Beta Reader Group discussion

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Writing Advice & Discussion > Why I won't beta read again !

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message 1: by Chris (last edited Aug 21, 2015 04:02PM) (new)

Chris | 83 comments Hi there, wanted to share why I won't beta read again, and hopefully by sharing my experience, persuade authors who are looking for people to read their work to refrain if they are not ready to hear feedback.

Over the course of this year I've BR seven or more people. With some of them I had long lasting relationships, with a few others not so much.

Unfortunately, more than half of the people I read were not ready to receive feedback. That is, if I pointed that a plot needed more structure (i.e. your inciting incident does not occur until half your book, you need to move it more at the beginning of the story), their response was that the background history was very important for their book.

If my comments were about the characters not being likeable , because the way they reacted to certain events was not natural (i.e. in one story the main character's father dies and all she could think about during the funeral was how hot the guy she just met looked), then their response was that that was their favorite part of the book.
Finally, if I corrected simple style and technical errors, their response was that "published authors" had seen their work and have not complaint and that overall all they were looking for was a general opinion of their book.
I had people not answering my emails after I spent hours reading their work because they did not like what I had to say. I had others telling me I was not educated enough in their genre to understand their characters and worlds they were creating.
One person even bothered to count the number of the word "the" I had in my manuscript to find repetitiveness in my word vocabulary.
I get it, I am an aspiring author too, and it is hard to listen to feedback; but I proud myself to take writing very seriously. I read and read books about how to plot a novel, vocabulary, style, etc… I constantly watch videos, I’ve attended seminaries, I do my research and most important, I listen to feedback.
It is hard when someone comes and tell us this and that is not sound, but I am 100% sure that the only motivation that person has is helping us become better writers.
Why, and I asked with genuine interest, why would you want someone to read your work in progress MS if you believe it is ready? And why would you want someone to give you feedback if you are not ready to listen to it?

Yesterday I received my 30k MS completely marked by someone who I am convinced is a more experienced author. I could have PAID for that feedback and that person did it for free. I felt blessed. No work is ever perfect and having peers to help you out should really feel like a blessing.

Eitherway I am out of BRs for a while. Sorry to all the serious authors out there who are here to actually receive feedback.


message 2: by Jaina (last edited Aug 21, 2015 05:10PM) (new)

Jaina | 10 comments Well, this was eye opening.
I've only started beta-reading a few weeks ago, but luckily I've been blessed with a patient author who is willing to put up with me. I never really thought of the negative side. Thanks for bringing this up (and for the funny anecdotes)! :)


message 3: by [deleted user] (new)

I completely understand, I haven't been doing this long and I spent 4 days working on editing a not well developed story and the author decided to question my age and say she did't think that I fit her story. She also said that because I took 4 days to get back to her that she had found someone new to read for her. I feel really unsure if I want to carry on doing this...


message 4: by G.G. (new)

G.G. (ggatcheson) You guys haven't been lucky. I've beta read for a few authors and I don't know about their experience but mine was enjoyable. :>

I mean, I understand that sometimes they don't agree with my notes, comments, and suggestions and that is fine with me. It's their story, their MS. They ask for my opinion, they get it. Yet, I always advise them to ask around if they disagree. It's not because I beta that I'm right.

I'm not sure I'd be happy to beta if I'd have had your experience. After all, it takes a lot of time and determination to beta read. Sure, some works are easier than others. I've beta read works that were ready for publishing, but not all are.

The author should understand that. If they don't, I'm sorry to say but they are immature. :( Sometimes I wonder if there shouldn't be a shame thread for them.


message 5: by Abigail (new)

Abigail (hiilikewritingandstuffs) | 14 comments Booksmaketheworldbetter wrote: "I completely understand, I haven't been doing this long and I spent 4 days working on editing a not well developed story and the author decided to question my age and say she did't think that I fit..."

That's horrible. Reading is one of those things that age has nothing to do with. If someone is questioning your age, they should only be asking to know what age group their reaching and how others of your range might respond to their work.

