What is a Beta Reader—and why should an author have one (preferably several)?
A beta reader is an individual who reads an author’s manuscript before it is sent to an editor and provides the author with unbiased, helpful advice. A beta reader will read an author’s manuscript from a reader’s perspective and offer constructive criticism focusing on the flow and/or pace of the story, characterization, dialogue, and potential plot holes. Authors can miss things or be too hard or too easy on themselves. Using beta readers can help ensure an author hasn’t overlooked something vital in their novel.
A “good” beta reader will:
- Provide in-depth feedback and detailed explanations about potential issues with characters, dialogue, timeline, flow/pacing, plot, etc.
- Provide feedback in a constructive, unbiased fashion
- Balance positives and negatives
- Pay attention to particular aspects of the manuscript the author has expressed concerns about
- Offer ideas and/or suggestions about ways to eliminate any issues and/or improve the story
- Work within the given time frame the author has requested or give a reasonable estimate of how long it will take the beta reader to read the manuscript and provide the author with feedback
Authors and beta readers may find it helpful if the author provides beta readers with a list (or questionnaire) about what the author wants the beta readers to look for and the type of feedback the author would like.