Giving the 411

A reader’s perspective on the beta.

IMG_1465Some people garden. Some people play cards. Some people may even go fishing. Finding a way to relax and enjoy the moment, the surroundings, the love of the activity itself and all that it can bring to one’s life is the main purpose of a hobby. What is your favorite activity? Just reading that, I am thinking this sounds like a personal’s ad! Does anyone remember reading those back in the 80’s?! But I digress, like usual, so back to leisure activities. Finding an activity can be fun and exciting, and I am already looking forward to retirement and being as busy as Danielle Zion (check out her awesome travel here)! I mean my dream day would be to sit by the pool and read all day long. Or lounge on my couch and read all day long. Or basically get into any comfortable position and read. All. Day. Long. It is my most favorite leisure activity and has been for a while. Finding a new book, a new author, a new take on a story…all if it. My favorite. And if one enjoys reading, is there a way to contribute back similar to competing in a baking contest, a golf tournament, an art show? How about beta reading?

It’s already established that I love to read, but I mean I read everything in the book. I read the dedication and acknowledgements, the “About the Author,” even who the editor and when the book was published. If you are like me, then you may have read where an author acknowledges one or more Beta Readers. What are these beta readers? Well, they are unpaid (except maybe a complimentary copy of the story) individuals who read through a work-in-progress and provide feedback to the author regarding the plot, character development, information that is missing or doesn’t match between two sections of the story, and/or other bits and pieces to provide the author with an idea of what reader’s will get out of this particular story. You know, maybe catch a few missing pieces before the author sends the work off to a publisher or pays an editor. This would be like a dream come true hobby for a book lover!

So how does one become a beta reader? I was sparked by this idea when I read Harper Bliss’ email blast. She states the following:

Looking for very clever beta-readers!

I haven’t made it easy on my non-academic self by choosing to write about a professor and a Phd student in my next book (the one set in the Cotswolds). To increase my accuracy of university life, I’m looking for very specific beta-readers. 

If you went to Oxford University and would like to help me out by beta-reading my book, I would very much appreciate that! If you happened to have done a Phd (DPhil) at Oxford, that would be even more amazing. Please reply to this email if you’re interested. Thank you!

That is pretty specific and I, unfortunately, don’t come even close to qualifying as I’ve never even been to the UK! But if you have the above qualifications this could be a ticket in. But signing up for a favorite authors list-serve might give you a head’s up if they are looking for general beta readers or a specific one and since it is already a favorite author you know you will probably enjoy the work.

How else? Well if you join the Golden Crown Literary Society (check it out here) you can sign up/register to be a beta reader and/or content expert such as the one that Harper Bliss is looking for above. So, if you have some super cool talent: military experience, Park Ranger, personal trainer, or whatever you consider to be your skills, you may be able to help an author bring more authenticity to their work. How cool would that be?!

Another way might be to join some discussion groups. I’ve seen authors post on yahoo groups such as the VirtualLivingRoom asking if anyone was interested in beta reading. Finding groups that post interesting-to-you topics might be a great way to discover an up and coming author needing a beta reader to help them through their first to-be-published story.

As a LesFic reader have you ever noted who some of the beta readers are when you read through the acknowledgments? What do all you amazing reader’s out there think? Would it be fun to be a beta reader? Have you beta read for an author? How was the experience and would you recommend it for book hobbyists? Do you have any secrets or suggestions for becoming a beta reader?

All you LesFic authors out there, do you have certain ways of recruiting beta readers? Do you want certain feedback from your reader’s? What suggestions might you offer to someone to make them a better beta reader for you?

Ahhhh books! They are just so much fun and offer so many possibilities for enjoyment!

CHALLENGE! Can anyone name the title and author of the book that is next to me?


  1. Love the blog, and we have similar goals for retirement! Reading, reading, and more reading, with only the landscape to change.
    I’ve been a beta reader for several different authors, mostly as a general beta reader, but once for a particular scene as a content expert. It can be fun and rewarding, but it’s also important to realize that it’s also a job (kind of). Authors expect certain feedback from a beta reader, and what they want is feedback that makes the book better. I think it’s always rewarding for an author to hear a reader gush about how much they love a book, but that isn’t what an author wants to hear from a beta reader. Different authors look for different feedback based on their concerns about their book, whether it’s plot, pacing, character development, etc., and they’re looking for beta readers to give them insight as to how their book is coming across. I usually discuss what kind of feedback an author is looking for, so I know where to focus my attention. Not that that means I ignore other things that might come up. I have expressed confusion over scenes that left me scratching my head, pointed out facts that have contradicted events that happened earlier in the book (usually because the author has rewritten something and forgot to change it throughout), asked if characters would really do or say something that I didn’t think fit with their personalities, and so on. And I’ve hopefully done all of it in a manner that the author doesn’t take as a negative indictment of their story or writing ability. I’d also say that while I, as a beta reader, might have strong opinions about something that needs to be reworked or changed, at the end of the day, I’m not the author. It’s the author’s prerogative to use or discard any of my advice, and it’s my job to not get any more upset if I’m ignored than it is her job to get upset if I point something out.
    Saying all of that, I find beta reading extremely exciting and enjoyable. I love having an inside look at a book before it’s ever published. And I especially love knowing when an extraordinary book that everyone is going to enjoy is about to be released.

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  2. Hi Erin! I got to retire from FedEx Express last April after 33 years of service! It’s wonderful to read when I want, where I want! I’ve been a beta for a few authors on a regular basis. I’m always available and that helps when they have something almost ready to go, but would like a new set of eyes to read through their work for that final time. It’s a great way to relax, but still feel useful. Ya know what I mean? After the years of being on the go non-stop, tick tock tick tock, I enjoy actually sitting and reading great stories, knowing I’m helping someone is a great feeling, too!
    Donna Jay always tells me she likes my honesty. So I would say that’s one of the traits a beta should have. Don’t be afraid to make them mad, they really are looking for readers that can tell them what they like or don’t like. The truth helps them make their stories better, so don’t be afraid to voice your opinion!
    I believe the book you are reading is by one of my favorite authors. Gerri Hill’s The Secret pond! Have a wonderful day and hang in there, retirement is awesome 😎

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    • Congrats on the retirement and I am so envious of your reading time!! Thanks for the great information you provided about being a beta reader! And thanks for reading!


  3. Great Blog Erin. And yes, I love retirement – partly because I do get to read whenever and whatever I want and that includes beta reading. This can be a very rewarding experience and I would compare it to having a contract with the author who is depending on your honesty and timely feedback. Mutually agreed to expectations are a must from the outset but that said over the longer term the relationship and expectations often evolve. There is some information at GCLS for those looking for more information.

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