Writing Tips

Beta Readers: Who are they? What should they do?

In one of my previous posts titled “So You’ve Finished Writing Your Book… Now What?,” I brought up the idea of Beta-Readers. I’m sure many of you are familiar with these lovely entities, but for those of you who are not, let me answer a few pressing questions in today’s post.

  • What are Beta Readers?
  • Who are Beta Readers?
  • What should Beta Readers do?
  • What types of questions should you ask Beta Readers?
  • Should you pay Beta Readers?

WHAT are Beta Readers?

In general, a Beta Reader is test reader of your finished (but unpublished) manuscript.

WHO are Beta Readers?

Beta Readers can be friends, family members, members from your writing community, or others. Typically, you want to find a beta reader who you are familiar enough with that you trust them with your manuscript and to be kind in their response, but also someone who you know is honest enough to give you real feedback. In other word, if your mom is going to tell you that everything is great (even when it is not), you probably need to find a different Beta Reader.

For me, one of my chosen Beta Readers was my cousin who is right smack dab in the middle of my target audience who is also an avid reader. These elements, plus her honesty, make her an ideal candidate for giving intial feedback based on story alone which lead into . . .

WHAT should Beta Readers do?

A Beta Reader is meant to provide feedback on an unpublished manuscript so that you can improve it before sending it out to agents (or self-publishing). Therefore, Beta Readers will read and give a report on your book. It is important that YOU give clear instructions on what you are looking for. Besides wanting just general “did you like it” feedback, you should give your Beta Reader parameters for when you would like your book back and what exactly you want feedback on.

What type of QUESTIONS should you ask Beta Readers?

You can find dozens upon dozens of articles and posts that include questions to ask your Beta Readers, but I suggest you find the top ten questions that fit your book best. If you give your Beta Reader too many questions they may get overwhelmed and give you shorter answers. If you give them too few questions, you may not get the feedback that you are looking for. Here are my top ten questions:

  • Do the first 10 pages make you want to keep reading? If not, what is the problem?
  • Do you find yourself skipping pages?
  • Are you confused at any point in the story?
  • Do you know who the main characters are and what motivates them?
  • Was any part of the story too fast or too slow?
  • What did you think of the different main characters? How did you relate to them?
  • What did you think of the dialogue? (Was It Believable)?
  • What did you think of the ending? (Is It Satisfying)?
  • Would you want to read the next book in this series?
  • Overall, did you enjoy the story?

Should you PAY Beta Readers?

Typically, Beta Readers are not paid (especially if they are your close friends, writing companions, family, etc.) However, it is always a nice gesture to send them a thank you card or when your book does get published, send them a signed hard-copy as a thank you!

Have you ever used a Beta Reader? Have you ever been a Beta Reader? How do you typically find your Beta Readers? Let me know in the comments below!

Happy Writing Everyone!


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