Writing can be a solitary activity—especially when writing a book.
For months or even years, it can be just you and your characters, as you painstakingly work to craft a story. All on your own, you’re wrestling with ideas, themes, and plotlines, trying to get everything just right.
If you are writing non-fiction, then it may be mountains of research that you have been contending with.
And when you finally finish your book, thrilled that you have completed this difficult endeavor, you may be eager to send it off to potential publishers (or even to self-publish right away).
A common mistake authors make is not seeking outside opinions.
No matter how hard you have worked on your book, how many drafts you have done, or how meticulously you have worked on every little detail, there is no way to escape the fact that you are too close to the material to be an unbiased reader
Before you proceed to the publishing step, it is important that you get another set of eyes on the book to provide feedback.
What is a Beta Reader?
If you are wondering, what is a beta reader? stay tuned because this section is for you.
A beta reader is your first reader and is needed to offer a subjective response to reading your book.
The term has been borrowed from the computer world. “Beta testing” refers to a process of letting some users try out a program that hasn’t been finalized yet.
Your beta readers will perform the same function, getting a pre-publishing look at your book, and then provide you with feedback that you can use to help you make edits to the current draft of your book.
How to Find Beta Readers
You may now be convinced that you do require beta readers, but curious about how to find beta readers.
Start by looking among your friends and colleagues. They should be people who you trust, whose opinions you value, and who you think will be able to offer you constructive responses.
Friends who you know to be avid readers are a good bet. People who you have previously heard give thoughtful and detailed opinions about books, movies, art, or the like could be very helpful too.
If you are really at a loss for how to find beta readers, consider joining a writers’ group.
Through a site like MeetUp.com, you will find numerous groups where writers meet to share their work. There are also online writing groups where people share advice and give feedback on each other’s writing.
And how many beta readers do you need in total?
There is no magic number of readers that you should ask to read your book, but three to five might be a good amount.
Just one is not ideal because you need multiple people to get a comprehensive set of viewpoints.
On the other hand, you don’t want to ask too many people because then you could find yourself overwhelmed by the amount of feedback you receive.
5 Great Beta Reader Questions to Ask
Many of the questions you will want to ask your beta readers will be particular to your book, based on its style, subject, and genre. But here is a sampling of some of the most common beta reader questions that writers will likely want to ask.
- Did you find the story compelling?
- Were there any points in the narrative where you felt confused or unsure about what was happening and why?
- Did you find the characters interesting
- Which themes in the story resonated with you?
- Did you feel like you learned anything or were enriched in any special way as a result of reading the book?
Answers to these questions and others that you choose to ask your beta readers can provide you with some guidance for fixing gaps in your story, clarifying confusing passages, improving your characters, deepening your themes, and more.
What Happens Once the Beta Reading is Done?
Hopefully, you now feel confident that you know the answers to the questions ‘What is a beta reader?’ ‘Why do I need one?’ and ‘How many beta readers do you need?’ Once you have finished the process of beta reading and polishing up your manuscript, check out Gatekeeper Press to find out how to get your book published by the best!