In these days of indie publishing, having an alternative to a professional editor is part of cutting costs and having more control over production. One working approach has been to have a select group of reader go through the work and give feedback on what they would like to see changed. The writer then self-edits as necessary before final publication.
The world of computer software development popularised the terms alpha and beta. In book writing alpha readers are those that have the first look at the draft manuscript, other than the writer. After their feedback, the writer self-edits the manuscript for the final draft. This draft is then given to the second group of readers. These are known as beta readers. They give the final feedback for final editing before publishing.
This is not to be mistaken with a critique group, which is a group of fellow writers who exchange views about each other’s works in a group. Beta readers are a segment of a book’s target audience.
Why are they needed?
Beta readers can help perfect the final product in the following ways:
· Identify gaps in the storyline that the writer could think are clear, but which are lost on the reader.
· Point out where anticipation has been built up but not adequately delivered, or delivered in a disappointing fashion.
· Identify characters and places that do not come out right, or not convincing according to the setting of the book.
Where are they found?
· Social media
There are Facebook and Pinterest groups where authors can connect with readers in their genre. Do a post describing the book’s genre, number of pages and when the feedback is expected.
You can even put a post on Instagram and Twitter calling out to say that you're looking. Make sure you include all the information about your book so you find the best readers.
· Author connections
Use existing author connections. If you are connected to authors on social media or other forums, ask them to have a look at your book. If they are in the same genre pool, you could request them to recommend readers from their pool.
Friends and acquaintances will readily help you out. The only problem is that they might be afraid to criticise your work.
· Freelancer sites
Freelancer sites like Fiverr or Upwork have freelancers that are willing to do beta reading for a few dollars. These semi-professionals are a good option as they have to do a good job to get good ratings.
As a self-publishing author, or one who is looking to cut on costs, using beta readers can be very helpful for a quick small project.