Beta reading Hank Edwards

I am a very cynical reader. Some of the silliest, minute details that don’t line up will throw me out of a story. I can almost hear the others in my bookclub groaning to “get over it, already” but I just can’t help it. Do authors really want to hear me nitpick? Probably not after the virtual ink is dry and they can’t do anything about my review, but before hand, when they still have a shot at tweaking a few things before the final draft goes to print, maybe?

Here is Hank Edwards on the value of beta readers.

Finding the right crowd is tough. Trusting that crowd with your unpublished writing is even more difficult.

I have to admit I was at a loss what to write about for this blog post. Should I chatter on and on about myself and my latest books (two this year so far: “Shacked Up,” the suspense thriller sequel to my first Loose Id publication “Holed Up,” and a 1940s noir mob romance “Hired Muscle”), or do something different? Well, GayRomLit is definitely going to be different for me, so I decided to do something different as well.

I see posts all the time about people looking for or editing because of beta readers. Let me tell you, beta readers are the next best thing to sliced bread. Seriously. If you find a good beta reader, someone willing to sit down and read your story within a week or two, give you honest, not always positive feedback, comment on areas that are confusing, or call you out for naming a secondary character Stan in one chapter and Harry in subsequent chapters, hold on to that person as tight as you can. Buy them drinks, walk their dogs, do something to keep that person in your life because without that other set of eyes, it’s tough out there.

Oh, I know, there are editors who are paid to do that for your publisher. And that’s all well and good, but an editor also has 15 or 20 other manuscripts to slog through and, while they try to catch everything, sometimes things just slip past. It happens, hell, it happens to me reading over my own stuff. You know what you MEANT to write, so you just see that’s what is written there. A beta reader is focused on your manuscript and knows you and your writing well enough to ask those in depth questions.

Beta readers. Get some.

And here’s where I blab on about myself. I am part of a group of writers who post free stories on our blogs every Monday morning. We call ourselves the Story Orgy. There have been people who claim we are all one person, or we’re all women, or we all write each others’s posts, but whatever. We are six writers who post free m/m romance reads every Monday morning at 6:00 AM. Four of us do this on a weekly basis, the other two join in when their schedules permit.

This group is amazing. We help one another with edits, provide encouragement and advice and, basically, just listen to one another. If you can find a similar-minded set of writers, band together and support one another. I can’t tell you how much this has meant to me and my writing. It’s such a lonely job, writing, it really helps to step outside of your own head for a while and chat about things, see what others are up to, share a recipe or two and maybe, just maybe, find the spark of an idea to take your characters from just interesting to completely believable.

I wish I’d had beta readers and a writing group when I first started writing. Today, I can’t imagine my life as an author without them.

Thanks for reading, and I look forward to meeting everyone at GRL in October!

Find Hank Edwards here: WEBSITE | FACEBOOK | TWITTER

Hank is offering up a digital copy of Hired Muscle, available from Silver Publishing. To enter, comment below and let us know if you think you could be a beta reader. Do you read for the pleasure of it, getting lost within a story and overlooking any mistakes …. or could you tell some of you favorite authors your honest opinion?

Open until Thursday, July 12th at 11:59 pm (PST). Winner will be selected and notified on Friday.


18 thoughts on “Beta reading Hank Edwards

  1. yganoe July 10, 2012 / 12:06 pm

    I am a very honest person so I would tell the author the truth. This is like a dream job for me to be a Beta reader..maybe someday.

  2. mantasticfiction July 10, 2012 / 12:11 pm

    Are there professional beta readers? I think the best payment is a copy of the official final release … that makes me very happy 🙂

  3. Lena Grey July 10, 2012 / 12:25 pm

    I think of beta reading like it’s a ‘walk through’ on a project. It’s like letting someone test your work, kind of like someone running a program that they know nothing about to see where the ‘bugs’ are. Not that it’s not subjective, but another point of view is always helpful. Thanks, Hank.

