Posted in Editing

Beta Readers: Who Are They And What Do They Do?

When it comes to writing a book, you may often hear the author searching for and requesting beta readers. This happens during or after the editing process and before the book is published.

A beta reader, also known as an alpha reader, is a reader who agrees to read through a written piece of work, usually fiction. This is to help the author make some last minute decisions with the book before publishing. Beta readers are like test readers to give the author a sense of how well their book may be received by the targeted audience.

So, what exactly do they do?

Beta Readers: Who Are They and What Do They Do?

What They Do

Beta readers can do a lot of things that include, but are not limited to:

  • Checking for spelling and grammar
  • Looking more in depth at the plot, continuity and other elements of the story
  • Give their overall general impressions of the story – what they liked and what they didn’t like
  • Help improve the story overall

You may be thinking to yourself, “This is very similar to an editor.” Well, yeah. I can agree with you on that.

Still, an editor is searching for mistakes. A beta reader is reading your novel as your audience would. They will give their honest opinion and feedback to you about the novel similar to a book review, but with added flare (slight editing).

Beta readers help give your story that extra boost before you hit the “publish” button for all the world to see that plot hole on page 151.

Why else do you need a beta reader?

Often when we write, we know what we’re trying to say. It’s all in our heads, but it may not come out on paper that way.

As a writer, you describe something and think that’s enough because you know what you’re talking about. But the readers sometimes won’t. Beta readers will catch that.

The Report

Beta readers will give you a “report” on your novel. It’s like a cross between a book review and a little editing. They’ll speak their honest opinion about what they liked and what they didn’t like. What there was too much of something in the story, what there was too little of in the story. They really break it down.

The best part? Everyone is entitled to their own opinion.

That means if you give the same manuscript to three different beta readers, chances are you’ll get three different results.

In the end, it’s your novel, so you decide which pieces of advice to us and which not to us. Still, look at it all and really think about it.

And, if all your beta readers agree that something in the book is not working, definitely take a look at that.

Is a beta reader worth it?

Yes. Yes, I think it is. It’s another pair of eyes looking at your manuscript and it’s your very first reader who maybe become a fan.

Beta readers’ opinions are so important. Take them with a grain of salt, but don’t ignore them.

Have you had beta readers before? What was your experience? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

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Author:

Born and raised in Massachusetts, Rachel Poli is a writer and blogger. She has an associate’s degree in Early Childhood Education and a bachelor’s degree in English Studies. She enjoys writing young adult novels, middle-grade, and children’s picture books. She is currently working on her first novel.

31 thoughts on “Beta Readers: Who Are They And What Do They Do?

  1. Rachel, since I opted out of the mainstream years ago, I now rely exclusively on beta readers to read and comment on my novels. I am blessed in that they are very intelligent readers and help me enormously. Thank for for an excellent post.

    1. That’s a good point. I know there are some people that rely on beta readers. I’m glad that there is such a community like beta readers. 🙂

  2. My novel isn’t ready for a beta reader yet, but I get plenty of critiques on my short stories, which is great. I’ve been a beta reader for novels several times, with both good and horrible outcomes. The one thing I learned from the horrible outcomes is to really discuss beforehand what type and level of feedback the person is looking for / willing to listen to, what time frame you’re both thinking about, and how much time they’ve allotted for revising based on your feedback.

      1. I just began a new beta read, and I was hesitant until I saw her “letter to beta readers” where she clearly outlined what she was expecting and hoping for, and explicitly asked for exactly the kind of deep feedback I like to give.

      2. Oh, that’s good. I always find it easier to read and edit if I have a set of questions or things to look out for. Otherwise I sometimes get lost in the story and forget I’m supposed to be giving feedback, lol.

  3. Great post! I have a beta reader for the novel I’m currently working on for publication and I love this outside feedback. I’m probably gonna ask another friend or two to be beta readers as well. I would like to assemble a couple beta readers who are and aren’t book lovers/writers to get the broadest set of opinions/feedback – I want this story to be the best it can be. Going off what you said, I agree that you the writer understand your story perfectly in your head but does that translate to something understandable on the page? – a beta reader is very good for clarification.

    1. That’s great! Yeah, you should definitely have a variety of beta readers. Everyone has a different opinion and different interpretation of things. 🙂

  4. I would love to know how and where to find beta readers. Are they friends, writing partners or someone you don’t know? This will be a huge step for me as I have never shown my writing to anyone, so I want to do it right. Thanks for this post 🙂

      1. But yeah, beta readers can be friends, writers, readers. Anyone who you’re willing to share your work with and trust enough to give you honest, constructive feedback. 🙂

  5. I’ve been a beta editor and copyeditor at different times for my blogging and real-life friends. I still feel like I should’ve made a career out of it. 😀 I honestly love beta reading. I make it a point to mention all the positives first and then go into the improvements part so that the author isn’t in for a rude shock. I agree that a new set of eyes can make a huge difference.
    One thing I wish authors would do is to give their manuscript to beta readers from the same community as the characters in the story are based on. For example, I’d have loved to be a beta reader for The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi because it is inspired by Indian folklore. Often I find that research can only get you so far, but someone from that community will be of immense help in correcting stereotypes and ensuring accurate representation.

    1. You should have made it a career! I’m sure it’d be fun, lol.
      Right, research can only go so far. You should look for someone who is more knowledgable than you are in a certain field. It makes a difference.

    1. They do non-fiction, too. It all depends on their preferences. But I meant they typically do creative writing rather than essays and such. But, like I said, it all depends on what the beta reader is willing to do. 🙂

    1. Hi Jesslyn! I have to be honest, I don’t really have an opinion on paid beta readers. When I was doing research for this post I came across the term and it was something that I never thought of. I always figured beta readers were friends and writers helping their fellow writers out. “Payment” would be a return beta read of their own manuscript. Beta readers can do similar things as editors do and you would pay editors.
      Of course, the more I think about it, if beta readers do similar work as editors, why not pay them? Still, I always thought betas were just friends helping friends (to the extreme, lol). But it also depends o the agreement of the author and beta reader, their relationship with one another, what the author is looking for, the deadline, etc.
      I hope that made sense and answered your question… I guess I did have an opinion on it after all. 🙂

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