When you look up the definition of beta readers online, you get a plethora of information, such as this one from Oxford Languages:
“a person who reads a work of fiction before it is published in order to mark errors and suggest improvements, typically without receiving payment.”
Or this one from Wikipedia:
“A beta reader is a test reader of an unreleased work of literature or other writing (similar to beta testing in software), who gives feedback from the point of view of an average reader to the author. A beta reader provides advice and comments in the opinions of an average reader. This feedback can be used by the writer to fix remaining issues with plot, pacing, and consistency. The beta reader also serves as a sounding board to see if the book has had the intended intellectual and/or emotional impact on the target market.”
But none of it prepares you for the sting of the comments you receive.
As a debut author, the journey to traditional publication has been challenging. The fun and joyous parts of writing were completed the day I wrote my final words, The End, in my book. Since then, it has been a roller coaster of emotions plagued by endless edits. And just like a toddler would keep picking at his scabs, I introduce my book to a round of beta readers, who are also professional writers, for the first time!
What was I thinking?
I know what I was thinking. I was thinking about this book’s professionalism, readability, and profitability. I was attacking my baby with a sword drawn and ready to make it bleed with red ink once more.
However, after going through the tough love of my fellow writers, I found gems!
I will weave these jewels of perfection delicately through the intricate designs of my manuscript to make it a more reader-friendly novel. In turn, I will send out a more refined and polished book for another round of beta reads among my family and friends. They will represent the general populace of readers in all professions. In addition, they will give me further insight I need to make my book submission ready.
The process has taken me much longer than I had anticipated, but it was crucial. Beta readers are essential. If you find a beta reader who is a professional in this field, they are worth every dollar or time you spend reading their works of fiction. Overcoming the sharp stab to my heart while reading their suggestions on something I have slaved over was critical to find those gems that would enhance my story and make it readable to the average reader.
Now that I have finished the review process, I must edit… once again!