So you’ve written your novel/screenplay/whatever and you’re ready to let it get the once-over before you package it neatly for the publisher or producer’s inbox. A beta reader (aka peer reviewer) is important. Fresh eyes are invaluable – after all, you’ve probably missed over half your mistakes!
But it’s not just about how many people read your work (although generally, the more, the merrier). Who are your best quality beta readers?
1) The Published Writer
This is someone who’s been through the wringer, and who understands what it takes (or at least took at one point) to get a product out there. Where a viable book or screenplay comes to life, where it falters, and that we really don’t need another young-adult dystopia are all things an industry veteran will spot. Whether you’re published or not, a fresh set of published eyes can only help.
These people can be in short supply, high demand, or both. It’s often best to either approach a writer you already know, or start hanging around writers’ circles (see the bottom) until you find someone who feels like a natural fit with you. This is your opportunity to impress. MORE: 6 Things To Remember When Dealing With Writing Feedback
2) The Target Reader
No novel or screenplay is written just to be read or heard by other writers. Most of your readers won’t notice your perfectly placed comma or your brilliant symbolism. (Some will though – that’s what #1 is for!).
So, as much fun as it is to write, it’s also nice to actually sell something once in a while. I shy away from using the phrase “target market” when it comes to creative arts, because selling products is for the manufacturing sector.
It’s worth remembering your target reader is out there – some people are just going to be more interested in what you have to say than others, no matter WHAT you’re talking about. Having one of those people be your beta reader can go a long way in figuring out whether you’ll be successful in the marketplace. After all, if people who naturally gravitate toward your genre don’t want to read your work, who will?! MORE: 5 Ways To Use Feedback Effectively
3) The Subject Expert
Every book is about something. So, if you’re writing a science fiction novel about robots, having someone who works in robotics read it can help identify factual errors or inconsistencies. The more authentic your subject matter is, the more readers will suspend their disbelief. If you can get professional occultists satisfied with your ghost story, you shouldn’t have to worry about other readers thinking Ultra-Casper just isn’t realistic enough.
It’s always helpful to have more than three beta readers, but if you can only have three as a starting point? THIS is the way to go!
Where Are These Beta Readers? I Can’t Find Them
You can find beta readers at any number of places. Writers’ workshops are great for this. Say yes when they ask you to join them for a beer or a coffee afterward! Being around other writers, from the publishing industry veterans to the ones who only decided to start writing last week, will get you closer and closer to the people who can help you on your quest.
You can also find beta readers wherever you go to school, if you’re a student. Fiction fans tend to go for writing-heavy programmes. If you study humanities, social sciences or a related field, like I did, there might be a beta reader under your nose! Drop your writing into conversation, or join literature-friendly campus clubs.
Then of course, there are a massive number of forums, message boards and writers’ groups online where you can do peer review. One such place is Bang2writers on Facebook, though there are plenty more. Check out links and get connected with other writers online and IRL, HERE.
BIO: Matthew Gordon is a self-published author on Smashwords, a blogger at matthewgordonbooks.blogspot.com, and a member of the Toronto Writers’ Co-operative.
Want even MORE feedback secrets?
Then check out B2W’s course, in conjunction with Londonswf, at Ealing Studios! Check out all the details HERE, including pix from previous courses and delegate feedback. If you want to be a script reader yourself, or learn how your script gets assessed ‘behind the scenes’, then this course is FOR YOU.