  4. Karen Candido July 10, 2012 / 12:39 pm

    Its hard being a beta reader too. You have to worry about missing something, being too harsh or being too nice. You’re handling someone else’s work & its nerve wracking. In the end its worth it. Feeling like you helped someone out who needed it.
    Thank you Hank for the kudos!

  5. Val Kovalin July 10, 2012 / 1:22 pm

    Great post! Beta readers are worth their weight in gold. As an author, it can be hard to find them because it seems like so much to ask. As Karen points out, asking someone to beta read puts them on the spot. They could get in trouble or wreck a friendship by being too harsh or too nice. (For me, there’s no such thing as too harsh. I’d want to know all impressions of everything that isn’t working.)

    Authors repay each other with beta reads as Hank points out, but I worry that for a beta reader that’s not an author, there may not be a good way to repay that beta reader for all that work. Beta readers in our genre could totally burn out and become even harder to find …Especially if multiple authors are asking the beta reader to do it all the time, and especially with everyone’s staggering to-be-read list.

    That makes me that much more impressed by the generosity of beta readers who consider it payment enough to get a copy of the final project, or to know that you’ve greatly helped an author. Bless your hearts, and thank you, and I hope we authors don’t end up burning you out over the long run. 😦

  6. CaryLory July 10, 2012 / 2:38 pm

    Would love to be a beta reader. You are a new author for me. I read a book/day at the least and would like to put my skills to good use.

  7. A.B. Gayle July 10, 2012 / 3:28 pm

    Totally agree, Hank and also with Val’s comments about the dangers of burning out beta readers. Working with established authors does seem fairer, but I do think beta reading is a great transition for those readers who have secretly dreamed about writing one day.

    They’ve read books and felt they could be better, but are hesitant to start.

    Seeing the process of writing should give them the courage to try it themselves. Then they see that what we write first off isn’t perfect. They can also watch as we (hopefully) fix these problems.

    For example, in one instance, mine pointed out that my character wouldn’t wait until the evening to discuss an important issue as they were doing something earlier when that sort of discussion would be more likely to take place. I wanted the discussion to take place in the evening, so my simple fix was shift the other scene to the following day. It’s placement in the story wasn’t so crucial.

    That alone was a good lesson.

    Mine also commented recently that sometimes her flow of reading would stop but she couldn’t work out why. I told her to put in a “comment” but leave it empty. If she figured it out fine, but if not, it showed me something was wrong. It could be a craft problem (wording too convoluted) or I hadn’t explained something properly and she had to stop to figure it out.

    As a very new writer, I couldn’t have coped without my betas. Sometimes I just need them to pat me on the head and saying I’m heading in the right direction, but other times I need them to be harsher. One day, I’d like to think I was a good enough writer not to need either sort too much, but for now, I couldn’t do without them.

  8. Trix July 10, 2012 / 4:40 pm

    I’m good at catching typos, and (while I like to underplay any criticism at first) I think I could point out flaws honestly in the end.

  9. JD Ruskin July 10, 2012 / 4:57 pm

    I adore my beta reader and firmly believe she is the reason my first book is being published at the end of the year. She’s great with mechanics, but even more she is willing to tell me when something isn’t working. Her work schedule can make it difficult to help me, so I do worry about beta burn out. I’ve also had my sister read my work, because she has zero interest in reading M/M stories. If I can make her care about the characters, then I know I’m on the right track.

  10. Barbra July 10, 2012 / 5:50 pm

    I “think” I would like to be a beta reader, but I would feel the pressure. It’s easy enough to find errors ( “piece of mind” in a book I just read), but I’m not sure how much I would enjoy the book if I was constantly worrying that I was missing something. I guess having several readers would ease some of the pressure, because you’d know if you missed it, someone else would catch it. 😉

  11. Havan July 10, 2012 / 6:39 pm

    Thank you and love you Hank…and agree – the Story Orgy has changed my life, you five are the best a person could ask for! And I was blessed with a beta reader that not only knows his stuff but genuinely likes my writing too – and oh yeah, I’ve handcuffed him to me, never letting him go…hehe