One author I beta read for, I actually had to quit. Every correction I suggested would incite them to defending their work, saying how important it was going to be in the future. Even when I suggested a better word to describe what they were going for, they would defend that! Such a small thing to argue over. On the other hand, another author I read for was so sweet. I had her book for almost six months before giving her my full feedback, and she was so receptive to it.


message 6: by [deleted user] (new)

She only questioned my age because I apparently didn't understand her points and after I explained I didn't see them she told me she didn't want me to beta read for her anymore - other authors have been so appreciative of my feedback and it really hurt she didn't appreciate it.


message 7: by new_user (new)

new_user | 2 comments Authors are not supposed to argue with beta readers. Whether or not they incorporate the readers' suggestions, authors should only respond with a "thank you" because beta readers really do provide an invaluable service as another set of eyes on the page- and for free. Sorry to hear about everyone's bad experiences. :(


message 8: by Taylor (last edited Aug 21, 2015 08:30PM) (new)

Taylor | 18 comments I've read for a person (not on this site as far as I know) that took every one of my suggestions to heart. I wasnt mean or insulting, for example one of his characters had a mental disorder and the trigger was specified in the book. So when things completely unrelated to the trigger caused the character to shut down I made a note of it. Once I sent him the list of spots asking why they seemingly randomly triggered the breakdown he claimed artistic freedom and that my questions were invalid and went as far as negating all my other comments and suggestions saying they were important and that I didnt understand why they were. I had finished the book once I sent my notes and comments so there wasnt any need to keep emailing but it made me a little sad because I enjoyed the "behind the scenes" beta experience and he was very rude about it.

If people ask my honest opinion and then negate everything I say saying I'm wrong its like a slap in the face to have spent time reading and enjoying your work after being asked ways to improve it. It hasnt made me stop wanting to beta for others though, I didn't one bad apple to ruin the possibility for helping others.

I don't expect people to agree with every one of my comments. I have different preferences when it comes to certain things and I know and realize that. If I'm able to see something they've missed or be the 2nd or however many other person to give a similar opinion on a topic that leads to a change then I'm happy to have helped. I really enjoy beta reading getting to interact with the authors and possibly being able to improve something, and thay usually makes it pretty enjoyable for me enough to want to keep doing it.


message 9: by April (new)

April Wilson (aprilwilson) Well, as an author, I really appreciated every piece of advice and tidbit that my beta readers gave me. Some of them just did a cursory read and minimal feedback (such as: I liked it. It's good), while others gave me pages and pages of feedback (both good and bad) with page numbers, paragraph numbers, etc... I really appreciated my beta readers!

But I know that a lot of people aren't ready to hear constructive criticism. Until they get to that place, they're probably just not ready to be authors.

April


message 10: by Chris (new)

Chris | 83 comments Yes, to me there's no point of putting something out for BR expecting to receive only acclaims. I fear a lot of newby writers are that way.
I remember a girl, probably a teenager judging by her picture, who went on and entirely deleted her profile right of GoodReads after me and someone else gave her feedback on her 8k words first chapter that was full of clichés -the handsomest of the vampires and the shiest girl in school.

I knew about this other person because in the original threat they went back and forth and because I was copied I kept receiving notifications.


message 11: by [deleted user] (new)

It's hard line to walk, trying to point out the flaws without seeming to insult the author or their work. Regardless of the outcome your critique and suggestions should be what you yourself would consider valuable. If an author takes insult at these suggestions it's a good chance that they are too close to the work to begin revising it or were looking for validation rather than fair criticism. I've worked doing reads as a freelancer and as an employee of an editing group for a while now, not everyone is ready to hear advice on how to strengthen their work without being blinded by negative criticism.


message 12: by Barbara (new)

