The end of the beta reading period for my manuscript is here. What does this mean? It means I’ll be analyzing the feedback from beta readers and implementing changes in my manuscript to reflect some or most of that feedback.
What is a beta reader exactly? If you don’t live and breathe all things novel-writer, then you might not know the answer to that one. It’s simple, though: A beta reader (also known as an alpha reader and pre-reader) is someone who reads your manuscript before you’re ready for the world (and an editor) to see it. Recruiting a few trusted beta readers to read and offer feedback on my manuscript was a valuable step in the process to writing my best possible book. And I’m not alone in that. It’s a pretty common practice among authors.
So what are the benefits of sending your manuscript to beta readers? Why do authors subject their not-yet-perfect manuscript to criticism? Let’s talk about it.
The Benefits of Beta Readers
There are so many benefits to sending a manuscript off to readers before you make it to the professional editor stage. The first benefit is my favorite.
Have you ever written an email or a text that you thought was easy to understand, your intent and message perfectly clear? Have you then sent that message only to receive a response that shows your message must not have been as clear as you’d thought?
You’re not the only one. Writers everywhere have the same problem, except when it happens to authors, it isn’t a short message and it isn’t so easy to clear up any misunderstandings (especially not if the book has already been published).
Beta readers can help to eliminate any misunderstandings between the author and the readers. If the beta readers are confused, then chances are the intended audience will be confused as well.
And nothing can sink a book quite so quickly as a hard-to-follow, confusing plot and storyline. Who wants to read something that leaves you rereading entire sections throughout the book to try to understand the author’s intended meaning? I know that isn’t my kind of book. I’d like to stay immersed in the novel. And giant, confusing roadblocks in the storyline will yank me right out of the story. It will remind me I’m reading something instead of experiencing it.
Saving Me Money
Beta readers save me money. How’s that?
While a beta reader is most often a person who doesn’t edit or even write novels as their profession, they are still reading enthusiasts. And reading enthusiasts are great at spotting plot holes, unanswered questions, and really, really bad grammar and spelling. By spotting these issues, my beta reading friends have saved me a nice chunk of change that I would have otherwise spent on a developmental editor.
Let me be very clear here: Sometimes a book still needs a developmental editor, no matter what.
Mine might still need a developmental edit if I can’t get it to where it needs to be. But without the beta readers, I would need a much more intense developmental edit, which would cost more, of course.
If I can manage to do the work and clean up the manuscript well enough, though, I can skip the developmental edit and go straight to a copyedit followed by a proofread. And that will save me money.
Making My Characters More Real
What I write is highly biased by my own personal experiences—or lack of experience.
Imagine if I’ve never had a single conversation with my own mother (which isn’t the case in my life, but it’s a good example). My lack of interactions on a personal level with my mother will definitely influence how I write about any mothers. Beta readers have a wide variety of experiences of their own. This means they can spot an unrealistic scene, interaction, or character a mile away.
What My Beta Readers Showed Me
I’m incredibly grateful for every person who took the time to read my manuscript and offer their feedback. What I learned through that process is that I have several cheerleaders who are eager to help me promote my book. I also learned that those same people are looking for a little more clarity in certain scenes, and the pace of my book is a bit quick.
Many took time to make note of grammar and spelling mistakes while others focused on pointing out potential holes. Others pointed out areas where the interactions felt too forced or the reactions were over the top.
Each person had something to offer. And my book will be better because of it.