Beta Reader Process


Jul 3, 2017
Hi all,

Hope I'm posting in the correct forum...

I was wondering what people's approach to beta readers was? Specifically how people begin the beta reader process, the ideal number of readers and how the ms is passed to them? In chapters? In one chunk?

Any other knowledge gems gladly received :)


Brian G Turner

Fantasist & Futurist
Staff member
Nov 23, 2002
I make sure I've had a general edit from someone first - not for typos, but for things such as structure and character development. That means there should be no big issues when the MS goes to beta-readers.

To me, their job is to pick up on any niggles. Of course, they may suggest bigger revisions simply because some things might be better done a different way - but overall they shouldn't be coming back with basic criticisms of how the story is set up.

My beta readers are also people who are very well read in my target genre, because those are exactly the readers I will be looking to appeal to. That means if they do see problems, I need to consider them.

Hope that helps. :)


Smeerp of Wonder
Staff member
Oct 13, 2008
West Sussex, UK
In chapters? In one chunk?

In one chunk, I'd say -- it ought to be as close to the normal reading process as possible. If you're thinking of giving it to people chapter by chapter as it's being written, those are often called alpha readers, rather than beta.

As for how many, I'd suggest only one or two at first, to see if they identify anything major that needs fixing. Then you can fix it before sending it to others -- otherwise you risk blowing all your beta readers on something fault-riddled.

Theophania Elliott

Well-Known Member
Nov 7, 2016
Birmingham, UK
I beta-read for other people. I generally get the whole book at once, when the author thinks it's done-ish - i.e., the author has already sorted out any problems they know about - there's no point giving your stuff to beta-readers before you've fixed known problems, because it's a waste of everyone's time. The job of the beta-reader is to look at the whole thing from a reader's perspective: does the story work? Are there plot holes? Is it boring? Does the middle sag? Do you abandon essential tasks to keep on reading, or does it drag? Do you want every single character in it to die in a fire? Do you want to die in a fire, or in any other way, to avoid having to read one more awful, miserable, soul-sucking page?

Essentially, your beta-reader is your canary in the literary goldmine. However much you try, you are almost certainly too close to your book to see where the problems are, so your beta-readers do that for you, by telling you privately what would otherwise come out in reviews. Personally, I think it's actually probably better if they're not authors - that way, you get the 'authentic' reader experience. Even though someone who isn't an author/editor might not be able to say why something doesn't work for them, you need to know that, for Joe Reader, it doesn't hit the spot. Then it's your job, as the literary expert, to fix it.

Different authors approach it in different ways. One author sends a questionnaire to fill in, which I dutifully do (plus extempore comments). Other authors just want freeform feedback. I tend to annotate as I go - that way, the author has a running stream-of-consciousness record of what the reader is thinking during the reading - rather than at the end when everything is known.

Yeah, and please edit for spelling and grammar before handing it over. I hate having to mark every error as I go.

Danny McG

"Kree kruh vergo gebba kalto kree!"
Sep 9, 2016
Cumbria UK
I've done it a few times in Chrons now, voracious genre reader.
I like getting a full story or at least a good few chapters at a time.
I find it frustrating if I'm really getting into a tale and then I have to contact the author and patiently wait for the next instalment.
As mentioned by others, I too give feedback from the readers viewpoint. Oft times I can spot something amiss or a plot hole and let the writer know so they can address.
TBH there is also the thrill of a virgin story that maybe only you in the whole world are reading first _ apart from author's family and friends :)

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