writing. You wouldn’t get the same feedback from a devout horror reader as you would from a romance reader because they are looking for different things in the stories they choose to read.
If you’re writing a series and your beta reader has read the prior books, they’ll be much better at spotting plot holes between the books, although they could also lean on you to alter the storyline. For the most part though, having someone else familiar with your story can be invaluable in spotting errors with your characters, plot and overall consistencies.
Also, you want your beta reader to be unconnected to you personally. At the end of the day, you’re looking for constructive criticism on how to make your story the absolute best it can be and someone close to you, who has watched you struggle with writing a particular character, or filling a plot hole, isn’t going to be able to say what needs to be said. It can be hard not to take criticism personally and by choosing a beta reader you know, you’re making things that much trickier for yourself to improve your work.
How to Find a Beta Reader for Your Work
There are many ways to find beta readers for your latest book. You can search well-known book communities like Goodreads for forums devoted to the art of beta reading, or look for online services that aim to match authors up with beta readers. Local writing groups may provide a good ground when searching for beta readers – they are likely already familiar with your work. If you’re active on social media, you may have come across someone suitable, like a fan, who’d be more than happy to get a sneak peek of your book in exchange for some helpful feedback.
Have you been a beta reader before? Are you an author wondering whether a beta reader is worth the time (and possibly, expense)? Let me know your thoughts in the comments or pop over to Twitter @EchoFoxBooks to chat!