QUESTION: What is a beta reader?
The term "beta reader" is a bit mushy in definition according to who uses it, but the most common usage is a reader who reads most if not all of your book after you write it and before you send it off to the agent or editor. That's as opposed to a critique partner who works with you through the whole process.
Often the beta reader is a reader, not a writer, so you are allowing a test run of your book. Sometimes, if your book has specialized knowledge in it, your beta reader is an expert on that knowledge so they are reading to be certain you got it right. For example, if your heroine is a physicist and her theories are part of the story, you'd find a physicist in her field to vet the book for accuracy.
Like critique partners, some beta readers are excellent while others are absolutely useless. Be sure to have more than one so you get a better sense of both the quality of the readers as well as the quality of your novel.
QUESTIONS, I TAKE QUESTIONS. Have a question about publishing, craft, or anything else writing? Ask me via my blog or website.
Marilynn's Workshop Schedule and Information Links
Writing in the Moment April 11-May 8, 2011
How to get your voice, viewpoint, and craft so perfect that you disappear and your story comes alive. Lots of worksheets.
The Blurb: Mother of All Promotions July 25-August 7, 2011
A blurb is the pithy description of your novel in a query letter, the short "elevator pitch" used at a writer's conference, the log line for online promotion, and the all important back cover copy for a published novel. Without a great blurb, a novel won't be noticed by agents and editors.
Marilynn Byerly--creator of a blurb system used by university publishing courses, publishers, and many authors-- will show you how to create that perfect blurb for your novel. The course will include a number of worksheets and in-class blurb analysis.