Jen’s Editing Tips – Beta Reader Etiquette 101

Most of us know how important beta readers are. They’re the ones who catch major flaws, cliches, loopholes, and other problems in our work before the rest of the world sees it. That’s why it’s so important we treat them with the respect and courtesy they deserve.

Jen's Editing Tips

Respecting beta readers seems like an obvious thing, right? Well, not to everyone. Unfortunately. Although most don’t mean to do it (and most don’t even know they’re doing it), many writers offend, snub, and/or annoy their beta readers.

To help you maintain solid working relationships with your beta readers, here are some basic etiquette tips to consider:

Say Thank You

Duh, right? Well, believe it or not, there are writers who forget to thank their beta readers. They’ll email them a story, wait and wait, and then dig into the feedback the second it returns. And they’ll completely forget to say, “Thank you!”

This. Is. Not. Acceptable.

No matter what a beta tells you about your story, you need to thank them for taking the time to read and evaluate it. Because they took the time to read and evaluate it. They didn’t have to, but they did.

A great way to prevent this major faux pas is to thank a beta before you read their feedback. That way, you won’t get distracted and forget.

Tactfully Reject

Asking someone to be a beta reader is sort of like asking them out on a date. You won’t know until you sit down and review their feedback if there’s chemistry between you.

Sometimes there is. Sometimes there isn’t.

If there isn’t, that’s okay. Thank them for taking the time to read your story and then–quietly–set their feedback aside. You don’t need to use it. You also don’t need to ask that person to read your work again. In fact, unless a beta asks to stay involved (usually a friend or family member), it’s rude to request additional input from them.

Which leads to the next tip…

Don’t Waste a Beta Reader’s Time

Rejecting a beta reader’s feedback is perfectly okay.

Rejecting a beta reader’s feedback and then sending them another draft to review is not.

Beta readers have busy lives just like the rest of us. Jobs, families, chores, projects, etc. Why would you ask them to read multiple drafts of the same story if you’re not going to heed their advice? It’s a waste of their time and, let’s face it, inconsiderate.

So, before you send someone a draft, ask yourself, “Will I use this person’s feedback?” If the answer is “no” (or even a shaky “maybe”), then be kind and leave them alone.

Keep Track of Betas

Some writers like to only use one beta reader. Some writers like to use many. It all depends on your personal preference and goals.

For those of you who like to use multiple beta readers, it can be hard to keep track of each one. Lines get crossed. Emails get lost. Names get mixed up.

That’s why it’s a good idea to keep a spreadsheet (or some kind of list) to remind yourself who’s who and what’s what (story sent, feedback received, thank you sent, etc.) If you do that, then you’ll have a much better chance of keeping everything straight. And you’ll have a far less chance of offending someone.

Don’t Badger

“Can you read my eleventh draft?”

“Do you think I should change my character’s hair color from red to blond?”

“Should his name be Bob or Bobby?”

“Would this sentence sound better if I wrote it like this?”

“What about this sentence?”

“And this one?”

Poke, poke, poke! If you badger your beta readers with too many questions or requests, they’re going to get annoyed. Really annoyed. So annoyed, they might stop helping you. Let’s remember, beta readers have lives, too. And, if they’re writers, then they probably have their own projects to agonize over. So, be careful. Don’t drown them in questions and countless drafts. Be wise and pick your “battles.”

Bottom line: Whether it’s another writer, a friend, or a family member, you need to treat your beta readers with the respect and courtesy they deserve. After all, most of them are helping you out of the goodness of their hearts.

So, what about you? What are some of your beta reader etiquette tips?

Don’t forget, my editing website is up and running! If you’re looking for someone to help with your story, check out Jen’s Edits and Critiques.

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11 thoughts on “Jen’s Editing Tips – Beta Reader Etiquette 101

  1. So far, the only person I’ve asked to read the first draft is my fourteen-year-old daughter! Well, she asked. I told her to scribble any notes she wanted in the margins. Her comments are better than the book! Fourteen year olds aren’t noted for tact so she was pretty blunt when it came to bits that were needing fixing, scribbling, ‘I nearly fell asleep here. Cut this!’ and, ‘Why is Meg now Marion? Get a grip, mum!’ and ‘You swore! lol’.
    She’s actually been great in coming up with fixes for plot holes, happy to natter away at possibilities. Says if it’s ever a movie she wants all the parts. Budding actress, don’t you know. She might be too old by then. I’ll probably be dead. But I always thank her. After clipping her ear for sassing me. 😉
    Don’t think anyone else would come up to par now. But I’ll remember your advice. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I think letting your beta readers know what kind of feedback you are looking for is important. For example, “This is a first draft, and I just want to know if the idea has appeal” versus “I’m just about ready to send this out and am looking for awkward sentences and the like, but am not planning on making major changes.”

    Liked by 2 people

  3. One of my beta readers is Spanish and she’s great at pointing out words that I use that most readers wouldn’t understand or an odd turn of phrase that could be interpreted in ways other than the one I’d intended. On my last book she shamed me into writing an explanation for something that I hadn’t thought a reader would care about and hadn’t bothered to think through.
    I think you’re right about not badgering them, tempting though it is.
    I find that nothing says thank you quite like chocolate.
    It’s tricky when your beta readers disagree. One of them said a certain scene in the last book had to go because it didn’t fit and the other didn’t even mention it. On occasions like that you can only go with one of them. I went back to the one whose advice, in that particular instance, I was going to ignore and explained why and she was perfectly happy. She’s reading my current book now.

    Liked by 1 person

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