A beta read gives feedback on how the story meets the general expectations of the genre.
A beta read is done by a member of the book’s target audience.
Typically a beta read is completed once the author has a complete manuscript and needs to know how readers will respond to the story, characters and world in general.
What does that mean? If you write a sci-fi novel, make sure someone who usually reads sci-fi novels reads your book and gives you helpful feedback about the plot, characters, and the world you’ve created.
If you write a fantasy romance, someone who is familiar with both fantasy and romance genres is going to give you better feedback than someone who only reads literary fiction.
When should I hire a beta reader?
Often, beta readers are other writers and you swap stories.
But if you can’t find someone who reads your genre, and you can’t find someone who will give you constructive feedback (I’m looking at you, Mom), then you might want to hire a beta reader.
If you have specific questions about your story that you want answered, asking targeted questions to a beta reader before they read the story can provide insight on areas that might need revision.
Here's what you get:
One full read-through of the manuscript.
A 2–3 page letter summarizing what I liked, any issues that came up, and any ideas that I had that might improve the story.
What’s covered? Big-picture issues and a reader’s response, such as:
Is the story and plot convincing?
Do readers empathize with the main characters?
Is the reading experience a good one?
Has enough world building been completed?
Are there craft of writing issues preventing the story from being fulfilling?
What’s not covered? Topics such as:
grammar or punctuation,
detailed analysis of big-picture issues such as plot, character development, or world building.
Here’s what I do:
I read the manuscript and take notes.
I write a 2–3 page letter. The letter covers two general areas, (1) my subjective reactions and reflections on the reading experience, and (2) objective points for consideration about places that the story could be improved.