How To Be The Best Alpha/Beta Reader Ever™ And Give Priceless Feedback

Have you noticed a big boom in the amount of new books being written?

A lot of us in the blogosphere aren’t just bloggers – we’re readers, writers, and storytellers. So, we not only want to write a weekly collection of our thoughts. We want to write an novel! YAY!

But! With all these new novels, we’re being asked more and more often to be readers to these work-in-progresses, also known as being an alpha or beta reader.* And as a writing blogger, it happens a lot. I’m pre-reading 4 books right now!**

While the job’s simple enough (read, comment, support) a lot of people seem to get it wrong by not doing anything for some reason?? They don’t put in the effort to give helpful comments and suggestions to the author.

That needs to change.

Today, let’s talk about how you can be a valuable member in a team of readers, and give great advice that will benefit your author’s editing time.


 *What’re alpha and beta readers?

  1. An alpha reader reads your book as you are writing it, during your first draft.
  2. A beta reader reads your book after you have finished the first draft and are editing or beginning your second draft.

** *laughs nervously at GIANT MANUSCRIPT DOCS*
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don’t be afraid to give criticism

We live in a world that bases everything on if it will offend someone or not. I have a dozen examples, but I’m not going into specific details about that today.* Basically, throw that mindset out the window.

Don’t worry about hurting feelings. This is the nitty-gritty. You’re chipping away the rock to get to the diamond.

You can never grow if you don’t make mistakes. That’s why authors like alpha/beta readers! They want to be pointed to the right direction, to learn how to make their writing the best it can be.


*controversial topics??? lol what are those????smalldivideremptyflat

point out the good

Now that I’ve said the above… don’t make the author feel like their work is trash! Only pointing out the negatives makes them feel like they’re not doing anything right, and they’ll start to doubt that they’re getting anywhere with their story.

If you see something that’s good, for Heaven’s sake, point it out! Compliment the wording of a sentence, the fluid pacing of a scene, anything you really like. Because the author will see that, smile, and try to improve the rest of her story to that level.

can-ya-feel-the-loveNo matter how much we criticize our own work, authors love praise. We like it when you compliment our stories. We will gobble up the good reviews and give you hugs and chocolate.smalldivideremptyflat

say why

You’ve stated what you like. You’ve shown what you don’t.

SAY WHY. PLEASE. SAY. WHY.

Not saying why isn’t very beneficial to the author. It’s like getting a graded test back without explanations why their answers were wrong; they don’t know what to do to correct their mistake, and they’ll blindly try to find a solution.

Don’t leave your author in the dark. Guide them through your thought process. Why exactly didn’t you like that character? What might have made him better?

smalldivideremptyflat

don’t be too picky with grammar

Don’t be super nitpicky (unless the author has asked you to)! Imagine trying to finish your first draft or make early edits, and an army of readers gangs up to attack you with grammar complaints.

YOU LEFT OUT THE SECOND ‘O’ IN THE WORD ‘TOO’

THIS NEEDS A COMMA HERE

STOP SAYING ‘SAID’ SO MUCH, IT’S REPETITIVE

LOL

It’s one thing if the whole sentence doesn’t make sense and leaves you wondering what just happened, but if it’s a simple, obvious mistake, leave it be. That just makes more comments for the author to go through and spend time correcting while they could be writing.

Also, may I remind you that grammar mistakes are why you hire a proofreader and editor??? The time it takes you to correct misspelled words could be spent doing something else because GUESS WHAT? You’re just doing a job for free that someone else gets paid for.

smalldivideremptyflat

tell them how you feel

Writers love to know when we’ve hit the feels (gotten our readers emotional), but sometimes they’ve thought it over SO MANY TIMES in our heads that it isn’t emotional to us anymore. We’re not going to gasp when we read that plot twist we’ve been planning and writing for months.

So… get emotional with your comments! What makes you want to cry? Squeal with delight? Kick your computer down the stairs and scream into a pillow for hours? Even a note as random as “ASDFGHJKL I CALLED IT I CALLED IT AHAHAHAHA”* would make an author grin at her screen.

Don’t forget the negative stuff, though. On one project I’m alpha reading, a certain phrase made me feel really uncomfortable. I pointed it out to the author and a few more readers, and we had a good discussion on how to make that particular sentence easier to digest.


*may or may not be an example of how i comment
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I wanted to add a quick note as almost a bonus to this post because it’s not quite long enough to fit a regular post. If you find you cannot keep alpha/beta reading for someone, please don’t just suddenly ignore them. It’s so discouraging to an author because it feels like we aren’t doing our jobs of keeping readers entertained.

