If not, now you may need one in the future.

So get prepared for your —

Beta Readers. fish-bowl-846060_640

Yes, you read that right. Plural, you’ll need more than one.

Why? Because beta readers are different from editors or critique partners. They are readers. But they are an invaluable tool for a writer.

That’s why I’m passing on a great post by Jo Robinson as well as a couple of other great posts on the subject. Check out the links below.

Although, a beta reader can and should point out glaring typos and comma splices, that’s not their primary purpose.

No, the primary purpose of a beta reader is to give you a reader’s perspective of your book, what they might see and think.

A beta reader reads like a consumer not an editor.pennies-15402_640

With that in mind, I’d like to add my two cents.

Make sure you are clear on what you expect from the beta reader. Make a list of questions you’d like answered, but don’t make it too long. You don’t want it to look like a college assignment. There are a few basics every writer wants to know, but maybe you are looking for a particular reaction. If so make sure you ask a question that would reflect it.

Here are a few questions to get you started.

  1. Did the story hook you?
  2. How far into the story before you were hooked? 1st paragraph, 1st page, 1st chapter?
  3. How quickly were you anchored in the story? Or did you get lost in a maze?
  4. Did you relate, understand the characters?
  5. Which character stood out the most?
  6. Could you envision the characters and settings?
  7. Any discrepancies or inconsistencies of details? Descriptions, sequences, places, details? (House on wrong side of road, hair color changed along the way)
  8. Does the story and writing style fit the genre or age group aimed?
  9. Did you skip ahead through any parts? Where?
  10. Did you savor any passages? Where? Why?

Have you ever used Beta Readers?

What was your experience?

Want more questions? Go to the bottom of this post for a link to 15 more.

I’d love to hear from you! Click to write me or contact me on Twitter @jeancogdell, Facebook at  jean.cogdell and Amazon.com, stop by and say hey! The lights are on and I’m waiting.

Please remember to share this post with your Twitter peeps and Facebook fans.

BETA READERS by JoRobinson

What the Heck is a Beta Reader? Do I Need One?   by SHEILA M. GOOD

15 questions for your beta readers – and to focus your own revisions by Jodie Renner

How can you help?

What is the difference between an Alpha Reader, Beta Reader or Critique Partner?

How can you help a writer?working from home, laptop with mug by a window

Do you read a lot?

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 31:  Employee Tilly Shi...

Do you have an opinion?

Then you have a lot to offer a writer and here's how.

Writers need feedback before a manuscript is completed. A reader is invaluable to a writer and even if you’re not a writer, you have an opinion.

Readers can provide all or just some of the critique points. Also, while they will discuss some of the good things they like about the story, the goal is to have a reader you trust that’s completely honest. One who is willing to point out problems and say “hey, this does not work for me.”

The Alpha Reader

  •  An alpha reader can be anyone who enjoys reading, and doesn’t need to be a writer.
  • Alpha readers look at the big picture, help through roadblocks, and prod the writer so they can keep writing.
  • Act as a sounding board, checking for readability.
  • Lets the writer know if the first sentence, paragraph or chapter hooks them.
  • If story, main character and world is intriguing.
  • Addresses the larger elements of the story —the pacing, the tension, plot arcs, characterization, backstory, and theme.
  • Points out if the scene works; confrontation, motivation, pacing or confusing.
  • Likability of the characters and if any need to be fleshed out more.
  • Listen for the POV voice.
  • The feedback short, just enough to reassure you if the plot is on track, or to point out where the story went astray.
  • The Alpha Reader doesn’t: Give line comments, unless a single word or phrase derails a scene.

The Beta Reader looks for the same things as an Alpha Reader plus:

  •  Beta readers welds a red pen checking for all types of problems (big and small), while encouraging the writer to produce the best story possible. The beta reader looks for all the things the alpha reader does but in more detail.
  • Does line by line editing, looking for errors in spelling, grammar, characterization, and continuity.
  • Character likability and POV voice.
  • Pacing, the tension, plot arcs, characterization, backstory, and theme.
  • Ability of plot to capture and hold their attention.
  • Discuss if the end was satisfying.
  • Overall impressions of what worked and what didn’t. What they liked and didn’t.
  • A beta reader gives the same kind of detailed feedback and tips that you get from critique partners, but the beta reading just goes in one direction—they beta read for you, but you don’t necessarily beta read for them.

A Critique Partner:

  •  The critique partner (beta) reads and critiques your story, and you do the same for their WIP (not necessarily at the same time, though).
  • Critique partners give detailed feedback on not just plot and characterization, but on the craft aspects of writing—lack of conflict, violations of POV, etc.

Bottom line is you form a partnership with this person.