Beta Readers

Mary Keeley

Blogger: Mary Keeley

Conversations with several clients in the last couple of weeks had one thing in common. All of them were waiting for feedback from their beta readers. Music to my ears. I highly recommend participating in a critique group for the group sharing of feedback and suggestions, but they can’t replace the value of having several beta readers review your completed manuscript, inserting their individual comments and track changes into your document.beta-reader-superhero

We’ve all had the experience of reading our own work looking for errors, typos, and inconsistencies, confident it’s in perfect shape, only to have a critique partner or friend point out a few more errors that your eyes didn’t catch. This illustrates the value your beta readers can have on the broad issues in your manuscript, such as:

  • When you overlook an important piece of information
  • When your novel drags in the middle
  • When your nonfiction book doesn’t deliver what it promises or the main character’s inner conflict isn’t satisfactorily resolved by the end of the book
  • When you use words, descriptions, or cultural mores that are inappropriate for the setting of your historical novel

You might want to enlist your beta readers’ input more than once. To get the most out of your beta experience, give them a list of questions you want them to focus on in each round. You’ll save yourself a potential rewrite by focusing on broad developmental questions like these when your first draft is complete:

  • Were the main character, her main struggle, and goal introduced effectively in the first chapter?
  • Is the issue to be addressed and the proposed solution clearly stated in the first chapter?
  • Did you get hooked on the first page?
  • Did the story drag at any point? Was there a point where you lost interest?
  • Were you satisfied at the end of the book?

A later beta round would focus on more specific questions such as:

  • Was the main character inconsistent at any point in the story?
  • Did the dialogue sound appropriate for the setting and characters?
  • Does the book need tightening throughout?
  • Was my voice consistent?

Set your goal to have a variety of beta readers. Choose one who is in your target audience, perhaps a follower on your author Facebook page, a frequent commenter on your blog, or a subscriber to your newsletter. Develop friendships with readers in your genre who might be good beta readers. Look for those who contribute savvy comments on your author blog and other author blogs in your genre. Connect with published authors at conferences and on their blogs. They can offer knowledgeable input about what is involved in writing a marketable book.

Feedback from their varied vantage points will give you valuable insights. That’s the beauty of using multiple beta readers. Consistent comments from all of them confirm areas for improvement. You don’t have to apply every tracking correction or comment. Weigh and apply those you see strengthen the book.

Note the types of problems each of them finds and record that information on a tracker for future reference. For example, if at a later time in your manuscript development, you want to focus on looking for POV issues, you’ll know which beta readers to solicit.

Decide in advance that you’re going to be the kind of writer who appreciates even the toughest feedback because it will make you a better writer. And don’t forget to be generous in showing your appreciation for the time they spent reading your book and offering quality feedback. Send a generous gift card to your target-audience reader. Or offer to reciprocate and be a beta reader for those who are authors.

How will you select beta readers in the future as a result of these tips? If you have used beta readers in the past, were they all the same type—target audience, readers in your genre, or published authors—or did you have a variety? Have you given your beta readers specific aspects to focus on in the past?


Are beta readers a good idea in the process of writing your book? Yes. See why here. Click to Tweet.

Get the greatest benefit out of your beta reader experience with these tips. Click to Tweet.