by Kim Van Sickler
They look over your manuscript, hopefully because they care about you and want you to succeed. The best ones manage to encourage and critically evaluate at the same time. Does the story flow naturally? Is the main character likeable or at least someone you want to read about? Is the dialogue realistic? What ideas jump out at them to improve what you've already slaved over?
When you find a beta reader who appreciates what you have to say, and takes the time to offer insightful comments that make your story better, grab hold of them with both hands and don't let go. Make sure you return the favor and read through their stories as carefully as they did for you. Or, if they are not writers themselves, pay them in another way: bake cookies, send a gift card, design and mail a heartfelt thank-you.
Whatever you do, don't let them get away. A good beta reader is worth her weight in words.