Responsibilities of a Beta Reader

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“You can never read your own book with the innocent anticipation that comes with that first delicious page of a new book.”

-Margaret Atwood

A “beta reader” is a person who will read your story to see if it is a fit for the market, and they will also provide valuable feedback to fix problem areas in your manuscript.

How to choose a Beta Reader:

  1. Find a person who reads your genre…a lot.  It doesn’t hurt if they are writers, but it is not a requirement.
  2. Find a person who is opinionated, but also knows how to express their thoughts without killing your dream.
  3. Find a person who is close, but not too close…we want them to speak their minds.
  4. Find a person who understands that this is still a book in process.
  5. Fina a person who might be able to offer insight into setting, ways of life, or technical terminology.

Guidance for your Beta Reader:

  1. Provide a Clear Deadline
    1. I usually contact my beta readers a month before I send them my manuscript.  I don’t want to burden them if they don’t have time.  I usually ask that their critique be returned withing a month.  I also send a reminder a week before the deadline.
  2. How does the Beta Reader want your manuscript?
    1. Paper Copy
    2. Electronic Copy (Microsoft Word, Google Doc)
    3. Both
    4. Note:  I like to mail some fun office supplies with my manuscript, gel pens, highlighters, sticky notes, etc.
  3. How will the critique be returned?  (Provide Reminders)
    1. About a week before the deadline I send out a self-addressed stamped envelope (SASE) if I sent a paper copy of my manuscript.
    2. A good gentle reminder is to send a thank-you card with maybe a small gift card or thoughtful message a week before the deadline.
  4. What your Beta Reader doesn’t need to do:
    1. Line Edits (grammar, sentence structure, spelling, etc. unless something is obvious…this will take place once every piece of the manuscript it in place)
  5. Things for your Beta Reader to address:
    1. How is the Title of the book?
    2. Is the main character likeable?
    3. What are your thoughts on the other characters?  Who stuck out and why?  Is there anyone that needs work?
    4. Are there places where the story drags?  Are there parts of the story where you forgot you were supposed to be editing because you were so caught up?
    5. Where did you laugh, cry, feel anger…etc?
    6. Where did it sound more like a journal entry rather than a story?
    7. What things do you remember from the story?  Was there a favorite part?  A least favorite part?
    8. How did you feel about the ending?  Did you feel like everything was resolved?
    9. Did you have questions about certain things?  Or maybe there were things that didn’t make sense.
    10. How did you feel about the book’s length?
    11. Did the story keep you guessing or was it predictable?  Please use examples.
    12. Any other thoughts or suggestions?
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