So you want to be a beta reader?

July 19, 2018

 

Great! Authors love beta readers. We can’t get enough of them, good ones especially.  In an earlier blog I talked about at what stage in your manuscript you might think about sending it to betas. Now let’s look at things from a beta’s point of view.

I’ve been on both sides of this particular fence and this is what I feel a beta should bring to the reading table:

  • Be realistic about the time it’s going to take you to read a manuscript. Beta reading can take longer than reading for pleasure. If the author wants it yesterday, be honest if this ain’t gonna happen.

  • Keep in touch – if you’ve said you’ll have the book read by a certain date and can’t, then let your author know. They depend on you for feedback and will probably be working to a timescale.

  • Give decent feedback. Even though ‘I loved it!’ is great and gives the author a boost, tell them what bits you particularly liked and why. It’ll help them when they’re writing their next novel.

  • And vice versa – but try to be kind. Even if you hated it and thought a three year old could have had a better go at writing than your author, try to find something, anything, good to say.

  • If you can’t complete the beta read, please let your author know – again, they might be depending on you for feedback before they move forward.

  • Be honest – an author is looking for genuine reactions to their work. Being nice to not hurt an author’s feelings isn’t what an author needs.

  • If you feel you can point out grammar and spelling mistakes, then great. But that’s not what beta reading is all about. And don’t forget, you’re probably not reading a polished manuscript. You will most likely be reading an uncorrected proof ie – needs a final proof read.

  • If an author provided specific questions, try to answer them.

 

Remember, betas are readers - not editors, not reviewers.  You don’t need to provide your author with suggestions to improve plot or character development. You are there to give the author a reader’s opinion to their work. And better they discover that betas think their main character is unlikeable now, than when the book is published and reviewers get their hands on it!

From authors everywhere – we thank our betas from the bottom of our hearts!

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