Lola’s Ramblings: Do You Beta Read?

Posted February 11, 2016 by Lola in Lola's Ramblings / 40 Comments


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.

Pinkindle Beta ReadsWhen 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.

Do you beta read? How do you beta read? And what do you like and dislike about beta reading?


40 responses to “Lola’s Ramblings: Do You Beta Read?

  1. Great points as always!

    I’ve only beta read 1.5x. The first one was okay but I only got to read half the book. When I read the full finished product, I didn’t like it and the author, who was also blogger friend, I guess took it personal and our relationship wasn’t the same anymore.

    I was bothered at first because I thought I was being a good friend and being honest versus leadin her on and telling her it could use some work. Oh well…

    The second time was fun. I love getting involved in the process and the author asked great questions andlistened to all of our feedbacks.

    Ultimately it could be rewarding but only if my feedback is taken into consideration. We don’t have to agree, it’s your book not mine, but let’s at least discuss it versus just black balling me because you didn’t like what I had to say.
    Braine recently posted…Suped Up: The Witches of Cambridge by @mennavanpraag #MagicRealismMy Profile

    • Something similiar happened with a few authors I beta read for, I understand sometimes feedback can be hard to take, but it’s still a shame when it happens and it forever damages the relationship you had with that author.

      I think being honest and giving helpfull feedback definitely is the right thing to do, but not everyone can handle it. I think not mentioning things you feel like mentioning won’t help the author either.

      And yes that’s a great way to sum it up, beta reading can be very rewarding if the author is willing to listen and take your feedback into consideration. And indeed they don’t have to agree with everything you say, as long as they listen and at leats consider your points. It is still their book and their decision what feedback they incorporate and what not.

  2. I have beta-read a few times, and I mostly enjoy it. I usually know that there is a group of beta-readers, so I know I will have something specific to concentrate on, like continuity, or spelling mistakes / grammar mistakes / typos, or if we need more of one scene so that the next will work better and things like that.

    I’m not sure that I read a book differently when I beta-read, because those things I usually pick up on when I read books anyway. And since I have a BA in English and in linguistics, I think I’m pretty good at catching mistakes – at least when something is not written by me πŸ˜€ I know I sometimes end up with typos in my papers, and I think this can be a problem for authors, too. They know so well what they meant to write that’s what they see when they re-read.

    Some of what I’ve beta-read hasn’t been published, and especially one series was really good, and I’d definitely buy it if it was published one day. I guess it’s really, really hard to find a publisher, and not everyone is ready to self-pub.

    Great post, Lola!! πŸ™‚
    Lexxie @ (un)Conventional Bookviews recently posted…Review: The Rogue’s Proposal – Jennifer HaymoreMy Profile

    • Same here I mostly enjoy it, even though a few bad experiences have made me more hesistant when it comes to accepting beta reads. I am horrible at catching typo’s and grammar mistakes. I know most of my posts and comment have a few of those probably as I just don’t catch them as easily as other people.
      Luckily most of the authors I beta read for didn’t want me to catch those, but had an editor for that and just wanted me to focus on things like story, characters, if storylines make sense or if things are confusing etc. And those are thigns I do normally pay attention to, but I do feel like I read more critically when I am beta reading.

      That’s a shame that series you mentioned hasn’t been published yet, it sounds good. It can be realy hard to find a publisher indeed and self-publishing isn’t for everyone, although it’s deifnitely becoming more common.

  3. Whether or not I have beta read depends on whether you count Shearwater or not, because that author wanted direct feedback as well as reviews because he plans to edit before releasing the full book, so I did send him my feedback with some critiques, and he responded really well. I’ve offered to beta read for a couple fellow bloggers who are writing books. On the one hand, the prospect of critiquing the work of someone I know is daunting because of how it could go wrong, but, on the other hand, beta readers probably aren’t that easy to find, and I want to help. I suppose if someone is going to take it out on me for offering honest but still respectful feedback that they asked for, that’s not someone I’d want a friendship with anyway. But it’s still time consuming, so I still don’t run around offering to do it for everyone.
    Kristen @ Metaphors and Moonlight recently posted…Discussion: Time Skips in BooksMy Profile

    • That sounds pretty similiar as a beta read, I guess it depends on how you go in an read the book, but as you gave feedback I think it’s sounds like a sort of beta read indeed. I hope I can read Shearwater soon!

