What is a beta reader?
No matter if you have just finished your story or if you are stuck on a particular part, it always helps to have a fresh pair of eyes look at your work and offer constructive feedback. Soliciting the help of a beta reader may be the best thing you will ever do for your story.
Beta readers are something like non-professional book doctors. They may not be formally qualified editors, but they are avid readers with a knowledge of and a knack for book anatomy. Some of them are particularly skilled in a specific genre, while others get involved because they are writers themselves and they understand the challenges of putting a story together.
A beta reader is more than a reviewer. A review is often a final assessment or opinion about a piece of writing, whereas a beta reader’s relationship with a writer and his/her work is ongoing. Some beta readers choose to comment on all aspects of a work, such as plot and pace, narrative voice, structure, characterisation, style and clarity, themes/genre and language. While others choose to focus on the problematic parts of a particular story.
Do I need a beta reader?
When we asked Ryan Attard, Inkitt’s author of Sci-fi sensation The Esper Files about what he looks for in his beta-readers, he emphasized the importance of being real, “Honesty. Kind of a no-brainer, but they need to be unafraid to break your heart. Again, this is not a problem for my list — and I love them for it. (It’s a strange relationship, this one)”
When sourcing a beta reader, it is important to get their attention when pitching your work to them and remember that they are investing their own time into helping you, so you need to make the process as enjoyable for them as possible – so give them your best draft! Ryan Attard also spoke about the importance of planning, “Write a book. Edit the book. Perfect the book (may take a few years — do it anyway). Hit Publish with a plan.”
What should I expect from a beta reader?
It is up to you and your beta reader to decide what form your communication will take: email, calls, Skype or anything that suits! It is also up to you and your beta reader to decide upon what you want to get from one another. Ask yourself the following questions:
1. How involved do I want my beta reader to become?
2. How often do I want to communicate with my beta reader?
3. Which aspects of my work do I want my beta reader to focus on?
4. What result/outcomes do I want to achieve?
Check out our beta readers group here if you are interested in pitching some of your work or if you would like to beta read someone else’s.