Barbara Tarn (barbaragtarn) Authors should learn to be humble. Unfortunately younger writers can't take criticism well. I'm "lucky" that I started writing before the internet (showin my age, I know), so I just wrote.
Then I started finding friends who gave me feedback, pointing out plot holes characters inconsistencies and stuff like that, which improved my writing.
New millennium, new technology, creative writing workshops and XX years later - if I re-read those old stories, most are junk. Some have a sprinkle of goodness, and I'm slowly rewriting them.
But last century I met a lot of those authors who were so defensive of their writing that I know exactly what you mean here!
I don't beta-swap anymore for lack of time, but I understand why someone would back out...


message 13: by Kelvin (new)

Kelvin Reed (kelvinlreed) | 8 comments Some of the problems stem from the author and beta reader not having a clear idea of what the author wants a beta reader to do. I tell the beta reader up front: I want you to provide feedback on the CLARITY AND FLOW of the prose, not the ideas, characters, issues themselves. Bottom line: Did you understand what I had written? Were you able to keep reading without having to go back or pause? Further, I make it clear if the reader has a very strong opinion about the content per se s/he can offer it but to do so only sparingly

Works for me!

Kelvin L. Reed
Author of Once a Month
Would you sleep with your spouse's
best friend if your spouse asked you to?
Available FREE for two more days (Aug 22/23, 2015) at Amazon.com
Once a Month


message 14: by Barbara (new)

Barbara Tsipouras | 103 comments I guess it's all a question of matching. If the beta reader likes the style and the genre things are much easier. This week I got a request from an author to beta read. I asked her, to tell me something about the book. She didn't. She just sent me the first two chapters. After the very first paragraph I knew that I'm not the right beta for her. I'm not into vampires and I really dislike overly schmaltzy descriptions. I told her she'd better look for somebody who generally reads her genre. She said OK and that was that.

What I want to say is that not each book is for each beta and not each beta is for each author. In order to enjoy the experience they have to be a good fit. It's not easy to find, but we all have made the experience that it's possible. The most helpful way is to define clearly what you are searching for and what kind of book you are writing.

(BTW Angel, don't focus on typos and grammar faults in spontaneous comments of a beta. Have a look at your own post first, as a proofreader I'd paint it all red.)


message 15: by Heather (new)

Heather Blair (lovelyshivers) Personally I would kill for a beta reader like you. I am tired of beta readers as I have gotten way too many no responses after they get their free copy.

Or I get one line back, like 'it was great!'

Gee, thanks, but not real helpful. :(


message 16: by Barbara (new)

Barbara Tsipouras | 103 comments Angel, I didn't want to offend you. I just wanted to emphasize, that typos and grammar shouldn't be the creterion to judge a beta.


message 17: by Melanie V. (new)

Melanie V. Logan (melanievlogan) | 11 comments Kelvin wrote: "Some of the problems stem from the author and beta reader not having a clear idea of what the author wants a beta reader to do. I tell the beta reader up front: I want you to provide feedback on th..."

This is exactly what I was thinking. When the author's made no clear expectations, then to me, it's open to any feedback. I don't think it's reason to be rude to someone who's doing a favor.


message 18: by Michael (new)

Michael | 19 comments The goal is to create the best possible story for the reader. It's better to hear about flaws in your story from beta readers than people that actually buy your book.

I take beta feedback to heart. You don't have to change your story even if you see a problem. You can choose to cling to that purple phrased turd that you so much love, but if everyone tells you they can still smell it, even after you've coated it with molasses and powder sugar, then if you don't make the change, you get what you deserve.

I like to swap beta reading because it improves my writing. Sadly, I also know that I'm limited in the stories that I can beta read. My reading sensitivity isn't appropriate for YA, so I avoid it.

Anyway, Chris, am I the guy that you referred to that marked up your text? I just want to reassure you that we all have a ton of work to do to get better. When we think that we've arrived, we just need to find a place further away that we want to go. :-)


message 19: by Kelvin (last edited Aug 22, 2015 11:06AM) (new)

Kelvin Reed (kelvinlreed) | 8 comments I completely agree with you, Melanie V. A beta reader is doing me a favor, so save both of us a lot of trouble by being clear on the expectations.