      Yes it can be daunting to be critiquing the work of someone you know. It can go wrong, but it can also go right and you can end up helping the writer and providing valuable feedback. It would be interesting to hear from writers their point of view how they find beta readers and if it’s difficult to find them.

      It’s time consuming indeed, so that’s why I only do very few beta reads and for authors/ writers I already know.

  4. Hi Lola, great post as usual. I haven’t done any actual beta reading, except in the writers’ group I was in a few years ago. We’d exchange chapters every few weeks and give the author feedback face to face. Sometimes it was a daunting experience so I know where you are coming from. My sister usually reads my stuff and she is super honest as in, ‘this sucks’ or ‘you can do better than this’. So when she likes something I know she means it.
    I did accept a book for an honest review not long ago and fortunately, it was very good, but I still have qualms about reading for a review in case I really had issues with the book. Though, I would be honest as much as possible. Writing a novel is an arduous task, so I know I point out whatever I felt had merit.
    Love your blog, always good stuff in here.

    • Thanks! That sounds like an unique way to beta read as well and I can imagine givign feedback face to face might be even mroe dauntign then online in an e-mail. I do agree that when someone is super honest you also know when it’s really good and she’s not saying that just to please you. I think it’s valuable to have a few beta readers like that.

      I get lots of books for review and I think that’s why I have gotten more used to those, but it’s still difficult when I don’t enjoy a book. And I agree writing a book is a big task and I do think for every author it’s a big achievement of having written a book, but nevertheless it’s also normal that not everyone will enjoy a book.

    • I am glad to hear both your experiences with beta reading went well. Beta reading can be a lot of fun and a great experience is things go well.
      And I agree your beta read feedback is just your opinion and they can take or leave your comments as long as they are nice and polite about it.

  5. I’ve never beta read and have never been asked to. If I did, I think I would like to make it a business model. As you mention, beta reading takes time. In some senses, it’s really asking for someone to do something akin to developmental editing. Also, I think if an author were serious enough to pay for the reading, they would be professional enough to deal well with constructive criticism.

    • I do think beta reading is different from editing, although it depends on the author and the blogger and how you beta read. I usually don’t pay attention to things like spelling and grammar for example. But yes I do understand why people would ask money for beta reading, it takes time and effort and is valuable for the author. I beta read for free but only for authors I already know and want to beta read for.

  6. Thanks for the shout out! πŸ˜€

    I also like beta reading because it allows me to be more critical! Sometimes my reviews turn into basically pointing out a bunch of flaws, which might be useful for readers so they know what to expect, but it’s not so useful for authors. The book is already published, it’s too late! At least with a beta read, they can fix things before the book is out there. I like being helpful!

    I’m certainly not looking forward to the day that I get a bad response from an author. I know it can be hard to have your work harshly critiqued, but we’re not doing it in a vicious manner. We’re trying to help!
    Angie F. recently posted…Review: Pirate’s Bride (Liberty’s Ladies, #1) by Lynette VinetMy Profile

    • You’re welcome :). The being more critical part is something I like as well, while the biggest flaws and things that bother me do end up in my review, lots of small things I won’t mention then, but do when beta reading. I do think that feedback is still handy even when a book is already released, they can’t change it anymore like they can after a beta read.

