#AuthorTooBoxBlogHop – Being A Good Beta

 

Being a good beta_meka james

Image courtesy of Pixaby

Hey y’all and welcome back to another month of the #AuthorToolBoxBlogHop. I took off last month because of room make-overs and traveling, but I’m back and ready for another attempt at peddling some ‘advice’.

Most of us on this hop probably already know what a beta reader is, but in case you don’t,  according to Wikipedia:

A beta reader is usually an unpaid test reader of an unreleased work of literature or other writing (similar to beta testing in software), who gives feedback from the point of view of an average reader to the author.

Pretty simple right? But not really. Beta reading can be nerve wracking (or maybe it’s just me) because someone has entrusted their story and opened themselves up to hearing outside opinions. That’s a heavy responsibility. And an important one. This post will give you some starter tips on how you can be a more effective reader should you find yourself in that role.

Discuss expectations

This is a must. Find out what the author is wanting in terms of feedback. Do they want comments left in the document or are they looking for overall summaries? This can save you time and energy to know up front. Leaving in doc comments slows down the reading process and if they don’t want that sort of thing, why do it?

Also in those expectations, what is the timeline. That is important for both parties. If the author is on a deadline and you are backed up with other things, don’t take it on. It only leads to frustration all around.

Ask about trigger/content warnings if you have them. The author may tell you up front if they know they have subjects that could be sensitive for some readers, but they may not. It’s okay to ask because that protects you as the beta from being surprised by content you didn’t expect and it can save you both some time if you aren’t able to read because of said content.

Work within your strengths

I’m not a grammar person, so you won’t find me doing much commenting in the way of missing or misplaced commas and things like that. And as a beta, that’s not really your job. The author will be hiring an editor for that. If you see something glaring, sure point it out, but you are there to give impressions of the overall story.

If you know you’re not someone that reads/knows a lot of history, but you end up reading a historical, you probably aren’t the best person to point or correct their facts.

Remember it’s not your story

Each of us has a different author voice. When you are beta reading, you should not be doing line edits/corrections on things based on how ‘you’ would have written it. Any feedback that you give should fit with how the author chose to present their story based on the world they built.

Don’t be ‘red pen’ happy

What I mean by that, is it’s not all about corrections. Don’t go into a beta read thinking you’re only looking for errors and/or things to be fixed. If you have issues, point them out, but you should also point out what works well. Did you laugh at a certain part? Do you love a particular phrase they used? Did the story make you cry? Telling the author the highlights is just as important on any low points. It’s all about balance.

Some people use the ‘sandwich’ method, which is nice-issue-nice. I don’t read like that because I’m scattered, but I set that expectation (see what I did there) up front when I take on a project. I let the author know what sort of reader I am and how they can expect to get my feedback. If I’m working with a new author, I only take on one chapter so I can see if I’ll be able to get into the story, and so they can get a feel of how I roll.

Wanting to help is a given, but not everyone meshes and that’s okay. It goes back to knowing your strengths. Neither party is a failure if a beta relationship doesn’t work out. Believe me I kissed a lot of frogs before I found my beta princesses.

***On the flip side, if someone is betaing for you, and you get back feedback that is hard, remember two little words: thank you. I’ve also been there, because let’s face it, no matter how much we think our stories are perfect, they aren’t and that’s why we seek out betas to begin with. In *most* cases the person is not being harsh just to be a pain, at least they shouldn’t be. Any and all feedback should be given with the intent to help the author see things they may not have thought about. But at the end of the day, this person took time away from what they were doing to read for you. Appreciate them!

Final tip read what they send you!

Now you’re probably going what? Isn’t that the point? Yes, that is, but way back in the day, as I was kissing those frogs, I’d have betas that questioned things that were in fact answered. Them asking about it signaled to me that they skim read and didn’t give it their full attention. That’s not a good feeling.

When you take on a beta, you are making an agreement to give them honest and true feedback. They are counting on you to do that. If you can’t, then you shouldn’t take on the project.

