Beta-Reading: My Experience

To be completely honest I don’t know if people are interested in this post, but I would’ve like to find a post like this when considering beta-reading so maybe it’ll be helpful to some?

I had expressed interested in monetising my blog and one of the methods I’d listed had been beta-reading! This was one that felt like I would actually enjoy doing, and wouldn’t have affected my blog or readers in any way! If you want to know a little more about beta-reading I’ve previously made a post about this so check it out!

When I did my free trial and accepted manuscripts (MS) I honestly felt excited, overwhelmed but at the same time intimidated. Authors provide you their MS in the hopes that your feedback will be useful to them and help them during their revisions. I’m not the most confident person you’ll find, so my first worry was what if my feedback is absolutely useless? These authors might have high expectations about my feedback and I really didn’t want to disappoint anyone.

It took me about 2-3 weeks to actually pluck up the courage and start on the MS. Partially because of my uni workload, but frankly I was just nervous to get into it and make a mistake! Having said that, once I actually took that step and got on with it, as lame as it sounds, it was actually fun… When reading books I’ve always been a little critical, not particularly looking for aspects I didn’t like/enjoy as the reader, but just noticing them. So I kind of naturally progressed through the MS.

HOWEVER don’t interpret this as beta reading is easy! My approach to beta reading is providing comments after each chapter, whilst annotating the chapters themselves, and finally writing up a full feedback report when I’m done. Now it might just be that I’ve assigned myself more work load, but beta reading is TIME CONSUMING. It’s definitely not something that you can just whizz through, accepting dozens of MS each month. Usually I’d go through chapters perhaps three times, if it’s a little dense. My point here is, I underestimated the amount of time it would take to read through a MS. I thought, well it would take me around 15 hours of straight reading to finish a book, so it would be the same for beta reading. Yeahhh, that wasn’t really the case…

Another difficulty I came across was actually finding authors! Understandably when I was holding the free trial, I received quite a few MS. However once I started charging, *tumble weed*. From this I decided to offer a trial of 1000 words for free, just so that the author got a sense of what to expect for the full MS.

All in all, I’ve had a great experience so far, and definitely will continue to provide this service as long as I have the time for it! I’ve rambled on in this post (AGAIN), but if you have any questions about this service, or beta reading in general leave a comment below!

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19 thoughts on “Beta-Reading: My Experience

  1. WL Hawkin says:

    Hi Eman,

    Thank you again for reading my manuscript and providing such excellent feedback. I know it took you a long time. I looked at all of your suggestions and I think that the revisions I made enhanced the final product which I am just finishing today. It is a huge amount of work to write and self-publish a novel. I’ve read it again three times this week alone and made small edits here and there.

    Anyway, I wanted to make a couple of comments to you via email rather than putting this on your blog. One thing: I think what you are doing is more the work of an editor. I actually felt like I was reading editorial comments (something I really appreciated). I’m not sure what other beta-readers do but this is how it felt to me. Perhaps, you’re doing too much? A second thing: the following appeared on a Indie Author FB site and was written by Valerie Douglas, the woman who runs this site. It’s a big site for Indie Authors, so I thought I’d share it with you. She says:

    It’s come to our attention that some people are charging to beta read. Like charging for reviews, that’s a no-no. Beta reading is a courtesy, it’s help readers or other writers give to each other. Writers don’t try to make money from other writers. Don’t offer if you don’t want to do it or you can’t return the favor.

    Perhaps, that’s why you’re not getting as many manuscripts when you’re asking for a fee. Just a thought.

    I have yet to write my blog post, describing my experience, but I will, once I get this book up and running. It will be totally positive, as was my experience working with you.

    Cheers, Wendy

    >

    Liked by 2 people

    • Kitty Maschan says:

      Hi, Wendy!

