Dun Writin’—Now Whut? – 44 Using Beta Readers (A series by Susan Uttendorfsky – Owner of Adirondack Editing)

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A Beta Reader is a person who reads your finished novel and gives you feedback on it before publication—while you still have time to make changes. The term “beta reader” has been adapted from the software industry, where programmers release a beta version of a new program to people who will test it. So think of this as someone “test driving” your book!

Having beta readers is an excellent step in writing your novel, as a good beta reader can vastly improve your book. They serve as a second pair of eyes, ensuring that what you’ve intended to write is really what you have written. A beta reader will read your entire manuscript and develop a personal response to it, uninfluenced by the opinions of others. And don’t think that using a beta reader implies that you’re an amateur or that you don’t know what you’re doing. Far from it! Using multiple beta readers (and analyzing their responses) is the mark of a true professional.

Some beta readers focus on grammar and spelling errors, and others are better at pointing out problems with the big picture. For instance, you know your protagonist inside and out, and therefore may forget that your reader does not. Vital character information may be lacking and perhaps you don’t even realize it! A beta reader can point this out, as well as plot holes, inconsistencies, and other problems with your book, and then you have time to fix these things before publishing.

A good beta reader is kind but firm, honest without squashing you as a writer, a well-rounded reader of both classical and modern literary and popular material, and preferably not related to you. This can be the hardest feature to find! Yes, your mother will probably happily read your book, but will she give you firm, honest feedback? Will your best friend be able to give you detailed advice without hurting your feelings? Probably not.

In the past, beta readers were simply avid readers who performed the task of offering free opinions in exchange for the pleasure of reading your book. Recently, however, some “professional” beta readers have begun charging a small fee. While it may be easier to find a paid beta reader than a free one, I caution you to find out beforehand exactly what you are paying for. In other words, what type of advice will you receive, and what experience does the paid beta reader have that allows him or her to provide “professional” feedback? If you’re paying for a service, you deserve to get what you paid for.

There is a Beta Reader Group on Goodreads, where you can ask for beta readers for your novel. The link is http://www.goodreads.com/group/show/50920-beta-reader-group. Also, Small Blue Dog Publishing has produced a series of articles on how to find beta readers and what to expect from them, answering questions like:

  • What makes a good beta reader?

  • How to find a beta reader

  • Is my book ready for beta readers yet?

  • Why you shouldn’t ask beta readers to do copy editing

  • Briefing a Beta Reader: The Approach

  • Briefing a Beta Reader: Practical Details

  • The brutal truth about beta readers

If you’re interested in—and serious about—using beta readers, you’ll want to read all of these excellent articles, listed on this page: http://www.smallbluedog.com/category/beta-readers.

We’re Dun for today, so keep on Writin’!

Susan

Susan Uttendorfsky

Owner, Adirondack Editing

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28 thoughts on “Dun Writin’—Now Whut? – 44 Using Beta Readers (A series by Susan Uttendorfsky – Owner of Adirondack Editing)

  1. Thank you. The links were very useful, both for being a beta reader AND for asking for a beta reader. I always worry I’m too analytical and I’m too easily distracted by copy editing. Good reminders all around!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Thanks for sharing this! I’ve often used beta readers but not very formally and often wondered if there was more to it, like how to get good ones, how to evaluate responses and how to weigh them.

    Liked by 2 people

      • Friends and family, especially my husband who always finds things that others don’t. He concentrates on content while others see typing or missed words. I don’t feel right about just accepting others’ word on my work I read it over and over and see different things each time. I know we always miss something because no one is perfect but I try my darndest to do the best I can on every manuscript I work on. Thanks for all your wonderful insight. You really know your stuff. I have learned a lot from you, Susan!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Reblogged this on Michaelphelps1's Blog and commented:
    Yesterday, I received a request to be a ‘Beta Reader’ . . . the Author offered to pay me $100 . . . I had to respond; 1. I honestly do not know what a ‘Beta Reader’ IS and 2. I’m too busy.
    Well, this morning, THANKS to Editor SUSAN UTTENDORFSKY and THE STORY READING APE (CHRIS GRAHAM( . . . I KNOW WHAT A BETA READER IS! See, I am living proof, one is never too old to learn! ENJOY!

    Liked by 2 people

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