I’ve finally made it!!! To the beta reader stage, that is. I just sent The Bug Collector’s Bucket List to my first two beta readers and have a few more lined up to read it soon.
This is a nerve-wrecking, but oh-so-important stage of the novel-writing process because you NEED other people’s eyes on your manuscript before attempting to query.
It doesn’t matter how great of a writer you are, you’re going to miss some things. Typos, character inconsistencies, and maybe even plot holes. You might have scenes that make perfect sense when you read them, but are vague or confusing to others. You might think your sensory details are spot-on, when actually they’re lacking in certain areas. These are all things a beta reader can help you with.
I recommend having multiple beta readers because one person isn’t often enough. If several people note similar problems with your manuscript, then you know it’s an issue that likely needs some work.
There’s no magic number of beta readers, but I usually go with at least four or five. I’ve had more than this with previous books, but too much feedback can be a bit overwhelming and also confusing. You might not know whose feedback to focus on. That’s why I say go with four or five trusted readers.
So who can be a beta reader?
Anyone, really. Finding someone in your target audience is a great idea. But using other writers as beta readers is also super helpful because they often read with a much more critical eye than non-writers. However, I like to get a variety of people’s opinions. Just so long as they’re honest!
You can also send a few questions to your beta readers, along with the manuscript. For example:
The only problem with using beta readers is that not everyone you send your manuscript to will get back with you. Life often gets in the way, they may lose interest, or they might just forget. You have to learn not to take it personally.
When you do get feedback, though, it’s important to consider all of it, whether it be positive or negative. Some of it may just be personal preference (and may not resonate with you), but I’ve been able to make all of my books better thanks to beta readers.
So even though I’m a bit nervous, I’m also really excited to have reached the beta reader stage for my fourth book. Good or bad, I’m ready for feedback that will help make this manuscript shine!