When you’ve completed your book manuscript, one of the first things you should do is find a few beta readers. These readers review your manuscript and give you constructive feedback based on their reaction to the completed book. The beta reader’s perspective provides a writer with a “reader’s eye view” of their manuscript, letting them know what does and doesn’t work for the reader. Beta readers are casual readers, not professional writers or critics. They may be members of a book club, family members, friends, or acquaintances. Their purpose is to let the writer know what did and didn’t work for them in the story, what they liked or disliked, and what elements were confusing or unnecessary.
What a Beta Reader Is Not
Don’t confuse a beta reader with an editor. Their tasks are quite different. An editor checks your manuscript for editorial mistakes such as sentence structure, grammar, and syntax. They will also make suggestions for clarifying issues and improving the overall structure of your book. This is not what a beta reader does.
Why Beta Readers are Important
Beta readers focus on the big picture rather than the details editors will catch. Beta readers are reading from the perspective of questions such as, “Am I enjoying this story? Why or why not? What parts captured my interest, and what parts seem superfluous?” Having advance readers evaluate your manuscript can help you improve the story and learn what readers want. It can help you avoid publishing a book that may disappoint readers in some way that could have been changed before publication.
While one beta reader gives you a valid perspective, you should use several to get different takes on what you’ve written. You may discover that most readers love a particular story thread while one or two didn’t care for it. In this situation, you need to determine where the disconnect is and who your target audience is to decide whether to make changes or not.
Where Can You Find Beta Readers?
You can use a few family members or friends as beta readers, but don’t rely solely on people close to you. Their relationship with you could color their reaction to the book or cause hurt feelings if they don’t like the story or how you handled it. Perhaps choose one or two people you know who are definite fans of your book genre.
You need to have beta readers who don’t have a close relationship with you so that you get honest feedback unhampered by personal ties. These might be people you know from a book club, writers’ group, or book review website. Sites such as GoodReads have members who will enjoy being beta readers. The Book Lovers’ Circle, recently launched at Dudley Court Press, will be an excellent resource for writers looking for beta readers.
What You Can Expect from a Beta Reader
The feedback from good beta readers can be valuable in revising your book into its final version but be sure you’ve let your beta readers know what you need from them. Mention any questions you might have about the overall manuscript, including:
- Are the characters fully developed?
- Do any of the scenes fall flat or seem unrealistic?
- Is the setting or world authentic and fully realized?
- Is the pace appropriate?
- Did you use foreshadowing or other techniques appropriately?
- Are there inconsistencies in the plot or story resolution?
- Is the ending one that is satisfying?
Once you’ve received feedback from your beta readers, you can use the information to put the final touches on your manuscript to elevate it to its final form before publication.
Dudley Court Press
Dudley Court Press works with writers like you every day. As a full-service, hybrid publishing house, we help thoughtful people write their books to achieve publishing success. Contact us to discuss our assisted self-publishing option today.
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