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What are beta readers? (And do you need them?)

If you’ve been around here for long, you know that I love to bang the “feedback” drum. The more of the *right* people you add to your feedback list, the more clarified your message will be.

For years, I hid my work out of fear. I stayed stuck in perfectionism and pride. What if I was a fraud? Does feedback mean my idea is bad? What if I got really unhelpful feedback?

In time, I realized that the more I exposed my work, the stronger it actually became. Because this work was not about me, I didn’t have to take negative feedback personally. Even wrong feedback was better than none. Slowly (and, ahem, it’s still a process), I grew not only in confidence, but my message sharpened too.


So, where does helpful feedback come from?

The paid route is an editor. The free one is beta readers.

Beta readers are optional. Editors aren’t. Here’s why.

A beta reader reads your work before it’s edited and published to give you feedback. They’re often friends, family, or your ideal reader.

They test out your ideas, offer suggestions for blind spots, and request for more content in bald spots. Their feedback can be invaluable.

However, many beta readers are either too close to the author/work or lack professional skills. Your mom thinks everything you write is beautiful. Your husband marvels at your wisdom. And your co-worker doesn’t know the difference between an Oxford comma and a semicolon.

Because they’re not being paid, tracking down a beta reader’s feedback can add time to your schedule if you’re hoping to publish quickly too.

I don’t always recommend beta readers to my writing clients. Their situation dictates whether or not it would be a wise move for them.


So, how do you know if you need one?

Here are a few questions to consider: :

  • How much have I talked to my ideal reader about this idea? If not much, then a beta reader can help you gain clarity on areas you might be missing.

  • How much research have I done on the topic? If your book is a Bible Study or focuses on an in-depth topic, then running it through other people knowledgeable in that topic will be beneficial.

  • Have I passed it through an editor–and not just for the grammar parts, but for the big, overarching ideas? An editor can help you see things on a macro level in a way that no beta reader usually can. A beta reader might give you some generic ideas, but they often won’t give you specific feedback on a technical level. Having both types of feedback and input can be helpful. But knowing what type of feedback you need will help you determine if you need a beta reader.


Self-publish in a year

Choosing a beta reader is one of a thousand decisions you have to make when you self-publish. Decision fatigue is real. Many authors’ beautiful, powerful messages get lost in the jungle of ISBNs and KDP formatting.

That’s why I broke it down for you into a checklist to self-publish in a year. It’s a simple breakdown of each step with how much time you should dedicate to each one. Click here to download!


Hey, I'm Mikaela. 

I'm an editor and writing coach. 
Want to overcome the panic of a blank page? 
Discouraged by negative thoughts? 
Want to improve your writing? 
I'd LOVE to help you. 
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