This past Saturday, a mysterious package arrived in the mail from Belarus. Inside I found an advanced reader’s copy of Kelly Yang’s new book due for release in the fall. Yang’s book, “Front Desk” was one of my top three books of 2020. I entered a contest for the book after seeing her Instagram post. My daughter and I were jumping around the kitchen cheering, realizing we had won something and something we wanted.
There is the joyous feeling of getting exclusive access to something. This week, I won’t be writing a book review, not because I wasn’t reading, but because I got to pre-read a non-published book as a beta reader. This is one way you can read a book for free.
What is a beta reader? A beta reader is someone hired by an author to preview their book before publication. The author gets a preview of their book from a reader’s perspective. Like a focus group before a product is sold in stores, a beta read allows authors to digest or fix anything they receive from readers before publishing.
I see a beta read as a final check for any comments or suggestions the author will hear once the book is published. It does not mean the author has to take any of the advice; it is just an opportunity to read the author’s feedback from a general audience once the book is available for sale.
When an author asks a person to do a beta read for them, the author usually provides the beta reader with a list of questions or a summary of what their thoughts and feelings are about the book. It could be a struggle the author sees with character development, a plot structure issue, or just an overall impression.
A beta reader can be a professional editor and proofreader like myself, a friend, or even someone the author does not know but enjoys reading books in the author’s particular genre.
It is a good idea to get a beta reader that is not familiar with the book so that an author can get a fresh perspective. The book’s editor would not make a good beta reader since they are too close to the book and have already fixed most issues.
However, if an author hires a professional editor or proofreader for a beta read, I think this reader could proof or edit it once they finished reading it. In this particular beta read I just completed, I tried hard not to highlight any mistakes. But in the end, I included a short comment in my review, telling him that one more proofread would be a good idea. I would not feel right if the author published his book and was given bad reviews simply because of silly mistakes that proofreading software did not catch.
A book club is a great comparison to a beta read. I have been part of a book club for over ten years. Each time we get together to discuss a book we have read, I always learn something new. I see the book through a different lens than my own after these discussions. This is similar to a beta read, where a group of people offers several different viewpoints than your own.
An author can have just one beta reader or many. It is a good idea to get more than one opinion, but too many beta readers can leave an author confused by the many comments and possibly conflicting messages.
I hope more authors will add a beta reader as part of their publishing process. An author does not have to pay a beta reader for this step to be effective. Most readers enjoy a free book in exchange for their review and comments or the opportunity to help someone out.
The only negative about this particular beta read was I loved the book. I couldn’t wait to share a good review for it. I put a reminder on my calendar to look the book up in the fall. Hopefully, this author will push through the editing and publishing process, and we will all be able to enjoy the read.
If you are a reader and interested in independent or first-time authors like I am, a beta read is one way to get a free book. Often, an author may not pay you for a beta read, but they will give you a copy of the book for free as a fee for your time. One thing to consider is that the book will probably not be in a traditional book format, such as an ebook or paperback, since it is not published. If you are okay just reading the book on your desktop, a beta read is a good idea.
If you are interested in learning more about beta reads or need a beta reader for your book, please send me a message. There are so many outlets you can use to find beta readers it can get overwhelming.
If you are an independent author, I would be more than happy to participate in your writing and publishing process as a beta reader. Please send me a message to talk about what you want to achieve, or share this with an author friend looking for feedback before publishing.
The ACES: Society for Editing conference is going on this week. I will be spending two days virtually networking and learning the latest developments in writing and editing. I hope to pass on a few tips from the conference in my next week’s blog post.
Sources & Notes