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.

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Young people can be beta readers too. (Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash)

Such as?

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.

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