Nearly a year ago I learned a new-to-me phrase: Beta Reader. Sounds cool, right?
What IS a beta reader?
Well, let’s start with the technical answer and for that we will, of course, go to Wikipedia:
A beta reader is a non-professional reader who reads a written work, generally fiction, with the intent of looking over the material to find and improve elements such as grammar and spelling, as well as suggestions to improve the story, its characters, or its setting. Beta reading is typically done before the story is released for public consumption. Beta readers are not explicitly proofreaders or editors, but can serve in that context.
Now let’s review the Lily definition which is, obviously, the one to trust.
A beta reader is a special person that you can trust with a piece of your heart and soul, knowing they will provide accurate, constructive, and kind advice about your story. They offer suggestions without being too demanding or pushy and are often willing to reread following edits. In short, good beta readers are nearly angelic.
Why do you need one?
Uhhh, my glowing recommendation isn’t enough? Well, then. I see we need to work on the level of trust in our relationship, my dear friends.
Beta readers offer something invaluable and that’s a fresh set of eyes. By the time you feel confident enough to even consider sending your precious manuscript out into the big bad world of agents and publishers, you’ve read through it, what? Five? Six? Twenty times? I get it. I’ve done it. I also know what I’m trying to say, I know what the character is wearing, I know what their house looks like, and I know their emotions.
But will the average reader?
Answering that question alone for you can be invaluable. You know that Stacy is sitting in a corner booth, staring sadly into her milkshake, and wearing her favorite sweater, but if you haven’t described it clearly your reader may think Stacy is sitting on a park bench and smiling up at the sun in a tank top. Little details you’ve overlooked because your brain automatically fills it in are of serious importance to the reader.
And the converse is true too! Sometimes you can go a wee bit overboard on the details. Because sometimes you simply need to trust that your reader is intelligent (and obviously if they are reading your book they are!) and can infer somethings without being explicitly told. Let’s be honest, if we spelled every single thing out to the reader not only would your book be incredibly boring but a novella alone would be nearly 100k words!
That doesn’t even touch the technical issues like head hopping, grammar, dialogue tags (my personal arch-nemesis!), word echoes, and countless other things that for whatever reason our eyes are blind to.
This is not at all suggesting a beta reader can replace an editor. Not possible. Especially not an editor that is as passionate about your work as you are. And if you need any suggestions in that department, please let me know! I have the incredibly good fortune of having “met” several brilliant editors and would highly recommend any of them.
And how do I get me one of them there things?
Alright, I seriously hope y’all don’t actually say that, but if you do you could very well be one of my peoples.
The answer to this question, my dear friends, has recently become soooooo easy. There just so happens to be a group of three brilliant, talented, and super hot writers who have joined their super powers together to form the ultimate beta reading trio.
Run, don’t walk, over to 3 Book Babes and check out the amazing services offered and let me know if you see a familiar face.
As always, my dears, you can feel free to contact me here or through Twitter for more information.