That’s it. I hope these tips help you if you are thinking about becoming a beta, or wanted to figure out ways you can be a more effective one.

Until next time
~Meka

18 thoughts on “#AuthorTooBoxBlogHop – Being A Good Beta

  1. raimeygallant says:

    Wonderful “advice”, Meka. 😉 I think there are some things in here that aren’t quite so obvious when it comes to how to both be a successful beta reader and work with them. Will add to my fb schedule, too, which I think means this will go up in mid-September, lol. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Meka James says:

      Thank you. And yes. I went though a lot of trial and error trying to figure out my beta style. It’s hard to determine what is the balance without it seeming overbearing and/or coming off like *you’re* a know it all or something.

      thanks for stopping by

      Like

  2. AuthorSarahKrewis says:

    I love this advice! I struggle with this because I fail to both give and ask for exactly what readers want/what I need. I will be sure to take note of all of these and make sure when I get betas for the new version of my debut, I’ll be straight up what I want from them. Thank you for the advice and points.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Meka James says:

      Thank you. Yes finding the right groove is hard and takes time. It’s only been in maybe the last year or so that I have figured out how to be a good beta and to recognize what I want back as an author. As you do more reading for others, and have them read for you, you’ll find your style.

      thanks for stopping by

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Louise Brady, Author says:

    Great advice 🙂 I think I probably go too in-depth with beta-reading, probably because when we’re reading over work for each other at university we’re encouraged to critique like crazy to help each other improve. That and I want to be an editor and can’t seem to turn that part of me off when reading!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Meka James says:

      🙂 Thank you. I think I do sometimes as well because I know I can be overly logical. It’s something I apply to my own writing that bleeds over into my reading. But my focus is all on the story and it making sense and all the questions being answered in a plausible way. If you’re working to become an editor, that is a whole different skill set and it’s not a bad thing as long as the author knows what they are getting from you up front.

      thanks for stopping by

      Liked by 1 person

    • Meka James says:

      Agreed! It really is tough, but I’m thankful that my beta group now all understand how I present my feedback. They know that I’m telling the hard truths as I see them BUT also gushing when I love something. Even still, I get nervous sending back my thoughts.

      thanks for stopping by

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Sonia Sulaiman says:

    What an important part of the writing process. I’m especially glad that you mentioned trigger warnings; it’s so easy for beta readers to forget their own needs sometimes. Have you heard about ‘sensitivity readers?’ They are specialized readers who give feedback about representation of marginalized people. I wonder if they’re considered a subtype of beta reader.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Meka James says:

      Yes. Triggers can be so varied, so it’s good to think about yourself when taking on a new project. And yes, I’ve acted as a sensitivity reader before when authors have had questions/worries about the representation of their Black characters. I had one myself for my first f/f romance. They are a great resource for sure.

      thanks for stopping by.

      Like

  5. Elliot Chan says:

    Great tip! I’ve been on both sides of the table and I must say, I prefer to receive feedback much more than give it. There is nothing more important than setting expectations for writer and reader. As a beta reader, after many emotional lessons learned, I always ask what the writer would like feedback on before I even read the piece. Not that I’m a tough critic or anything, it just lowers the anxiety meter a little when it comes time to “let them know what I think.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Meka James says:

      Thanks. I think I get equally as nervous, but I lean more to being okay with the receiving as well. Setting those expectations in advance goes a long way for the beta relationship. It, like finding your writing process, is trial and error. We figure out what works for us and that then allows us to be better at doing the service offered.

      thanks for stopping by

      Like

    • Meka James says:

      Oh yes! There are the horror stories. People can get into a situation where they take it as an opportunity to feel superior over someone else and just try and cut them down. At the same time there can be authors that don’t really want to hear anything other than their words are perfect. It can be scary out there, so when you find that trusted group, you hand on to them.

      thanks for stopping by

      Like

  6. Drew says:

    This made for very useful reading, Meka. So far I’ve only done beta reads for one author and since I’ve done their last four books I’d like to think I’m doing something right but I know there’s always improvement to be had. Thank you.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s