edited and edited). You might even have paid for a professional edit or proofread. So, now you think it's ready to send to a publisher (or to indie publish).
Now hold on a minute there, pardner. You're not quite ready yet. You need "beta readers."
Like "beta testing" software (having users try it out before releasing it to see if there's major problems with it), beta readers read your novel before you publish it. While they can be an extra set of eyes for typos for proofreading, their primary function is to make the writing better.
Beta readers can point out inconsistencies in plot or characterization. "I really don't think a nun would become a streetwalker to raise money for Mother Superior's operation."
Beta readers will show you were you've used clumsy prose or, as often in my case, passive voice. Beta readers will make your work better.
Beta readers will have different knowledge and experience than you. They may know that a ".45 automatic" isn't necessarily a M1911, for example.
And the best part is, you get to decide what advice to take and what to keep.
It's always good to have more eyes on your novel before publication. They will see things you won't because you're too close to it. Maybe you'll have to beef up a plot point that they didn't understand. Or maybe they'll think you're being redundant. Or maybe they'll smack you for poor apostrophe usage. You never know and you should get as many beta readers as you can.
How do you find beta readers. Your writers' group is a great source. Or social media such as Facebook and Twitter (I found one beta reader on Twitter just by tweeting that I needed beta readers).
Before you publish or submit that masterwork of writing, have someone else look at it. You'll be amazed how useful beta readers are.
UPDATE: This was supposed to be my Monday Blog for the 22nd, but I was sick and didn't send out the tweets. So now it's my Monday Blog for the 29th.