Who should be a beta reader?

PadreTX

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If one of the staff feel this needs to be moved to a different section, please move it.

Who should be a beta reader? Can anyone? I would think beta readers should only be writers who have already been published, people that do or did work as an agent, or people that do or did work as a book editor.

Can others be beta readers if that person doesn't fall into one of the above categories?
 

Jo Zebedee

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blah - flags. So many flags.
Who should be a beta reader? Can anyone? I would think beta readers should only be writers who have already been published, people that do or did work as an agent, or people that do or did work as a book editor.

Can others be beta readers if that person doesn't fall into one of the above categories?
From this list you’d be lucky to get any readers - it is time consuming - even if you paid.

Writing groups can help with critique as can sites like this. Beta readers can be other writers who are peers, readers with good attention to detail and love of your genre, or professional writers, provided you are happy to pay for their time.
 

Astro Pen

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I use members of my local writers group, some of whom are published.
I have also used a couple of chronners, they tend to be more critical of the draft manuscripts because they don't know me as a friend. Flagging up run on sentences and flawed physics among other things.
I have a rule with betas that if one person flags something I will consider it. If two different people flag the same thing I must revise it.

You need nit picking betas for sure because we all tend to read through our own mistakes. So you want someone who will raise specific detail, not just say "I enjoyed that. You should publish it" which is what will inevitably happen if you only use friends. :giggle:.
 

The Judge

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I second Jo. People who are editors or agents aren't going to work for free unless they're family or you're already friends with them, and that's likely to be the case with former editors and agents, who know what their time is worth. As for writers who have already been published -- are you including self-published in that? Because to be frank from the SP'd work I've seen from fly-by-nights who pop up here to spam us with details of their novels, I wouldn't want their authors to give me advice on a single sentence let alone a whole book.

I'd suggest that a good beta reader is someone who reads a lot in the genre and who understands the wider issues of writing, eg characterisation, pace, plot etc, and preferably someone who writes well, even if not professionally. The kind of people we see here in Critiques or who give reviews of the books they've read.

If you happen to be looking for a beta reader at present, have a look at Critiques and see whose comments on the pieces there strike you as informative and insightful, then check out what their own writing is like, perhaps in the Challenges if they haven't any work in Critiques. You might need to reciprocate by beta-ing their work, though.

Otherwise, if you want someone who is or has been a professional, be prepared to pay.
 

atsouthorn

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I feel anyone that reads often enough can be a valuable beta reader. Ultimately your main audience isn't other published authors or agents - it's the general reading public. If you're paying for readers, then it does help to be a little more specific as Jo mentioned i.e. is in your genre.

Otherwise I've been lucky enough to have beta readers who are just other writers looking to swap stories for free, and they've pointed out a few things even my editor missed.
 

Kerrybuchanan

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Largely, what Jo said! I find the best beta readers are those who read widely within the genre of my books, and have plenty to compare my novel with. They usually have a good feel for how a story like that should feel, and whether the characters work well or are two-dimensional.

Be sure you understand what is really meant by beta readers. They shouldn't be line editors or copy editors, or marketing people, or anything like that, but just people who enjoy reading the type of fiction you write and are prepared to be honest with you about what does or doesn't work. My current beta readers comprise a friendly poet, a librarian and a long-suffering husband (who is the most critical of the lot).
 

Steve Harrison

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I use two; one is my wife, who gives my novels a general read and tells me what she thinks works and what doesn't (in a brutally honest - and I mean brutal - way), and the other is a professional novelist friend, who I ask to look at specific areas of my books. The feedback from both gives me what I need for the final edit.
 

Mouse

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You want people who have strengths in different areas. Somebody who I like to look over my work is insane at descriptive stuff, which is something I suck at, so it's good getting his opinion.
 

Juliana

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I've been lucky enough to have beta readers who are just other writers looking to swap stories for free
This, too. If you're asking another writer to beta read, remember it's usually done on a swap basis, as in, they'll read yours on the understanding that sometime in the future when they have something that needs reading they can come to you. Beta reading is a big job!
 

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