A couple of more suggestions: I usually commit up front to buying the beta reader a book of his/her choice after our arrangement is complete (I always add "within reason, not Black's Law Dictionary"). I doesn't begin to compensate the reader for his/her time but it is appreciated.

But probably the most important aspect of the agreement: The reader and I agree to a chapter by chapter arrangement; s/he provides feedback for each chapter after I finish it, having gotten it as good as I can (after submitting it to one of my toughest beta readers--my wife). Fewer disagreements about the project that way.

Kelvin L. Reed
Author of Once a Month
Would you sleep with your spouse's
best friend if your spouse asked you to?
Available FREE for two more days (Aug 22/23, 2015) at Amazon.com
Once a Month


message 20: by Chris (new)

Chris | 83 comments Yes you are my friend Michael :) amazing, wonderful feedback really! I am half way through yours which as I've said will be my last beta for a while.


message 21: by Penny (new)

Penny | 1 comments I've beta read a handful of times and had a similar experience and I've come to the conclusion I won't do it again.

I always offer constructive criticism on plot structure and character development and aspiring authors seem insulted when I pointed out inconsistencies and so forth. I am a particularly picky reader and I tend to pick up on irrational/unrealistic reactions and disjointed plots.

Even when I go out of my way to point out what's working and other aspects of the story that I like, people still feel insulted that I didn't offer anything other than the upmost praise for their manuscript.

That said, I imagine most people figure they can get away with shoddy writing seeing as the market is littered with shitty books and for whatever reason the shittiest books are on the best seller lists and being made into movies.


message 22: by Michael (new)

Michael | 19 comments Chris wrote: "Yes you are my friend Michael :) amazing, wonderful feedback really! I am half way through yours which as I've said will be my last beta for a while."

You have an original story and one day if you keep working on it, it will be wonderful. It really is hard work though, isn't it? LOL.

About my beta, please take your time. I'm in no hurry at all. Taylor gave me some great feedback on Friday and I'm still working on good solutions (again, everyone should try to get Taylor to read their book - sorry Taylor - LOL). I also have a beta for Ted to do.


message 23: by April (new)

April Wilson (aprilwilson) I got really lucky with some of my very first beta readers. They wrote very insightful, detailed reports on my completed draft of my first novel - I wanted to give them big hugs. I asked them if they'd beta read for me again (for book 2), and they said yes. so I'm excited about that.

i think it's helpful for writers to make connections with good beta readers who work well with you. Cultivate those good relationships.

April


message 24: by Lin (new)

Lin | 213 comments Mod
Maybe I've been lucky with my beta reads, but I've always had authors who say thank you, and some who have asked questions or discussed the feedback I give. But then I charge for beta reading, and maybe that helps to filter out those who are looking for a cheerleader rather than constructive feedback.

Just remember that most beta readers are giving feedback to help, and whatever you feel about the quality of that feedback, it never hurts to say thanks - even if you decide they've missed the point and you ignore their comments.

And beta readers should remember that their role should be as a reader not editor, and aim for honest feedback. If you lose interest, can you identify where and why? If you're confused, what about? When my attention wanders, I try to figure out the problem and on the very rare occasion I can't complete a read I'll explain what the problem is.


message 25: by Pavan (new)

Pavan Kaur (pavankaur) | 12 comments So far I have had great Beta I am always looking for someone to be 100% honest with me, from eh flow to the story to what they hated about the story. If I can get that feedback i am so happy because it helps me make my story better.
If any of you guy ever want to beta for me I would love it xx


message 26: by A.M. (new)

A.M. Leibowitz (amleibowitz) | 20 comments I am so sorry about all the things people have had happen to them. I can say I've truly been blessed to have mostly had positive experiences on both ends. I used to read for a (now defunct) beta reading service, which is also where I got my own betas. Sadly, the website no longer operates.

I've been very pleased with my betas here. I've had all manner of feedback--from just about rewriting whole chapters of a novella to having betas give me largely positive feedback (complete with exactly what worked for them--which was SO helpful because I can take the same thing into my next project). The two publishers I've worked with so far have told me that I take project notes really well, and I believe I learned this skill from having competent and compassionate betas.

