Beta Readers: Who They Are, What They Offer, and Where to Find Them
As someone new to the writing industry, you may be a little confused about what beta readers are and how they can help improve your work.
So, let me introduce the concept to you.
Like in the software industry, you have programmers releasing beta versions to select groups who test it for kinks; the publishing industry follows the same concept. Beta readers are a group of people who read the book beforehand, before release and are the test group for most novels.
It is this group that decides whether it will be a success or not before it is published. Using their reactions as a guide, the publishing company re-edits the work, or the author does so themselves. As a result, not only do you get a well-polished book, you get your crew who helps make your work better.
Who Are Beta Readers?
Anyone who is a casual reader and who will be able to point out the things that they liked or disliked objectively is a beta reader. Opposite of an alpha reader who is the first person to read your book when it is in its early drafts, beta readers provide criticism from multiple points of view, paying attention to the craft and any storyline issues that may create problems further on.
Types of Beta Readers
Beta readers could be your friends or family. But you can also hire a professional beta reader to check your work.
Authors also use fact-checkers, especially during the final revision stages. These fact-checkers read the books to make sure the details are accurate in keeping with the culture or time.
Next are sensitivity readers. These types of readers help in making the book more appealing to the masses, especially if the book is on something controversial.
What to Know About Beta Readers
Beta readers do help in getting the basics right, but do not think they will be able to replace a professional editor. While beta readers do offer a form of quality control, it is the editor in the final run that goes through the book, searching for plot holes, character developments or lack thereof, grammatical errors, typos, and more.
Nevertheless, if you have a few beta readers at hand (especially if you are self-publishing), it helps to have about 5–7 beta readers with you. But be warned. The analogy ‘too many cooks spoil the broth’ can apply here. So, if it is a big book or a series, having a group of 10–12 beta readers will work perfectly. But any more than that, and you will have too many opinions to sort through!
Paying Beta Readers
Typically, beta readers ask for the book in question for free for their services, so it comes in handy if you are strapped for cash. Otherwise, if you are hiring professional beta readers, they may ask for a minimum amount.
Working with Beta Readers
As the author of trilogy and a series of fantasy and fiction books, The Black Shade of White, here is my takeaway: find people who read books from your chosen genre but make sure they have not read a book like yours; otherwise, they will compare them both. When asking for feedback, be polite, and ask them for feedback in a few weeks. If they are doing this out of the goodness of their heart, they will feel happier knowing that you are giving them enough time.
Also, be open to their feedback. Talk to them about different aspects of your work then determine if you can use their suggestions. And note down what you need for future work. It will make things much more manageable.
Finally, even before talking to beta readers, become your alpha reader. Read your book with new eyes, and be ruthless about editing. This will help you find your faults and improve your work even further!