A statement from their web site.
What is a beta reader?
A beta reader is someone who reads your story before it is published. A good beta reader is someone who is a reader first, not a writer, editor, or publisher. Ensuring the person beta reading your work and leaving feedback is an avid fan/reader in your book’s genre is essential. Beta readers are not editors, however. It is not their expertise or job to fix grammar or spelling. Many beta readers will make note of these mistakes as they catch them, but your work should be traditionally edited as well.
What does a beta reader do?
Since a great beta reader is already a fan of the genre, they are able to give unique insight into the mind of potential fans. Having an agent or editor tell you what people want to read is swell, but your main concern as an author should be the reader. They are the ones who will be buying your work.
- Let you know if you have a great hook
- Report on inconsistencies
- Report on plot holes
- Suggest improvements from a reader’s standpoint
- Deep insight from a genre fan
- Highlight noticed grammatical errors
- Flag ‘hang-up’ moments
- Give 100% honest feedback
- Report on characterization
- Report on overall flow
What I like about the job, is that the company have a prepared questionnaire which the beta reader completes. That and the track changes are returned to me, and I can make my decisions. They met their aims and I was very pleased with the result.
The first novel I sent was Behind the Mask (Secrets Book 1) and the feedback returned to me was positive. So I sent Joining the Dots (Secrets Book 2) for a beta reading. I have copied the worksheet so that you can see the detailed feedback.
My favourite comment refers to craft with the question followed by the answer:
Does the writing quality allow the story to shine through and draw the reader in, or are flaws jarring or intrusive?
The writing style is brilliant with never a bump or jar to disturb the reader from the story.
Now I need to draft a synopsis, edit 5,000 words and send the first one to an agent. I have done so. If I have no joy from the query, I have another agent lined up who specialises in series mysteries.
Beta Reading Worksheet
- Does the story begin with an interesting hook, creating a desire to read more? It does. Opening with the creepy letter was perfect. Creates a great hook and allows for some backstory. Nice.
- Does the story begin in the right place? It begins in just the right place to engage the reader and launch the mystery.
Characterization & Motivation:
- Are the characters compelling, sympathetic, or someone you can root for? The characters are
- Do the characters feel real and three-dimensional, with distinct voices, flaws, and virtues? The characters were well-developed in the first book, and continued to grow in this book. It was nice to see how Tia has grown since the first book into a strong, confident woman.
- Are their goals clear and proactive enough to influence the plot (not passive)? The goals are clear and propel the story forward.
- Do their motivations seem believable, with well-drawn and appropriate emotion? The motivations of all characters are believable and well-drawn.
- Are the secondary characters well-rounded and enhance the story rather than overwhelming the story or seeming like they should be cut? The secondary characters are well developed and fit the story appropriately. There is no over-abundance of them.
- Are the relationships between the characters believable and not contrived? Relationships are natural and fit the story well. It was nice to watch the relationship between Jack and Tia really grow.
Plot & Conflict:
- Are the internal and external conflicts well defined for each main character? Yes
- Are the internal and external conflicts organic and believable, i.e. arising out of characterization and circumstance rather than feeling contrived or forced? Yes
- Are there enough stakes and/or tension throughout to make it a “page turner”? The book is a page turner. There is always the looming presence of when will another letter appear or another attack take place along with the ‘who-done-it’ aspect to keep the reader on the edge of their seat.
- Does the premise avoid cliché and/or bring a fresh perspective to an old idea? Both
- Are the plot twists believable yet unexpected? Like the first book, I had a feeling [about the perpetrator] who gave me the creeps like Donald did, but the twist of _____ and who he was and that he was in on it as well, was a surprise. There were plenty of possible suspects to keep one guessing.
- Do the characters act or react to events in a plausible, realistic, or believable way? Very much so, right down to Jack thinking his daughter was part of the kidnapping…
- Do scenes progress in a realistic, compelling manner and flow with effective transitions? The scenes move forward smoothly.
- Does every scene add to and seem important to the story? There is nothing extraneous that should be cut.
- Does the story move along at an appropriate pace, without rushing or dragging? The story moves at a nice steady pace throughout. There is no rushing towards the end or any lagging in the middle.
- Is there a hook at the end of each chapter or scene that makes you want to read more? Yes
- Is the story free from information dumps or backstory that slow the pace of the story? All background information is worked smoothly into the story itself and keeps with the pace. There are no info dumps that cause any slowing of pace.
Setting & Worldbuilding:
- Are descriptions vivid and give a clear sense of time and place? The descriptions are vivid and draw the reader further into the story so it feels like you are there.
- Do the details enhance rather than distract from the story? The details do enhance the story and bring it to life.
- Is the dialogue natural and appropriate for the story, not stilted or overly narrative? The dialogue is natural and the accents for the tenants in the building where Tori lived are wonderful.
- Does dialogue move the story forward and reveal the characters? Yes, it does move the story along and helps reveal the characters personalities.
- Are characters’ voices consistent and distinct from one another? The voices are distinct enough that you can distinguish who is speaking without names when it occurs.
- Is there an appropriate mix of dialogue and narrative? The mix of dialogue and narrative are perfectly balanced for this story.
- Does the writing “show” the scene with the senses, using “telling” only as appropriate? The writing takes you right into the scene, never telling but showing.
- Does the writing quality allow the story to shine through and draw the reader in, or are flaws jarring or intrusive? The writing style is brilliant with never a bump or jar to disturb the reader from the story.
- Is the tone appropriate and consistent for the story? The tone is appropriate and consistent throughout.
- Is the point of view (and any changes) handled appropriately and consistently? The point of view is consistent throughout the whole story.
- Is the voice unique, fresh, or interesting? All the above.
- Does the story deliver on the promise of its premise and opening scenes? Yes, it does.
- From a reader’s point of view, did you enjoy reading this story? I enjoyed reading this story very much. It was wonderful to get the opportunity to follow Tia and Jack’s further adventures. Hope there is a book 3!
Additional Questions for Comment:
- Are there any confusing sections that should be made clearer? (Mark in the manuscript) There are a few points that are confusing or don’t follow what was stated in book 1. They are marked in the manuscript.
- Do any sections take you out of the story? (Mark in the manuscript) There are no parts that take the reader out of the story.
- Is the story a good fit for the stated genre, and if not, why not? This one fits the Cozy Mystery genre better than the first one.
- Who are your favorite—and least favorite—characters and why? Tia & Jack are my favorite characters. I like the relationship they have and how Jack doesn’t really discourage Tia from investigating. That is a nice change from the norm. He actually encourages her and joins her. Donald still creeps me out.
- What aspects are especially likable or unlikable about the protagonist(s)? Think what is especially likable about Tia is how she has grown between book 1 and book 2.
- What three things worked best for you?
- The characters have grown from who they were in book 1
- The relationship between Jack and Tia
- Much more complicated mystery this time and there was no murder.
- What three things worked least for you?
- Other than a couple of confusing bits, everything worked for me
Thank you so much for the opportunity to read both Book 1 & Book 2 in your series. I hope I have the opportunity to read Book 3 if there is one. I truly enjoyed Book 2 and seeing how the characters have grown, the relationship between Tia and Jack, the addition of Jack’s daughter, Alex. This book fits the cozy mystery genre well.
What a great review. Is this the sequel to the first novel you wrote? I remember Tia, and the sense of mystery in that one, very intrigued by the idea of a sequel.
Yes. And I am developing a third. I am also putting up a blog about writing a synopsis and will include that. I would love your opinion.