If you did not know already, I am a Beta Reader for an independent author, David Estes. I’ve been working with David for about 6 years now, and love being able to be a Beta.
However, not many people know what Beta reading is, why we exist and how we got started. So here is my story, broken down by questions.
Who the hell are beta readers?
Beta Readers are a group of people who will read a completed draft of a novel pre-publication, to provide editing feedback to the author, who is still in the writing/editing phase. We aren’t critique partners, because we don’t work as closely together and it’s not an exchange of critiques. Pretty much, we’re a team of people who authors can come to for honest opinions, in order to improve the book alongside their editors’ suggestions. Authors “collect” Betas (GOTTA CATCH ‘EM ALL) by asking people whose opinions they value to join the team. Betas do not necessarily read every single book the author writes, only those that are definitely headed for publication, and even then we are given the option of skipping reading a book, depending on our own schedule and life craziness. We aren’t compensated for our work, but David mentions us in his acknowledgements in every book.
What the hell do you do?
What we do is similar to what book reviewers do. I read the book and along the way, have a list app on my phone open so I can take notes of things I notice that could be/need to be changed. We’re not copy-editors, so typos and stuff don’t matter to us; we look for big picture things, to help the author re-conceptualize the plot/characters if need be. In addition, Betas offer suggestions on how to fix the things they notice. We’re involved on a level that hovers between creator and reader, in that we know the story inside and out and work to help make it better. I’ve actually noticed lines that I’ve suggested in my emails to David end up in the final draft of the book, which is super cool, in my opinion.
How the hell did you become a beta reader?
So my story probably differs from most beta readers. How I first encountered David was through a free review copy I received on Goodreads. It was for his first book, Angel Evolution. It sucked. And I said so. I gave probably the worst review he’s ever received in his life. I tore that bitch to shreds, picked apart everything that I felt was a flaw. I never figured I’d hear from him, considering how unforgiving I’d been in my review. But lo and behold, in my GR inbox is an email from David, asking me if I would like to be one of his beta readers for a new series he was starting. He said he saw the value in all of my critiques and wished he’d had that kind of blunt honesty when he was writing. I figured, what the hell, the worst that happens is I don’t like it and never do it again, and said “Sure.” Six years later, here I am, having beta’d almost every one of his books since then. So to be honest, I’m not quite sure how one typically becomes a beta reader because I think I had an unusual experience with it lol.
Why the hell do you stay a beta reader?
You know how you hate-watch a Youtuber’s videos or hate-Insta-stalk that girl from you math class you can’t stand? Initially it was kind of like that. But after a while, I liked being able to take a piece of writing and really look at it from a ruthless lens, making suggestions and comments about things I’d always hated in literature and hopefully having an impact on what the outcome was. I know that I can be brutally honest with David (some of the emails I’ve sent him should never see the light of day beyond him, me and his wife), and he takes it with an open mind but also with a grain of salt. I can recommend something till Jesus comes back, but in the end it’s his book. I’ve helped with name changes, entire plot twists, and whole relationship arcs. It’s fun to be a part of the creative process, even if I am in a different position other than the writer.
If you have any questions, feel free to ask, and check out David’s books! My personal favorite is the Slip series, which is a dystopian series set in a society that strictly controls population and the life of one kid whose very existence is illegal.