In Defence of Beta Readers

Warning: Rant ahoy!
This is not directed at anyone in particular, it’s just a general trend I’ve noticed that’s really, really peeved me off.

The beta reader is the most underrated role in the writing process. People think that it’s a simple job – why, they’re just reading a book, aren’t they? It’s the easiest thing in the world. They read the story then tell you what they think.

This misunderstanding is something that gets me particularly furious. It is not because I’m desperate for feedback or think that what I write deserves better – far from it! It is because YOU ARE MAKING A MOCKERY OF WHAT THESE WONDERFUL PEOPLE DO.

A good beta reader doesn’t simply read. They read critically, analysing the plot, the characters, the themes, the words, and provide constructive feedback on what works and what doesn’t. They go through each chapter in detail, looking out for ways it can be improved. Being a beta reader is pretty much a job, not a form of entertainment anyone can just pick up.

You can dismiss my writing as ‘something anyone can do’ – which in a way is true, we can all write. You can dismiss the care and effort that goes into crafting a plot and story structure as ‘part of the editing process’ – also true. I don’t really care because it’s my own work that I’m crafting. It’s my baby, my passion.

But DO NOT dismiss what beta readers do as simply ‘reading for fun’. I would hope there is an element of enjoyment involved, but they do so much more than that. They pour their time, their effort, their love and care, into someone else’s baby. They give up time that could be spent with friends, watching TV, working on their own stories, playing games, or actually reading for fun… so that they can help craft someone else’s rough, clunky and unwieldy beast into something wonderful for others to read. They do it for no pay, and pretty much no acknowledgement apart from the author’s.

As someone said to me, critiquing the story takes ten times longer than actually reading it. Think about what these people are investing in a work that isn’t theirs. Then come back and tell me you want to be a beta ‘because you want something to read’. I’m honoured that you think what I write would be worth reading, I really am. But don’t dismiss what betas do so easily.

Beta readers of the world, know that you are loved and appreciated. I am humbled every time I see all you guys do – your hard work does not go unnoticed, I promise.

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