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Should an Author Have Beta Readers?

Should an Author Have Beta Readers?You’ve done it. You’ve placed the final period, read every page one hundred times, and revised your manuscript so often you’ve started to see the pages in your dreams. It’s perfect. Well . . . maybe. You’re not 100% sure. It might be time for some feedback. Having beta readers look at your piece is one of your potential next steps.

Beta readers review your manuscript after you’ve drafted and edited it, but they aren’t professional editors. They’re more like first readers, sharing their impressions of your work. They can be a super helpful aspect of the writing process—but not always! Before you send your manuscript out to beta readers, here’s a list of pros and cons:


Beta Readers – Pros

  • Beta readers can be cheap (or even free)! In some circles, it’s common for beta readers to operate in a quid pro quo fashion. They offer to read your work in exchange for you reading theirs! This can be a good opportunity to develop some writing relationships and camaraderie. Of course . . . what you save in money might cost you in time.
  • Beta readers can be a good source of encouragement. Writing can be hard! Sometimes you just need people to pick you up, dust you off, and send you back to the keyboard. Friends and family are common sources of beta readers. While they might not offer the most objective advice, they could be useful for offering some needed confidence.
  • You can cast a net for numerous opinions. By using beta readers, you have the opportunity to get feedback from people with diverse reading habits who can help you get a picture of how different readers will view your work.

Beta Readers – Cons

One of the things you’ll notice about these cons is that some of them seem related to one of the previous pros: Pros and cons are often opposite sides of the same coin.

  • One of the hardest parts of having beta readers is the lack of professional accountability. You have no idea how long it might take for them to read your work. It’s even possible that after you send them your manuscript, you’ll get ghosted! Even with friends, you’ll have to sit back and wait as they promise to read it next week, and then the week after that, and then the week after that. . . .
  • You can’t really decide how beta readers deliver feedback. Yes, you can say what might be helpful or ask specific questions but be prepared for the . . . unexpected. You might be struck with feedback as simple (and infuriating) as a single paragraph or work with someone who prefers to send long voice notes. Anything is possible and not always in a beneficial way.
  • You can quickly end up with too many cooks in the kitchen. At Pithy Wordsmithery, we’ve worked with authors who sent their manuscript to 20 beta readers and then found themselves with 20 different marked-up versions of their manuscript. People contradicted each other in their feedback, and it became confusing for the author to review and decide what to change.
  • Finally, one of the biggest cons of relying on beta readers is their lack of professional knowledge. While they might have some good feedback on how to improve your manuscript, they won’t be able to offer the same level of insight and support as a professional editor who specializes in books.

So there you have it! Beta readers are budget friendly and they can get you closer to the level of quality you need to publish your book, but it’s unlikely they’ll get you all the way there. That’s why a lot of authors choose to skip beta readers and go straight to professional book coaches or editors.

No matter which route you choose, we’re here to help! Contact us today to get professional support for your manuscript.

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