3 Traits of a Great “First Reader”


by Bethany Jett, @BetJett


Your First Reader is a super important person in your writing journey. As writers, we get so close to our projects, our writing “babies,” if you will, that it can be difficult to take a step back. Having a second set of eyes (or three or four) will boost your manuscript…if you pick the right person.

The First Reader has the privilege to look at your rough drafts, non-professionally edited mishmash of words. I’m always super proud of my early drafts when I write them, not so much when I’ve let them marinate for a few days.

This job is special. Exclusive. Not everyone gets to be a first reader. To help you choose wisely, here are three criteria that my first reader has to meet:

1. Target Audience

My husband is not my first reader. Almost everything I write has a female target audience, so while I will read him sections as I’m writing, he’s off the hook here. ha! I’m looking for someone who would actually pick up the book off of a bookstore shelf.

I’m probably super annoying to my first reader. I want to hear them while they read–am I hitting the pain point? Do they feel connected to the main story? Are my jokes funny? Have I made her cry? How many times?

Choosing your first reader who is within your target audience helps you answer those questions and redirect or rewrite any sections that aren’t working.

2. Non-writer

This one is a non-negotiable.

My “Second Reader” is my editor. She’s an award-winning, internationally published novelist and an a-MAY-zing editor. My Second Reader doesn’t touch my manuscript until I’ve done several drafts and had my First Reader take a go.

If your First Reader is a writer, he or she will look at your book with the eyes a writer. I specifically want someone who is reading it without having an internal editor in the back of her mind. The first drafts are heavily content-based…there will be lots of writer and editor eyes on the work later.

3. Ability to “Speak Freely”

The third criteria for a First Reader is the ability to speak freely. Basically, this is a person you have to T-R-U-S-T. Not only do they get to see your secret work, your relationship has to be strong enough that he or she can tell you if there is something they don’t like.

Personally speaking, I need a “perspective check.” Does the story make sense? Am I totally off the mark? Am I getting my point across?

Appreciate the feedback. I’d much rather have my friend tell me the writing isn’t working than to turn it into an editor or publisher and have them tell me.

Question: What are some criteria of your first readers? You can leave a comment by clicking here.


Bethany Jett, authorBethany Jett is an award-winning author of The Cinderella Rule, speaker, ghostwriter, and founder of JETTsetter Ink, a consulting and editing company. She has written for numerous publications, created the My Moments Planner, Serious Writer Companion, and is the founder of Serious Writer Academy and the Build Your Brand Program.

Bethany is a military wife and all-boys-mama who is addicted to suspense novels and all things girly. She writes on living a brilliant life at BethanyJett.com. Connect with her on FacebookPinterest,  Instagram, and Twitter.



*photo credit Mari Helin-Tuominen, Unsplash

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