As I recently mentioned, I have one of my novels currently out with beta readers.
What are beta readers?
They’re only one of the most useful tools that you can have as a writer. Beta readers are people you send your finished draft to look over – not for editing or grammar errors, but for things like plot holes, pacing, setting, etc. A beta reader makes sure that your story makes sense, and that you haven’t made any huge blunders that readers or editors will mercilessly point out later. Beta readers can clarify any points that are confusing, if you’ve left something out, or put in something that is impossible because of the rules of your universe. They can also tell you if you’re going too fast and losing readers along the way or going too slow and the pace is dragging and becoming boring.
Who make good beta readers?
Other writers. One of my best beta readers is my good friend J.K. Pendragon, who not only gives good advice on which parts of my story need fixing, but can tell me different ways that I might be able to fix it. J.K. also knows that the editors of any publishing house will put my draft through the wringer, so when offering critique, knows not to hold back out of some form of sympathy. Writers need to develop a tough skin fast and be able to take critique from their beta readers.
People who do not make good beta readers:
Your relatives. They will praise everything you do just because it is by you. Feel free to give them a copy of your book after it is published, because by that point, the praise will be warranted. Also, if you are sending it to a friend, pick that person carefully, because that person might also hold back criticism simply because it is you who wrote it.
Where are you supposed to even find beta readers?
Other writers are fairly easy to come by, usually. The internet makes this process somewhat simpler. All over the internet, especially on platforms like Tumblr and WordPress, there are writing blogs and groups that you can follow or join. One of the best places to find a beta reader is actually – and you may be surprised – in a fandom. Getting involved in a fan community turns up lots of writers and readers who would gladly beta for you.
All in all, a beta reader is someone who is fair, and will tell you not only where you need to fix your story, but also where your story is really working. A beta reader will make your story that much better, so make sure you find good ones!