If you want to become a beta reader, the great news is, you’re not far away from this dream. Beta readers are an integral part of a writer’s process, and while they are most commonly associated with newer writers, you may get to try your hand at beta reading for an established author at some point.
This article covers what a beta reader is, the skills you should gain to be an effective one, and how to become one. If you love reading books, have an eye for spotting errors, and are passionate about supporting writers, keep reading!
What Is A Beta Reader?
A beta reader is a person who commits to reading a book before publication with the purpose of providing feedback for the writer. If an author asks you to beta read their book, you will need to focus on finding:
- Plot discrepancies
- Characterization issues
You will also need to read the book as a reader. This acts as a mock test for the writer. If you find characters engaging, tell them so. If a particular drives you crazy, the author needs to know this as well.
Keep in mind that beta readers are usually not employed by the writer, and they are also not editors. While a writer may ask an editor to act as a beta reader, this type of reader does not make changes to the work itself but rather recommends changes.
While pretty much anyone can be a beta reader, it takes a special skill set to be an effective one. New authors often like to ask multiple people to test-read their books prior to the book’s release.
If you are one of the chosen readers, make sure you brush up on the following tips so you can help the author most effectively.
#1 – Recognize The Fragility of The Ask
Many authors regard their books as their babies, and this is understandable. After all, it was their idea, their hard work, and their time they spent creating this manuscript. Keep this in mind as you begin reading. When someone asks you to be a beta reader, it means they trust you. Don’t take this lightly.
#2 – Read With Two Hats
When reading, it’s crucial to read through the mindset of a regular reader as well as through the mindset of a writer. While the writer will likely ask you to notice a few specific details when reading, try to offer even more than is asked of you. For instance, if you have feedback on the plot, as long as they are open to it, offer your suggestions.
#3 – Pay Close Attention
Taking notes during the reading, rather than after, will save you a lot of time in the end. If you are asked to read historical fiction, start taking notes early on. What dates are correct? What dates don’t line up? Is the fashion appropriate for the era?
On the other hand, what if a writer asked you to read their memoir? This is an opportune time to note the tone of the writing, if the story flows well, scenes that do not add to the story’s theme, etc.
#4 – Remember That Writing Is Subjective
This may be top of mind for you. Still, a little reminder is often necessary: Creative writing is subjective. What some writers love, others may strongly dislike. If you are asked to read a particular genre and, halfway through, discover you really don’t love what you’re reading, remember that writers (and readers) have different tastes.
You may not like reading the genre you committed to, but you can still keep a critical eye and offer helpful suggestions. For someone who does like the genre, what did the writer do well? Where are there areas for improvement?
#5 – Read Like You’re Paid To Do So
Beta readers are often asked to read a friend’s or writing peer’s work and do so at no charge. While there are most definitely exceptions, beta reading is commonly understood to be done for free. Often, the favor is swapped between writers: If you read for me, I’ll read for you, and vice versa.
However, as time allows, do your best to give your all to the task. While you likely can’t devote hours of your day to reading a friend’s work, give it your best with the time you have. Not only will this help the author, but you will grow as a writer as well.
How To Become A Beta Reader
If you want to become a beta reader, you can follow a few simple steps. First, reach out to your writing friends and let them know you have some time on your hands to devote to reading their work.
Second, post in your online writing group or Twitter (don’t forget to use #WritingCommunity in your tweet) and ask if anyone needs a beta reader. If you like, include your preferred genre and/or word count.
But what if you want to engage in beta reading on a more formal basis? If you want to read established authors’ books before their release, consider joining their launch team.
Many launch team coordinators for high-profile authors include an application process. This process helps ensure that true fans, devoted to reading the book and promoting it, are the only ones allowed into the launch team.
Once you fill out your application, you will often need to preorder the book, and then you will receive an ARC (advanced reader copy) through the mail, or an online version (often through NetGalley).
While ARCs often contain typos and irregular formatting, the primary purpose of beta reading the book is to get excited and share that book online with other potential readers.
Acting as a beta reader for established authors is a great way to meet your writing heroes online because many launch teams take place via private Facebook groups. Everyone now and then, the author will drop in, go live, or engage in comments.
What If You Need A Beta Reader?
If you have written a book and are trying to decide if it’s time to take that next step and publish it, you may want to seek out some beta readers for your project. Reaching out to potential readers is as simple as asking to become one.
All you need to do is put the offer online, ask a writing peer in person, or contact a friend. Remember, whether you choose to be a beta reader or need one, all feedback is subjective.
Writers do not need to take every comment a reader gives, and readers do not need to feel bad if their comments are considered and then discarded.
Beta reading is a fun, low-stress process and can create significant benefits for both parties. Imagine your beta reader finding that one plot hole you just couldn’t see because you were so immersed in the story.
Or, if you are a beta reader, just think of how helpful your comments could be to that new author. Best wishes out there, and enjoy this special process!
Interested in becoming a beta reader? Fill out this form and we’ll be in touch!