Seven Things to Look For in a Beta Reader

Last week we talked about the importance of beta readers to give feedback on our books. I hope you’re as sold on the idea as I am.

The next step is finding beta readers – not just any one but the right ones. If we pick a beta reader who isn’t a good match, they could do more harm than good, both for our book and for our career.

The ideal beta reader should:

  1. Be a Regular Reader: If they aren’t a regular reader, how can they provide usable feedback? While they don’t need to be voracious, they do need to read. Ask them how many books they’ve read in the past six months. Their answer will be enlightening.
  2. Speak the Truth (in Love): Beta readers who don’t want to hurt our feelings will tell us our book is perfect; they offer no value. Beta readers must commit to giving honest feedback but in a constructive way.
  3. Respect Our Writing Voice: If a beta reader wants to change our writing voice, they will only generate irritation for us and frustration for them and us. They must resist the urge to reword what we write.
  4. Know the Genre: Do they read and like our genre? If the answer is “no,” then they aren’t the right beta reader for our project.
  5. Like Our Premise: Beta readers need to have a positive predisposition for our topic or story at the onset. If a non-fiction book has a thesis they disagree with or a fiction book with a storyline that irritates them, they will likely struggle through the entire project.
  6. Be Committed: Will the beta reader finish the project? How long will they take? Too many people agree to being a beta reader but never follow through. See item seven.
  7. Have Beta Reader Experience: Everyone at one time has no experience, so our book may be his or her first one. However, the more experience they have, the better the chance the results will be good.

Next week, we’ll address setting expectations with beta readers.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

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