What Is a Beta Reader?


In a recent blog on rewriting, I mentioned sending the completed second draft to my beta readers: Into the Pits of Rewriting. Some authors call them first readers.

These are people who read the completed manuscript and give you honest feedback.

They are not editors or critiquers—they are READERS. Their purpose is not to do line edits or grammar checks. Their purpose is to read.

I give them specific questions I want answered. I trust them to give me honest feedback and insights into my story.

Beta Reader Questions

They provide feedback to specific questions you ask them. Here are some examples:

Does the hero’s character transformation seem complete?

Where did you get bored and wanted to skim pages?

What scenes stood out the most? Good or Bad? Why?

What pulled you into the story?

What threw you out of the story?

Does the plot hold together and make sense?

Is there enough tension and suspense?

Did the answers to your questions come later than you were looking for them? This gets at subtext and foreshadowing.

I assure my beta readers they don’t have to answer all these question. They don’t have to answer any of them if their reading takes them in a different direction. I want their honest feedback on the quality of the story.

What makes a good beta reader?

They have to be people whose opinions you value. People you trust to be honest.

They have to be readers. They don’t necessarily have to be writers.

They also don’t have to be family members because family members sometimes hold back, not wanting to hurt your feelings.

They have to comfortable reading your genre.

Critique partners can be useful, but we don’t want to burn them out.

How many beta readers should you use? I recommend three, but no more than five. We don’t want to get

My beta readers are people I’ve built relationships with over the years. We frequently exchange manuscripts with each other. The reciprocity is vital to having the relationship work.

What has your experience been with beta readers?




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