      I’m really glad Eman was able to give you great notes. I understand the confusion with what Valerie Douglas said about paid beta reading. It’s a common misconception that courtesy beta readers and professional beta readers do the same work, and so should be paid the same amount: nothing. However, someone who beta reads as a courtesy might notate a little and give general notes (similar to a detailed book review), but a professional (paid) beta reader will perform somewhere in the gray area between reviewer and editor.

      I hope this helps a little. Again I’m glad that working with Eman was such a positive experience for you and your work, which I look forward to reading!

      Best regards,
      Kitty

      Liked by 2 people

    • abooknation says:

      Hi Wendy!
      I’m really glad to hear that my feedback was useful! I do realise that I go a little further than beta reading, however I also don’t explicitly edit the work. That’s why initially I struggled a little bit in terms of what to name the actual service. If I say that I’m editing, the author will have a very different expectation to the feedback I provide, however my feedback is somewhere between beta-reading and editing. Not fully satisfying the role of an editor.

      In terms of receiving payment. As I’ve mentioned before, I go further than beta reading, so I understand why authors don’t expect to pay for just a beta reader. The beta readers I’ve come across (and this is NOT to generalise) tend to read the whole MS and give general feedback about the plot, characters, storyline etc. However as you can see from the feedback I provided you, I’m almost an editor. I review every chapter, no matter how long the MS is, whilst also annotating each chapter if I find something worth noting. In my personal opinion, this is not something that should be provided for free, and I’ve had a few authors agree with me on that.

      I think my next step would be trying to identify exactly what to label this service, because I feel like the title of it is a little misleading as to what I actually provide.

      I look forward to reading about your experience! Send me the link when you post it! 🙂

      Like

  2. Kitty Maschan says:

    Thank you for this! I’ve been going back and forth on whether or not to offer the first 1000 words as a trial and this kind of solidifies it for me.

    Also, I think there’s a lot of people who don’t understand the difference between courtesy beta reading (which is just a general review, like you might for a blog) and paid beta reading (which is somewhere in the gray area between courtesy beta reading and editing, taking a lot more time and effort).

    I hope you’ve had luck with it and that you still enjoy doing it! 🤓

    Liked by 1 person

    • abooknation says:

      I’m glad that my post was useful! I completely agree with you about the paid beta reading services! The problem is getting people to understand the extent that PAID beta readers go to, that might not be achieved with a free beta reader! I also think that’s why a lot of authors are hesitant to actually pay for this service, understandably!

      I definitely still enjoy doing it but I think I have to rethink what to name the services and perhaps the prices I charge! Thank you so much for this comment! Good luck with your service as well. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Kitty Maschan says:

        I think it’s definitely made more difficult by the name being defined so broadly. I’ve been thinking about it really hard and I think when I start advertizing it, I’ll have to be specific in what I do. I’ll probably do like you and offer a free 1000 words. I’ve also seen others open comments on their beta reading advert page for authors they’ve helped to give feedback, which looks like a good idea to me.

        Honestly though I’m also considering if I want to do it at all or not. The money isn’t good for the time put in. Idk… still a lot to think about. Best of luck! 🤓

        Liked by 1 person

  3. thebookcorps says:

    Thanks for writing this up! I have always wanted to get into beta-reading but at the moment my uni workload is quite dense. Maybe during the semester holiday!

    I certainly think beta readers (professional ones) should be paid. Running a review blog is a hobby for me – I do it for fun as I’m sure almost everyone on WordPress does. Professional readers are not editing/providing feedback for fun – they consider it a job. I intend to be paid if I am completing a job for you. For e.g. you wouldn’t ask a graphic designer to create a logo for you and then not pay them. They have provided a service and deserve to be paid, as do professional readers.

