Well? Do you?
Many don’t. And in fact, although loads of sites list the do’s and don’ts of Beta reading, most folks, when asked to participate in Beta reading, don’t bother finding out. I know, because I’ve been on a few teams, and been witness to some of the comments that were sent back to the author.
Now, I’ve been lucky with my choices when I asked for Beta teams. Most of the good folks who have given me feedback have helped me improve my story line or characters, an even my grammar and punctuation. If you’d like to do the same the next time you’re asked, listen up –
First, when asked, keep two things in mind before accepting this responsibility (and a responsibility it most assuredly is). One, make sure it’s a genre you’re both interested in, and familiar with. If the story doesn’t interest you, you aren’t going to do a good job. Two, ensure you have the time to commit to reading and paying attention to what you read. The author is relying on you for feedback, and it’s not to be taken lightly.
Now. What are you looking for?
Quite simply, the same thing a reader is. Are the characters believable? Do you identify with (or hate) them? Is the dialogue catchy? Does the story line bend and twist and keep you engaged? Do you always know what’s coming next, or are you constantly caught off guard? Do you feel hatred, anger, heartbreak, joy, remorse, terror, or relief? And, of course, when you close the book, do you wish there were 100 more pages?
See, Beta reading is simply a review, just a review of what can well be an incomplete work. The complete part is judged by the answers and observations that come from you, the Beta team.
So. Here’s what I do when I Beta. You can do what you like, but this works for me.
Read the book once, just to read it. Don’t pay attention to punctuation, just the story. Read it all the way through.
Now, read it again. Make notes of what works, and what doesn’t. (Yeah, the writer also needs to know what is good about the work. It’s a review, right?). After you’re done noting all the individual good’s and bad’s, write a summary, telling him your general opinion of the book. And guess what? If there are bad parts (or chapters), tell them. It’s better to hear it from a gang of fellow writers than a few dozen unsatisfied readers, say, on Amazon. While you are doing this, you might also catch little occasions of bad punctuation, and if you do, by all means list those as well. A well-edited book shouldn’t have many, but hey, some always get missed.
A good Beta read can improve a book’s quality by two- or three-fold. Don’t take it lightly.
The author doesn’t.