      I am glad to hear you had good responses from authors so far. And indeed we’re trying to help, not being mean. And I understand it can be difficult to get your work critiqued, but I think it’s important to remember beta readers are trying to help.
      Lola recently posted…Lola’s Kitchen: Risotto with Soy Sauce and Egg RecipeMy Profile

  7. I did it once. It was not a good experience. As you said, I had to work harder b/c I was reading with notebook in hand and my critical hat on. Every time- and I mean every time I sent in chapter notes they were challenged if it wasn’t one of my positive/complimentary notes. I spent long hours and finished by sheer will power. When I read the finished product, none of my suggestions other than grammar edits were taken and the author stuck to the original work (there were four beta readers and so I was not alone in my frustration).
    I did it to gain knowledge toward my own writing so it wasn’t a total loss. I have been asked to beta read since and have said no. I know everyone is not like what I dealt with, but it was also just too much unpaid time spent that pushed aside other responsibilities. Maybe if I were in a writing group where someone was beta reading for me while I was doing it for them, then I would consider it. I prefer reviewing. πŸ™‚
    Sophia Rose recently posted…#TGPUL with Clare Dugmore – All It Takes #GiveawayMy Profile

    • I am sorry to hear you didn’t have a good experience with beta reading. I usually submit feedback once I’ve read the whole book, I’ve done chapter feedback or partial feedback once or twice, but it didn’t quite work for me. I also finished two beta reads throguh sheer will and it really get’s the fun out of it, if you have to beta read like that. And that’s so frustrating none of your feedback actually got incorporated. I understand an author won’t incorporate all the beta read feedback, that’s okay and normal, but it would be nice to see that the author at leastlistened and did something with the feedback.
      I have one author where I beta read all of her books now and we have a good working relationship, but I am very hesistant to beta read for other authors due to those bad experiences.
      I can see how as a writer it could be beneficial to swap beta reading with another writer.

  8. I did a beta read once for an author I knew and I was so annoyed by the experience that I will never repeat it. She asked me to look for plot issues, mistakes in editing and punctuation and spelling etc. So I started a page by page study of the work noting down every mistake and where to find it for easy correction. It took a week to finish it. Her response on receiving it? ‘I’m not that bothered about all the minor mistakes, you should’ve concentrated on the plot issues’ which left me fuming about wasting my time. I don’t get asked to beta read novels but I get a lot of people saying they’ve written a few pages, can I read and give feedback on it ie an unpaid editor, and I put the brakes on those requests right away!
    chucklesthescot recently posted…Book Review: The Rose Without a Thorn by Jean PlaidyMy Profile

    • I am sorry to hear you had such a bad experience beta reading. I can understand that if your first attempt at beta reading goes that bad, you’re not in a hurry to try again. I also think it’s nice when authors clearly explain what they expect from you, if they don’t want a page by page study, they shouyld say to only keep an eye on the big things and not pay attention to the minor things. Else it’s confusing and it’s a shame you did all that work and put so much time and effort in it and then receive a rpely like that.
      Lola recently posted…Lola’s Kitchen: Risotto with Soy Sauce and Egg RecipeMy Profile

  9. Bec

    I don’t beta read. I honestly don’t have time for it. Am I adverse to beta reading in the future? Certainly not. I would love to try it one day. It is very different to general reading and I can see how having to be so critical could decrease the enjoyment, especially since it’s very unlikely a book will be perfect upon first read through. And it would suck when someone stops talking to you just because they can’t accept feedback πŸ™
    Bec recently posted…5 Things About The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. PearsonMy Profile

    • Beta reading does take more time than normal reading. I only do a few beta reads each year, so it doesn’t get overwhelming. I only consistentl beta read for one author at the moment.
      It’s is different than general reading, which is both good and not so good. Being critical does make it harder to just enjoy the book, which I why I usually read the arc after a beta read so I can read the book for enjoyment as well. But the beta reading itself can also be fun and fullfilling and it’s nice knowing that you can help the author by providing feedback. And those few bad experiences where the author never talked to me again where really unpleasant :(.

  10. I don’t mind beta reading for authors I know but I tend to stay away from it because I have a hard time being very critical. What if the books totally stinks and I don’t like it. I would hate to be the person that made someone else feel bad.

