Tips for My Beta Readers

A few people have asked about what being a beta reader is like… So, here’s the scoop.

First of all, what’s a beta reader?

A beta reader is a non-professional reader who evaluates a manuscript to help a writer improve its story, characters, setting, pacing, and general readability.

Beta β means “second”, as in alpha, beta, gamma, delta (from the Greek alphabet). (Yes, there’s such thing as an alpha reader… that’s the first person who looks at the manuscript.)

How do you say it? In the US, we usually say it “bay-tuh” … but apparently, in other places, people say “bee-tuh” or “bet-uh”.

What kind of feedback am I looking for from a beta reader?

I don’t need answers to all of the questions below, but these are the types of notes and comments that will be helpful to me as I continue to revise and make the story better.

While you read:

  • If anything in the book makes you cry or laugh or want to throw the book across the room as you are reading, make a note of it.
  • If something is confusing or distracting, make a note.
  • If you get bored, tell me where you stopped (or wanted to stop) reading.
  • How do you feel about the pacing of the book? Too fast? Too slow? Just right? Make a note of any place in the book where the pacing feels “off” to you.

When you are done reading:

  • How did you feel about the characters as you were reading? Who did you like or not like? Why?
  • What, if anything, surprised you?
  • How did you feel about the ending?
  • What was the most memorable part of the story? Favorite part? Least favorite part?

Check out this blog post or this blog post for more about how to be a great beta reader.

I’m all about constructive honesty, so tell me the truth about what needs work.

Being a beta reader can be fun, but it’s okay if it’s not for you. If you’d rather be a regular reader, that’s fine. But if that’s the case, I’ll probably hold off on sending you the manuscript until it’s more polished. Or published (shh, let me dream).

If being a beta reader still sounds like something you may be interested in, then keep going…

Here’s what being a beta for my current manuscript looks like at the moment:

  • SPECS: Outsmarting Time is a science fiction novel (near future + time travel) with a female protagonist. It’s ~400 pages long (115,000 words, double-spaced, 12pt type), and I’d rate it a PG-13 for language.
  • I’m not looking for a proofreader, but, if you catch any typos, you can make a note of them into your comments.
  • I’m also not looking for a line edit, so put down your red pen. We’re looking for big picture stuff at this point.
  • I can’t send every beta reader a printed copy (because $$$), so having a Kindle (or other eBook reader) + a pad of paper for your notes/comments would be ideal. (PDF is also an option.)
  • Confidentiality. Obv.
  • I’m particularly looking for readers who don’t know me personally, since I won’t be as concerned about bias.
  • Agree to read within 2-4 weeks of receiving the manuscript. If you don’t have time right now, tell me to put you on the list for the next round… or the next book (shh, let me dream some more).

Questions? Let me know!