    Sorry if this sounded a little like a rant. I am completing a Master’s in publishing and I am learning so many things about editing, reading, etc. I take these things to heart as it will be my full time career soon. ❤ 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • abooknation says:

      You’ve actually summed it up perfectly in your comment! There is still some confusion as to the difference between paid and free beta-readers! I feel like although I outline on the services page what I do, because I use the term beta reader, authors expect it to be free! I also don’t want to label my services as an editorial one, because in all honesty that’s not something my approach satisfies. However I struggle to challenge the role of a paid beta reader, and to show that there is a difference! Thank you for this comment and best of luck with your Masters!

      Liked by 1 person

      • thebookcorps says:

        Thank you! The confusion can be quite irritating and it annoys me to no end that so many writers expect services to be free. If a designer were designing a book cover for you, would you expect them to work for free? (Again, that’s professional ones, not courtesy. I myself have read/edited work on a courtesy basis for friends before.)
        It’s probably the best not to offer editorial services as it is ridiculously hard, time consuming, and you won’t get paid enough for it – but sometimes when I’m reading something I begin to rewrite it/edit it in my head! Can’t stop myself lol.
        It’s incredibly hard to challenge the idea – I would not have any idea on how to educate writers/readers.
        Thank you very much! 😀

        Like

  4. juliecroundblog says:

    Our writing group act as beta readers for each other and do not expect to charge but someone else gave me a long novel to assess to see if it was ready for publication and I spent many hours looking at the style, plot, characterisation,structure and wrote a full report with alterations,possible outlets and suggestions. I did charge for that, a sum agreed beforehand.I think this is more than beta reading but less than a full editorial proof read.I hope you agree.

    Liked by 2 people

    • abooknation says:

      I definitely agree, I always get the comparison to critiquing partners which is not the same as what I’m providing! However the service you provided that you charged for, is pretty much what I provide as well! And as you’ve experienced, it’s quite a lengthy process! I think the way you’ve summarised it at the end is something I 100% agree with!

      Like

  5. Books, Vertigo and Tea says:

    I have beta read twice now and working on a third, so I find this post tremendously helpful. I do not actually present myself as a beta-reader. This is something that I have just been invited to do for a few fellow authors and nervously agreed. I have to be honest that I have no clue how to properly do this or if there is a proper way. Sharing your experience and approach is a huge help! Thank you 🙂

    Like

  6. TeacherofYA says:

    I was asked to look over a MS by a young writer and I was so flattered that I agreed. The more I think about it, everyone’s time is valuable. When I read for my blog, the compensation comes mainly from the free book! But when it comes to reading for proficiency or for quality, unless I am a person with loads of spare time, I could see charging for the service. I haven’t even had time to look at her MS, and I am sure that if I was making income from doing it, I would be able to make more time bc I would treat it like a job. However, since I need to make a livelihood, that comes first.
    So what I’m trying to say (as I rambled) is that I used to think beta reading should be complementary, it’s not the same as a review. Getting a free book for a review? Awesome. Getting a MS to look over and judge content and overall clarity in hopes of helping the author publish? Needs to be compensated. So good for you. You deserve it for what you are putting in.
    I of course now get to read this MS for free. I hope she isn’t looking for detailed notes because I can only do so much, you know?

    Liked by 1 person

    • abooknation says:

      I completely agree with you! I know that receiving compensation would make literally force me to work on it, because as you said it’s a job! For me personally, I did the same work for the free trials I held and for the paid ones, the main difference was the time it took me to get them done! But now if I do accept MS for free, it would definitely receive lighter comments than the paid services. I think that’s personally a fair exchange, so I hope it goes well for you!

      Liked by 1 person

      • TeacherofYA says:

        Thank you! I don’t know if I would offer the service unless I know I have spare time…but I’m truly thinking it might help pay the bills. I just feel bad for the girl who sent her MS bc I really just don’t have time for free feedback unless it’s a review. But I felt bad saying no. So it came out as a “I’ll see what I can do.” There’s noting wrong with charging for YOUR TIME AND EFFORT, as a book review is completely different than a beta/sensitivity/feedback read. Good luck with your services. 😊👍

        Liked by 1 person

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