Today we're going to discuss beta reading. (As you could probably tell from the title lol) This process typically happens during the editing process and before an author's book is published. Is this process worth it? I think so. It allows a fresh pair of eyes to look at your manuscript and give their opinion before your manuscript goes out into the world.
Personally, I am still in the middle of writing my debut novel, and focusing on another WIP, so I am nowhere near searching for beta readers. However, I have beta read a couple of novels and am currently in the middle of beta reading two more so this blog post will rely heavily on my own personal experiences and research.
A beta reader is a reader who agrees to read through an author's work. This is usually fiction but may include non-fiction work as well. The purpose of a beta reader is to objectively critique your book. As an author you want to find beta readers that are most likely to read your chosen genre so they can give you a sense of how well your book may be received once published. They can catch things big and small, such as typos, plot holes, or other inconsistencies. As they read your novel, they'll give you their general impressions of the story and the characters you develop over time.
Even if you aren't considering using beta readers, or prefer to just rely on an editor, keep in mind that as writers, we already know what we are trying to say, but certain points may not be clear to our readers. We may leave out vital explanations in our novels without realizing it. The goal of a beta reader is to find those things you've overlooked before your novel is published.
As an author, before looking for beta readers you want to decide what type of feedback your novel needs. For instance, some of the author's I've beta read for have wanted me to focus less on grammar and more on plot. Others have preferred for me to focus on both grammar and overall readability.
It is also important for an author to know a potential beta's typical turnaround time. Personally, I try to always be quick with my feedback, preferring to push other things aside when a new email pops in my inbox from an author, but we all have hectic personal lives. Some betas may take up to a week to provide feedback on a single chapter.
Interested in becoming a beta? Looking for a beta? The internet is your best friend! Reach out on various social media platforms. Some, like Goodreads and Facebook have groups dedicated to these pursuits. Twitter and Instagram have hashtags you can use as well.
How does the process work? It varies! Some authors send me one to three chapters at a time with specific questions at the end of each chapter. Others send me their entire novel and I make notes as I go along. I personally feel that having the author leave specific questions at the end of each chapter is more helpful. Questions can include: What is your overall opinion of this chapter? Was there anything included that you felt wasn't necessary? How did this scene make you feel? What is your overall opinion of the character development of <insert character's name here>?
How do authors receive this feedback? Some of my authors use Google Forms. Others rely on a Word questionnaire or ask for general feedback through email. Regardless of how feedback is expressed, I think it’s important for authors and betas alike to realize that feedback can be brutally honest but should at no point be harsh or outright mean. Authors are always free to cut loose betas that they don't mesh well together with and betas should realize that an author does not have to accept their suggestions. It is the author's novel after all.
Overall, I think utilizing a beta reader for your novel is an excellent way to further enhance it. Who knows? Utilizing one may lead to lifelong friendships and your novel's first fan.
After reading this blog post how do you feel about beta reading? Have you beta read for authors in the past? As an author, have you enlisted a beta in the past? If you have any other comments or suggestions feel free to leave them down below.