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Duties of a Beta Reader

First off, thank you so very much for considering to be my second pair of eyes on my latest book.

Beta readers read a rougher draft of the book during the revision stage, with the aim being to generate feedback to inform revisions.

Think of them as FINDERS not FIXERS. The beta reader’s job is to highlight problem areas (nothing is sacred); the writer’s job is to fix them- but by all means, share ideas if they occur.

The developmental editor on the Sherilyn Decter team has had a go at it, in fact there have had several passes at this now and I think we’re on draft number a gazillion. And there will be countless more rounds of copy and line edits and a final proofreading edit before the book is released, so please ignore the grammar and spelling mistakes you find along the way.

All those edits and revisions mean that the book is far enough along for actual readers to have a crack at it. The feedback that I need you to provide will be from a reader’s perspective, not an editor’s. That is critical because at the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about… being able to tell a good story that will captivate the reader and pull them into a different world.

Don’t panic- there will be a questionnaire to fill out after you’ve read the book, as well as a section for your comments. It usually takes about two weeks to read the book and fill out the questionnaire. (Less if you’re a fast reader, lol!)

What is My Job as a Beta Reader?

As a beta reader, you will identify what type and tone of story I’m going for and shape your feedback to help me realize my vision for the story.

You are my extra set of eyes. You will highlight areas that need improvement and give (gentle) honest feedback to weed out story issues before the manuscript goes to an editor.

IMPORTANT: It goes without saying (and my editor would catch this and say: then don’t say it!) that I’m relying on your personal integrity not to share or reproduce my novel in any way. Piracy and the theft of intellectual property is a big deal on Amazon right now, but I know I can put my trust in you to look after my book.

What Issues Does a Beta Reader Look For?

As a beta reader, your focus will be on development. This includes plot, characters, and overall story cohesiveness.

1. Look for issues like:

    • Plot holes
    • Vague descriptions
    • Weak characters
    • Clichés
    • Confusing narrative
    • Awkward dialogue
    • Continuity issues

2. Make note of the issues you find, question to see if that’s what I intended, and offer suggestions for fixing it. (Reference chapter, cut and paste the sentence into the questionnaire, page number, etc. whatever process works for you.)

3. Please fill out the questionnaire as I am keeping a spreadsheet of the comments to help with revisions.

4. Be honest. If a joke doesn’t work, let me know. Don’t brush off things that are awkward, factually incorrect, or out of character/theme/flow. It’s better to question and suggest than let something potentially problematic slide. If you don’t say something, you can be sure a reviewer on Amazon will, for all the world to see.

5. Be specific and descriptive with your feedback. Give me something solid to work with. It helps if you give a brief explanation of why you’re making a suggestion.

6. Be kind.

7. Leave editing for spelling and grammar to the editor (after all, that’s why I’m paying her the big bucks!). If you see inconsistencies in spelling (ie. Canadian vs USA spellings) or a repeated editing related issues, make a note for me to go through the manuscript specifically for that issue.

8. Meet the deadline. You’ll have one month- four weeks. I am on a very tight schedule and it takes time to incorporate beta notes into a revised draft, so please be sure to have your notes back to me on or before the deadline I’ve laid out.

Thanks again. After I’ve had a chance to review and incorporate suggestions, Whiskey Wars will go off to the proof-reader and copy editor. I’ll let you know when it’s ready to be published.


PS: As an added incentive for you to complete the beta read-through and to recognize the teamwork of pulling together a good read, I’d like to recognize you in the Author’s Foreword section of the book.