The Necessity of Beta Readers

I write articles of various topics for my website, as you may have noticed :-). In between doing articles and YouTube videos, I have several WIPs (Works In Progress) going on. My current primary focus has been finishing a memoir that covers the first quarter of my life.

My manuscript was finished and finding Beta Readers (BRs) was the next step. I’d read on several websites, Twitter, and Facebook Groups that BRs read your manuscript after you’ve completed self-edits and more-or-less feel your work is ready to be critiqued by others. If you’d like to “see” me discuss this topic, you can watch it here.

I was hoping for over five BRs because I wanted to edit according to a democratic approach. If one person says something, that’s only one opinion. If several people say the same thing, even in different ways, that’s something I want to pay attention to and take seriously. I’ve received feedback from five BRs and three of them have given me similar feedback. I’m still waiting for feedback from a sixth person. She emails me at least once a week, with her thoughts up to point in the story she’s reading, which I appreciate.

The information I found suggested asking the BRs to focus their comments/suggestions/critique. My solicitation asked for feedback on:

  1. Story flow. Did you feel it was slow in some areas or rushed in other?
  2. What held, or decreased, your interest. Why and why not?
  3. What you liked and disliked. Why and why not?
  4. Did you become emotionally tied to the story? Why or why not?

I included the following requests:

  1. To have your response back in two weeks. You can type your comments into the document, or after paragraphs, using a different text color so I can easily see them.
  2. You to let me know if you decide to not continue beta reading my story.
  3. You to be critical. I’m not easily offended and appreciate brutal honesty. If it sucks, explain to me why so I can make it better.

I listed potential triggers above the solicitation and manuscript blurb so the person could make an informed decision on whether or not they’d be interested in reading my story. I received messages from more than eight BRs. Some were offering a paid service, which I didn’t want because I prefer to save money toward hiring a professional editor, which is a couple steps ahead of where I am right now.

Information I found said that Beta Reading was intended to be a free service, sometimes a trade of they read your manuscript and you read theirs, or simply someone who’s an avid reader who enjoys providing feedback to help someone improve their story. It may also be a rush to be one of a few people with advanced access to a new story, though the manuscript isn’t ready for professional publishing.

I found BRs to be a necessity, in conjunction with the open-ended questions I asked, because the majority of the feedback provided insights into what I could do to strengthen my story. I read through all the different BR feedback and decided to wait until I had them all before editing according to their suggestions, concerns, and questions. I compiled the feedback I’ve received so far and made a list of what I needed to add in, elaborate on, ensuring the POV remained the same, ensuring to maintain the tense, etc.

I’m excited to begin editing according to BR feedback. I’ve been experiencing an influx of event memories that I’ll add into the story. It’s amazing how reading the same suggestions or questions from several people stretches the mind to strengthen the manuscript. I understand now why BRs are necessary and also why it’s suggested that once the manuscript is professionally published, to gift a copy to each BR.

I’d love to read your thoughts on Beta Readers and your experience with them. Did you find their feedback helpful in building up your manuscript? If you’re a Beta Reader, what has been your experience? What do you like about providing it as a free service?

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I journeyed from GED to a PhD in Psychology. I decided to focus on my writing once I retired from the clinical field. I write in various genres and have several WIPs for publication once edited. I post articles on this website for intellectual and entertainment purposes.

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