Beta Readers–Work or Fun?

I think I’ve always read the Acknowledgements section of an author’s book. Some are funny and some are bland but it reminds you how many people are involved in writing a book. There are the people specifically involved in the book’s publication–the editor, an agent (should you have one. I do not. If an agent is looking for a light hearted, comical mystery writer, contact me:), and a cover artist. Additional thanks is given to the people who helped you do the research– answering the medical questions, the legal questions, and the random questions–when was the last time you cried? what drink would you order at a bar if you couldn’t have alcohol (and still look manly)?

And then there are the BETA READERS, or first readers as some writers call them. They are the people who read the book, long before it’s published. I just finished a book by Paul Tremblay and in his Acknowledgements section, he quoted Louis Maistros: “Being asked to read another writer’s rough draft is the literary equivalent of being asked to help a friend move a couch to a new place.”

I disagree.  There is some pleasure in being the first to read a new book, the first to see what happens next. Now, it’s also a very scary proposition. I liken being a beta reader to watching your friend’s toddler. Because to many a writer, the draft they present to you is like a child to the writer. It’s an extension of themselves. They love it dearly. They want to be told its perfect and beautiful.

Now watching a toddler can be great fun but also quite exhausting. You might be pestered more than once by the parent to check how everything is going.  I think all my beta readers will agree with those three elements of the beta reading job.

The responsibility of the beta reader is to be honest. But must do so with great care.

At the end of the day, if the time babysitting was a complete disaster, you need to mention it right? I don’t recommend saying, “Your child is terrible,” but you probably need to say something. If the child was ill, you’d definitely mention it.  If you couldn’t understand a thing the child said, you’d mention it.

My words of wisdom to new beta readers are–Don’t tell me it sucks, that doesn’t help. You need to tell me, nicely, what doesn’t work, what you didn’t understand, what you’d change.

**Special note to my beta readers (who I assume all read my blog), please contact me if you want to be a beta reader for book 5!**

In other news, The Nathan Miccoli Mystery series is on sale this holiday weekend.  Tell your friends and get ready for book 5!

Enjoy,

A R

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