A Beta Reader Is Not An Editor

It seems there is the one or other author around who either don’t know what the job of a beta reader is. Also, some authors don’t want to pay for an editor and therefore try to ‘use’ the beta reader to get the editor’s job done.

From what I learned in my ‘long’ career of two published books (and a few lined up)… my order of ‘writing and publishing’ is the following:

  1.  Drafting
  2.  Copying out
  3.  personal editing #1
  4.  personal editing #2
  5.  professional editing (proofreading)
  6.  filing for copyright
  7.  sending the manuscript out to the beta readers
  8.  having the book cover done
  9.  possible corrections when getting the manuscript back from beta readers
  10.  publishing

At times the corrections, added paragraphs or even pages, demand a second round of proofreading or editing.

Now, what does the beta reader do?

Beta readers are helpful people around you – can be friends, co-workers, family members. They are asked to read the book pre-release. Often they are asked to review the book online, just after release. Most beta readers are very happy to do so in exchange for the book.

Every beta reader works differently. Some return a paper manuscript with scribbles all over the place…, some send an email with a few ideas, suggestions or remarks, some send texts whenever they discover something. When I beta read, I write a list and later send that list by email. So far, I never discovered a huge plot hole, but I found the one or other ‘thing’ that bugged me and that I had to let the author know about. Many other beta readers do the same thing.

There is one thing beta readers don’t do: they don’t correct typos and grammar. That’s what’s the editor is for. I’m not saying they always are perfect, and should I catch a forgotten typo, of course, I will tell the author about it. But I’m not actively looking for them.

I am lucky enough to have a beta reader who is sweet enough to actively look for typos and grammar problems that escaped my editor’s attention. The one or other author might be just as lucky. But generally, beta readers are not here for editing!

They should return your manuscript with a bit more than ‘I liked it.’ You want to get their notes. You want to hear about their feelings… when did they laugh? When did they cry? What scared them or amused them? Did they enjoy the read, and would they recommend the book? According to them, what age range is the book for (if you’re writing Young Adult), and what did they not like so much?

Did they discover something about the plot they didn’t like? Do they have questions about the story, the plot, or the characters? Is there anything they discovered that isn’t right?

Let me give you a couple examples. One of my last beta readers told me that she loves my book, and she finds ‘Sundance’ as a character very interesting. However, she misses Katie, the ‘Soul Taker’ and wishes her back. She is an exceptional beta reader and informed me about several other things that I later corrected. (I did not write more ‘Katie’ into the second book since that is ‘Sundance’s’ story).

When I was beta reading for a male author, I discovered a wardrobe flaw with one of the female character’s ‘undergarments.’ I told my fellow author about it, and he corrected that.

We all were grateful to have our beta readers. It is important to us having people with open minds paying attention to our stories. And we always hope we don’t ask too much.

Thank you, beta readers, for helping us with your time, your efforts, and your honesty. We need you!




23 thoughts on “A Beta Reader Is Not An Editor

  1. Indeed, it is handy when beta readers spot errors missed in the editing, but as you say that is not what they are there for. They should be able to offer an honest opinion of how the book grabs them so that if there are parts that don’t measure up the writer can do something about it before it goes ‘out there’.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love my beta readers, but I use them before the pro edit to make sure the story shape is right and I’m not doig things in the wrong places. It’s not something my editor tends to pick up – well shape, but she’s not good at other flaws. I like my editor to get what I think is the final version!
    It isn’t of course…

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Well said! Both Helen and I feel the same way when we get feedback from Beta-Readers. In her case one of my friends is a real history buff and he was able to raise some issues of concern regarding certain phrases and even the fact that “Paramedics” were not in existence in 1947. Such an eye for detail and knowledge can be invaluable to a writer. Great article!


  4. I have a great group of beta readers for my fourth book. I usually send my manuscript out to beta readers before I send it to my professional editor. It has worked out well for me this way and saves me time and money. 🙂 Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. When I beta read, I will note typos and grammar problems… unless there are a lot of them, in which case I’ll suggest a professional proofreader. But 10-20 in a whole book, I have no problem with that. I agree that, in general, this is not the beta reader’s job. It always makes sense for an author to state upfront what kind of feedback they’re looking for in order to not waste anyone’s time. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I won’t pay attention to typos and grammar problems either – unless they jump into my face. I’m 100% with you on that one. I concentrate on some story or plot faults or some other things that I notice and that don’t seem right to me.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.