Why You Need a Beta Reader

Okay, you’ve been working on your novel for a year, maybe two. It’s 80,000 words long and you’ve just typed the final sentence of your book. You hit “save” and sit back. It feels good. What’s your next move? Hire a copyeditor, right?

The answer is no. Your best move now is to hire a beta reader. Why? Because beta readers are generally free and can do some marvelous work for you.

What to Ask Your Beta Reader

A beta reader is someone whose job is to let you know if your novel works at the story level. It doesn’t make much financial sense to get your manuscript copyedited if the story has major flaws. Your beta reader should answer three important questions:

  • Does the plot make sense?

  • Are the characters interesting?

  • Is your ending satisfying?

If you get three yeses from your beta reader, it may be time to hire a professional copyeditor to clean up your manuscript.

But if your beta reader answers no to any of those questions, then I strongly recommend you spend time figuring out why and fixing it before you spend money on copyediting. (If you're stumped on how to fix your novel, read about our manuscript critique and developmental editing services.)

How to Find Your Beta Reader

Who is the ideal beta reader and how can you find one? A beta reader can be anyone you know who has these four qualities: 

  • A facility for language

  • A familiarity with your genre

  • The time and desire to read your book

  • The ability to tell you the truth

So a good beta reader is generally not your mom or dad, your spouse, or your best friend. (However, if you write young adult fiction, it could very well be your teenage son or daughter.)

A good beta reader might be another writer you know, a former classmate, perhaps an ex-boyfriend or girlfriend. Check your social media pages, such as Facebook or Twitter, to find one, and keep in mind the four qualities you need to look for and the three big questions you need to ask.

Pro Tips

  • Instruct your beta reader to ignore spelling, punctuation, and grammatical issues. Those are for your professional editor to solve.

  • Make it easy for your beta reader to read your manuscript. Ask him if he would prefer an electronic file to read on a mobile device or a paper copy.

  • Always thank your beta reader, regardless of whether her feedback was positive or negative. A gift card to her favorite coffee shop or restaurant is always a nice way to say thank you.

  • Don't take the criticism of your book personally. Remember, you are asking for his honesty.

  • Be kind to yourself. If the feedback you receive is not what you were hoping for, understand that writing is a craft that can take years to learn.

Can’t find a beta reader? No problem! Hire us for a critique today.