Is there a better feeling in the world than writing “The End” in your manuscript? It’s a moment to be celebrated: you’ve done it. You’ve written and completed an entire book. Not everyone can say they have.
But you’re not finished. No, not even after you wrap up your self-edits.
It’s time to pass your manuscript off to beta readers — volunteers who provide feedback on your book. If you’re thinking about skipping this stage and just hitting “Publish,” you might want to reconsider.
Why beta readers?
Software companies release beta, or test, versions of their programs to work out kinks and bugs before releasing to the general public. Businesses offer beta versions of their courses so they can tweak the content to ensure it serves the needs of their students.
Authors need beta readers to understand how people read their bookand, like software companies and businesses, to identify confusing or irrelevant spots. Every author has weaknesses. You do too — but you’re blind to them.
Beta readers won’t be. And soliciting feedback from beta readers is your chance to address the weak spots of your manuscript before you publish and share it with the world.
Who you want as a beta reader?
As easy as it is to get them to help, best friends, significant others and family members are the worst beta readers. They know and love you, so they’re predisposed to loving whatever you write — no matter how good it is. While you might enjoy their glowing comments on your work, it won’t be the feedback you need to improve your manuscript.
Here’s who you want to enlist:
An acquaintance or a friend of a friend. People close to you can muddle through confusing sections or sentences to guess what you meant. That won’t give you useful feedback. Pick someone who doesn’t know you well enough to figure out your meaning.
A member of your target audience. If your book doesn’t resonate with your readers, you’re not going to sell copies.
Someone who’s not afraid to be honest. You need positive andconstructive feedback.
Someone who’s reliable. This seems obvious, but people can overcommit. Be conscientious of your betas’ time and priorities.
You need more than one beta reader. There’s no set number, but three to five is a good start. If you’re bootstrapping your book, find even more betas: good beta readers can mean forgoing the cost of a developmental editor.
After you have an idea of who you want, it’s time to find them.