    Great blog…love your books…can’t wait for more! ❤ *hugs*

  12. readmorromance July 10, 2012 / 7:06 pm

    I love beta reading! I have found a couple of authors that rehash their own book(s) so much that they don’t leave much for me to do but read. *grin* There are, also, authors I have beta read for that luv my major in english…I tend to point out grammatical, tense, punctuation, etc errors. I, of course, look for charcter and plot inconsistiencies ie brown eyes that are suddenly blue, etc
    Please let me say, again, that I love beta reading.
    I count myself lucky when an author asks me to see their MS before it goes to anyone else. I am not a writer and being a beta reader lets me feel as if I am part of the creative process.

    Thank you, Hank, for the great posting and to the authors who have granted me the privilege to beta read for them.

    the mm author’s biggest fan, *grin*

  13. Karen July 11, 2012 / 10:26 pm

    Just to be open here, you can cop utter shit as a beta reader. Your spelling and grammar can be pitch perfect, BUT, Lord above, don’t be honest about where there are some characterization or dialogue problems. You can be honest and the writer hates you for the fact that you just don’t get their “vision” – contrary to all the pleas of “give me your honest opinion” prior. Just saying.

  14. mantasticfiction July 12, 2012 / 8:19 am

    yeah … I guess that’s the trickiest balance Karen. People themselves. Authors are creative people and creative people are very passionate about their art. Beta readers are usually analytical people. It’s finding the right 2 sides of the process that makes a great team.

    In everyday life I’ve seen 2 people say essentially the same thing to someone and the receiving person take it two entirely different ways. It’s all about how, when, and where the exchange takes place. When it comes to something and artist has worked so hard on, it is kind of a blow when it turns out that it hasn’t worked out like they planned. I imagine some of the negative reaction you, or others who have had bad beta reading experiences, have received stems from the authors doubts in themselves and disappointment at the project and not specifically directed at you no matter how loud it comes back at you.

    Of course, as a critic of anything in life, there is no skill better than tact. If someone suddenly yells “The sky is blue” at someone else then they haven’t said anything wrong or insulting but it will definitely put the other person on edge while trying to figure out why they are being yelled at. On the opposite side of that is saying bad news in a way that doesn’t put the other person on the defensive. I find that emphasizing the silver lining of whatever situation I’m in goes along way.

    In so far as all this relates to beta reading, I think all authors really do want an honest opinion even if they don’t like the answer. It’s just that some authors need/want a subtle delivery … some need/want a more forceful delivery. It’s key for every beta reader to figure out their own style or “vision” and match themselves with authors who respond well with that method.

  15. Karen July 12, 2012 / 9:14 am

    I always endeavour to be respectful of others. I understand the dynamic of stressors on the individual, and how individual’s react differently to the same stressors. I make allowances for these things. I also know that the experience of which I speak is in relation to a particular set of circumstances – the writer’s level of maturity, insecurity, self-imposed pressure. However, I give and expect common courtesy at all times. I don’t write, never wanted to, but I am an avid reader. I thank you for this blog. It’s nice to see people who support the writing of books and those that value all roles in the process.

  16. mantasticfiction July 12, 2012 / 9:35 am

    haha … yeah, that sucks. At least you tried and know you know not to work with that author again. Hope the next experience is better.

    Hey Hank … how do you pick your betas? Friends or business? Before giving them your brand new 1st draft do you “test” them out on something you’ve already published to see if you’re styles work well together?

  17. melaniem July 12, 2012 / 10:23 am

    Love your writing and have been a follower of your story orgy group. I think I could be honest with the author but think I am much better as a reader. I was a beta for a friend but found myself walking a fine line between offering an opinion/influencing the storyline that I thought perhaps wasn’t what I should have been doing. A good beta like a good editor is hard to come by.

  18. mantasticfiction July 13, 2012 / 12:23 pm

    Congratulations Melanie M … you won a digital copy of Hired Muscle! I will be contacting you directly about claiming your prize.

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