Writing a book is no mean feat. Especially in today’s times when you have so many options of self-publishing to explore.
One needs a whole team of people to work on the book after having written it, to make it presentable to the audience. Editors, proofreaders, cover designers are all well known key elements of a novel. What we also miss considering most of the times, is the role of a beta reader in a manuscript.
Who is a beta reader?
Beta reader is an individual who analyses a manuscript bases the various parameters of novel writing and gives feedback on different aspects of your manuscript. Derived from the computer coding language where the beta version of software is made available for testing, the beta readers are similar testers for unpublished books.
Professional beta readers can provide objective, unbiased and a detailed feedback on your manuscript, ensuring that you are on the right track to fulfilling your dream. Many a times, beta readers also help in market analysis by predicting the response to the book.
Why a beta reader?
Writing is a lonely job and it always help to have someone out there who can help you on this journey to accomplish of dream of being a published author. A plotline that looked awesome on paper might not transcend onto an equally (or more) amazing story when written in 50,000 words. A defined synopsis might have got forgotten somewhere in getting those perfect setting scenes and a detailed character-sketch might not look ‘detailed’ in the book.
The beta readers are professionals who can note such misses and highlight them accurately to polish a book before it is published.
One can always argue over this because it is easy to find readers for an unpublished novel being given out for free. Friends and family might be more than willing to be the first reader of that prized manuscript. However, it is the type of feedback which is crucial at this juncture and can make or mar the future of your novel.
In all possibilities, friends and family members might not
(1) Give a harsh critical judgment keeping aside their feelings /relationship with you
(2) Be qualified enough to do an overall analysis of the manuscript, vis-à-vis the writing style, the narrative, techniques, character-building.
Some might be either of the above cases while some might be both. And that is the reason a professional beta reader is always recommended for authors.
However before going ahead with a manuscript assessment, it is important analyze your manuscript in the following aspects:
- When should you consider a manuscript assessment?
Ideally a manuscript assessment should be considered when you are done re-writing your MS for the umpteenth time and are unable to find any loopholes in it!
Jokes apart, as a writer you should request for it when you thoroughly saturated with both the output and the input. There is nothing more that you can think of, to add to it and are now, curious to know what others think of it. You should not consider sending a half-written manuscript because the feedback might not be that helpful.
- What are you expecting from the manuscript assessment?
As a writer, there could be many things that are a matter of concern for us in our manuscript. It could be a particular character, the overall voice, the language, setting or the marketability of the book. If you are specific with your requirements in terms of feedback then you can expect specific replies.
- Do you want the whole MS to be analyzed or only the blurb/synopsis along with sample 3 chapters?
This is important because if you opt for the latter you get a feel of how an agent or an editor might react to your queries and if the former, it could mean you might need to rework on your manuscript basis the detailed feedback that you will be given.
Always discuss your ideas, fears and expectations with your beta-reader / manuscript assessor before commencement of assessing to ensure you both are on the same page. This will help you get the feedback as desired by you.
To conclude, I would like to clarify;
‘Manuscript assessment doesn’t guarantee the acceptance of a submission, neither is it mandatory nor is it a sign of a book touted as the next best seller.‘
What does it guarantee then? You might ask.
Well, it guarantees you a third person’s perspective to your manuscript. It could be a reader, an established writer of the same genre as yours or even a professional beta reader. Choose your target wisely basis on your desired output to get optimum results.
About the Writer-
Namrata is a lost wanderer who loves travelling the length and breadth of the world. She lives amidst sepia toned walls, fuchsia curtains, fairy lights and shelves full of books. When not buried between the pages of a book, she loves blowing soap bubbles. A published author she enjoys capturing the magic of life in her words and is always in pursuit of a new country and a new story.
She can be reached at-