I realize one of the hardest things for writers to do is to let a stranger read their 'baby' for free. But, if you really want to get objective feedback, it is one of the best ideas there is. Beta-readers are people you choose to read your book and tell you what they liked about your book, or didn't like. If the flow kept them turning the page, or did certain places stop them. And, would they recommend your novel to one of their friends.
Your beta-reader doesn't have to be an editor, or even become a critique partner, they just need to let you know that if put out to the public today, would the book sell, or not.
My recommendation is to pick someone that is not on you best friends list, or a family member, but someone who reads your genre first of all, and someone that is not vested in you. Other than maybe a follower of your fanpage, or blog.
I know, I know, you're saying but how can I trust a perfect stranger with sending my entire manuscript to them? I think the answer is, trust in your instincts. If there is a person that you have met and shared comments with on your page, then consider what you have learned about that person. I believe most of us can figure out whether or not that person is out to steal your work. Probably most of the people that follow you are avid readers or writers themselves, and their goal is just to read your book.
Most of us are smart enough to keep enough of a 'trail' of our work that you could prove it's your book if you had to, and I have more faith in people than that.
My beta-reader was a follower on my Fanpage, who is a friend of the design artist of my cover. She was the perfect candidate as far as I'm concerned. She is young, (which my genre is new adult, 16 and older) I have never met her, and neither had my sister, and she loves fantasy fiction. Plus, she writes in her spare time and is going to college herself, so she is no dummy. She lives in Europe and is married to a U.S. military man. So, it's not like I will meet her someday soon.
She gave wonderful feedback and is also willing to not only beta-read for me again, but will write a review for my book once it's on Amazon. I think I made a great choice.
If someone is willing to be a beta-reader for you, then consider the benefits, and think about whether or not they fit your criteria of what you need your beta-reader to do for you. If they agree to your terms, then go for it. To have an objective eye is always an added bonus and hopefully will make you feel better about making the choice to launch your book, or if it needs more work.
But, one more thing to think about, your beta-reader is not an editor. I still feel strongly that you should send your manuscript to a professional editor before you make the plunge.
Well, I hope that all of you have a wonderful weekend. Don't forget to leave me a comment and let me know if you have ever considered a beta-reader, and what helped you make your decision to do so, or if not, why?