Being a Beta Reader: Is beta reading for you?

Beta reading... not at all like walking a tight rope!
I'm not sure why, but for the past couple of days I've been feeling that I should do a post on beta readers. After seeing two separate posts on it today, I've gotten the hint, so here goes. For those of you who don't know what beta reading is, it's basically reading a manuscript before it's ready to be published. Authors use betas for plot feedback, to get ideas on what works and what doesn't with characters, and much more. A lot of times, beta readers who've read the author's previous work are great at pointing out series inconsistencies that we authors tend to gloss over after reading a 70+ thousand word MS fifty times already (like, But two books ago you said her eyes were orange, not yellow, or whatever).

Betas are our friends. At least, my betas are. When I send stuff to them, I know they're going to point things out that readers will notice. I expect suggestions, knowing I might not use them all (but better to conteplate now rather than later, once the book is out and changes can't be made, right?). I expect my betas to tell me things politely, but they do have the right to disagree with my decisions, as long as they're tactful about it. It's important to remember that all beta readers are different, and that, if you choose to beta read for someone, it's okay for your personality to shine through. Some betas send back two pages of notes. Some have detailed suggestions on every page. Some only point out their favorite and not-so-favorite things. Some don't say much other than "yay" and "I'm so excited for ____" (thanks, guys). The point is, reading it and saying, "It seems decent" isn't going to help anyone, nor is sending twenty negative comments per page. 

Last, betas, a lot of times, end up being your core team of fans. And by fans I don't mean crazy fangirls who squee over you and stalk you online and get confused and think they ARE you (although, I could deal with that); I mean people who are your advocates. Who spread the word about your work, because they get it. Who you can count on in a pinch to read that novella or ask about a character list and if you missed something before sending something off to print. I don't know where I'd be without my beta readers. (You guys know who you are. Coffee hugs.) 

Oh, and authors, if you DO use betas? Please please please make sure to thank them in your acknowledgements!

Now that I've explained what betas do, here are some great articles on beta reading that I've come across, as well as a great recent #k8chat regarding beta readers (lots of tips from readers and authors). I'd like to point out that most of these are written for the writer, not the beta reader, but they're still great and will also potentially give you ideas as to what to request as a beta reader (like knowing what format you'd prefer the document in, for instance). 

Another point real quick: it's important to remember that betas are not editors. It is not their job to point out the technicalities of punctuation (though, if that is your forte, you are more than welcome to mention that to an author before beta-ing... they might appreciate catching that stuff before their MS goes to the editor). I think of betas as the person you go to and say, "Hey, do these shoes go with this outfit?" To which they respond, "Well, last month you wore them with this dress, and it kind of goes but you seem to do better wearing these with pants. Oh and those earrings you had on last week would go great with it! That eyeshadow is not working for me at all, though." (Bad example? Oh well.)

Without further ado, here are some great tips on beta reading: 

* What is a Beta Reader and Where Do I Find One? via Casey McCormick (@Casey_McCormick) ***make sure to read the comments in this post!

* The "Art" of Beta Reading via Kati Brown

* Copy-editing and Beta Readers via Joanna Penn (@thecreativepenn)

* An important tip to keep in mind while BETA READING via Monica B.W. (@Monica_BW)

* Beta Reading Etiquette via Trisha Leaver (@Tleaver)

* Beta Reading Etiquette: How to Give a Critique via Misti Wolanski

* Five Things You Should Know About Working With Beta Readers via Corina Koch MacLeod and Carla Douglas of Beyond Paper Editing

* Beta-Readers and Beta-Reading: #K8chat on Twitter with Kate Tilton (@K8Tilton)

* Beta-Reading Community at Pub Hub (@PubHub_blog)

If you have any experiences, suggestions, or questions, feel free to share them in the comments!

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