A message pops up on your screen from an author you follow, asking you to be a beta reader for her new book. She encloses a book cover and chapter draft and will send you the full manuscript if you’re interested in helping.
Are you excited? Curious? Skeptical? Flattered? Hesitant? All of the above?
Read on to discover what a beta reader is, what it means for you, and why beta readers are like gold to authors.
Be sure to scroll down for your *free* download of the
Guided Questions for Beta Readers
I use with my team.
Then catch leadership and writing coach Jennifer Milius and I
in convo about beta readers,
my writing struggles during Covid, and more
on the Tutfish Show podcast and YouTube channel.
1. What’s a beta reader?
Besides being the second letter of the Greek alphabet, beta refers to the second in a series of events.
As a beta reader, you’re the second set of eyes on a manuscript after the writer is satisfied with a first draft. That precious draft represents months of toil, but as author Louise Penny says, it's typically “smelly” and ready to be made better.
That’s where you come in as beta reader.
The author is entrusting you with that smelly manuscript in exchange for your honest feedback they use to tweak their tale.
In essence, you’re agreeing to be an unbiased second set of eyes to help craft a final book that’s the best it can be.
A beta reader is someone who....
reads an unfinished (but polished!) manuscript
and gives the author honest feedback
on how the story, characters and plot hold up.
2. What does being a beta reader mean for you?
Being a beta reader is an honor AND a big ask. It requires a chunk of time and willingness to offer honest, concrete feedback beyond I like the book. Consider the points below to decide if beta reading is right for you:
Are you comfortable accessing a double-spaced, 8x11 portable document file (pdf) online? Most manuscripts are in pdf because its fixed format works across different software platforms and ensures your feedback references are literally captured on the same page as the writer's master copy. Some people print the pdf and read it as a hard copy, but most download to a tablet or computer for a virtual read.
Once my beta readers are on board, I send them a downloadable MS word worksheet with about 2-dozen guided questions to keep handy for jotting down their feedback as they read.
What kind of feedback do authors ask of beta readers?
Check out how I work with my team.
Download my free
Guided Beta Reader Worksheet
from my website HERE.
My beta readers handwrite comments on a separate sheet of paper or keystroke directly onto the worksheet. I ask them to include page numbers or chapter references, so I don't go crazy looking for suggestions in a 30K-word manuscript.
While I appreciate hearing positive comments, I encourage ideas to make my books stronger. I want my beta readers to be brutally honest in their feedback and not pull any punches.
3. Why are beta readers like gold to authors?
As a beta reader,
you partner with the author.
You become a crucial part of the writing process.
is invaluable in morphing that smelly first draft
into a stellar tale that’s ready for everyone to read.
I adore my beta readers
and am beyond grateful to them!
Their feedback majorly improved the first draft of Just Between Sam and Me, co-written with Rosie Russell. For instance:
Discover more about authors and beta readers
in my conversation with writing coach Jennifer Milius
on her Tutfish Show.
We discuss co-writing (0:17),
my struggles authoring during Covid (5:17),
making lockdown life brighter with a fairy garden, (10:08),
and lots more.
Catch Jen and me on the Tutfish podcast HERE
Watch us on YouTube
Is beta reading for you?
That level of commitment is not for everybody. My potential beta readers know right away in my ask that there are no worries if they decline my invitation.
Bibliophiles, if you’ve been a beta reader, how was your experience?
If you haven’t been a beta reader, would you consider being one? (oooo….let me know if you’re interested in my adult women’s fiction once I finish it! -:D)
Authors, what strategies have you used with your beta readers?
How have beta readers helped you?
Please share your thoughts in the comment section.
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