Tuesday, June 17, 2014

What's the Point of a Beta Reader?

Beta readers are invaluable to an author, and many don't understand the gravity of the position that they are in. They are the author's first readers and objective editors of a product that the author put a great deal of time into. Often, they don't get back to us as early as authors would like, but that's just a price you pay, and in the writing world, patience is a requirement.

Recently, I donned my beta reader's hat for the first time for a book by an author. By now, I was thirsting for someone else's creativity to inspire me. As soon as I began reading, I found several things wrong. Pacing, character reactions, etc. However, the more I read, the more invested I was in the plot, and I was intrigued enough to overlook some of those things for the sake of a good story.

However, the author posted on his Facebook account that he was beginning edits on the book. Huh? When you give a book to your beta readers, it has to be the best you can possibly make it. If it's not, then you're sending book (in this case, unfortunately, an epic) that isn't as attractive as it can be. Annoyed, I decided to press on with the book.

A few days later, I got an invite to an event. Yep. You guessed it, the book's release party. Now, I wouldn't mind if it was scheduled in far in advance, but this author was releasing it in 2.5 weeks. There was no way that I could read the book, list the editing advice, and the author be able to change it.

The result? I dropped the book, and I have no intention of telling this author. Why? Beta readers are the most valuable things to an author. They are people who believe in your work and make a heavy commitment to help you to success. If you give beta readers less than your best and schedule the book to be released within a fortnight, you're not only putting pressure on the beta reader, but you're mitigating them and their role. Thus, you make a beta reader feel unimportant.

Something I learned when I started writing was the author works for the reader, not the other way around. However, the few that are willing to work with the author, directly in this case, deserve nothing but the utmost courtesy, because they are doing what no other reader who picks up your book will do for you- help you make it better.

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