Have you written a novel? Wait, an ENTIRE novel? Congratulations! You should be extremely proud of your accomplishment.
Now what? After a few rounds of self-edits and revisions, you may be ready for beta readers.
What is a beta reader?
A beta reader is a person who reads your complete self-edited manuscript and provides feedback. Although it may be difficult to share your work with others, beta readers are an important tool for writers. It is crucial to have other sets of eyes on your work before you pursue publication.
Who can be a beta reader?
Anyone who reads! Often writers enlist other writers as beta readers, but you can ask anyone to help you. It’s important to look for people who are within your target audience. For example, if you have written a YA novel, it might be helpful to ask a teenager to read your work in addition to a few of your writer friends.
When do I need Beta Readers?
You should work with beta readers after you've revised and edited your manuscript to the best of your abilities. You do not want to send a beta reader your first draft—otherwise they will be distracted by the errors and plot holes. This will only be a waste of time for you and your beta reader.
It can also be helpful to have multiple rounds of beta readers. If you make major changes after the first round, you may desire more feedback on your project. You can always do another round to help you polish your manuscript.
Where do I find Beta Readers?
It’s difficult to find people to read your work. They are, in fact, providing you with a free (and time-consuming) service. First and foremost, it is helpful to make friends within a community of writers, whether on social media or in real life. When you build your community, it is easier to find help. If you are just starting out and don’t know anyone, it is always helpful to offer a beta swap where you exchange feedback with someone else.
Here are some great places to find beta readers:
Social Media - Simply ask your friends on Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, Facebook, etc. if they will read your work. It helps to have an enticing blurb or an eye-catching graphic.
Goodreads Beta Reader Group - This is another great place to find beta readers! Simply post on the proper discussion board that you are searching for a beta reader and provide your genre, age category, word count, and blurb. You will raise your chances of finding a reader if you are willing to swap manuscripts and exchange feedback.
Critique Match - On critiquematch.com, writers can find critique partners and beta readers. This site makes it easy to search within your genre and safely share your work with selected readers. The feedback is given directly onto the private document. Similar to the Goodreads Beta Reader Group, members on Critique Match are often looking to swap manuscripts.
How do I work with Beta Readers?
All writers have their own preferences for sharing their manuscript with beta readers and how they want their feedback formatted. You will eventually find your own style and what works for you.
Some writers share a Google Doc where the beta readers can leave in-line comments and suggestions while they read.
Others prefer to send a Word document or PDF of their manuscript and provide a separate document or Google Form with a questionnaire.
No matter your preferences, it is important to provide your beta readers with clear expectations for the timeline and type of feedback you want.
What types of questions should I ask my beta readers?
The questions you ask can be very personal and unique to your novel, but below are some questions to help you get started. You may tweak your questions based on the concerns you have for your individual work.
1. Does the plot make sense? Were you confused anywhere?
2. Did you find any plot holes or inconsistencies?
3. Were the protagonist’s goals clear?
4. Was the plot fulfilled in a satisfying way?
Romance (if you have a romantic subplot)
1. Was the romantic subplot believable?
2. Was the relationship healthy?
3. Did you like the characters together as a couple?
4. Was there anything you would change about the romance?
1. Was the protagonist relatable? What did you like about him/her? What didn't you like?
2. Which character was your favorite, and why?
3. Which character was your least favorite, and why?
4. Which character do you wish had more development?
1. Were there any places the story moved too quickly or too slowly?
2. Were there any scenes that dragged or were boring?
3. Were there any scenes that you wished were expanded?
1. Did the dialogue sound realistic? If not, where did it sound fake?
2. Were the dialogue tags "invisible" or did they pull you from the story?
3. Could you tell who was speaking based on dialogue tags and character voice?
1. Were you able to visualize the setting for every scene? If not, which scenes could use description?
2. Were you able to visualize every important character? If not, who could use more description?
1. Was the narrative voice consistent throughout the course of the novel?
2. Were there any overused words or phrases?
1. What was your favorite scene/chapter, and why?
2. What was your least favorite scene/chapter, and why?
3. Did you feel immersed in the story? If not, where were places you couldn't "suspend disbelief?"
4. What are your thoughts about the ending?
5. What were the strengths of this novel? What were the weaknesses?
A final bit of advice:
Always thank your beta readers! They are there to help you succeed!
Meet Rosalyn Briar
Rosalyn Briar is a former teacher who is married to her soulmate. Together, they have built a beautiful life and have two fearless daughters. Rosalyn is obsessed with gothic fairy tales, scary movies, sun dresses, traveling, and reading books. She is the published author of The Crown of Bones and A Sea of Pearls & Leaves, both of which are fairy tale retellings. When Rosalyn isn’t writing or reading, you can find her playing dress up with her two princesses or exploring the woods for wildflowers.