Completing the written portion of your book is not the “end” of your publishing journey, not even after you wrap-up your self-edits. If you want to produce a well-polished manuscript, then the next step is to pass your content off to a beta reader – a person who reads manuscripts and provides honest feedback.
Beta readers do not exist to stroke your ego or even encourage you in your writing efforts. Their primary goal is to closely scrutinize your manuscript and ensure that it is ready for public consumption. As an author, you need to know how your readers will perceive your book. Beta readers essentially provide authors access to the minds of the target audience for whom they are writing. They help you identify problems within your manuscript so you can make all necessary adjustments before self-publishing or querying literary agents.
6 Qualities of a Good Beta Reader
It’s not easy to find a good beta reader, but it is possible. When you first begin your search for the “ideal” beta reader, ChatEbooks advises you to keep an eye out for the following characteristics:
You need beta readers who are honest. For this reason, authors are discouraged from using friends and family members as beta readers. You cannot afford to trust your book to the hands of someone whose opinions might be biased by their fears of hurting your feelings. The best beta readers are honest, brutally so if necessary. While their objective isn’t to put you down, they should not be afraid to unequivocally point out all the faults in your manuscript.
You need to find beta readers that fall within your target audience, in terms of age, gender, interests, etc. It makes little sense to write a novel for teen girls only to use an older gentleman as your beta reader. Naturally, the older gentleman’s intrinsic preferences will bias his opinions of a book whose genre he cannot begin to understand.
Of course, finding a beta reader that falls within your target audience first requires you to determine who your target audience is. Figure out the characteristics you expect your target readers to have and look for those attributes in your beta readers, especially with regards to factors like age and gender.
The best beta readers that you choose should have some experience with writing. They don’t have to be published. Rather, they must have enough experience as writers to professionally critique your manuscript. Anyone can give an opinion on written content. What you need is the kind of constructive criticism that can only come from fellow writers.
Good beta readers should also be regular readers. The more regular their reading habit, the more they have to offer. In other words, people that read books on a regular basis know what good books look like. So before hiring a beta reader, find out how regularly they read. Also take note of the types of books they read. It’s best to find beta readers that read books within the same genre as your manuscript.
When you hire a beta reader to read your manuscript, you must be able to trust them to read it from cover to cover. More importantly, they must observe deadlines. You are relying on their feedback in order to make the necessary changes to your manuscript. Therefore it helps if the beta reader of your choice always returns your manuscript (fully read) within the time you allot them.
Beta readers need great memories. They must have the mental acuity to notice the smallest story slip-ups and mistakes. They must also remember enough of your manuscript to accurately debate with you on some of your storytelling choices. However, more than just a great memory, you need to find a beta reader that is detail-oriented.
While it is true that you can write and publish a novel without the involvement of a beta reader, it is not advisable. Beta readers are the filters standing at the gate between you and your publisher. They exist to ensure that your manuscript meets the highest standards and expectations that your readers expect.