Beta Reading Q&A

There is some debate and confusion as to what exactly a beta read entails. Below, I’ve answered some of the most common questions as they pertain to the beta reading service I offer. This is simply how I operate as a beta reader. Others may do things differently or define the process using different terms. This Q&A is not meant to be the definitive answer about what beta reading is. It defines my process and my process alone.


-What is a beta read?

A beta read is a read-through of the manuscript during which I make notes of things that jump out at me. When I beta read, I turn off my editing hat, for the most part, and read like a reader. My feedback is more like an in-depth book review than an editing report. I offer my response to the book as if I’d picked it up off the shelf. I may provide general suggestions for improvement or resources for self-editing. I do not offer a detailed report of issues needing resolution or examples of how to improve the story/writing. I simply give my thoughts on the story as I understood it.


-Is beta reading the same as developmental editing?

No. Beta reading and developmental editing are two different services. Developmental editing is an in-depth critique of big-picture story components (plot, characterization, worldbuilding, pacing, etc.), along with suggestions for improving problem areas, fleshing out the story, and observation of how chapters work as greater pieces of the whole. Developmental editing is a much more detailed and time-consuming service than beta reading and, accordingly, costs more.


-What about line or copy editing?

No. Beta reading is simply overall notes on things I noticed about the story as I read. I do not use track changes to make suggestions at either the line or copy level. Like developmental editing, line and copy editing are different services with separate rates.


-When should I get my manuscript beta read?

A manuscript is ready to be beta read when you have self-edited to the best of your ability—gotten your story how you want it and cleaned up as much of the writing as possible. Run a spellcheck. Read through the entire thing a few times. Beta reads are not intended for first drafts or unedited manuscripts. You may also choose to have critique partners work through the manuscript with you before you approach beta readers. Long story short, the story and writing should be as clean as possible.


-What does your beta reading process look like?

I read through the manuscript as I would a book I picked up for pleasure reading (though with more critical thinking). I make notes of things I questioned while reading. Then, I rework those notes from my shorthand into something legible by others. The end result is a 1-3-page report detailing my impressions about the story, things that drew me out of the story, comments on how the book fit the genre (or, if no genre was provided, what genre it is), and other big-picture impressions. This may include light notes on the writing itself, such as overused phrases or a tendency for infodumping.


-Do you beta read partial manuscripts?

Yes. I will beta read partial manuscripts that start at the book’s beginning. Just like you wouldn’t start reading a book you bought in the middle, I won’t read from Chapter 15 to the end. Doing so wouldn’t allow me to get an impression of the story overall. Beta reads of partial manuscripts follow the pricing structure outlined on my editing services page.


-Do you offer free beta reading samples?

No.


-I have specific questions I’d like answered. Will you read with those in mind?

Yes. If you have specific concerns, send them along with the manuscript. I will look them over them before I begin reading. If questions contain spoilers, please mark them as such. I will read questions containing spoilers after I’ve finished as to not bias my judgment of the manuscript prematurely.


-I think I want more than a beta read. What would you recommend?

If the beta read doesn’t seem like the service you’re looking for, my concentrated read-through or mini manuscript evaluation are similar services with more of an editorial style than a beta read. You can read about both, as well as my other services, here.


Please Note:

As I said above, a beta read is my impression of the story as a reader. If my feedback contains comments that do not match what you intended for the story to convey, one of two things happened. Either I misunderstood what was correctly conveyed, for which I apologize in advance. I do make mistakes. Alternatively, it may be that the meaning is clear to you (the author, who knows the story inside and out) but is not clear to others. It is never my intention to misinterpret or criticize your work. If I have detailed something incorrectly in my notes, please let me know. It may be as simple as I misunderstood my shorthand (it happens), or it may be that there are problems at a deeper level within the manuscript that led to information being easily misunderstood. In the latter case, the manuscript may benefit from a more thorough process (manuscript evaluation or developmental edit), which you may choose to pursue either with me or another editorial professional. Regardless, addressing concerns in a clear, constructive way can help lead to a better understanding of the story’s needs and a stronger manuscript.

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