Top of the morning to you!
I’m currently reading through two works as a beta reader, and always cautious as to what to put in my feedback when regarding things that could be improved. After all, I don’t want to look like a jerk but I also want to get my point across. So, here is my way of being a good beta reader.
1. Be honest but be nice
Hiding your true feelings to avoid giving how you actually feel about aspects of the novel won’t help at all. You can’t help if someone gets irritated by the feedback given and that’s okay, but there’s no reason you can’t put it delicately to minimise any damage they may feel.
There’s a method known called the sandwich method and it goes along like this. The beta reader would give feedback on something that they enjoyed about what was written, it could be an action scene or some dialogue or description, and then they would give something that they felt was lacking or should have been there altogether. Then once that’s out of the way you give them a positive push installing them with confidence that they can do it, that you believe in them.
Thank you to the wonderful Jenna Moreci for providing this tip.
2. Don’t talk about the book other than to the author
It’s never cool to talk about someone behind their back, and I would never talk about a book, divulging its secrets to others without the author’s consent. Maybe he or she doesn’t want anyone else to know about the book or anything that happens within its contents. Whatever your opinions on the book, keep between the writer and yourself, bad press can damage he/she’s novel and put people off from checking it out. Just because you don’t like it doesn’t mean other’s will.
3. It’s never Bad to Pull Away
Sometimes the book just isn’t working for you and no matter how hard you try, you can’t always bring yourself to finish it OR your schedule at work or from other commitments makes beta reading a lesser priority. It’s best to honestly tell the writer that unfortunately you can’t finish the novel and give a reason as to why; it doesn’t need to be specific just enough to let them know you can’t continue.
4. Do not be that Person who takes Forever to Respond
Of course, we all have different commitments and schedules but if they’re sending out their work chapter by chapter, try not to take three weeks to respond. If they send you out the entire manuscript make sure to ask when they’d prefer it back, if they give you a date you can’t do, let them know. It’s natural that reading through a whole manuscript will take longer than giving feedback chapter by chapter but you can always comment on whatever chapter you’ve just finished so if you do need to stop being a beta reader for whatever reason, let the writer know.