Do you consider it an honor to be asked to be a beta reader? I advise the clients I work with to approach beta readers. The feedback you get can be invaluable.

Now it is your turn. Your colleague Sam says, “I’m writing a book and would like you to give me feedback as I go along.” The first question you need to answer is:

Is This a Good Subject for You?

Consider the subject matter. Do you know anything about it? Whether you do or not, does it interest you?

These are separate questions. You might, for example, know a lot about a subject that bores you. You’re not going to enjoy reading about it, and you’ll do the author no favors by agreeing.

If the subject interests you, knowledge of it will help you as a eta reader point out how the manuscript could be improved. Even if you’re unfamiliar with it, you can have the valuable perspective of many potential readers in your position. You can say to Sam, “I wanted to know more about this,” or “Your explanation of that confused me. I think it needs clarification.”

Whatever your knowledge level is, you can comment on the book’s organization, pace, and general interest.

Do You Feel Qualified to be a Beta Reader?

By this, I mean do you feel that you have the ability to critique a manuscript? Consider this carefully.

You may think, “I’ve never done this before, and I wouldn’t want to let Sam down.” That may or may not be a valid reason to turn down the request.

Lack of experience isn’t in itself a reason not to agree. “There’s a first time for everything” is a cliché, but it’s still true.

Ask yourself instead if, when you read books, you think of things that could make it better. You recognize what you find boring. You think of areas you’d like to know more about. In other words, you have a critical mind in the best possible sense. If you also can lucidly express your criticisms, you have another qualification.

And let’s face It. Most of us are quite good at expressing criticisms.

However, if you rarely read books, this is the best possible reason to decline the request.

Do You Consider Yourself a Fair Person?

When you can be critical in other areas of life: in personal matters, in terms of a job review, or any area of life, do you think of the most effective way to state your criticisms? Do you take into account how the other person will receive what you say? Do you structure your critique in a way that offers constructive points for improvement?

How will your relationship with Sam be affected if his book is terrible? Will your relationship survive? There is a LOT of ego tied up when a person writes a book. Few want to hear their baby is ugly.

Do You Have Time to Do This?

How you answer this question is very important. Be sure to ask how long the book is and by when the author needs your response. Look at your schedule carefully. Is it going to stress you to do this? Is there a possibility that you will end up feeling impatient and resentful? Or worse, from Sam’s perspective, will you let him down?

If so, decline. Whatever negativity gets connected with this additional responsibility may affect the quality of your critique. That’s not fair to Sam, and taking on something too burdensome isn’t acceptable to you.

If You Decline

Give Sam a thoughtful and honest response. Say you appreciate the honor of being considered to do this, and explain why you have to give his project a pass. Wish the author the best of success in the project. Ideally, recommend someone else you think will follow through.

When You Say Yes

As an author, you count on your beta readers to guide the project. As a beta reader, you agreed to guide the book with your fresh perspectives. Authors treasure that – don’t let them down.

  • You’d love to know how to get beta readers and reviewers.
  • There is an article or book trapped inside you that is aching to get written
  • You are interested in developing or expanding your ability to write for publication.
  • You are unsure how to get started as an author.
  • The idea of writing seems so overwhelming that you do not know how to start.
  • You are afraid of being embarrassed by misusing words.
  • You are concerned with avoiding traps associated with being an author or editor.

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