That said, I have had a recent couple of not-so-great betas. The first one was one of those people who clearly didn't actually read it. She did the equivalent of saying I failed to say the brown house I described was brown, and she said my "romance wasn't sexy." Um...yes, sweetie, because I don't write romance! LOL. The other beta's feedback was, "I hated all your character names, but the sex scene made me horny." Um...not helpful! Though it was amusing. My reaction was NOT to message them and tell them all the reasons I hated their feedback. I politely thanked them, and I will simply use other betas next time.


message 27: by Michael (new)

Michael | 19 comments Hmmmm... Maybe you *should* write romance. LOL


message 28: by [deleted user] (last edited Aug 22, 2015 05:37PM) (new)

Lin wrote: "Maybe I've been lucky with my beta reads, but I've always had authors who say thank you, and some who have asked questions or discussed the feedback I give. But then I charge for beta reading, and ..."

I agree with what Lin said, it's important to remember is that a Beta is not your editor. From the perspective of a reader I can get a bit annoyed when someone expects me to act as an editor, especially if it's one I'm paid to read. When I volunteer a read there's no downside for me to let my work as an editor creep in a bit since I've already set aside the time, but if I'm contracted for a read and I find that a manuscript is full of errors (not just some minor ones that I pick out easily, but the ones that make it very difficult to read) it's just not worth it for me or my company.

You shouldn't expect to get detailed analysis of every paragraph or to have all your punctuation checked, but you should get notes on what your reader did and didn't like and some suggestions on how to improve it before it's released or sent to an agent. Some readers will only read a completed draft, others will look at sections of works in progress but it should be a place where you're comfortable sharing as if someone picked it up in a store.

Different readers will provide differing levels of detail, and some will act more like an editor than others (my job creeps in a bit when I'm reading) but you also shouldn't expect a beta to give you a line-by-line breakdown.

TL;DR: Know both what to expect and what's expected from the outset. If it's not in the final stages (full or segment), get an editor instead.


message 29: by A.M. (new)

A.M. Leibowitz (amleibowitz) | 20 comments Michael wrote: "Hmmmm... Maybe you *should* write romance. LOL"

ROFL! No, I really, really shouldn't. I am possibly the least romantic person ever.

Dylan wrote: "When I volunteer a read there's no downside for me to let my work as an editor creep in a bit"

I'm exactly the opposite. If I'm beta reading, I will not do copyediting. I get paid for that. If you give me your thing to beta, then either it's ready to publish and you want to know if it will go over well or else you are still in draft mode and don't need your grammar and punctuation checked yet.


message 30: by Lin (new)

Lin | 213 comments Mod
I agree with A.M. - when I beta, I'll comment on writing issues for the first few pages if I see issues, just to make the writer aware that they exist, but then I'll concentrate on the content itself. There's no point in worrying about spelling errors etc when you're still developing the plotline and the characters. I restrict myself to commenting only when the errors make it difficult or even impossible to discern the meaning.
I'm happy to edit and/or proofread if paid for that service, but betas are hugely time-consuming as it is. I don't have the time (or the income) to do my paid job for free as well.


message 31: by Halima (new)

Halima Chefchaouni | 16 comments Booksmaketheworldbetter wrote: "I completely understand, I haven't been doing this long and I spent 4 days working on editing a not well developed story and the author decided to question my age and say she did't think that I fit..."Sorry to hear this happened to you. If you're willing to give my story a try I promise I am looking for both positive and negative feedback. The positive is easier to hear, but the critical feedback is what is most useful ultimately. I'm also really interested in seeing what young readers think of my book. :)


message 32: by [deleted user] (last edited Aug 23, 2015 10:28AM) (new)

A.M. wrote: "Michael wrote: "Hmmmm... Maybe you *should* write romance. LOL"

ROFL! No, I really, really shouldn't. I am possibly the least romantic person ever.

Dylan wrote: "When I volunteer a read there's n..."


