Editing Tip #97 – Beta Reading for Others Pt.2: Intent (likability)

What’s not to like about getting to read new, upcoming books for free? Well, I guess as a beta reader we’re spending valuable time and the gift of our literate opinion, then again we wouldn’t have accepted a beta book in the first place if these things didn’t already appeal to us.

By Crosa (Flickr: Scream) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Crosa (Flickr: Scream) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

But what happens when the book you’ve received doesn’t turn out to be your thing?

I mean, what if your gut reaction is, “Oh, no! I don’t like it…”

There are two very honest approaches to answering this question:

1) Explain to the author you’ve promised to beta read for that you, unfortunately, do not fall into the target market for their book and would be unable to provide adequate feedback but that you thank them for entrusting their WIP (work in progress) to you. You can then either suggest a friend or colleague who might be interested in beta reading in your stead or you could outline which target market you see their book best represented by and why – also excellent feedback.

2) You can finish reading the manuscript and then think about it for a few days before giving your feedback. Think carefully about why you don’t like this piece (or why it’s not quite sitting right with you). Consider what the author is trying to achieve and who their target reader might be. Then, try to put yourself into that reader’s frame of mind and critically look at whether the author has achieved their goal or not. If there are still some hiccups then make note of those places/things, explain how you’ve chosen to view their manuscript and provide solid advice from your reading experiences. Don’t forget to let them know about what you did like and what does work well too.

As a book reviewer I’m honing my craft in this capacity just as I hone my writer’s craft. Beta reading is no different. You’re providing a valuable opinion of someone else’s manuscript to help them better their craft… I have found that even though I like a particular genre that doesn’t necessarily mean I like all writing in that genre – and I often have a very “editor” response during a first read that takes time to move past.

I have found though, if I can encourage myself to consider the writing/story beyond my initial gut reaction and push myself to look at who this might actual appeal to and focus on what the author is trying to achieve, I can see beyond the black and white of like/dislike. Once I can move past that initial reaction I learn a lot about the WIP or new release I’m reading and I can focus on what the author’s intent is. Only then can I truly appreciate the craft of almost any writer.

Happy Editing!


Creative PencilProfessional Editing for 1st time clients from $3.50/300 words for a “full edit” ~ query M.J. HERE.

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Categories: Editing

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