I have always believed Beta Readers to be important to a writer. They are definitely important to me because, more often than not, my Beta Readers point out flaws in my stories that I am either unwilling or unable to see.
For example, I’m currently editing/revising Scouts of the Apocalypse (formerly Boyscouts of the Apocalypse). This is a book I wrote some time ago for the Action Pack Podcast. I wrote it fast and episodically.
When the story was complete I thought I had something that would be worth publishing. I converted the podcast script to a manuscript and sent it to a couple of my Beta Readers for comment. What I got back wasn’t quite what I expected but was extremely valuable.
How valuable, I didn’t realize until just a few days ago. That’s because I had a number of other projects that had to be completed first.
Now, I am working on it and the feedback is amazing! The things that were pointed out specifically are things I tend to be guilty of: glossing over a section (too brief, need additional conversation, etc.) or too nice.
What makes this even more awesome is, while I like the original story, the suggestions I’ve received are making me LOVE the new version even more. It is reinvigorating my feelings about the story and pushing me to make it even better.
Without my Beta Readers I wouldn’t have that opportunity.
So, the question you might be asking is, “How do I find Beta Readers of my own?”
That is a very good question. I would first say, don’t involve family – they may or may not give you the kind of feedback you need. Hearing it is wonderful is all fine and good but doesn’t help you make the story better.
I would also suggest you only use friends who you know will give you honest feedback.
Beyond that, talk to people who have read your work and have already offered constructive criticism in the past. If you don’t have that, maybe you know co-workers who read your genre or people in a social setting who might be able to help.
There are lots of places to look. Maybe the Starbucks you do some of your writing at has a barrista or two willing to help. You never know until you talk to them about it. After all, you are promoting the fact you’re a writer, aren’t you?