I had a wonderful evening with my friend last night (hi, Betty!). We had some drinks (I had Sprite, she had wine), and shared a HUGE piece of chocolate cake. We talked about my newest novel. She's my beta reader, and she had some great suggestions and compliments for my story. It made me feel better about the book, but it also raised some other questions (not a bad thing, just makes me look at the story in a different manner).
It's very important for an author to have beta readers. We need an outside perspective for our stories. We know exactly what's going on because we have the whole thing in our head. However, if we can't get those ideas onto paper so the reader can understand them, we've failed. Beta readers are another step in the revision process.
Sometimes, I don't think my readers know how important they really are. They get to look at my project before anyone else does, which makes them privileged and cool (and they are!). It's not easy finding beta readers. You have to find someone who is willing to give you honest and helpful feedback, but they also have to do it in a timely fashion. A person like that isn't always easy to find. People say they'll read your story, but then they get side tracked or decide they don't like it but don't know how to tell you. That's frustrating. So, with my stable of current beta readers, I make sure I do all I can to ensure their happiness so I can keep them!
I try to send my story to at least two to three outside readers to get perspectives. They all have their own tastes and ideas of what should happen in the story, and I appreciate the different backgrounds. Of course, in the end, I have to decide if I'm going to take their suggestions or ignore them. I balance that about fifty/fifty. Still, I couldn't do it without them, and I'm very happy they like to help me out!