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Why Do Writers Need Beta Readers?


Beta Readers

Copyright 2015 Joan Y. Edwards

“Why Do Writers Need Beta Readers?” by Joan Y. Edwards

What is a beta reader?

A beta reader reads your book before it’s published. They aren’t editors or proofreaders, but they can do this, if you ask. Some Beta Readers are free; others charge for their services.

A beta reader reads the entire manuscript and give you invaluable feedback as a reader, not as a writer. A beta reader gives his opinion about plot, characterisation, believability, and other essential elements of a good story.

How many beta readers do you need for one book?

I suggest that you use one to three BETA readers for your manuscript.

What are the qualities of a good beta reader?

A good beta reader:

  1. Has read 50-100 books in your genre.
  2. Knows good grammar and spelling.
  3. Meets deadlines.
  4. Writes good sentences so you understand what they’re saying, what they mean
  5. Writes notes in the manuscript about his thoughts, questions, and concerns as he reads.
  6. Answers your questions about intriguing beginning and satisfying endings, character arcs, plot, inner and outer conflicts, pacing, believability, surprise elements, dialogue suitable for characters, situation, setting, and other essential elements of a best-selling book.

Where can you find beta Readers?

  1. Ask someone in your critique group.
  2. Request a Beta Reader on your Facebook page, blog, Twitter, or Tumbler page.
  3.  Join and post a thread asking for a Beta Reader in the forums for GoodReadsAbsolute-Write ForumMy Writers Circle, or Query Tracker Forum, or other writing groups online.

What information does a beta reader need?

Write questions for your beta reader and give them to him before he begins reading your manuscript. This helps him focus on the information you need from his beneficial read.

  1. Do you know what main character wants?
  2. What kept the main character from getting what he wanted?
  3. What was he willing to do to get it?
  4. Does he get what he wants? How?
  5. What are the mistakes that the main character makes?
  6. What are his flaws? (He’s gotta have flaws.)
  7. What is the lowest point in the story where the main character’s about to give up?
  8. Did the main character change? How?
  9. What does the main character learn about life from his experiences in this story?
  10. Do you know what each main character wants?
  11. Does each main character a distinct voice of his own?
  12. Can you tell when a different character is talking?
  13. What do you want to know that the writer isn’t telling you?
  14. Does it make sense? If not, note in the manuscript which parts that don’t make sense.
  15. Does the main character face his conflict or run away?
  16. Does the main character save himself by human means or is he saved with unbelievable circumstances that seems like magic?
  17. Did you mark where writer needs to show, don’t tell.
  18. What are three main errors main punctuation and grammar errors for the author to correct?
  19. Point out any pet words that the author uses over and over again? A thesaurus might have other words to use in place of them.
  20. What are three Blue Ribbon passages? Blue Ribbon passages are ones you consider to be the author’s best writing.
  21. Write the questions down within the text that come to mind as you read the story .
  22. After reading the story, can you write a short (25-100 word) summary? Do so. If not, tell the parts you can and explain the parts of the story that are missing.

The questions for your story may differ but these questions will help you brainstorm the best questions for your manuscript. GoodReads members supplied many great questions for beta readers in Questions to Assist Beta Readers. Dr. Bob Rich also provides other good questions in his post: What Does a Beta Reader Do?

Resources

Belinda Pollard. “How to Find a Beta Reader:” http://www.smallbluedog.com/how-to-find-a-beta-reader.html

Belinda Pollard. “What makes a good beta reader?”http://www.smallbluedog.com/what-makes-a-good-beta-reader.html

Bob Rich. PhD. “What Does a Beta Reader Do?”
https://bobrich18.wordpress.com/2015/11/01/bobbing-around-volume-15-number-5/#beta

Chuck Sambuchiano. “Seek Quality in Your Beta Readers, Not Quantity:”
http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/guide-to-literary-agents/peer-reviews-seek-quality-in-your-beta-readers-not-quantity

“5 Things You Should Know about Working with Beta Readers:”
http://www.thebookdesigner.com/2014/03/5-things-you-should-know-about-working-with-beta-readers/ 

Jae. “15 ways to find a beta reader or critique partner:”
https://jaefiction.wordpress.com/2012/07/20/15-ways-to-find-a-beta-reader-or-critique-partner/ 

Joan Y. Edwards. “Guide for a Good Manuscript Critique:” https://joanyedwards.wordpress.com/2012/08/18/guide-for-a-good-manuscript-critique/

K. M. Weiland. “A Quick Guide to Beta Reader Etiquette:” http://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com/beta-reader-etiquette/

Michael La Ronn. “How to Find Beta Readers:” http://www.selfpublishingadvice.org/writing-how-to-find-beta-readers/ 

Stephanie Burkhart “Using a BETA Reader:” http://4rvreading-writingnewsletter.blogspot.com/2015/09/using-beta-reader.html

Thank you for reading my blog post about beta readers. To leave a comment or question, click here.

