Tag Archives: real protagonists

The Pros and Cons of Beta Readers

21 Aug

Announcements:

My short story, The Pink Scarf, was published in the second volume of an adult anthology collection, Ashtrays to Jawbreakers. It is completely free on Smashwords, so feel free to check it out by clicking here.

Take Me Tomorrow was reviewed by A Literary Mind recently, and you can read the entire review by clicking here, but check out this small excerpt: “I can’t say how refreshing it was to have a protagonist that felt real. Knife-throwing abilities aside, Sophia is like the rest of us; she’s stubborn, flawed, and simply cannot control her curly hair (I feel your pain!).”

The Pros and Cons of Beta Readers:

I love beta readers. In fact, I consider my beta readers some of my closest friends (and secret keepers.) But they are close to me because we were equally careful in deciding whether or not we were good for one another, and that is what I’m talking about today: how beta readers can be both fantastic and destructive, depending on how your relationship is decided.

Why Are Beta Readers Important?

I hate to be egotistical and quote my novel when I say, “Sometimes an outside perspective is the clearer perspective.” But it’s true. (Shout out to Talk Show Host, Illuminating Now, for quoting Seconds Before Sunrise yesterday and inspiring this piece.)

But, yes, having an outside perspective is vital BEFORE the novel is published. Why? Because authors often get too close to the story. They understand too much. They know all of the answers to all of the questions, and because of this, they sometimes forget to clarify enough for a reader to understand. Beta readers prevent this confusion by reading, reviewing, and even editing as they go. If writers, publishers, editors, and beta readers were a team, beta readers would be your very first fan who still shows up to all of your games, even when you lose. And they always have great advice that even your coach didn’t think about.

Are they really THAT important?

I stand my ground when I say that the importance of editors should also be on beta readers. Like editors, beta readers are vital in creating a professional, understandable story. I think most people in the publishing industry would agree that editors must be chosen with care, but some think I’m extreme when I say that beta readers should be treated the same. Yes, it’s okay to have your friends and family read your story, but you wouldn’t rely only on them to edit, so don’t rely only on them to beta read. Find trusted colleagues or join a writing group. This might take a long time, but it’s worth it in the end. Their dedication, encouragement, and ideas might be the clarity you need.

My beta reader, Bogart

My beta reader, Bogart

So how can they be destructive?

Like any relationship, two people who are wrong for one another can be destructive to one another. In this case, a bad relationship with a beta reader can cause more confusion, a horrible change in a manuscript, and more. This doesn’t mean the beta reader is bad. This doesn’t mean the author is bad. It just means they are bad for one another. Just because two good people are in the same room, doesn’t mean they are meant to be together. This is actually relationship advice my father gave me when I was an awkward preteen that hated life in general, but it stuck with me because it is true. You must find a beta reader who likes your work as much as you do, but you also must find one who is willing to be honest about it (and an author must be willing to listen and consider.)

Is there anything else I should know?

Definitely! This small list is just an outline of basic advice I’ve given to fellow authors in search of a beta team. But the one that scares them the most is the one that scares me the most: you often have to find different beta readers for different novels. Sure, I have my go-to team, but – like readers – beta readers have genre preferences, and they work better when they focus on those particular types of novels. Just like I can’t expect a sci-fi cover artist to create a romance cover, I can’t expect my beta readers to jump on any piece of writing I hand over, and I definitely can’t expect them to praise it. You want them to give you constructive criticism so you can grow together as a team – which brings me to my last point:

Thank all of your beta readers

Even if they drop your manuscript after twenty pages, the outside perspective might suggest what type of reader will also drop the manuscript. Any advice is helpful. (Yes. Even if you hate it. Because it allows you to figure out what beta readers are good and bad for you.) Plus, having a beta reader to discuss your novels with is like having a best friend to write with, and I think all of us authors can use a few more people to talk to other than the characters in our heads. (We know how confusing they can be.) So take the time to thank them, and if you’re feeling extra thankful, put them on your acknowledgements page in your next bestseller.

P.S. I would like to take this moment to thank my beta readers past, present, and future.

~SAT

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