    I would prefer to give it a read through and just make suggestions, sort of like a beta read but with no pressure lol.

    I might actually be beta reading a new books for an author friend and I wont lie when I say I think her and I are both nervous about it since it’s not something I am used to reading from her. I think I could be very critical maybe to someone I didn’t know but since at this point I am just rambling I would say I don’t mind doing it but I prefer to just stick to reviewing books πŸ™‚

    Awesome post as always Lola!
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    • Then again isn’t it better for the author to hear the book could use some improvement before they publish it? Although i do agree that giving negative feedback or criticism can be hard and it’s never my attention to make the author feel bad. I just hope my feedback might help and improve their book if possible.

      For me a beta read is a very different mindset, so I don’t think I could just read it and give suggestions as I either beta read it or not. Although I might be able to point out a few things that really stands out if I read a book normally I do forget the smaller details that I would note when beta reading.

      I hope your beta read for your author friend goes well. It’s always a bit daunting doing your first beta read for an author and not knowing what to expect. I mostly stick to reviewing books to and only beta read for one author at the moment, but I do enjoy doing beta reads for her.

  11. I love to read and review, but I’m not a fan of beta reading. I’ve only actually beta rad once, for my 8th grade teacher who was writing a novel. I love to lose myself in a book… but it’s really hard to do that when you have to look at syntax, grammar, the characters, etc… It’s just not the same!
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    • It’s definitely more difficult to really lose yourself in a book when beta reading, but I there are some things I enjoy about beta reading too. It’s just a very different way of reading. I usually don’t pay attention to syntax and grammar and such when beta reading as I am horribly bad at that.

  12. When I first started my blog, I did a couple of books in beta reading, but haven’t done it since. But I will admit, I wasn’t a fan of it to be honest. I like to immerse myself into a book, but when I have to be on the lookout for problems or grammer mistakes…it can be distracting.

    • I think beta reading is a very different experience from normal reading, but I do enjoy it. I do agree that it can be a bit harder to get immersed in a book when beta reading it.

  13. My Beta Reading team are extremely precious to me! As a self-published author, I pay for copyediting and proofreading but the cost of structural/developmental editing is prohibitive at the moment so my team’s critique is vitally important. So much so that for the first time ever I pushed out my editing schedule on my last release to afford enough time to apply some of the changes that were suggested. I always supply a form with a list of questions which focus on pace, voice, character development, plot development, any areas that are overly descriptive or scenes that need fleshing out etc. I ask them to ignore grammar/writing as my editors fix that. I wouldn’t dream of asking someone to beta read and then ignore their feedback or argue with them over it. Frankly, I’m shocked that some authors appear to do that. I appreciate how much time and effort goes into beta reading and I will always reflect carefully on every comment. If all the readers are saying the same thing it’s a no-brainer – I need to apply that change! But what I find particularly beneficial is that everyone picks up on different little things, helping me polish my manuscript more efficiently. I tend to look to my ARC or Street Team when I need to add new beta readers. I look for reviewers who write informative, analytical reviews which focus on things like pace, worldbuilding, voice etc. That way I know they will provide the type of feedback to the required detail. Thanks so much to everyone who has ever beta read – you provide invaluable support to authors even if some of them don’t realize it!

    • I was hoping you would stop by to comment :). It’s interesting to hear about beta reading from an author their point of view and I think it’s handy you provide your beta read team with a form with questions as that gives a feel for what kind of feedback you’re looking for and it gives beta readers some things to focus one.

      And I am happy I never have to pay attention to grammar and writing errors as I am not good at that and it’s good thing you let your team know they can ignore that. One of the bloggers that commented here had a bad experience where an author didn’t specify that. Good communication between both parties is essential when it comes to beta reading.

      And the things you mention here are the reason I love beta reading for you as it’s obvious you reflect on every comment and appreciate my feedback. I can see how it can be beneficial to have different people pick up on different things as with reading that’s also the case. What one person likes another might not and everyone looks at the same book with a different view.

