About beta reading

I have just finished a beta read, and I thought maybe I should talk about what I do, and why I get paid for it.

I’m a beta reader on Fiverr — for a few bucks I will read manuscripts and give some serious feedback on them.

I am good at what I do. I respond to text in line, will point out typos or problems with formatting, and I also write a comprehensive report as I go — usually about 800 words.

Why do people hire beta readers though?

I have been asked to beta read for friends in real life and, to be honest, I am rubbish at it. I get distracted, and think things like, ‘Hey, my friend wrote this, wow… they had a pretty tripped out mind…’ and so on. I also have spent a few years critiquing the writing of other students online — this made up part of my grade, and I quite liked it. I stumbled across this gig on Fiverr by accident and now I have made some money out of it.

If you’re like me, maybe you don’t like showing people your work. Maybe you’ll take it personally if someone you like critiques you. Maybe you don’t want to trade beta reads or you have been stuck reading things that you don’t like. That’s why people hire a beta reader.

What they do is pretty simple — they enjoy reading a story and pick it to pieces if necessary. Plot holes, sentences that don’t make sense, tangents, kooky ideas — a beta reader gives you a kick up the bum when you need it most. But, more importantly, they tell you what you are doing right. As a writer, I want to know what is working, just as much as I need to know what isn’t.

If you write and you are considering hiring a beta reader (or borrowing one for free), here are my hot tips:

  • Ask questions — does Scott belong with Melissa? How is this shown? Is Dad too grouchy? Does it seem realistic enough that Ellie could ride motorbikes through a house? (Okay, maybe this one is referencing the Tomorrow series, in which case, the answer is ‘no’. Dad and I both agree on this.)
  • Make sure the beta reader wants to read your work. I love Young Adult and children’s fiction, so I get a lot of this. I have turned down long manuscripts or topics that don’t interest me — I would be doing the writer a great disservice.
  • Send your best work — I have seen lots of manuscripts that are ‘final drafts’ that are actually ‘first drafts’. I don’t want to get bogged down with bad punctuation or typos. I have done these before, and the last one I did worked out really well. People who read first drafts may call themselves Alpha Readers — first readers — and they have a big job to do!
  • Lastly, let your beta readers know what happens next. Are you self publishing? Let your reader know when your book is due out, and make it easy for the beta reader to access. One of my lovely clients let me know when his book was released and I was able to leave reviews as I downloaded his book for free. Others have published their work (and didn’t let me know) and I haven’t been able to review or promote their book because I don’t know what has changed, and I am also not paying a huge price to buy online after putting hours of work into it.

If you are a kind-hearted soul who enjoys reading, beta reading might be for you. If you’re a writer who thinks that your work needs reviewing, beta reading might also be for you too.

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