Oh, I agree with you A.M. I'm just saying that I've marked out time specifically to volunteer and as long as volunteer projects don't stray outside that time I don't lose anything. I get paid for most of the projects I take on but if I'm contracted for a paid read and it turns out that the author wants copyediting or a complete overhaul of their manuscript I'll void the original contract and give the client the correct rate and service before doing anything else.


message 33: by Samantha (new)

Samantha Love | 12 comments Heather wrote: "Personally I would kill for a beta reader like you."

I was thinking the exact thing. Sad to see someone so good leave, but I can't blame him given with his experience.


message 34: by Aly (new)

Aly | 5 comments I have helped a few authors with their books, as well, being a Beta Reader. I have found them all to be very understanding and they some have asked for my help again in the future. I love helping out when I can! I don't help because I want to not for money or anything else. I work full time and I have been trying to pass a test for my job. It has taken more time out of my life than I thought and I'm always up front and honest with the authors. They wait patiently for me and are happy with my feedback. I'm so happy I found Goodreads that I tell others people about this website and how great these authors are to help. I love what I do and I hope it helps authors as much as I get a sense of doing something for someone else "just because I can help". I also read and review for authors too. I feel blessed to be part of this great experience and I thank everyone who asks for my help because they have many other people to choose from.


message 35: by T.A. (last edited Aug 23, 2015 11:56PM) (new)

T.A. (tahernandez) | 42 comments Beta reading is kind of hit and miss. I've had a lot of good experiences, but I've also had some really awful ones. I've been doing this for a while, so I've kind of just learned to accept the fact that some authors are obnoxious about getting any feedback that is less than positive, while others are extremely courteous and appreciative of feedback and recognize the time it took for me to complete it. There are a couple of writers who I beta read for on a regular basis, and while they may not always make the changes I suggest, I know that my input is valued, and that is huge for me. If you're courteous and respectful and take my feedback into consideration, and if I liked your story, I'll probably buy your book, even if it's less than perfect. I may even recommend it to other people. If you're rude and inconsiderate and clearly not willing to accept constructive criticism, I will never read anything else you write and will probably lose all respect for you as a writer.

Look, the indie publishing business is hard. I don't think authors should be burning bridges with the people who are trying to help them make their book the best it can be so that ultimately, more people will want to read it and buy it. If a beta reader respects you and likes your book, they might recommend it to people, and maybe that's not much, but every little bit of promotion helps. If the author wants to be obnoxious and lash out at their beta reader for pointing out the story's flaws, they're really only hurting themselves in the long run. I know constructive criticism hurts, but seriously--if you want to be a writer, you have got to have a thick skin.


message 36: by Kate (new)

Kate | 5 comments I've only beta read one time and the author couldn't take my criticism along with my praise. I felt like I wasted a TON of my time. Total bummer.


message 37: by Imani (new)

Imani (ImaniLanai) | 29 comments I've beta read for a lot of authors and can truly say that it is hit and miss when trying to give criticism. As a beta reader, my goal has always been to give criticism to help an author with whatever issues they have in their story. I have had both pleasurable and disappointing experiences with authors. I've had authors who have belittled me because I didn't give the same generic, "What a great read! I love this story!" I have also had authors who were grateful to the constructive criticism and used it as a learning opportunity.
What most people should understand is that not all beta readers come with an English degree, have nothing but time on their hands, and/or have the ability to read an author's mind. A lot of beta readers simply love to read and have no problem offering their "opinions." After all, beta reading is very opinion based. While I may find that not enough emotion was used in a scene, another reader may feel there was too much emotion.
A beta reader is essentially someone in your target audience. A lot of the criticism given is only meant to help make the story better. I'm sure no beta reader accepts a manuscript with the intentions of dragging the author through the mud. On the other hand, a beta reader should also let the author know what to expect from the beginning. Never commit to a story you have no intentions of completing. Of course things may come up that are unavoidable, but communication is key. If, for whatever reason, you find yourself unable to complete the work, let the author know. Even if the reason is something as simple as you simply can't find the motivation to continue reading a manuscript you clearly aren't interested in. These are just a few ways to avoid issues with this process going forward.


message 38: by Maria (new)

Maria | 4 comments Wow, this has been such an interesting discussion to read! I'm just starting to look for betas for my first book, and quite frankly, I don't want to hear anything good about it.

