What’s a Beta Reader, anyway?

I’ve mentioned my Beta Readers here on the blog more than once, and on Twitter even more than that.

So, what in the heck is a Beta Reader?

They get to read their fave authors books early, right?

The short answer is, yes. But, like all good things, the long answer is more complicated than that.

Wikipedia has a great definition:

An alpha reader or beta reader (also spelled alphareader / betareader, or shortened to alpha / beta), also pre-reader or critiquer, is a non-professional reader who reads a written work, generally fiction, with the intent of looking over the material to find and improve elements such as grammar and spelling, as well as suggestions to improve the story, its characters, or its setting. Beta reading is typically done before the story is released for public consumption.[1] Beta readers are not explicitly proofreaders or editors, but can serve in that context.

Elements highlighted by beta readers encompass things such as plot holes, problems with continuity, characterisation or believability; the beta reader might also assist the author with fact-checking.[2]

This is a perfect explanation of the nuts and bolts, but it’s missing a key element: passion.

A Beta Reader (or Alpha Reader) needs to be excited about what they’re doing. The author who is trusting you with their story-baby is waiting with baited breath to get your thoughts and notes. They need a Beta Reader to be free with their feedback, constructive, and timely. That’s not to say that the author should set unreasonable deadlines, or berate you if you need an extra week (hey, life happens, right?)  But in the absence of the occasional extenuating circumstance, that author needs to be able to rely on their Beta Reader to provide quality notes with alacrity.

So, do you think you have what it takes to be a Beta Reader? I’m on the search for a few reliable, enthusiastic readers to join my crew. If you think you should be one of them, let me know! Hit me up on Twitter, Facebook, or in the comments!

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