What’s the Deal With Beta Readers?

As I get closer to finishing this draft of my novel (draft #5, for those keeping count), my focus has shifted toward beta readers. I’ve mentioned them a few times and lots of people I’ve talked to aren’t sure what they are or what they do. So I’m going to answer some of the common questions I’ve gotten.

What is a beta reader?

A beta reader is someone who reads and offers feedback on a finished work before it’s released to an audience, usually even before the author sends it out to an agent or publisher.

Photo by Sincerely Media on Unsplash

What, exactly, does a beta reader do?

That depends on the author. Usually, a writer will ask beta readers to offer feedback on a larger scale, like story elements, inconsistencies, and pure entertainment value. Some authors will ask beta readers to edit on a smaller scale (or at least make note of things like spelling, etc.). My plan is to ask my beta readers to read for any glaring inconsistencies or problems and simply tell me what they enjoyed or didn’t enjoy. And since it’s a fantasy novel, it’s also important for me to get feedback on world building. Fresh eyes will tell me where I need more or less.

How many beta readers do you have?

Again, this depends (as most of the answers will) on the writer in question. Some good advice I once heard, though, is to have an odd number of readers. That way, if there’s disagreement about something, there will always be a majority.

How do you find your beta readers?

I put a lot of thought into approaching beta readers. Currently, my pool includes a friend/writing buddy I’ve known since middle school and who knows my writing better than anyone, a friend who reads a lot but not in this genre, a friend who reads a lot in this genre, and a friend in my target audience who reads a lot in this genre. And possibly another author friend to give me an even (or rather, odd) 5 readers.

Can I be a beta reader for you?

As honored as I am by this question, if I said yes to everyone who asked, there’d be no point to publishing. I want to keep the number of beta readers rather small and have already approached most of the people who will beta read for me.

Do you have any other burning questions about beta readers? Let me know in the comments!

Until next time, word nerds!

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