I mean, obviously I think it's pretty good, that's why I wrote it down and am now taking steps to get it published. If I wanted people to just say nice things about it, I would only give it to my friends and family.

What I need to know is which parts only make sense in my head, or if halfway through it's just too dull to keep reading, etc. etc.

Having said that, I just beta read for the first time as well, and was disappointed that the author didn't have any direction for me at all, just "read it and tell me what you think." I would have liked to know exactly what she was looking for, and definitely held back a little in my response because I didn't want to overstep.


message 39: by Michael (new)

Michael | 19 comments The beta read feedback that I received will make my book a lot better than it would have been.

Remember what I said about being egoless. The story is what is important, not the author.


message 40: by Katie-bree (new)

Katie-bree | 22 comments Hi Everyone,
I have beta read a few books for different people and I'm happy to say they've all been fantastic, I've even made friends out of quite a few of them. I'm sure though, like everything, there are occasions out the where it just doesn't work out for whichever reason.
I try to choose books whose genre I generally enjoy or that I would like to try. I'm an editor and so when I beta read, it's usually for a bit of fun but at the same time there's that element that I want to help someone to build upon their work and make it the best it can be. Even though it's not technically my 'job' I still treat beta-reading as when I am doing an edit. That is, I usually keep in touch via email and give them chapter by chapter updates. Then when I reach the end, I give my overall opinion, but a beta-read is just that, an opinion. I usually mark up a bit but I'm never asked to, I think it's just habit from editing, but all my authors have been extremely grateful :)) I believe the key is being honest in both the negative and positive aspects of the story-tell the author what you liked and why and, more importantly, what you didn't like and WHY! It's supposed to be constructive after all! So to everyone out there-give it a go! Don't be scared about beta reading-it is extremely fun, you meet (virtually) all sorts of people, read new things and it's very rewarding. I'm sure there are some bad eggs but aren't there always ( like that person in sports who's such a sore looser :)) )? Go ahead, read!


message 41: by Michelle (new)

Michelle (michelledunbar) | 15 comments I've been really lucky with the authors I've been beta reading for, although I always ask if they want the feedback sugar coated or the truth. At the end of the day, it's the author's book. If they want to publish a plot-holey, grammar riddled book then that is their prerogative.
While some authors are just looking for a pat on the back, most are not and want honest feedback.


message 42: by Ubiquitous (new)

Ubiquitous Bubba (ubiquitousbubba) | 4 comments It seems to me that it's important to come to an understanding at the outset of the relationship. Ask those questions about back patting, sugar coating, truth telling, and brutal honesty. Discuss expectations for timeframes, "out of scope" areas, and the depth of responses.

I think it's good to draw some clear lines between proofreading, editing and beta reading. As an author, I would not expect a beta reader to proofread my manuscript for me. I would not expect a beta reader to provide free editing services. If a beta reader had comments on those areas, then I'd like to hear them. The main thing I would like to hear from a beta reader is about their experience with the story. Did they connect with the characters? Was the plot difficult to follow (or overly obvious)? Was the humor funny or irritating? Did the action sequences grab you? Did you enjoy the book?

It's okay. I know my books are not Fine Art and I am not a Great Author. (I just caused anyone with a capitalization complex to burst into flames. Sorry.) Sure, pouring my blood and soul into that book for months (or years in my case) and then watching someone tear it into shreds is painful. It's actually a kindness. In reading for me, the beta reader has given me the gift of an honest opinion. That's something that authors don't always receive in public reviews from other writers.

