Monday, April 23, 2012

3 Beta Readers you Must Have

There are tons of articles out there about the benefits of using Beta readers. This is another one. Honestly, I can't imagine sending my work to anyone in any kind of professional manner without letting a few good betas look at it first. So you know you need them, and I've mentioned previously how great they are. But now I want to talk about what to look for in a beta reader.



In general, you need to find someone who can communicate well and who isn't afraid to give you their honest opinion. You also want to find a beta who is willing to open up a conversation with you. I've found that sometimes a beta reader needs to be prompted into giving critical feedback. You should also look for someone who likes to read. That ones a bit of a deal breaker.

Those are general guidelines, but here are three specific folks you'll want to find right away when you start your beta reader search.

1. The Genre Fan
This beta reader is a huge fan of the genre you write (romance, YA, SciFi, etc.). They know all the latest trends and are familiar with the big names of your genre.

Why do you want them?
They've read so much fantasy they can spot a weak magic system from 50 yards away. They know all the overused euphemisms found in romance sex scenes. In short, they know what works and what doesn't when it comes to your genre.

What to watch out for?
This beta has read moreNora Roberts novels than Nora Roberts. As a genre lover, your beta is bound to have favorites and will find it hard to avoid comparing you to them. Watch out for comments that suggest your writing should sound more like (fill in the blank author).

2. The Genre Doubter
This person never reads your genre. They don't know the rules and have no idea what's the 'right' way to do it.

Why do you want them?
This beta doesn't know what a Horcrux is and doesn't want to know what BDSM stands for. This beta is unlikely to get caught up in the story when they read your work. Because of this they'll be able to focus more on the style of your writing. Plus, a positive comment from someone not in your target audience feels extra sweet.

What to watch out for?
This beta is not going to flip for your work so be prepared for a less glowing review than you'll probably get from your Genre fan. That doesn't mean their comments aren't valid. But as the author you need to remember you're starting at a disadvantage.

3. The Character Twin
Unless you wrote a book about a group of characters who are all exactly like you, you used a bit of creative license when you developed them. Now's the time to find someone who can relate to your characters on a closer level. Sometimes this will be obvious. YA writers should find a teen beta reader. But I don't know any wizards! you say. Look beyond the initial description of your characters to pinpoint your beta reader. What else is your wizard? A servant to the king, a mentor for the next generation. Did he go through a long apprenticeship? These are the folks you're looking for.

Why do you want them?
This should be a no-brainer. This is the beta who will tell you if your characters are realistic. Would a farmer really leave the ranch in the hands of his young son? If you aren't a farmer, the only way to know is to ask one.

What to watch out for?
It's important to remember that while this beta is representative of your character, they are not The representative. Their opinion is only their own and could be vastly different of someone else with the same background. Be cautious of taking their advice as the gospel.

In general, it's important to remember that all Beta readers are only individual people, with individual goals, opinions and backgrounds. They are there to help us make our work spectacular, not to re-write it for us. At the end of the day, your work is still your own and needs to be a reflection of you.

10 comments:

  1. All good tips. I've had some really great teen readers. But I trust my workshop peer group most of all.

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  2. I'm getting ready to send out my MS to my first teen Beta. I can't wait to get the feedback, but I doubt it will be as detailed as what I get from my other Betas.

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  3. I enjoyed your insights on this. How did you find your Beta readers?
    Thanks!

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    1. For me, my teen reader is the girlfriend of one of my CP's sons. Another is a previous co-worker of mine who is a voracious reader with a sharp eye. The others I found as part of a cirle on Google+. We are doing a beta exchange.

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  4. I agree. These are three betas you should have. The contrast will offer great feedback too.

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  6. Sarah-
    I like your Beta Reader plan. I've had 3 beta readers: one for the whole ms and two that have read portions, but what I'm missing is the teen beta reader. I just haven't found the right one yet.

    Thanks for the insight.

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  7. Hi Sarah -
    I Goggled "how to be a betareader" & this post is #11 (page 1) on 7/3/2012!! How exciting is that! Good idea on having different types of betareaders. Because I am new to fiction writing, I did not know this word until about 4 months ago. I have read someone's M/S before & provided what I defined as "editorial feedback." Little did I know that I was being a betareader!

    Monique

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    1. Wohoo! Look at me being all googled and such. And never fear the learning. I only started looking into the business side of writing in December so I'm finding new stuff all the time. :)

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