In my humble opinion, beta reading is a highly important phase of the editing process and one which cannot be overlooked.
There are numerous benefits by having others read your work for you – provided that they are honest and critical. I have asked my diverse crew to be as brutal as they need to be, but I am also interested in hearing which scenes or characters spoke to them the most – and WHY!? I have five people – four of whom I am not related to and they are getting ready to “hand it to me” 🙂 next week. What can I say? I need to have honest feedback if my story is to grow. Obviously, I asked people who are fans of fantasy to be my beta readers as they are a small sample of my intended readership.
Areas which beta readers usually cover (or aspects which cause inconsistencies which annoy them) can range from plot, the setting, the narrative and style of writing, character, continuity, consistency and many more. Now, this does not mean that I am going to entiedit myre novel according to every criticism which pops up, but this does help me look for repeated criticisms and give me an idea about what may need changing.
The period which I chose to send out the manuscript was after the completion of the second draft – so that before Casey of Thoth Editing can do her final edits and work-over of my manuscript (which will then be draft 3) – she may now receive from me a manuscript which has already been singed by public opinion, if not baptised by fire.
Needless to say, I really do appreciate my beta reading crew. They are definitely due for “thank yous” in the novel’s credits as well as a signed copy of the printed version.