Beta readers rock. Thanks.


message 43: by K.P. (new)

K.P. Merriweather (kp_merriweather) | 129 comments man sorry you had a rough time with those authors! i solicited some betas from GR at random and lucked out, getting some really good ones. most times i ask for overall story development but leave their focus up to themselves. they pointed out inconsistencies and some plot point errors and character responses i never thought about. i had one point out some helpful research materials hadnt heard of to help improve a particular story (i wrote it when younger and did some light edits before major overhaul due to the betas). reading those books really improved the work and I'm glad i found out before it was too late. yeah it stings thinking you got a perfect MS and get back pages of notes. some advice i followed others ignored but i never blast on them.

i edit for a living but I'm too close to my work to see my own errors so i hire someone else for it. if it werent for betas taking a look at my works i would have rushed out something awful.

i wish you luck if you plan to break for awhile. again so feels for you getting a crappy ungrateful bunch. basically you were doing this for free. i know folks who pay for beta reading... its a tough job.


message 44: by Chris (new)

Chris | 83 comments Thank you very much all for your comments. I think I need to clarify that the intend of my post was not complaining against anyone, but really making new authors/writers aware of what to expect when asking someone to read their work.
If you are in this group and you are asking for help, chances are you are not an over-experienced author who already know the ins and outs of story-telling. Take advantage of everything people has to tell you, and if you hear the same comment more than once, most likely that is a must fix in your work. Just be humble and pay attention and enjoy the experience.


message 45: by Melanie V. (new)

Melanie V. Logan (melanievlogan) | 11 comments Mary wrote: "This is a real eye opener. I'm a new author myself (finished two novels), and I was finally getting the nerves to go out there and ask for a Beta reader's opinion on my work. This is a hard step to..."

Excellent point Mary about beta readers doing a favor. Not to mention that they could be potential future consumers. When there's been a bad experience with a particular author, the beta reader may skip their book when it's on the shelves. I really could be something good, but the support won't be there.

On another note, I wonder how the feedback was given. What is the tone of the critiques? Is it terse or could be misunderstood and that's why there's agitation?


message 46: by Chris (new)

Chris | 83 comments Hello Melanie. Would be happy to transcribe a few of those emails but most of the times it would come on a "sandwich" feedback fashion (1- The positive, 2- The feedback, 3- The positive). A generic one would be:

You are very proficient at describing, I really felt I was there at xxx setting especially at the beginning. I however had issues connecting with main character one because this and that; also I am confused whether this is a contemporary romantic novel with a sub-plot on wolves and vampires or a supernatural novel with some romance. I believe you need to choose. Finally I did enjoy reading it even when this genre is not my favorite.


message 47: by Melanie V. (new)

Melanie V. Logan (melanievlogan) | 11 comments I don't see the harm in that feedback. It's the reader expressing their take on the book. Either the author can accept it and implement any changes or ignore it. Either way, the person doing the reading is helping out.


message 48: by Chris (new)

Chris | 83 comments Agree. Also, I feel most ppl here had read complete/polished books. I've mostly dealt with new writers with incomplete MSs.


message 49: by [deleted user] (last edited Sep 02, 2015 01:41PM) (new)

Lin wrote: "Maybe I've been lucky with my beta reads, but I've always had authors who say thank you, and some who have asked questions or discussed the feedback I give. But then I charge for beta reading, and ..."

So true Lin. I loved and really appreciated the beta read you did for me. You need thick skin if you want honest feedback, and it's feedback, not an attack on your work! If the beta reader doesn't get what you mean will your readers?


message 50: by Cindy (new)

Cindy Mitchell | 13 comments Great message, Chris. I was really excited when I started to beta read--detailed track changes and a covering report. Then I would get no response. . . I have a job, a family and a pile of actual published books to read and I can't even get a 'thank you'??

All that being said, beta reading is a two way street. I think it makes me a better writer. But, I'm taking a break because the people side is rough.

Personally, I like to pay for beta readers. 1. they are experienced. 2. they tell you exactly what they are willing to do and not do 3. its all transactional--we don't have to like each other as people. I just need to benefit from their experience.

The betas that I use, I've all met on this site and they are amazing-- they just happen to not be free. For now, that's fine with me.


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