Monday, 26 August 2013

7 Reasons Why Beta Readers Are A Great Help

As I find myself ear-deep in my xth editing round for my first novel, I keep stumbling upon reasons why beta readers are life- and sanity-savers. If you haven't had the help of betas yet, or maybe not even heard that they exist, here a short intro:

A beta reader is a person who reads a written work, generally fiction, with what has been described as "a critical eye, with the aim of improving grammar, spelling, characterization, and general style of a story prior to its release to the general public." - Wikipedia

What are the advantages of having beta readers?

1. Your beta readers don't expect a finished-for-print product from you.


They still go in with an eye towards improving your work, but with a different set of expectations compared to an editor.

2. Your beta readers can help make your manuscript editor-ready.

While betas might not always be able to fully erase the need for an editor (you might be lucky and have an editor as your beta), they can certainly help you get your novel ready for an editor's desk. Having betas to help you iron out plot inconsistencies, characterisation issues or mere grammar mistake will put your work in better shape to be picked up by an agent or editor.


3. Your beta readers can read with a focus on a certain aspect of your writing.

While an editor looks for the full package and has several things to tick off his list while skimming your manuscript, you can ask a beta to read your work with an eye for a certain aspect. My sister for example is great at characterisation and character descriptions. She just has a knack for knowing when they fit in and how much information is just right to get a picture across, but not halt the reading flow. Big surprise that she usually is my beta for all things character. This also brings me to my next point.

4. Your beta readers know you and your style.

Often beta readers tend to attach themselves to the authors they have enjoyed reading previous works from. Or they already know you because they are family and friends. Either way, over time you will end up with a core group of betas, that will know you and your quirks. They will be able to not only expect and look out for certain pet peeves of yours (there vs. their is a favourite of mine), but they will further be able to point out inconsistencies across a book series or highlight elements that seem repetitive across different pieces of writing. That is something an editor is usually unlikely to be able to do as a first time reader.


5. Your Beta readers are great supporters in the writing, editing and publishing process.

Beyond the fact that beta readers tend to be very familiar with your quirks, they usually also become great supporters and enthusiastic cheerleaders that are invaluable during the process of writing a book. 


6. Your Beta readers don't expect money for their time and advice.

Most betas read your manuscript purely for the love of reading or a certain genre. They do not expect money for their time or advice. However, do not forget to thank them for their valuable input. A simple thank you can go a long way.

7. Your beta readers can give a fresh perspective on your writing.

This is probably more true for beta readers you found through their love for the genre rather than friends an family. Not because your friends' and family's views will be naturally inclined in your favour (although they usually are), but more because genre beta readers haven't heard you talk their ear off about plot lines and they are more familiar with what usually works for them in your genre. After all, your family and friends might prefer a different genre or even non-fiction over fiction. 

Any other reason you would have liked to see listed? Any good beta-anecdotes to share?


  1. Not so sure about point 6 :D
    But the rest makes beta readers sound very valuable.

  2. You might be right, Hailey. That one was in and out of the article several times. In the end I left point 6 in because to some that might be a real benefit :)