Instead, you should send them a quick message along the lines of:

Dear [Author’s Name],

Thank you so much for inviting me to read your book! I’ve really enjoyed reading what I have, but unfortunately I don’t have the time to be able to continue making meaningful suggestions to your work. I wish you and your other readers all the best, and I look forward to reading your beautiful book when it’s published (and super famous)!

Love, [Your Name]

While it’s always great to be truthful, you don’t need to give any explanation why you can’t read anymore. So don’t feel forced into spilling your gut on why you have to leave, especially if it’s for personal reasons. You have every right to back out of it.

Well, I guess that’s it for today, my friend! Now, you can be The Best Alpha/Beta Reader In The History Of The World™.

What do you think? What other things are great to do for your author as an early reader?

love,

design-73

33 thoughts on “How To Be The Best Alpha/Beta Reader Ever™ And Give Priceless Feedback

  1. Julia says:

    I think I really need to take these tips from you. 😂 I’ve been enjoying being an Alpha Reader for the magnificent Maddi Grace, but most of my comments on it have evolved into all emotional stuff? (Mostly because I’m shipping two of the characters 😆) I should be giving a bit more constructive feedback than that, even as much as it may make her smile. I mean, I’ll include the emotion, but add in more constructiveness. 😛 Thanks for this post!

    Like

    • Julia says:

      Also, I would love to pin some of your posts, but the button can’t find any things to pin? I think that it’s a plugin I once tried when I was setting up my blog. Because it took me forever to find a good plugin, here’s a tip: the plugin I use for my social media stuff is called AddToAny Share Buttons. 😉 Hope this helps! I love you posts and would love to share them on media. 😃

      Like

  2. Tess (blackiesunshine) says:

    YAY i’m soooo glad to have this post, considering I’m alpha-ing (?) two stories right now! And also considering that I will need some betas. Lots of betas actually. So yes, life is good – and in my crowded reader, this was one of the posts I picked out to read – LOVE your blog!

    Like

  3. Sarah says:

    This is awesome, Abby! Thank you for the reminder, I’m off to try and be a better alphie. x] shamelessly steals your Ninjago gifs XD

    Like

  4. Liz - Home with the Hummingbirds says:

    Happy (late) Birthday!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ❤ ❤ These are great tips! Thank you for sharing them! 😀 I have been writing a bit lately. But I also have been alpha/beta reading a few books! Currently I think I am doing two. (one alpha read, and one beta)

    Like

  5. fabulousread says:

    Great article. I’d really appreciate an alpha reader for two of my blog posts please! Get in touch if interested. The main narrator works on her own personal development as not happy with her life. She starts her own research and gives some tips on life goal setting etc.

    I’ve entered this world of blogging recently and I am glad to get some tips on how to be a better alpha/beta reader – it would be a pleasure to help someone out too! Thank you for sharing!

    Like

  6. Ruth Meyer says:

    Great advice, Abby! I have only beta read a few times, and was reeeeeeeeaalllyyy nervous about hurting the author’s feelings the second time around (for a y-dubber). What I learned is, be honest, open, and give the kind of feedback you would want to receive from your own readers. Sugar-coating the truth doesn’t help any more than ranting over your pet peeves. By that I mean: if your initial response is extremely positive OR negative, try to find out what it is you are responding to, and explain why you had that gut response. I did this, and it really helped both me and the author. Obviously no two writers have the same style, quirks, or preferences in every area. I try to be gracious, but also explain clearly WHY I reacted to a gut-instinct, then took a breath, and am now replying with a considerate evaluation. I have to remove myself sometimes, before I can give helpful feedback (does that make sense?), because I tend to respond strongly to anything that rubs me the wrong way, or doesn’t line up with my own ideas and convictions. I’m not going to change how anyone writes, nor should I.

    Feedback is only as helpful as the heart that goes with it.

    If I truly care about the writer enough to read and comment on their work, then I need to truly care about what I say/write to them. I know the bright joys of praise and the knife edge of criticism well enough, but nothing is more sickening than half-hearted, hollow commentary. I’d rather stare at “likes” on Facebook all day, than hear “Oh, that was really good” again, without any explanation or further comment. It’s nice, it feels a little bit good, but only in a handshake kind of way. As if you are saying, “Yeah, I’ve seen you around, and kind of remember your face, but what was your name again? And, do you have a life?” I’m a hugger (lol), so I would much rather you tell me what exactly you did or didn’t like/get/question about my writing. Don’t just say you care; show me you want to invest something into helping me improve (if you’re a committed reader). The blog is looking fantastic, by the way!

    Like

    • Abby Franklin says:

      I LOOVE THIS RUUUTH!!! Yes I sooo agree! Half-hearted reviews and comments are not very helpful, and certainly not encouraging! And that hug analogy I get it though ❤

      Aww thank you 😀

      Like

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