I was asked a few months back if I would be willing to beta read for a couple of authors. I love them both—actually, I freaking adore them—and romantic comedies are my absolute jam, so, of course, I said ‘HELL YES!’ Then I proceeded to scour the internet for a beta reading worksheet that I loved and could work with while I was reading. I was a beta reading newbie, but I wanted nothing more than do the best job I could. I did find one other worksheet, but it wasn’t really what I wanted. I went and did my beta read, focusing on the things the authors requested. I read it and gave my feedback, but I really wanted something that I could sit down with and make sure I didn’t miss anything that would be helpful to them even after I finished.
As busy women attempting to find the balance between our professional, family and “me” time, we don’t always have time to sit down and create our own template for helping our beloved authors out. That’s when I just KNEW we needed a worksheet that we could download and print off whenever we have an author ask us for help.
I spoke with lots of other bloggers to put this worksheet together, to give both new and seasoned beta readers advice and ideas of what to look for and to hopefully save you a little time in the process.
Heather the owner of White Hot Reads has a TON of great advice, she has beta’d for multiple authors. I love her advice so much!
1. Be Honest in what your strong suits are. Some authors are looking for a variety of betas. There are grammar betas, character betas, plot betas and more. What do you find yourself reading for? I’m not a grammar girl. Commas are not my friend and if I get a beta draft with misspelled words and errors I don’t make a big deal about them. Wrong words I tend to point out just in case it’s something spellcheck won’t catch. I’m the girl who reads for characters and plot. I tend to provide feedback such as:
a. This seems a bit out of the normal for this character in this situation. Did you mean for this to happen? Is he/she supposed to do this? Or would he/she react more like this? Did I miss something?
b. Stop. I missed a whole week of time here. Am I missing chapters? What happened?
c. That wasn’t his name in the last chapter. Is he having an identity crisis? This is what I read for. I get seriously involved with the books I beta read. I fall in love hard with the characters. The become my friends. However, the story is the authors and if I provide my opinion and feedback and they don’t take it they know best for their story.
2. Honesty doesn’t equate to mean and nasty. Beta reading requires a certain amount of finesse. Authors pour their heart and soul into their books. There words come from a place that we can’t imagine. So if we find things that don’t sit well with us or need tweaking, I’d suggest making notes and providing clear and concise feedback in the kindest manner. Honesty in beta reading doesn’t mean saying ‘this sucks.’ It means saying, ‘in this section – and showing them where – I feel that we need more/less, etc.’ Make sure to tell them WHY you feel the way you do. If you provide them with feedback on how to change/fix/add/modify the section in question, they may or may not use your suggestion, but the wheels in their heads will turn and that’s always good for an author.
3. Payment – I don’t get paid for beta reading. I take extreme enjoyment in being part of an authors process. I love reading and being part of their world. I find that I’m so excited I have to ask them when I can start sharing that project because to me, it’s so real and right now.
4. Remember the CoHo Rule – #DontBeADick and steal or pirate their work. If you’re asked to sign an NDA, do it. And don’t take advantage of the author. If you do, it will get around and you’ll never be asked again.
5. Now, have a blast. Enjoy the process. Read because you love it. Chat with the authors because you are genuinely interested in them and their work.
Richelle Robinson the owner of Shelly’s Book Corner has some short sweet, but SUPER important advice!
The most important advice I can give new beta readers is to be honest. Authors don’t want to hear ” I love it” and ” I wouldn’t change a thing” if you don’t honestly mean it! The whole point of beta reading is to give back honest feedback so they can produce the best book possible!! So remember to be honest and constructive in your feedback. And no you aren’t being mean. 😉
Note: This is beta worksheet is geared toward romance novels, although it can work for other genre’s as well. This is just a guideline and each author may want you to look out for something that is not on this worksheet.