All About Beta Readers

Sometimes you need an extra set of eyes
looking critically at your story. Even the best writers can become
blind to their own flaws, especially if they have been closely
working on a story for a lengthy amount of time. Beta readers are a
cost-effective, efficient way to get an honest assessment of your
story that can be a valuable resource.

Where to find them

There are a lot of great resources available to help you land beta readers. I personally got mine from Facebook. There are groups dedicated to beta reading that I am a part of (like this one). There are also groups for fans of specific genres where you can find beta readers if you ask real nicely.

In addition to that, I did some digging and found a few other great links where you can find beta readers. Check these out.

How to secure them

The best way to land a beta reader is to personally contact one and establish a rapport. Try to find out what types of stories they enjoy, and see if they would be interested in giving yours a try. You also might want to ask whether they would be open to reading your entire sorry, or if they only want the first few chapters.

If you have time to do some beta reading yourself, you can offer to exchange stories. There are a lot of writers that are also avid readers, and sometimes the best critiques you can get are from someone that also has experience with the craft of storytelling.

What to ask a beta reader for

When dealing with a Beta reader, keep in mind that this is a prime opportunity to troubleshoot any questionable issues in your story. If you have any parts of your narrative, plot, setting, character development, believability, or any other issue you are unsure about, this is a great opportunity to get that addressed. Ask your reader to focus on specific aspects that you need some opinions about.

When you don’t get any timely feedback

This is actually something I struggle with often. Beta readers are people, too, and they have lives and agendas that can take priority over reading your story and giving feedback. Or maybe they’re afraid of hurting your feelings if they don’t like your story. Either way, you have to be realistic in your expectations of when you get your feedback from your readers. That being said, it couldn’t hurt to check in with your beta reader every now and then to see if there has been any update on their critiques. Just don’t be a pest about it.

Are beta readers truly necessary?

Many of the top writers in the industry and some of the writers I have interviewed don’t use beta readers at all. They simply rely on their instincts and experience, and maybe their publisher’s content editor to help refine their stories. Personally, I think that is only a wise option for established writers that have the credentials of being successful authors. This is for guys that have sold books and lots of them. For the rest of us, I think it is a wiser option to find someone to look your story over and find flaws we may have missed.

Don’t take criticism personally

This is the most important part of getting critique: expect to get stuff said to you that you don’t want to hear. It’s part of the process. Don’t be so in love with your own writing that people can’t point out flaws. And those flaws may come in unexpected areas of your stories. Getting defensive when someone is doing YOU a favor in taking time to read your story and point out ways you can make it better defeats the purpose. Even when the reader comes off in a negative way, you can still gleam things from even a totally negative critique that you can use. Be courteous and thank them for taking the time to read your story and tell you what they think.

If you can get good beta readers, they
will be a vital resource for helping you tell the absolute best story
you can tell. Check out the links I provided and see if you can land
one for your work.

Storyteller and published author of 4 novels.