Sunday, 9 August 2015

Reading Funk and Adventures in Beta Reading

So I was in a reading funk. It was so bad that according to Goodreads, I'm 28 books behind schedule of my 80-book target for 2015. 

Amazon is largely to blame. Because when your 60+ reviews are unceremoniously and unfairly pulled, you are gutted and you lose your street cred (if I ever had one, to begin with). 

And you lose your review mojo.

Then beta reading happened. 

A few days ago, a brilliant author asked me "When are you gonna beta read for me?"

Just so you know, I'm not a beta reader*. I've been invited by wonderful authors in the past, but I respectfully declined because I feel that I lack the necessary skills to beta read. Besides, when you read deliberately to find errors, it just sucks all the fun in reading. 

But this author isn't strict. All she wanted was a male perspective. 

Easy peasy.

The reading part, that is. The critiquing, not so much.

I found myself asking these questions before writing/sending my feedback.

1. How do you separate the fanboy from the critic? (Yes, I like this author very much).

2. How do you balance honesty and tact? (You have got to be cruel to be kind?)

3. Can the author handle a negative feedback? And can I handle the backlash? (Let's not get postal here.)
"Overheard from writer & reader"

4. Why isn't there a 'Beta Reading for Dummies'?  (but this beta reader etiquette is a great guide)

5. Is there an easy way to break an author's heart? (James Ingram's answer is 'No')

6. Can our relationship survive this? (Can we still be friends?)

Of course, it's not as bad as it sounds. I assure you that no ninja was hurt in the beta reading process. No hearts broken, no egos bruised (or maybe just a tad?). 

Beta reading is part of the author's writing process. It's great to experience the author-reader dynamics, in its very vulnerable state. It's not just about finding errors in story continuity or pointing out gaping plot holes, it's also a chance to better understand the author's creative process. Once you have this understanding, you'll have a greater appreciation of the final work.

And yes, it's also an exercise in diplomacy and tact.

Will I do it  again? With the right author, yes, gladly.

*Read Fletcher Delancey's Ode to the Beta Reader because it's cool.


  1. I still can't believe Amazon pulled all those reviews. SERIOUS BOO.

  2. Yeah, the review thing was just wrong. Good on you for doing the beta read. Beta readers are the best and yes, you have to say exactly what you think. It's all about the story and not the author. :) :)