      • My entire team are great, but I always get the most comprehensive feedback from you, and I know I can always rely on you to be honest. That’s also really important. I’m not looking for a team of ‘yes people.’ I need to hear what’s working and what isn’t working, and you have a lovely way of providing constructive feedback in a professional, pleasant manner. So thank you so much! My work is definitely better for your input <3

        • Aww thanks! It can be tough to present criticism in a professional and pleasant manner, even though I always try, so I am really glad to hear that it comes across in that way :). And I agree that it’s good to hear what’s working and what isn’t while you can stil adjust things if necessary.
          I am looking forward to the beta read for Saven Disclosure :).

  14. It is an interesting thing to beta. I’m sorry you had some negative experiences with it πŸ™ I’ve had mixed as well. Some handle feedback with grace, some…not at all. I had one who basically just wanted people to tell her it was amazing and brava! then when it published and readers pointed out issues was upset over it (though I’d mentioned those issues as had another lady but we were ignored in favor of those gushing it was the best stuff ever). That was incredibly frustrating and I wouldn’t beta for her again and actually don’t read her books anymore even for fun. But I have had a good time with others beta-ing when they actually want feedback and will hash things out with you and talk em over. That’s pretty fun and getting to watch things piece together. I don’t do them often either. Mainly because of time and needing it to review books for the blog. But every once in a while I’ll sneak one in πŸ™‚
    anna (herding cats & burning soup) recently posted…Quote-tastic/Review– Orange is the new Yellow! — My Liege of Dark Haven by Cherise SinclairMy Profile

    • It’s a shame we both had some negative experiences with beta reading, If you have an author with whom you can work well beta reading is a great experience, but those who handle feedback with no grace can be troublesome. And that must’ve been so frustrating when you and that other lady pointed out things and the author ignored you and then got the same complaints once it was published. It’s hard to read an author their books even for fun after such an experience.
      And yes those authors are the best when they listen to your feedback and you can talk things over with them. And yes they are time consuming, so I don’t do them too often mainly for that reason.
      Lola recently posted…Review: A Scone to Die for by H.Y. HannaMy Profile

  15. I’m replying as an author. I LOVE my beta readers. I can also get annoyed with them. It depends on their feedback. No, I’m not insinuating that I’m after praise only, but instead, I’m after proper constructive criticism, and helpful views. I’ve had betas who had returned their feedback as one line. “Yep, it’s good,” or “meh, could do better”. Not very helpful…
    As authors, we need our betas to be ruthless, but (and that’s because I’m not thick skinned enough yet) when they’re diplomatic, it’s appreciated too! As far as I’m concerned, a beta helps make a novel better. Some have amazing insight and can pick up on things that I hadn’t noticed. Better find those mistakes before publication!

    • It’s interesting to hear an author their point of view on this toic too, so I am glad you stopped by :). I agree that as a beta reader you need to give helpfull feedback and concrete examples or scenes. I sometimes mention general things too in my feedback, but then it’s more like the pace int he first quarter of the book feel s abit slow.
      A critical and diplomatic beta reader sounds like the best combination indeed. It can be hard for an author to deal with criticism, so that’s why I think a polite and diplomatic way of delevering feedback works best. And indeed beta readers are there to help make the novel better.
      Lola recently posted…Review: A Scone to Die for by H.Y. HannaMy Profile

  16. I’ve never had the opportunity to beat read, but I think it would be an interesting experience…if the author was actually open to the suggestions. And to be honest, I think many (most?) would be because it’s such an important part of the writing process. Unfortunately, I can understand how just a few sour experiences can discourage a beta reader as well.
    Jackie recently posted…These Fandoms are Just My Cup of TeaMy Profile

    • I agree I think most authors will be open to suggestion and listen to your feedback, but sadly there are also some authors out there which aren’t or where the beta reading experience can turn a bit sour. And a few of thsoe experiences can be discouraging, especially when you put so much time and effort into it. It’s definitely an interesting experience and a whole different way of reading a book.

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