Monday, April 1, 2013

Finding Your Beta-Reader

“The greatest gift is a passion for reading. It is cheap, it consoles, it distracts, it excites, it gives you knowledge of the world and experience of a wide kind. 
It is a moral illumination.” 
- Elizabeth Hardwick
Do you have a beta-reader? Are they an author, a friend, or a member of your family? Are they comfortable being honest with you? Are you able to accept constructive advice from your beta-reader without taking offense? 

A great article was published on Writer's Digest about how to find a beta reader -"Seek Quality in your Beta Readers, Not Quantity."

I happen to believe that the more critical the beta reader, the better the results. I don't believe friends make the best beta readers--very few friends are willing to risk "hurting" your feelings if they don't like the book, and believe me, you want honesty, not false praise.

Who makes the best beta reader? In this author's opinion, a good beta reader . . . 
  • Is skilled enough to know what they're doing. They know enough about grammar to pick out glaring errors (leave the detailed work to your editor). They know enough about plot and prose to point out plot gaps and know to ask the right questions--you want them to get you thinking, not just mark up your manuscript with red ink.
  • If your beta reader is an author, They don't say, "Well, this is how I would write it . . ." or "If I was telling this story, I would do this . . ."  They should approach the book as a reader (with a few extra skills), not as an author or editor (you have an editor, or should).
  • They enjoy reading your genre. If you ask an author friend for a favor, but they prefer reading paranormal thrillers and you write romance, they may not be the best choice. 
  • They're not afraid to be honest with you. A good beta reader is like a good editor. They don't come out and tell you "This chapter is horrible, just delete it. It adds nothing to the story." Instead they may say something like, "This chapter doesn't seem to fit with the rest of the story. What was your goal? Did you add it for a reason? Perhaps these scenes could be broken up and inserted in more suitable chapters."
  • One or two excellent beta readers are worth more than nine or ten friends reading your book who are unable to offer quality feedback. If you're looking for a great review, wait until the book is complete.
What do you look for in a beta reader? Do you use beta readers? 

1 comment:

  1. So far my beta readers have been friends and family, but I'm lucky enough that they aren't afraid to be completely honest with me. When they finish with the manuscript they tell me about things they liked, disliked, things that were worded in a confusing way, and any grammar errors they were able to pick up. It helps me out a lot so I can make any changes before I send the first draft over to my editor.