If you want to Beta Read and make friends and allies – do the exact opposite of what this blog post recommends. This is a tongue-in-cheek article.
Someone has reached out to you for a Beta Read. You don’t really have the time. You don’t really read books. You don’t even like the books genre. But hey, it’s your chance to shatter some dreams, invoke your will, and see someone cry as you destroy their creation. Of course you say yes. You’ve prepared yourself to drive the dagger in, now let’s talk about how to twist it about.
Tip #1: Disappear from the face of the planet. Not only should you not read the book after you receive it, you should erase yourself from existence. Change your email, block them from social media, grab a burner phone and turn off your old one.
It’s important the needy and vulnerable writer feel complete and total isolation. Their imaginations are broken and set to overdrive already. Within a couple weeks they will think what they wrote offended you. They will assume this is why you removed them from your life forever.
This method is especially powerful when you send a short email saying, “We need to talk about the book…,” before you drop off the grid.
Tip #2: If you must read the book, make sure you are thoroughly distracted. Have you ever read while at a heavy metal concert? You should! Especially if you are a Beta-Reader. The more distracted you are when you read the book, the less of it you will remember.
This way when the author asks you what you thought of miscellaneous good guy #3 you can honestly say, “That name doesn’t ring a bell?” You will be able to wring out their anguish and drink it. I mean seriously, were you going to take notes? Hah! That’s just crazy!
Tip #3: Skim, skim, skimaroo! Trust me, only the most idiotic of Beta Readers actually reads every word the foolhardy author wrote. Let’s face it, most of that crap is just filler anyways. All the author is going to care about is that you have a very rough concept of the flow and plot of the story.
If you don’t skim, you might actually get attached to the work. Worse. You might even care. If you care, the author has won – don’t let this to happen to you! You need to be clueless. If they see that glint of wonder in your eyes, you will fuel their passion. What you need are eyes of depraved emptiness. A void for the writer to fall into and be lost forever.
Tip #4: Read the book carefully then apply misdirection. If you really want a good chuckle, read the book very carefully then purposefully mix up the plot and flow of the story when you review it with the author. When the author emails you back to get clarification (and they will) refer to Tip #1.
Other forms of misdirection include and are not limited to:
Leave a detailed review, then apply the plot of The Sixth Sense to the ending book. “I couldn’t believe the main character was dead the whole time!” When the author blasts you back with a confused email – refer to Tip #1.
Asking unrelated metaphorical/symbolic questions. “Was the main characters pistol actually symbolic of his repressed homosexuality?” When the author asks why you thought that – refer to Tip #1.
Tip #5: NEVER point out typos – EVER! As a Beta Reader you shouldn’t care about typos at all. I promise you, if you catalog each and every typo you see with paragraph and page numbers the author will just delete the email. Not only have you just insulted him/her, you have showed what a competent reader you are. You go showing initiative like that and guess what, more Beta Reads are going to be coming your way.
Now, I do encourage you to catalog typos. But use this catalog for the long game. Wait until the book goes to print then begin flipping to the pages where you observed typos. If you find one remaining, know that you made it happen. Now is the time. Email the writer and let them know you found a typo. Pour a glass of wine and savor their hatred.
Tip #6: Plot holes are the shallow graves where shattered dreams are buried. If you find plot holes, rejoice. You can basically stop reading their work at this point. The author has dug their own little grave. By no means should you point them out. Now you could write down plot holes that don’t have resolution, annotating carefully the page and paragraph numbers. If you do, it should only be for use like mentioned in Tip #5.
Tip #7: If a sentence is jumbled make sure you only mumble. If sentences are jumbled, obviously the author was too lazy to write correctly. As a Beta Reader you shouldn’t have to put in the extra effort to point these out. You should be insulted! Don’t worry, those burning insults will be rectified when the book goes to print. All you need to do is go to Amazon or GoodReads and look at the reviews. Slather on those one star reviews like a healing balm.
Last Tip, Tip #8: Never let the author see you bleed. Don’t ever use the word, “feel,” when you discuss the work with the author. If you start telling them your feelings they are going to know you were emotionally touched by their writing. What are you trying to do, motivate them? That’s insane! Feedback should be completely analytical and devoid of emotional context. Emotion is the elixir that fuels the aspiring writer – starve them of it and watch the shards of their dreams break away.
Kind of dark huh? Well I was going to write a cookie-cutter, “How to Beta Read,” post, but instead I thought about the times I’ve been burned, or my friends have. Truthfully, if someone has entrusted you with a Beta Read, they are honoring you. It’s a free sneak peek into something that person cares about immeasurably. Do them the honor of being the best Beta Reader you can be.
Doing the opposite of what is listed above would be a great start. I’m not saying all of these things should be Beta Reader responsibilities, but if you do those things too, you are an authors ally. You become a shield against the coming storm (editors, agents, publishers, future readers). When colleagues or friends ask me to Beta Read, and I have the time, I give them every tool I have at my disposal. It’s my way of saying, “I care.”
When it’s all said and done, the most important thing you can do is simply read the work. If nothing else, at least read it and leave an honest opinion. All the other stuff is just cherries on the sundae.
What kind of experiences have you had with Beta Readers? Are you still nursing some wound? Or have you been lucky enough to score solid ones? Let me know, I’d love to hear about it.
That’s it for today. Until tomorrow, keep reading, keep writing, and as always – stay sharp!