Beta readers are those people you know (or in some cases pay) who are willing to read through your book and give you honest feedback. As a writer myself, I know it is very difficult to be objective about my own work. Writers often cannot see the forest for the trees. beta readers can help you see the forest more clearly.
I find there are two places in the writing process where beta readers can be the most useful.
- Once you have written the book, done all your own edits and spell checks, and are nearly ready to submit it to a publisher. This is a great time to have a beta reader or two read through the manuscript before you send it in. They can help you identify holes in the plot, shifts in POV that may be confusing, tense shifts, pacing problems, continuity issues (i.e. the bedroom doorway was on the right and now it’s on the left.), and can generally tell you if you hit the target, or at least came close.
- The second-best opportunity for beta readers is the proof stage. This means that the book is laid out in book form, all of the edits are in (from all editors) and after you okay it, it goes into print. When the book is laid out in this format, it is easier to spot errors, missing commas, quotation marks or dropping an “s” making “she” a “he” (this happens). Sometimes, other continuity errors pop up that were missed. Believe it or not, there are few books that have no errors whatsoever. Even with 10 rounds of edits, which if you count all your edits. a book often has been through, still, things can slip through. So, take an extra week, choose your best, fastest beta reader and let them review it one final time with fresh eyes. Final beta reader(s) should be new, meaning they have not read the manuscript before.
Scan your group of family and friends for those who are willing and have the time to provide this service. If you have no one, it might be a good idea to expand the search to acquaintances. Some writers prefer to pay for the service, needing and expecting more objective feedback. Some feel too vulnerable for that. Find what works for you, but it is ALWAYS a good idea to have fresh eyes help you make your books better. In some cases, it could be the difference between getting published or not.
To all those beta readers out there, on behalf of all us writers, THANK YOU!