How to Choose Beta Readers and Why You Need Them - article

Before you publish your book or submit your manuscript to an agent, use beta readers to receive feedback on your manuscript. As the author, it's easy to overlook errors or weak points in your story. By allowing beta readers to provide an outside perspective on your book, you can determine if your story successfully made the journey from your mind to the reader’s, or if some ideas were lost in translation. 

Using beta readers effectively, including knowing how to choose them, can help you publish the best version of your book.

"Everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion."

Quick Tips for Using Beta Readers

To maximize the benefits of using beta readers, follow these three tips:

1.     Work the numbers

Everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion. A large group of beta readers allows you to see similarities in readers' critiques and to consider feedback shared by multiple readers.

2.     Set expectations

You'll get the best feedback when you tell beta readers what you want. For example, ask readers to consider plot, pacing, dialogue, and overall tone. Additionally, provide a timeframe for completion of the critique.

3.     Wear armor

Receiving critiques of your book can be hard. It's your baby. You've labored over it for months or years. Just remember, reader feedback will improve your book.

"You can identify good candidates by their experience as writers or reviewers, as well as by their personality and temperament."

How to Choose Beta Readers

Choosing your group of beta readers is key to getting killer feedback. Look for these four qualities to get the best results.

1.     Honesty

A good beta reader must have the ability to provide honest feedback. This can be harder than it seems for people close to you. That's why it's best to look for readers outside your circle of family and friends. Your mother is going to have a hard time telling you your book is anything but perfect. Let her read it anyway, and enjoy the praise. But also seek beta readers who will be more objective. Find beta readers at writing conferences and workshops, writing classes, writing forums, and writer's groups, or use professional editors.

2.     Finesse

Delivering constructive criticism to someone takes finesse. A good beta reader has the ability to give feedback in a constructive way, thoughtfully choosing the right words in a delicate situation. You can identify good candidates by their experience as writers or reviewers, as well as by their personality and temperament. Finding a random person online isn't the best choice. Choose people you trust to be kind, yet truthful.

3.     Fit

One way to know you've found a great beta reader is if he or she fits your target audience. If you've written a thriller, find beta readers who would likely want to read your book once it's published. Don't choose someone who reads only nonfiction or romance novels, because chances are they won't like your book and won't provide useful feedback. Focus on improving your manuscript to fit the needs and wants of your target audience. 

4.     Knowledge

You want to use beta readers with trustworthy opinions. You want to know if what they say is legit. You'll be able to trust the feedback you receive from your beta readers if you choose readers who are knowledgeable in both the writing and reading of your book's genre. Find skilled writers and editors to read and select readers that understand what a successful book of your genre looks like.

"A good mix of editors, authors, and experienced reviewers ensures constructive feedback..."

Find the Right Mix

Not every beta reader needs to be an expert. However, a good mix of editors, authors, and experienced reviewers ensures constructive feedback which, in turn, allows you to strengthen your manuscript before publication. Knowing how to choose this initial group will greatly benefit your book in the long run.

Don’t forget to be grateful for your beta readers’ feedback, time, and effort. You never know, their feedback just might be what turns your good story into a great one.

Additionally, the Author Learning Center’s Author Circle tool provides the perfect platform for connecting with other writers and potential beta readers. Find more information here.

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  • Thank you!  I just found out about beta-readers.  I am actually now looking for beta-readers for my Christian historical fiction book for teens, set in World War II.  Message me if you would like to join my author circle to read it, please.

  • Well said.  I'm seeking Betas for a historical novel, early '60s, Kennedy era. Anyone want to give it a go?