You’re awesome!
Never Give Up
Joan Y. Edwards
Copyright © 2015 Joan Y. Edwards

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18 Responses

  1. Hi Joan,
    As it happens, I’ve also given a job spec for beta readers at
    https://bobrich18.wordpress.com/2015/11/01/bobbing-around-volume-15-number-5/#beta
    I think your post and mine complement each other.
    🙂
    Bob

    Liked by 1 person

    • Unbelievable …can’t wait to try it! Thank you Joan for the info.
      Mimi

      Like

      • Dear Mimi,
        Thanks for writing. I’m glad that you liked the information about beta readers. Beta readers give us invaluable information.

        Enjoy being you.
        Never Give Up
        Joan

        Like

    • Dear Dr. Bob,
      Thanks for writing.
      Wow! That’s really neat that both of us wrote about Beta Readers. I’ll add your post as a reference in mine.

      Enjoy being you!
      Never Give Up
      Joan

      Like

  2. Joan,
    When I critique for someone, I appreciate being asked to focus on certain things. I’m sure Beta readers must too. Beta readers are awesome! Great post!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Dear Linda,
      Thanks for writing. You’re right, it helps to have questions to help you focus as you read because it enables your input to be more valuable.

      Enjoy being you.
      Never Give Up
      Joan

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Reblogged this on WriteitLOVE and commented:

    A big thank you, Joan Y. Edwards for her recent blog post. She always has something inspiring and educational to say. I’m not quite ready for a beta reader yet, but the information is paramount for my success..

    Like

    • Dear Tina,
      Thank you for writing. I’m very honored that you thought my post about beta readers was so helpful that you reblogged it. Wow! That’s awesome. Thank you very much.

      Enjoy being you.
      Never Give Up
      Joan

      Like

  4. Joan, I absolutely love this post! Your listed questions are just what I will use when I have friends critique my book. Finding a local beta reader is a problem for me though. Most of the writers I know don’t write for children, nor do they like science fiction, which my book is. I never thought children’s literature was a genre until I finished my second novel.

    Like

    • Dear Juli,
      Thank you for writing! It is so good to hear from you! You aren’t necessarily looking for writers. You are looking for people who read the genres that you have written. You might be able to talk a librarian to be a Beta reader for you.

      Good luck in all your steps to publication.
      Never Give Up
      Joan

      Like

  5. Joan, thank you for this very informative post. 🙂

    Like

    • Dear Tracy,
      Thank you for writing. You’re very welcome. I became interested in Beta Readers about 3 years ago. I had never heard of them before that time. I have one Beta Reader. I need to find one for each genre I write.

      Don’t you think you could use “Beta viewers” for illustrations? I may have invented a new term.

      Never Give Up
      Joan

      Like

      • You may have come up with a brilliant idea–beta readers for art. 👍

        Liked by 1 person

        • Dear Tracy,
          Thanks for writing! I think “Beta Art Viewers for artists and illustrators would be awesome! Perhaps I’ll do a post on that in the New Year!

          Celebrate you and your fun illustrations! Linda Andersen said you are working on a coloring book for adults! I think that’s awesome. They are selling like hot cakes now.

          Love you and your positive energy!

          Never Give Up
          Joan

          Like

          • Joan, love the title you attributed–“Beta Art Viewers for artists and illustrators”. A post would be wonderful. Linda’s correct, I am working on a couple of coloring books. Your positive energy is contagious too. 🙂

            Liked by 1 person

            • Dear Tracy,
              Thanks for writing. I’m glad you liked the title “Beta Art Viewers fro artists and illustrators.” Good luck with your coloring books. Our positive energy is good for each other.

              Celebrate you!
              Never Give Up
              Joan

              Like

  6. Seven Days to Goodbye won’t be where it is today without my beta readers. Not only do they help brainstorm, but they find the weak areas and redirect me, and give plenty of moral support.

    Like

    • Dear Sheri,
      Thanks for writing. I’m glad that your Beta Readers helped you brainstorm and redirected your writing to strengthen the weak areas and give you plenty of moral support! What a gift!

      Celebrate you and your Beta Readers!
      Never Give Up
      Joan

      Like

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