My First Experience as a Beta Reader
The term ‘beta reader‘ is completely new to me. All I knew about “beta” was the fish and beta testing video games and computer programs. I am published through a small press with two internal editors. Until very recently, I hadn’t realized there were different kinds of editors: Story and Copy.
The concept of beta readers and a self-perpetuating community as opposed to industry intrigued me. Friends, fans and fellow authors volunteer their time and critic in exchange for: helping a friend, a returned favor, the power rush of impacting an author’s creation, taking an active role in the self-publishing revolution… or just a free copy of a book you are interested in.
This winter I was approached by a friend to be a beta reader. I love to read and wanted to help (I may call-in the favor some day 😉 ), so I readily accepted. I exchanged emails with the writer and his editor. I was expecting a digital copy of his work, such as a security protected PDF. Reading on a computer is not my favorite but I can deal. A neat package arrived just days later with my very own preview copy of The Clearing by Thomas Rydder.
I enjoyed the book. It was a quick read – in a good way. It was solidly grounded in ‘the real world’ but also kept the supernatural believable.
The monsters are real monsters. They are evil. They don’t wrestle with human emotions or crisis for morality. Yet, they were still complex. They had a clear drive; not mindless beasts.
I didn’t receive any formal instruction on ‘beta reading’, so I just read and marked what I saw, both copy and story edits. Since I had a hard copy, I kept track of my comments in a spread sheet with columns: Page Number, Location (i.e. third paragraph), Text (the actual type) and Notes (what I felt should be revised). Most of my comments were typographical. Such as, ‘Viet Nam’ should read as ‘Vietnam’. Or the heroine’s name is inexplicably different on the back cover than in the rest of the book. My favorite comment was a clarification to the plot: Adam took The Elder’s head. The men can’t see the muzzle dissolve. I felt like I was on a scavenger hunt. And the more fragments I found, the better the final book would be – or at least I hoped for Mr. Rydder.
Something You Can Hold in Your Hand
Publishing Your First Book