I’ve been at this beta reading racket for just over a year now, and one of the issues I continue to see is clients who rush through the editing process and get their book in my hands too early. Today I thought we’d take a look at the importance of knowing when to hire a beta reader.
First things first, I’m assuming you know what a beta reader is, and what a beta reader does. For those of you in the know, read on. Not so sure about this beta reader concept? Read this helpful post.
Betas need a really polished manuscript to sink into when we’re beta-reading. We want to focus on your story, your plot twists, your pace, and those always-crucial characters you’ve spent so much time creating.
We DO NOT want to get bogged down by typos that we can’t help but correct (some of us are writers too, you know!), or really obvious grammar mistakes (did I just make one with my use of commas and parenthesis?). Betas don’t want to trip over missing words, really huge plot holes, or facts that need checking. This is what a good editor is for, and I’d strongly recommend you pay a visit to one of those first.
Many of you are writing, hoping to find an agent. Some of you are hoping to self-publish. Either way, I would strongly recommend you find an editor who can take a critical pass at your manuscript and help you clean it up before you get it to readers.
Your beta reader should be your final stop before your last chunk of re-writes.
The idea is to take the notes from your betas (yes, I’d say choose more than one, and at least one pro or stranger) Then, I’d have someone proof-read, and get that baby out into the world.
Why should you send your manuscript to an editor first? Because a good editor will look for both technical errors and the weak points in your story. Then your betas can do their job, which is to read your novel or your book as your ideal reader might. They can focus on the story and the characters rather than on sloppy writing or careless mistakes. They can connect with the world and the drama you’ve created rather than get annoyed about how frequently you’ve used ‘there’ when you should have used ‘their’.
Do your beta a solid and send along a manuscript that is polished to the best of your ability and resources. This is the very best way to get what I like to call a ‘clean read’ – when a beta will be able to slip into the story just like your adoring fans surely will.