I started off as all new reviewers do – completely lost and lacking any self-confidence. I spent the first year of my review career only posting on Goodreads. I didn’t feel what I had to say was important. I definitely wasn’t ready to create a blog or interact with authors. The very thought of talking to an author was intimidating. What if they didn’t like me?
My first year proved to be educational on all sorts of things and I enthusiastically nabbed every bit of experience I could get. I requested titles on NetGalley, read freebies on Amazon and even reviewed books that I had read before. I eventually started contacting independent publishers and and I met an author who personally selected reviewers to “beta read” his novels before publication. I guess he enjoyed the review I created for his first novel and he emailed me asking if I would beta read book two. So far, this is an on going gig.
It’s a lot of work and I’m often under strict deadlines, but its also really rewarding to be part of the process.
Although authors create beautiful worlds, interesting characters and exciting plots they read their manuscripts a consumer. That’s where I come in. I highlight and note where the characters seemed weak or the plot veered off point. I let the author know which parts I LOVED (and hated) with concrete examples and explanations. I read his novels, offer constructive criticism and point out plot holes or inappropriate character interactions. I tell him “look this is what I would think as a reader and here’s why I would think this”. It’s a fun exercise and I get to read unfinished manuscripts from an author who is skilled at his craft. Win/Win!
My 5 Steps to Beta Reading:
- Thank the author for the manuscript. Getting a manuscript is a privilege not a right so be appreciative.
- Read the synopsis. Note the plot and how the synopsis made you feel. After reading return to the synopsis and ask yourself did the book deliver on the expectations created from the synopsis? Does the synopsis match with the book content?
- Highlight everything. See a part you like? Don’t like? Is there a section you thought was useless or particularly useful to the plot? These will be your concrete examples for your final report.
- Take copious notes. It doesn’t matter how detailed your notes are, but make sure you make them detailed enough to help you remember why you made the note in the first place. Strong feelings, thoughts or reactions are important notes. Make a habit of jotting down any inconsistencies. It will be these notes that will help you write a stronger, more inclusive report.
- Write a thoughtful and comprehensive report. Make sure your report is brief but filled with concise examples and strong critical points. Don’t just say “I like this book. Dawn was really funny.” Expand! The author can’t read your mind so you need to explain it to them. Why did you find Dawn funny? Why exactly did you like the book?
What if you don’t want to beta read a particular title? It’s totally fine to kindly explain to the author you aren’t interested in the title. I sometimes get requests that are for books in genres I don’t know anything about or story lines that I frankly am not interested in. Its okay to turn down a beta read offer as long as you are honest and straightforward. Never, ever accept a manuscript you have no intention of reading or analyzing!
Got a habit of posting things on share sites for piracy? Don’t beta read. It just ruins things for the rest of us who are beta reading for the right reasons.
Finally, if you ever get the chance to Beta read a novel be respectful and sensitive toward the author’s efforts. It takes months of hard work to create a book and a little bit of the author’s soul is in every novel. Seriously, being asked to beta read is an honour, not your right as a consumer or reviewer so be nice.