Ashton Rice

Why Using a Beta Reader is a Damn Good Idea

By Ashton Rice

You just finished writing a story, read over it, and sent it to an editor. You get a rejection letter and your jaw drops when you get the feedback on the work you sent in. There were grammar errors, spelling mistakes, and syntax errors. On top of that, the editorial team got lost and confused trying to understand the story and plot. How could this happen? What did you do wrong? You swore you caught all of the mistakes when you read it before submitting it. Well, a beta reader could have probably saved you a lot of trouble.

What’s a Beta Reader?

What is a beta reader? A beta reader is a person who will read a writer’s story or book before it’s released or passed down to editorial. This is not an editor, but rather a test subject or audience to see how writing(s) will fare once published. These individuals can catch basic spelling and grammar errors, sure, but they really are a writer’s critics before the critics.

Beta readers aim to give writers an understanding of any given writing’s receptivity. Beta readers in writing are much like a preview audience for a movie. For example, a writer may give the story to a beta reader or readers who represent a particular demographic they hope to write for. From there the reception in that sample group will let the author know if they have hit the mark.

If you want to write for a specific demographic, and the beta reader(s) who represent that group respond negatively to your work, you might want to reconsider the target audience. You also may want to just rewrite the article or story altogether. This is how having a beta reader works in very simple terms.

Here’s more on how a Beta Reader can help you:

Beyond making sure that a writer is pinpointing a demographic and/or target audience, a beta reader can save an author some grief from editors. A writer reviewing their work is a lot less effective than getting an impartial reader to take on the same task. As the writer, one may have looked at a piece for hours on end. The chances of a person who wrote a work successfully reading through it for errors are unlikely. At the point of completion, a writer is usually burnt out and ready to meet that ever-so-sneaky-deadline. On top of that, most writers are biased to what they produced and often don’t consider changes in the plot, subplots, sentence structure; and they often miss continuity issues.

Handing off the final product to the second pair of eyes and getting some objective and potentially crucial feedback can be the difference between an editor viewing you as a novice or a professional. Sometimes hearing a suggestion from a book-lover is all a writer needs to be convinced that a change is necessary. These small errors that come from apathy, fatigue, and stubbornness are ones editors don’t want to deal with.

Let’s wrap this up:

Try to finish writing at least a day early so that someone else can give you a valuable opinion and some feedback before you send your copy off to the editor. Beta readers are typically inexpensive, most do this for free! You’ll be looking for someone who is willing to read specific genres and offer their opinion in a brief email. It’s very possible you have several beta readers in your contact list, social media network or writing group. So, before you rush a story through to your outbox, be sure to contact a beta reader to see if there is anything you could improve on.

About Ashton Rice:

As a sequential art major out of SCAD, Ashton began writing as an intern editing for The Borgen Project. He learned valuable experience as an editor and writer while taking on this role, and discovered a passion for writing and sharing information and ideas through written language.

Ashton now writes for SOLRAD Magazine and Write-On e-Publishing. His passion for comics still persists, and he continues to write and illustrate his own comics while studying up and coming alternative artists for reviews and interviews for the SOLRAD Magazine. Ashton favors writing science fiction as well as contemporary fiction in his personal work.

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