Beta Readers

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Hi!

Thank you! You’re reading this page because:

  1. you’re a lover of books and reading, and/or
  2. you’re in the writing/publishing space,
  3. you’re thinking about pre-reading or beta-reading one of my stories or novels.

So again, thank you for considering Beta Reading. Beta readers are critical to the success of a novel, especially the independent publishing space.

What is a Beta Reader? (or scroll down for the Beta Checklist)

So what exactly is a Beta Reader? Well, a technical definition can be found on Wikipedia:

A Beta reader is a non-professional reader who reads a written work, generally fiction, with the intent of looking over the material to find and improve elements such as grammar and spelling, as well as suggestions to improve the story, its characters, or its setting. Beta reading is typically done before the story is released for public consumption. Beta readers are not explicitly proofreaders or editors, but can serve in that context. Elements highlighted by beta readers encompass things such as plot holes, problems with continuity, characterization or believability; in fiction and non-fiction, the beta might also assist the author with fact-checking.

Fascinating, right? Blah. Let’s break it down into less technical terms.

A good Beta Reader:

Man Writing or Reading

  • Enjoys reading a good story
  • Volunteers their time to help strengthen a story because they know how enjoyable quality novels are to read
  • May or may not be familiar with the story’s subject matter
  • Can tell the difference between (or has a hunch about) something that is missing and something that was intentionally omitted and will be revealed later—but still makes a comment just in case the author forgot it
  • Reads the story without getting caught up in the spelling and grammar in order to provide high-level plot and character feedback, but
    • Might catch grammatical errors and suggests edits
    • Might spelling errors and suggests edits
    • Is not a copyeditor
  • Provides feedback to the author about what works well and what could be improved
  • Serves as the test audience for a novel

Below I’ve added a few points captured from an article written by Belinda Pollard over at Small Blue Dog, a writing resource blog.

Good Beta Readers

  • Are opinionated, but they know how to express their opinions without killing your dreams.
  • Ideally have never read your manuscript before
  • Are not so close to you that they will find it hard to say things you don’t want to hear (but if they do, can do so without killing your dreams
  • Are very often writers themselves, because fellow writers understand the challenges of creating a book-length manuscript in a way that no one else can

This article on Beta Reader etiquette is fantastic, too.

While I don’t expect my Beta Readers to encompass everything that Belinda writes in her article, I do believe an author should assemble a competent Beta Reader Team that encompasses as many traits as possible. And that’s where you come in! I’ve identified you or accepted you as someone with several or many of the above traits and I would be honored if you would beta read the story or novel I’ve proposed.

One last thing you’ll need: Access to my Style Guide.

So once more, thank you for considering the role of Beta Reader.  My goal is to produce quality novels and you play an essential part in my Grand Plan.

Note: All Beta Readers can be acknowledged in the front matter of the published novel.

Beta Reader Checklist

Readability

  • Does any part of the story drag?
  • Are there parts that you skipped to get to ‘the good part’?
  • Do I over-inform (info-dump) anywhere?
  • Did you understand every phrase / term I used?

Steamy Bits

  • Do any of the love scenes seem overly cliché?
  • Were the love scenes too fast, too slow, or too frequent?
  • Did you have to reread any part of the love scenes to understand who was doing what?
  • Did any action in the love scene make you cringe?
  • Did it make you hot?

Flow

  • Does one scene lead logically into the next?
  • Do the scenes flow smoothly from one action to the next, or did they jump as though something was skipped?
  • Is there enough downtime between intense scenes to allow it to build to the next?

The World

  • Can you see every action clearly while reading?
  • If you went there in real life, would you recognize the places?
  • Did you have to reread any part of the action sequences to understand who was doing what?

Dialogue

  • Does the Dialogue sound realistic for the individual characters?
  • Could you see what the characters were doing while talking?
  • Could you see where the characters were while talking?

Characters

  • Could you see what each character looked like clearly?
  • Do their actions and reactions seem logical and realistic?
  • Could you feel the emotions between the characters?
  • Does the story stay focused on my main character?
  • Were any of my characters too much of a jerk or too aggressive?
  • Were any of my characters whiny, wimpy, or overly dramatic?
  • Are any of my characters too stereotypical?
  • Who did you like best and WHY?
  • Who did you hate and WHY?
  • Who got on your nerves and WHY?
  • Do any of the characters get in the way of the STORY?
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