While writing the ending to your novel might just be one of the greatest feelings in the world, your work is far from done. On top of revisions and edits, you still need one more thing—beta readers.
Beta readers play an integral role in the book writing and publishing business. These readers are usually just as passionate about literature and enjoy their role in the overall process.
A beta reader is someone who will read your book and provide honest feedback. You’ve already spent weeks or even years fine tuning your novel, which unfortunately means you might be a little too close to the work to clearly identify things like plot holes or inconsistencies.
Beta readers get a look at your novel with fresh eyes and can more easily identify what is and what isn’t working. Ideally, you’ll want to have more than one beta reader. Three to five readers is a good sweet spot to aim for, especially if you are still early on in your writing career.
Unless you expect her to read critically with an unbiased eye, choosing your mom as a beta reader probably isn’t the best idea. Instead, look for readers who are:
- Not close enough to you to immediately guess the meaning of your work
- Willing to be honest
- Able to read critically
After reading this list you may already have a friend or acquaintance in mind. However, chances are you will have to cast a wider net to find your perfect group of beta readers. See if anyone in your writing group is willing to swap beta reading or if someone in your social media circle wants to step into the role.
You need to specify exactly what kind of feedback you are looking for. Try creating a separate document to help your beta readers understand what they should have in mind while reading. Here are a few examples of what to ask your beta readers to look for:
- Confusing story elements
- Scenes or sections that feel unnecessary
- Underdeveloped story lines
- Story pacing
It doesn’t have to all be negative either. You should also ask your beta readers to take note of what they liked or felt worked especially well.
Whatever you like! Of course you’ll want to make good use of that feedback and incorporate it into your book. Before you can do that though you’ll need to distinguish the good feedback from the bad. In the end it’s your book, and you should be happy with the end result.
Having beta readers also means getting comfortable with receiving constructive criticism. Don’t disregard critiques because it’s uncomfortable! Instead, embrace the opportunity to hone your craft and become a better writer.
Even though the idea of handing your book over to someone else might seem scary at first, it is virtually essential. Publishers prefer to take on books that are already well written and that do not need too much work to take to market. So get out there and find your perfect group of beta readers!