You want to publish a memoir of professional quality. That means you have lots of work to do. It also means you need to enlist the help of others also committed to professional quality.
Beta readers can serve as one of your most valuable resources—but what is a beta reader?
After you, the writer/alpha reader, do your best to polish your manuscript, a beta reader reads it and makes suggestions to help you make it even better before you send it off—to an editor if you plan to self-publish, or to an agent or editor if you hope to work with a traditional publisher.
Julie-Ann Harper defines a beta reader this way: “The term ‘beta’ is borrowed from the software industry, meaning the beta tests or reads your full manuscript to help you eliminate problems so you can improve its readability, its usefulness, and even its saleability before it’s published. Beta readers help with plot holes, clarity, pacing problems and of course mistakes.”
“Authors need beta readers to understand how people read their book and…to identify confusing or irrelevant spots,” writes Amanda Shofner. “Every author has weakenesses. You do, too—but you’re blind to them. Beta readers won’t be. And soliciting feedback from beta readers is your chance to address the weak spots of your manuscript…..”
Jami Gold explains, “Beta reading is not about the reader’s knowledge of the craft of writing, but about what works and doesn’t work for them as reader.” She also says a beta reader “can offer feedback on big-picture aspects: story arc, character development, pacing, etc….”
In her article, TheUltimate Guide to Working with Beta Readers, Amanda Shofner covers the following topics:
- Why beta readers?
- Who [do] you want as a beta reader?
- How do you prepare your manuscript for betas?
- What do you want from your betas?
- How do you deal with feedback (without freaking out)?
- How do you implement beta feedback?
K.M. Weiland lists seven things to look for in a beta reader. She says, “You want someone who:
- Enjoys your genre.
- Understands your intentions for your stories.
- Likes our stories, in general.
- Isn’t afraid to tell you what isn’t working.
- Is an experienced reader and/or writer (both bring important insights…).
- Is reliable and trustworthy.
- You like—and who likes you in return.”
K.M.’s post also lists links for online communities to help you find beta readers. Don’t miss her article, 15 Places to Find Your Next Beta Reader.
Be sure to read Ann R. Allen’s excellent post, All About Beta Readers: 7 Ways They Can Improve Your Book. Though she often addresses writers of fiction, Ann’s points pertain to those who write memoirs, too. She covers the following:
- I’m in a Critique Group—Do I Need Beta Readers?
- Do Beta Readers Have to be Writers?
- Should You Pay for Beta Readers?
- Beta Read Exchanges
- Tips for Authors in a Beta Read Exchange
Ann also offers 7 Valuable Things Beta Readers Do:
- Find Repeated Words and Phrases and Confusing or Dropped Names
- Flag Continuity Issues
- Catch Dropped Storylines and Loose Ends
- Alert Authors to Murky Motivation and “Unlikeable” Characters
- Tell Authors When They’ve Lost the Plot
- Fine-Tune “Sensitivity” Issues
- Tell Us What Works!
The Write Life named Ann R. Allen’s blog as one of The 100 Best Websites for Writers for 2017. Be sure to check it out. You can also follow her on Facebook.
“Wattpad is a well-established website for finding beta readers. Scribophile is famous for the detailed and helpful critiques their members exchange. Beta Reader’s Hub is a source blog for beta readers.”
Beta readers, then, help you improve your manuscript so you can publish a quality memoir. Their feedback allows you to make changes in private so that when your book is in print, you won’t be embarrassed in public.
For now, jot down a list of people who might agree to serve as your beta readers. Then come back next week for more info about finding and working with your beta readers.