Beta Reads

When you’re on a budget, a beta read is a great alternative to a professional edit. It can usually be done for barter, often returning the beta read.

There are two tricks to this. First, finding a beta reader who can get a work back to you in the time you need it. Second, finding the right beta reader. Years ago, as Jim Winter, I flailed about having my books beta’d, a habit I picked up playing in other sandboxes. However, some of those who did the reads weren’t used to crime fiction. One, a writer I otherwise got along with, hated what I did with one major character in the Nick Kepler series. I violently disagreed. (Not literally violent, but strongly.) So maybe he wasn’t the best beta reader for that particular work. The irony here is the guy was a fan of my work. Feeling is still mutual.

Broken SkiesSecond is finding someone whose schedule won’t disrupt your own too badly. I say this both having been a beta reader and asking for beta reads myself. If you’re working on a deadline, you want your work back in time to do revisions. When you pay an editor, you usually build a timeline into the agreement. When you have beta reads done, the reader is basically doing you a favor (with the expectation you’ll return it somehow.) Which means you’re basically getting it free. And on their time. So make sure the person doing a beta has time.

One other thing about betas is quality. You don’t know what the other person will focus on or how good they are. They tend to be subjective, even when the person is obviously making an effort to give good feedback. So always get multiple reads. One advantage of this is that if multiple readers spot the same thing, you know it needs work.

Broken Skies just received four beta reads. I may see a fifth one returned by the time I finish revisions. Each reader had different strengths. I prefer having an editor work on it, but betas are great when you’re on a budget. I save the editing bill for the big projects.

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