What Is a Beta Reader? (And How to Become One)
You’ve probably come across the term, but what exactly is a beta reader? In this post, we’ll break down what a beta reader does, how beta reading differs from editing, and what you can do to become one yourself.
What Is a Beta Reader?
A beta reader is someone who reads through a book manuscript in order to provide the author with feedback. This could be someone the author knows personally or a complete stranger.
Beta readers are often the first people to read a completed manuscript and will often highlight issues the author might have missed, such as:
- Plot holes or inconsistencies
- Issues with pacing
- Character issues
- Missing story elements
As well as pointing out potential problems, beta readers identify a manuscript’s strengths and selling points. Some authors may even prepare specific questions about the book they would like a beta reader to answer.
Beta readers can save an author time and money by catching mistakes early on in the publishing process and can help the author prepare their manuscript for the next stage of professional editing.
How Does Beta Reading Differ From Editing?
While beta reading can involve identifying errors in a manuscript, it’s not the same as editing. Some key differences between beta reading and editing or proofreading are:
- Beta reading occurs earlier in the process than most types of editing.
- Beta readers typically work for free, while professional editors are paid for their work.
- Editors are specially trained for the role, while beta readers don’t need any specific skills.
Beta reading is the final checkpoint before a manuscript reaches the editing stage. It should come after the author has self-edited and revised their writing but before it’s been submitted to a professional editor.
Why Become a Beta Reader?
While being a beta reader is usually a voluntary role and won’t earn you much in the way of income, there are plenty of reasons to consider doing it. For one, you’ll be able to network and make connections with others in the publishing industry. This is particularly helpful if you also offer paid services such as editing or proofreading, as it’ll give you access to a whole new pool of potential clients.
It also means you might get the chance to work with the same author in another capacity, such as writing pre-launch reviews.
In addition, beta reading can help you hone your own writing skills, and if you’re a budding author, many authors will offer to beta read your finished draft in exchange.
And, of course, as avid readers will appreciate, beta reading gives you the exciting opportunity to read brand-new books before anyone else!
How to Become a Beta Reader
1. Learn How to Give Effective Feedback
Being a beta reader means providing an author with feedback they can effectively make use of. Although you might be tempted to focus on the parts of a manuscript you enjoyed the most, this alone won’t help an author prepare their book for the rigorous process of editing and publishing.
Any feedback you share as a beta reader will need to be:
Like any skill, being able to provide good feedback is something that can be refined. Practice writing feedback that hits those three points, and you’ll make a better impression as a beta reader.
2. Know Your Genre
Authors usually want beta readers who understand the ins and outs of the genre they’re writing. This is because those familiar with a particular genre will be able to more easily identify when the author has used a common trope or whether a key feature of the genre is missing.
Beta readers who are comfortable with the relevant genre are also more likely to be a part of the target audience and will therefore be able to provide feedback from the perspective of the intended reader.
If you have sound knowledge of a specific genre or subject matter, this can make you more desirable as a beta reader. Identify what types of writing you enjoy or read most often and use this to help you target authors.
3. Network With Authors
Finding authors to work with when you’re new to beta reading might seem like a daunting task. Luckily, there are several ways you can connect with people looking for beta readers. These include:
Joining an Online Writing Group
Online writing communities, forums, and social media groups are all great ways to network with authors. Some groups will even have channels dedicated to pairing authors with beta readers. You can join a general writing group or find one that specializes in the types of writing you would like to beta read.
Online and in-person events such as signings, book fairs, literature festivals, and workshops will connect you with plenty of different authors, as well as other beta readers, and bookworms in general. Making yourself known in these circles, and sharing that you’re open to beta reading, can provide you with a number of opportunities.
Contacting Your Favorite Authors
If you’ve got a favorite author or someone whose writing you admire, consider reaching out to them in the form of a cold email. Even if they aren’t personally looking for a beta reader at the time, they might know someone who is!
4. Understand the Basics of Creative Writing
Although you don’t need training or a qualification to become a beta reader, having a good grasp of English and knowing how to construct a story will help you provide more useful feedback.