B is for Beta Reader

Artwork by Tom Torre (@CopernicusNerd)

Artwork by Tom Torre (@CopernicusNerd)

By Dawn Frederick


Imagine wearing the figurative agent hat and reading thousands of queries in a year, let alone the materials resulting from those queries. Oftentimes people assume we get to read books year-round for fun; that is unfortunately not the case. There’s the requirement to read many partials, full manuscripts, emails, and book proposals throughout the year. The workload is deep and never-ending. None of which can be included on our Goodreads or LibraryThing accounts.

When we DO find a book that piques our interests, the next step is to reach out to a small, select group of individuals whom we trust. These are people who read equally as much and will provide a good perspective on the book; specifically BETA READERS.

Finding a good beta reader is essential to the job. It’s a special relationship that depends on trust and confidentiality between the agent and beta reader. It’s also a compliment if an agent or editor values one’s opinion of a book before making an offer to work with its author.

I have often described my need for a beta reader upon finding a (hopefully) good book idea. Eventually the brain feels fuzzy upon reading so many requested materials. I often refer to the fuzzy brain as the equivalent of seeing a mirage on the desert. Essentially, I believe a great idea is in my sights, but I need a good 2nd set of eyes to confirm the idea is commercially viable.

Taking this a step further, it’s a good idea to find beta readers BEFORE querying agents and editors. Finding a beta reader(s) can add new layers to one’s book, while also combing out the weak spots within the narrative. The only requirement is that the beta will not hold back any opinions, that s/he will be 101% forthright during the process–and that the writer is willing to value and respect the perspective(s) that will be shared.

A word of warning: always try to avoid having family and friends take on this special role, as the likelihood of them feeling comfortable to be 101% honest more than likely will not happen. Working with others who have been published and/or work in the industry is a better route to go. If unsure of how to find a beta reader, reach out others who have been published and more than likely a few referrals will come your way.

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  1. Kirk von der Heydt on November 2, 2013 at 10:09 am

    Writer’s groups and workshops is another good place to find Beta readers. I find the most important things is letting your Beta reader know exactly want you wan them to do. So many people want to line edit or provide feedback that isn’t helpful. Just my 2-cents.

  2. Daniel Bensen on November 3, 2013 at 3:30 am

    Some of my beta readers were my friends first—turns out a lot of people I know are entirely comfortable with telling me they hate my work.
    But some others I got by being social on Deviantart or by advertising the need for beta-readers on my blog. I can’t tell if it helped that I offered to make dinosaur pictures for them.

    But what are other ways to find beta readers?