You have your manuscript written, whether it’s the first draft or the 100-times edited one but what next? Don’t just send it for a query! Because you still don’t know what the readers would feel after reading your book. And now you’re like, “But Fanna! I’ll have to publish my book to know what the readers feel!”
Oh, you’re so wrong!
If all the apps that are released and all the updates that are installed on websites were simply poured into the world, they would’ve definitely encountered some or the other problem. Which is why they use beta-testers to test if their ideas are actually worth being poured into the world.
And that’s exactly what a writer needs to do too!
Simply assuming people are going to love your book is an incredible mixture of confidence and stupidity–I don’t want to mention the percentage of which one is higher. Simply releasing your book or querying it wouldn’t help your book to reach the high tides because you didn’t even test the waters.
That’s where beta readers step in.
That’s where you need someone who can read your story before it has been promoted or recommended by anyone–someone who’s ready to read the raw version before it’s published. Because their response can largely decide whether your book is actually ready for publication or if it’s just your inner aspiring author propelling you to do so.
What is a beta reader?
A beta reader is someone who reads your manuscript at different stages of its making and provides you with a comprehensive feedback as a reader (whether targeted or general) to help you understand what the readers of the same mindset/preferences–as this beta reader–would’ve thought, felt, liked, and disliked if you’d published the book at this point.
What is a professional beta reader?
There’s not much difference between the two except for the fact that professional beta readers provide a more intensive feedback, ranging from characters to plot and pacing, from writing to overall story, and from picking out the loopholes to providing suggestions. They analyze your story as a reader.
It’s not that one is better than the other. It just depends on what you, as a writer, are looking for. If you’re at a stage where you know your story doesn’t need a detailed analysis and a general feedback is fine, then you opt for a beta reader. But if you want a more approachable feedback to actually implement changes in your story, then a professional beta reader is what you need.
1. A beta reader can look at your characters from an unbiased eye. They’re your babies, not theirs.
More often than not, we writers tend to consider our characters the most lovable, complex beings that would impress the entire universe because we simply turn a blind eye since I gave life to them while staying up all night with these voices in my head and these sores in my hand (from typing), Fanna! Yeah, yeah, I understand. But the world doesn’t care. The world would only care when you actually draft characters real enough to compel them to care. And someone who can remove that blindfold off your eyes is a beta reader. They don’t give a shit about your characters when you hand over that manuscript so when you get a feedback where they do care about them, you’ve done a good job! And if they still don’t care about your cherished babies, you know what to do.
2. A beta reader can pick out the inconsistencies. And yes, there will be inconsistencies because there’s only so much that one pair of eyes (yours) can pick out.
Whether it’s the little details missing like your protagonist walking out in one sentence and opening the door to walk out in the next sentence, or the big details like the protagonist’s name actually changing in the other half of the story, your beta reader won’t shy away from letting you know how annoying the inconsistency is. While it may sting, it’s definitely necessary to know where your story is suffering from loop holes.
3. A beta reader can tell when your pacing is off. Whether your story is inspired by a tortoise or by a rabbit.
Too much of anything is bad so whether the story is pacing like a tortoise or like a rabbit, it isn’t going to win the race. A beta reader can help point out what parts have rushed past them or what are still going on as they write the feedback to you. And this can help you understand where to add the speed breakers and where to press the accelerator.
4. A beta reader can compare your work to others. Because they’ve read a lot of books in that genre or a lot of books in that demographic.
Yes, I know what you’re thinking. No, Fanna! Comparisons aren’t cool! I believe in my story and the uniqueness of it! And I believe in you but unfortunately, you don’t want just two readers for your book–me and you. You want a dedicated audience who would love your story and cherish it. So knowing what they’ve already loved or hated can definitely give you an insight into what are your strong points in that crowd of books belonging to your target genre.
5. A beta reader can re-install your self-confidence. Because somewhere in the first four reasons, you’re wondering if you would hear something good from your beta reader or not.
When that story idea first hits and when you start rapidly putting it all down in coherent sentences, you love your story. But with each draft and each revision, with each character being killed or revived and each plot twist being revised, you somehow stop appreciating your writing and your story. Beta readers can help build back your confidence by leaving genuine comments that would help you realize your talent and the potential your story holds. And we all love some admiration even if modesty is our biggest trait.