Lola’s Ramblings is a feature on my blog Lola’s Reviews where I ramble on about a book related or a non-book related topic. These are discussion type of posts where I talk about a topic and readers can weigh in on the topic in the comments. Usually these posts are everything that doesn’t fall under any standard header, like tours, cover reveals, memes, challenges, recaps or reviews. Lola’s Ramblings posts are discussions of a certain topic and my point of view on them. The banner for this feature is designed by Michelle from Limabean Designs.
When Pinkindle started her beta reading business I commented on her blog about the topic a few times and it made me think beta reading would make for an interesting topic for a Lola’s Ramblings post. While many bloggers receive review request I think most of us have received a few request for beta reads as well. When you beta read a book you get to read an even earlier version and you help the author by pointing out issues with the book and suggestions on how to improve it. I think from an author their point of view beta readers can be a big help, you can only look at it with one pair of eyes and your own mind, but when you have a few beta readers you can get to see what they think of it and when multiple people comment about a certain thing it might be handy to fix or change that as your future readers will likely also notice that when you don’t.
Do I beta read?
The short answer is yes, but rarely. When I just started blogging I always thought being asked to beta read an author their book was a great honor and I excitedly said yes every time an author asked me to beta read their book. After a few bad experiences and knowing the time and effort that goes into beta reading, I don’t do many beta reads anymore. A beta read causes me to read the book in a different way. I set my critical hat on and am less able to enjoy a book. It also takes me longer to read it as I have to write down thoughts and comments and then later type those out as well. Then sadly I had a few negative experiences with some authors for whom I beta read. So eventually I stopped accepting beta reads and even added a sentence to my review policy that I don’t do beta reads, except for authors that I worked with before. Which basically means that at the moment I only beta read for one author nowadays. She’s lovely to work with and takes my comments seriously and appreciates my feedback even when I can be pretty critical.
What I like about beta reading
The reason why I did a lot of beta reads at first was because I really enjoyed it. I can be quite critical when reading and when I am beta reading I can put that ability to use to help an author improve their work. I like to point out flaws and what can be better in my opinion and be able to help the author improve their book. I like getting to see the beta draft of a book and then later see what has changed when I read the final version. I like being able to help an author by spotting things that can be improved on and it’s nice to have someone listen and appreciate your feedback. So yes I do think there’s a lot to like about beta reading as well.
How do I beta read?
When I beta read I usually focus on everything that stands out to me, when a thought pops up I write that down. I also pay attention to most of the things I mention in my reviews, like pace, characters personalities, behavior, story, plot holes, world building, world building flaws, things that feel off, things I like and don’t like etc. I also write down some thoughts to give the author a feel for what I think of certain scenes, mostly when I really like or dislike a scene. When I beta read I mostly read the book like I normally do, but I focus more on thinking critically. I ask myself more questions while reading and ask lots of why and how does this work and if things don’t make sense I write those questions down. If the author has specific things they want me to focus on or answer I also do that. When reading I write my thoughts down in a small notebook. I usually try to write a few hints down about where in the book the comment applies to or which scene I am referring to, so the author knows where I am talking about. Once I finished the book I type out all my comments in a word document. If there are comments or questions I wrote down, but that got explained later in the book I skip those and don’t type those out. Then I send that word document to the author and if there is anything unclear I clarify or sometimes we talk a bit back and forth about things.
What I dislike about beta reading
I wouldn’t say these are all dislikes, but like I mentioned before I had some less good experiences with beta reads where the author never talked to me again after I submitted feedback or it was obvious my feedback wasn’t appreciated. That definitely made me less enthousiastic and more hesistant to accept beta reads from authors I didn’t know. Beta reading also takes a lot of time and effort and it’s less relaxing than normal reading, it takes more effort than to just read a book for relaxation. Hence another reason why I don’t do many beta reads anymore. I also feel that when I accept a beta read I have to finish the book whether I like it or not and when you don’t like a book your beta reading, it can get a bit icky. There is one beta read I didn’t finish and I still feel bad about it. There are two beta reads that I finished while I didn’t enjoy the book and I still feel bad about those too. Then most beta reads have deadlines and as I don’t do well with deadlines thanks to my moodreading ways, so that’s another reason why I don’t accept too many beta reads.So while I love beta readign on one hand I also have seen the less positive side of beta reading, which made me less likely to accept new beta reads from authors I don’t know yet.