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.

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.