Monday, January 11, 2016

Beta Readers Anyone

By Susan J Berger

You’ve honed your manuscript. Been through the revision process more than once. You’ve possibly been through a critique group. (I personally love feedback from my critique group.) Now it’s time to look for a beta reader or three.

A Beta reader is a person who test drives your book. Unlike a critique group which gives feedback in small bites, a beta reader reads the whole thing.

The term beta is derived from the software industry where beta versions of a program are sent to users to test.

I am sure we’ve all been through beta versions of software. With the best will in the world the software industry has put out some real doozies in the first version. They didn’t put in bugs on purpose. They thought they had a saleable finished product.

 As writers, we too are capable of being blind to errors.
We know our work too well.
We describe events or a world in a way that is clear to us, but not clear to an outside reader.
We’ve lived with the characters so long, some of what is clear to us about our characters did not make it onto the printed page.
They are plot holes we fail to catch.

A beta reader reads a finished manuscript and tells the author about the bugs so the author can improve its readability, and saleability. Ideally, a beta reader finds your glitches. I think an author needs at least three readers because they may pick up on different things.


For Time and Forever, I had five, including my beloved fellow Pen and Inkers and one beta reader who gave me a line edit. That was above and beyond the call of duty. She improved my book immeasurably. 

Hey, maybe the manuscript doesn't have any bugs. I have not personally experienced this, but it can happen. An author I didn’t know posted a YA novel for "last looks” in one of my SCBWI yahoo groups. I adored it. I was fully caught up in her world and characters. I ended up sending her a fan letter. Wouldn’t it be nice to get that from a reader before it’s sent to an editor?


What do you want from your beta reader?

 Here is a great link to beta leader questionnaire:


Where to find your beta reader?

It goes without saying that we all want the crème de la crème of betas. I know it takes time and trials to find a good fit.

You want one who regularly reads in your genre.

It’s best if they are not related to you. I find my friends are perhaps kinder than they should be because they love me.

If you belong to SCBWI or an independent writing group, you can possibly arrange a beta swap. Check the listservs.

Sometimes you get lucky. I met a beta reader in an airport waiting for a delayed flight. We swapped manuscripts and I did another revision based on her amazingly helpful feedback. (I think I got the best of the deal, but I hope I was helpful.)

You can search the web – Key word beta reader.

Yahoo groups You could search Yahoo Groups or start a new topic within your group.

And a general Beta group where you post your genre.

Facebook: Search beta readers followed by your genre. I see some people looking to find beta readers. Perhaps a swap could be arranged.

Next I tried Twitter. Lots of hits with beta reader. Found this wonderful blog. written by a beta reader.
If you are lucky enough to know a teacher, you might persuade him/her to have the students read your book as a project. Problem: I did this with my mid grade novel. Tasha the Magnificent. The kids loved being part of an authors process and I didn't get much criticism. As a strategy this might work better for YA and high schools. WE aim at our readers, but we have to sell it to agents or editors.
 Good hunting!

PS.  need a beta or two myself. Unfortunately, not in the children’s genre. But hey, maybe someone who reads this post also writes romance.
Kate's Hero is a romantic comedy. Approximately 207 pages.
 One four leaf clover. Two stubborn People. A leprechaun with a mission. What could possibly go wrong?
Any takers?
Will be happy to swap. 

In any case. Good hunting. 


1 comment:

  1. Thank you Susan, Your posts are always helpful, supportive, and uplifting. Once again, I tell you I truly love your book "Time and Forever!" I recommend it all the time to romance readers. It's a great time travel/love story. Keep up the good work!


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