Thursday, March 19, 2015

Beta Readers - When, How, and Why

Happy Thursday, everyone! Guess what? Tomorrow is Friday! Woot! One more day until the weekend and kicking your shoes off for some relaxation time. Hope that made you smile. Today, I'm discussing beta readers per a request by my featured author next week, Inger Iverson. Oh, yeah, you're gonna love her to pieces. Yes, you do have to wait until Monday. Enough rambling by me! Grab those pens and notebooks and let's get going!

Whazza Be-ta Reed-er?

Well, to put it simply, a beta reader is someone who reads your novel and sends you feedback about characterization, plot, and structure. They'll tell you what they liked, what they didn't like, and point out any holes in your storytelling.

A good beta reader will take your great novel and make it an awesome one.

A fantastic beta reader (these people are usually paid) will make inline comments, guide you on structure, give you tips on where they feel you can draw out more emotion, and make sure they can nail the plotline by the end of the book. This kind of beta reader will make your great novel into a bestseller.

I know many authors that use more than one beta reader. Those writers feel they need more than one opinion. It's a preference thing.

How do you find a beta reader?

This question comes up more than I can mention. One of the biggest problems plaguing the Indie author community right now is theft. Sadly, it's often someone who's volunteered to be a beta reader that steals. When speaking with a few of my author friends during our coffee meeting, one of them mentioned she had a friend that send a novel to a beta reader. That person uploaded the work to Amazon and sold it as their own. That author was screwed.


So, it's really best to use people you know (and I don't mean randomly via Facebook interactions, but in real life) or trust (this level of trust usually includes a contract - with or without pay).

If you aren't passing your novel off to friends or family, USE A FLIPPING CONTRACT! Protect yourself, please! I can't stress that enough. Even if the contract is for zero dollars, sign it; that may be the only proof you have of ownership if your novel gets stolen. 

Why you should use a beta reader.

Like I mentioned above, they can point out weak parts in your storytelling. Yes, you're too close to the story by the time it's written, and you're likely to think things are properly communicated when they might not be.

When someone says, "I got ABC from that." but you meant XYZ, you'll understand.

When do you need a beta reader?

You should seek out betas once your novel has been through at least two edits by your own hand, before it goes to an editor for pricing. Why? Because your word count could change dramatically between points A and B, based off feedback from your beta readers. You may change a character's name, or you could delete or add entire scenes out of necessity.

As an editor, I can say I hate when I've done a round one edit and the author adds five chapters because of beta feedback. Not only does it screw the pooch on my price (based on grade and word count), but I then have a whole section (or sections) needing a round one level edit. Round one is different from round two because the first time through takes more time nit-picking sentence structure and grammar. On a round two check, there should be minor changes to pan through. Make sense?

Can your editor be your beta reader?

YES. However, your editor should beta read and offer fixes before round one of editing begins. They should also work it into your editing contract (with dates). Usually, an editor will charge you for this service.

I've been through this exact scenario. I had an author with a book that read like a draft, and beta read it with a lower score for editing. That person still got the two rounds of edits and the proofread, but there were no major additions once we'd been through the beta read.

Not every editor offers that service. Be sure you ask if you feel it's something you may want to do.

Above all else, be sure you trust the person you're sending your novel to. At the very least, use a contract if you're not sure. CYOA - always.

Do you love your betas? Where did you find them?

Well, that's all for today, folks! Until next time, WRITE ON!



  1. Beta readers were invaluable for Sir Edric's Temple. I think I'm reasonably good at self-assessing 'serious' stuff, but comedy's so subjective (and reading your own joke multiple times robs it of humour/novelty) it was critical to get an outside perspective.

    It's also handy to beta read for other people. Trains your mind to anticipate potential flaws they might then spot in your own work. And, given it's working for free, it's nice to reciprocate (when that works out. Some people are only into certain genres).

    Must say I've not used a contract for beta readers. Proof of ownership, I'd hope, could be established by having earlier drafts as well as e-mails sent to other beta readers.

    1. I've heard of so many authors having their books stolen by a beta-reader lately, I'm scared to even consider it without a contract. You'd be surprised how hard it is to prove and how costly court can be. *shudders* Thanks for stopping in, Thaddeus! Sorry it's taken me so long to reply.


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