What is a Beta Reader?

We've heard of beta blockers and beta males but have you heard of the latest in the editing process - the Beta reader? I was at my writers's meeting one week ago when a fellow author mentioned she was almost ready to send her manuscript to her Beta reader. Not wanting to sound ignorant, I just tucked the information away to look up at a later date.

 Today I finally got a chance to look it up. Actually I was reading an article on the RWA PRO loop when I spied the phrase again. Apparently many writers solicit the use of a Beta reader. So I decided to do a bit more research.

A majority of Beta readers do not charge for their services, but a few do. Skilled Beta readers are voracious readers and have a variety of editing skills. Some are good with grammar, spelling, and punctuation, while others are great at character development and plotting. Some are detail oriented and can find inconsistencies in your writing such as the heroine's hair was tied back but then suddenly it was flowing down her back. Finding the right reader is just as important as finding the right critique partner. Each one gives you something you need.

One article states an author needs three things in the process of becoming published - a critique group, an editor, and finally a Beta reader. What successful writers use during their process differs but today, more and more writers find one more pair of eyes, especially unbiased ones can only help. Several Beta readers work for specific authors on a regular basis. You could ask a friend to be your reader but could you trust this friend to be blunt but professional? A friend might be afraid to hurt your feelings. So how do you find this person? Many authors solicit one online. Others will ask critique partners for suggestions. Still others will go through a variety of writing channels to find the perfect Beta reader for them. You must interview the person, perhaps review their work by allowing them to proof a section of your manuscript.

 If you like what they do then you've got yourself a reader. If not then you must keep looking. The last thing you need in a reader is the ability to keep mum about your amazing story! So tell me - what do you know about Beta readers? What do expect from them? Lastly how did you find your reader?

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