Feb 3, 2012

What do you want from a beta reader?

I recently beta read a book for a friend, and now comes the difficult part - writing about his work. I left comments in the document as I went along, but I'd like to include in my e-mail a basic overview of what I found. But it's really, really hard to write. What should I mention first, what tone should I use? Plus, while I loved the book, I read it with the mind set of critiquing it so what's stuck in my head more has been what could be fixed than what went right. But I don't want to give this big list of what's wrong. I want to be balanced, and supportive.

So, what would you guys as authors like to see from your beta readers? Do you even want an e-mail, or maybe just the marked up copy? Do you want lots of details? (in a creative writing class I took, we had to list three faults and three good things and the later tended to be things like 'the imagery was great, especially this line: line) Or just an overview? Funny little comments? What would make you feel better about opening an e-mail you've noticed the last three times you logged onto hotmail and decided again opening?


  1. Those are very good questions. I guess from someone beta reading my work, I'd like the marked up copy. I think in that context, I'd want to know everything my beta is thinking I did wrong, or what's off, etc. I think it's important to let the author know you loved the work, but letting him/her know what's wrong will help him/her to make the work even better.

    All authors like to hear they've done a good job, or course, but I, as an author, like to hear every critique that is noticed by someone like a beta. Otherwise, why have a beta?

    If you want to give a review of the work, that would be nice too. You can be supportive there and encourage the writer to keep up the good work, etc. You can say what you really liked about the plot.

    I guess what I'm saying is that from a beta, I want all critiques (the marked up copy). If the beta liked my work, I'd want to know that so I'd know continuing to work on the story is worthwhile.

    I have no idea if that helps or not, but those are my thoughts. :)

    Good luck! Happy reading!

    1. Yeah, I also want to hear every little critique. Thanks for the advice!

  2. My beta marks the copy and then makes a generalized comments at the end, especially if I've made repetitive mistakes like mixing up tenses or my tone changes too much.

  3. I like seeing my MS marked up. It lets me see where in the story my beta reader had issues as opposed to a email with a general overview. My one friend, MB, she is awesome with her notes. She adds random notes that make a joke about what she's highlighting and it really eases the anxiety red ink gives me. My one story she read for me, her funny notes had me laughing my butt off while considering her serious notes.

  4. One more in agreement of "the marked up copy". Not only is it nice to have the comment where you need to see it, but if the reader is marking as they go, I think they leave a better comment, and give a more focused idea of how and what struck them as being off when they read it.

    I found my way here through the A to Z link. Good luck on your writing!

  5. Thanks for all your input guys!

  6. Hey Gwen! Great looking site!

    What I do and kind of expect from my beta readers/critique partners if we're operating mainly online and such is marked up copy of the ms in Word and also a general summary of their thoughts of what they did and didn't like. I'm a line editor by nature so I tend to provide specific edits and fix up misspellings and such, but not everyone wants that. Some just want to have an open discussion about the whole thing.