Today I really wanted to chat to you all about being a Beta Reader. It is something I started a few years ago and it’s really been a lovely experience for me. I’m always keen to encourage others who are interested to try it out as it is most helpful to aspiring authors.
So, what is a beta reader?
Simply put, a Beta reader is an unpaid reader who has the opportunity to read through the unpublished and even unpolished manuscript of a writer/ aspiring author in order to give constructive feedback.
Beta readers are often brought on towards the final stages of the writing process, although that doesn’t always have to be the case. In most cases, when a writer has written, rewritten, and then edited the shit out of their book, they go in search of those willing to read it, and give their opinions. Beta readers act as a practice audience and give the writer an idea of how their book will be received. They may tell the writer that something didn’t add up on a particular scene or chapter, or that they didn’t feel connected to a particular character etc. This then means that the writer can go back in and make changes if needed.
It’s important to note that not all writers may take the beta readers opinions and advice into consideration and this may be because out of (let’s say) 15 beta readers only two disliked a certain scene. This tells the writer the majority understood the intent and were happy in general with that scene. You have to go with the majority in these cases.
Normally it works like this…
- Writer seeks beta readers
- Beta readers apply
- Writer picks a set amount
- Writer and beta reader agree on method of communication (Facebook messenger or email etc,)
- Writer sends over first 3 chapters
- Beta reader reads chapters then lets writer know they have finished
- Writer will ask set questions to guide the beta readers feedback (what were your overall thoughts? What are you predictions? How do you feel about character X? These are all commonly used qustions.)
- If writer and beta are in agreement to continue then the next 3 chapters will be sent over
How to become a beta reader?
Interested in helping writers make their books better, and working with them in their creative journey? There are plenty of opportunities to get involved. By simply googling the term beta reader things will come up, but personally I found that joining closed groups on Facebook and by interacting with people on Twitter I was able to get involved. I’ve met some awesome writers this way, and had the privilege to read their work.
As a rule there are no specific “requirements” as such, but some writers may ask for specifics on occasion. For example, they may wish to gather a group of 18 to 24 year olds to ensure they are getting feedback from their target audience. They may look for someone who is of a specific ethnic group or cultural background to ensure that the writer has represented that group well in their novel (this is sometimes referred to as a sensitivity reader).
Other writers may wish to have a beta reader who also writes themselves, or they may request that only readers apply. Really it all depends on the writer who is seeking beta readers. They will usually use a google form for beta readers to apply, or may even just put up a post describing their book, how long it is, and for anyone who is interested to leave a comment or dm them etc. It is all very straight forward if you are looking in the right places.
I’ve been very lucky in my experience as a beta reader, and have interacted with many amazing people because of it. There is truly something amazing about getting involved in this process and being able to read someone’s work before an agent/ publisher does. It is even better when you can work with one writer more than once, and see them take your comments on board.
It’s always important to be honest, even in your dislikes, because at the end of the day the writer is trying to straighten out kinks in the story. Be mindful when giving feedback, if you didn’t like a scene/ plot twist / character etc, try to explain why; be constructive with your comments. Always remember that this is the writers “baby” and it may be hard for them to hear your negative thoughts…so, please be respectful.
Well, there it is. I hope that some of you found this interesting, and maybe even motivated to try out beta reading for yourself.
Have you been a beta reader before? Are you interested or not? Let me know in the comments below!