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5 qualities to look for in a good beta reader

Updated: Oct 19, 2022

1. Trustworthy

This is definitely something you want to look at. Can you trust this person to read and critique your work without sharing it and putting it out on social media without your consent. (This has happened to well known authors. Just look up midnight sun by Stephenie Meyers)

Some writers even go so far as to have their beta readers sign a confidentiality agreement. I have chosen not to go this route, but I am very particular about who I let see my work pre publication.

2. Detailed

Finding readers who delve deep into the material is a must. You want a reader who pays attention to detail. I want beta readers who notice pick up on the little things. (Like in pretty woman where Julia Roberts is eating a pancake and it turns into a croissant.) I personally do not want those errors in my books, whether the majority of readers would notice them or not. Strive for perfection in your novel. The better quality of product you have to offer, the more people will desire to read it.

3. Mean

I personally want a beta reader that's not afraid to be mean. Before I give someone a manuscript I ask them if they are ready to mark it up. I tell them I want them to be mean. I want them to pick it apart. I don't want readers that are afraid to offer me critiques. A lot of people may just tell you it's great to avoid hurting your feelings.

I actually prefer the negative feedback to positive when I give someone a draft. Because that's what it is, whether it's a first or second or third draft, I want all the quirks worked out before I go to print. I have gotten back some feedback that has stung a little. It's hard to get back less than positive feedback on something you have spent countless hours on. However, most the feedback I have gotten back has been invaluable to me, and helped me to provide a more polished novel.

4. Quick

How fast do you want your beta readers to finish going through your manuscript. Maybe you have all the time in the world, and six months to a year is okay with you. I have learned that setting a time table when asking someone to read a manuscript is extremely helpful. I normally ask for mine to be read in two to three weeks. If a reader can't finish it in that time, then they are not interested in your topic. If you give a reader too long, it may get pushed to a corner in their bedroom and forgotten about.

I also have multiple readers. I have never received the same feedback twice. Maybe this will change someday. Have more than one set of eyes read over a manuscript . Every person is different. You'll be surprised at what one person will notice that another reader did not.

5. Genre

Do your readers even like your genre? Are your beta readers just reading the novel as a favor to you. If someone is bored or not into a story their mind may wander. Or their feedback may be way off track. I don't want someone who only reads nonfiction to be read my fiction novel. Nor do I want a reader who despises fantasy to read my new vampire novel.

Finding people who read the genre you are writing is a key element to selecting beta readers. They will know things readers of other genres won't know. Is there anything new or fresh about your idea? Or is it the same basic story they have read a hundred times.

Looking for these five qualities will help you select a fantastic beta reader.

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