What are Beta Readers and What do they Do?

Beta readers are a writer’s taste-testers. After your manuscript is complete and you’ve gone through a couple rounds of revisions with your critique partners, and you feel like it’s as “final” as it’s going to get, you give it to 1 or 2 beta readers before submitting to agents and/or publishers. Many contracted authors use beta readers before turning in their manuscripts to their publishers. It gives them a chance to fix any issues and make it as strong as possible before working with the in-house editor.


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The job of a beta reader is to provide their honest reaction to the book. They provide feedback on every aspect of a manuscript — they read for the story and how it flows, or the nonfiction argument and whether it’s strong, but they might also catch grammar and punctuation goofs.
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They let you know where your book is lagging—or even where it is fantastic. In a novel, they may let you know where they’d like to see the tension, romance, or suspense heightened. In nonfiction, they’ll tell you where it gets boring or too bogged down in detail. Beta readers respond from a reader’s point of view (not from a writer’s POV), so this is different from a critique partner.
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A beta reader can serve as a fact checker and even as a sensitivity reader to make sure you haven’t gotten your facts wrong, relied on stereotypes, or made a statement that could be construed as politically or culturally offensive.
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Use your networks of readers and/or writers to find beta readers for your book. One more reason it’s important to be connected to others!
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Using beta readers will give you that extra boost of confidence that you’ve done everything you can to make your manuscript the best it can be!

 

If you should decide to invest in some personalized counsel, I offer coaching for unpublished authors here: My Coaching Services

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Rachelle Gardner

Literary agent at Gardner Literary. Coffee & wine enthusiast (not at the same time) and dark chocolate connoisseur. I've worked in publishing since 1995 and I love talking about books!

1 Comment

  1. T. Powell Coltrin on May 5, 2021 at 4:53 AM

    Taste testers for writers. Love that comparison. This is great information on the expectations of a beta reader.

    Thank you!
    Teresa