For a writer lucky enough to find an awesome beta reader, the payoff can be like striking pure gold. Good beta readers force you to level up. They clearly see the story when you’ve lost all perspective. And if they’re really good, they remind you why you started writing in the first place.
But it’s up to you to make the experience with your beta readers into something fantastic, not the other way around.
So how do you find the best beta readers ever?
Always begin your search among the writers you already know. Whether you meet with them in real life, or online, you’ll have a better idea of what to expect in regards to communication style and personal chemistry with people who aren’t total strangers.
Pick a writer friend you trust and offer an exchange: They beta read for you and you beta read for them.
By entering into a beta-reading exchange with writer friends you get the chance to cultivate your own editorial eye while gaining the benefit of outside feedback.
Genre Does Matter
The best beta readers for your work are going to be readers who already like the kind of stuff you’re writing. They bring more awareness of what’s already been done—and more appreciation for what you’re trying to do—to the table.
Pick readers who are familiar with and genuinely enjoy the type of writing you do.
Don’t worry so much about perfect fit, approximate will work. An avid reader of Sci-Fi and Fantasy, for instance, can offer valuable suggestions when it comes to Steampunk.
Expectations Are Everything
Beta reading is not editing. And it’s not unconditional approval either. A good beta reader will point out things they absolutely loved…and the things that need some work. It will work out the best for both of you if you’re clear on what you want before they begin reading.
Pick your battles with your manuscript wisely, and then manage your expectations to reflect that.
Are there areas you already have concerns about? Point them out. Do you want a certain amount of feedback on every chapter? Say so.
By being thoughtful and realistic about releasing our work to a carefully chosen circle of beta readers, it’s much more likely that we and our book will benefit from the experience. Giving your work to beta readers can be scary at first, but it’s well worth it in the end.
And even if you get a reader who doesn’t totally connect with your story, going through the process with them is still valuable. Sometimes it takes finding out what really doesn’t work to find the very thing that does.
How do you pick your beta readers? I’d love to hear about your method (and any advice you might have for other writers) in the comments!
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