Beta reader?—Huh? What’s that?
The quick-and-easy basics about beta reading—a great first step in getting your manuscript ready to publish
What’s a beta reader?
The term beta reader comes from software development, when a ‘beta user’ was used to check software from a user perspective before it is rolled out.
‘Beta readers’ do a similar task for books; a beta reader ‘tests’ a publication from the reader’s perspective.
Beta readers are generally unbiased readers who are in a position to give the author an honest opinion of their manuscript, and a first glance at how the book may be received by the reading public.
Beta readers highlight problems with a manuscript that could distract, short-change, alienate or reduce the enjoyment of the reader. These can include:-
- Does the story hold together? Is there a beginning, middle and end?
- Does the story start in the right place, or is the beginning of the story bogged down with excessive backstory or narrative description?
- Does the pacing hold the reader’s attention?
- Does the dialogue sound realistic?
- Are the characters well rounded, and distinct from one another?
- Does the reader relate to the protagonist? Does the protagonist have a clear goal? Do important scenes occur in dramatic real time?
- Is there too much backstory? Does the story start in the right place?
- Are there point of view issues? (e.g. head-hopping or insufficient proximity to the inner reality of the point of view character)
- Is there telling rather than showing? Is the prose vivid or dull?
- Did the reader’s attention get pulled at the wrong moment?
- Are there issues around sensitivity, diversity, discriminatory language or descriptions that might hurt members of marginalised groups in the community?
- And many, many more!
Should you require beta reading services…
I made a list! Check out the Senior Beta Reader referral list over at AJ Collins Accredited Editor’s website.