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  • Amy Shannon

To have or have not: Beta Readers

A beta reader reads an unpublished book or piece of literature when it is almost publish ready. The intention to have a beta reader is to have the beta reader read the book from the point of a reader (not an editor of any kind). The beta reader may write a review for the title but is not under any obligation. It is not a paid service.

There is nothing wrong with having a beta reader (or having a "street team," which is a group of people that promote for an author, as well as may do beta reading for the author).

There are pros and cons to having a beta reader (and I speak from experience). If you're going to have more than one beta reader, have a diverse group, to "see" the story from different perspectives. (I once had a male and a female beta read one of my stories, and both opinions were varying, and I found that interesting). A pro for beta reading is that the author gets the perspective of a reader. (The author should also read their own work from that perspective). When bringing a beta reader on board, the author should be clear of what they expect of the reader and give a timeframe for the read.

Not every author has a beta reader, or even needs one. It's an individual decision.

The cons of having a beta reader, is that if the beta reader makes comments that change the direction of the story, the author may rely on those comments, and change the direction of the story. If they do that, it is no longer their story. The author knows the story and what direction it goes in. The beta reader needs to give feedback on characters and making sure the plot connects (every story needs a beginning, middle and end, even cliffhangers). Another con of having a beta reader is that (and I've had this happen to me) is that the story gets stolen and posted on "free" sites, even with a PDF watermark. This can delay the author's release, and the author is not getting the royalties for that work.

I am not against beta readers, but for most of my books, I did not use them. I tried it, a couple of times, and that was it.

Sometimes, it is not a beta reader that an author needs. It could just be honest feedback for the content of the story, making sure it flows, and even helping when the author gets "stuck." It's the author's story, and they can be guided and helped, without their story purpose being changed.

Now, for the "shameless self-promotion," Get It Write! writing coach services can help authors not be alone and can even help take the place of the beta reader or be the ones to help before beta reading is sought out. Authors need to market their work. Authors need to have an editor(s), and sometimes, a little bit of help to stay focused or get "unstuck."

I'm a writing coach. I'm an editor. I'm a former author (retiring with one last book to release in January 2022). I'm a book reviewer (I run Amy's Bookshelf Reviews). I'm an educator, and podcast co-host. My business partner, McKensie Stewart is also one of the writing coaches at Get It Write! She is my co-host on our podcast The After Show with McKensie Stewart & Amy Shannon. She and I run Get It Write! and our literary promotion business Genesis Book Promotions & Blog Tours. We can do and be who you need us to be because of our experiences and our life-long learning. Our goal is to help authors, with any experience.

Thank you.

Amy Shannon

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