What’s a beta reader?

Happy New Year, everyone. May your new year be filled with love, peace, and lots of music.

I’ve decided to indie-publish a work I’ve already written. It’s called, Myzaal Nightthorn and the Illegal Upload. The work is about 8500 words; that’s about novelette length. It’s a bit hard to find a magazine or journal that will publish a story that long. It’s not exactly a sweet-spot length.

What I plan to do with Nightthorn is take the novelette through the entire publication process. I think that will be more interesting for all of us – even me – than reading about how much I’m writing*.

The first step I took on this little journey was to download a guide on indie publishing from smashwords. Their indie publishing guide is called The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success. These free guides are available at all the indie sites, such as Amazon KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing), Bookbaby, and other sites. I didn’t pick smashwords for any particular reason; it just seemed as good a place as any to get started.

The first thing they recommended is to have someone else read your work, someone besides your friends and family who will probably be reluctant to give you objective feedback. Unless of course you have a hypercritical, withholding family, in which case their criticism might make you curl up into a ball and never write, again.

Smashwords suggested getting started with beta readers.

I had no idea what beta readers were. That gives you an idea of how out of touch I am and how this is a new experience for me. I’ll try to be quite honest about what little I know.

What’s a beta reader?

A beta reader is someone who will read your writing before you publish it, i.e. the beta version (Tech terms are everywhere.), and give you constructive feedback on how to improve your work. This might include correcting grammar and spelling, as well as recommendations on how to improve the structure, pace, and composition of the book.

Typically, beta readers work for free as part of writing communities or in exchange for you reading their work or just because their nice. Some beta readers charge for their services. I’m a bit of the opinion, that if they do, they’re more editors than beta readers, but I might change my mind about that.

My next task is to find a beta reader. I’ll let you know what I came up with.


*I’m writing 250-750 words a day, probably around 500 on average, if you’re curious. I’m in rewrites of my novel, now, so I think that affects the up and down averages. That’s also fiction and doesn’t include non-fiction, such as these blog entries and my freelance work. If you include the non-fiction, I’m writing over 1000 words a day.


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