Like many authors I use beta readers, who serve many functions. They proof-read for those grammar and spelling oops moments, check for plot holes, basically all the things an editor does but before a manuscript is submitted for publication. Beta readers are a writer's first taste of being edited.
I could fill a year's worth of blog posts writing about the wonders and horrors of beta readers and editors. Of course after the beta reading and the editing the reviewers get their turn. There are people who fill more than one of these positions, but not usually for the same book. I've come to a conclusion about all three: to do their job they have to be brutally honest and impartial.
One of my friends, and beta reader, has within the last year or so spread her wings and on top of beta reading she is now a reviewer for Top2Bottom Reviews. I asked her to write a bit on making the transition from pre-publication beta/editor to post-publication reviewer. I can personally attest to the brutally honest aspect of her work since I've had my knuckles virtually slapped by her on more than one occasion. I'm sort of glad she's in England and I'm in the US.
For the record nothing Smidgeson reviews is a book she worked on as a beta reader. She also did some editing on this post!
Review or Beta? by Smidgeson
Recently I got the opportunity to start writing book reviews for Top2Bottom Reviews website after many years of beta reading/editing stories and have been asked several times what the difference is and which is better, so I thought I’d try to explain.
Beta reading started out as proof reading and brain storming for a close friend, which led onto being called an editor and asked to overall edit a huge fan-fiction project consisting of a Virtual Season of 22 Farscape stories.
That built confidence and I then found the world of Live Journal fan-fiction and slowly began to build up a group of writers from across the world who came asking for beta-reading. Out of that group one, Elizabeth Noble became a published Dreamspinner Press author and from there she recommended me to other writers as a beta-reader.
Elizabeth has become a dear friend thanks to the joys of the internet making the world small and during our regular chats she’s learned how much I love to read. So when she saw a request for new book reviewers for Top2Bottom Reviews she thought of me.
The processTop2Bottom uses is to email their reviewers usually once a week with the requests they have for book reviews. As a reviewer we choose just the ones we want to read and you can take as many or as few as you want. We then receive the books as PDF documents and can take up to a month to read and review them.
I never realised until I started just how different reviewing a book is from beta-reading. I’ve spent years leaving comments on story posts on Live Journal and mistakenly thought it would easy to write a review of a whole book. How wrong I was.
It’s so easy to read a book and think I liked that or I didn’t like that, but why, that’s the tough bit. We’re encouraged to make the reviews positive and that is where I find the problem. I’ve spent years as a beta pointing out errors and working out where stories go wrong and suggesting improvements. As a reviewer I can’t do that, I have to find the positives even if most of what I remember about a story is the things that irritated me.
I’ve seen other reviews give an extensive recap of the storyline. I really don’t like to do that. As a reader I find book blurbs that give too much detail about the story actually put me off and I think the same thing about reviews. So I try to titillate the readers with tiny details rather than a rehash of the whole story like how in one book the skunk really didn’t appreciate being the subject of magic.
Often when I start to write a review, it writes itself but when I reread what I’ve written it’s become more of a critique than a positive review. Then I have to scrap it and start again, reminding myself to think about what I liked. Luckily in all the books I have reviewed to date, there has only been one book that I chose to review that I actually hated and couldn’t give a positive write up for. Even though I wrote a review I told Top2Bottom I couldn’t make it positive because I thought it was so bad and left it up to them whether they used it or not.
As a reviewer it has been interesting to note that there can be quite a difference in the quality of books between different publishers. Not just differences created by missed typos or spelling errors, but also in the quality of the PDF document we are sent. Normally these are not noticeable when viewed on a computer but they become abundantly clear when I transfer them onto my kindle. The size of print suddenly varies as does the font type and it is extremely distracting but I have no idea why this happens. So far the best publisher I have received books from is Dreamspinner Press, the PDF transfer to a kindle without problem and the stories are always well presented and generally free of annoying errors.
On a personal front I have chosen to review under a pseudonym because of the type of books that Top2Bottom deal in and I won’t review any book that I have beta read prior to publication.
If you are interested you can read the reviews I have written by following this link: FOLLOW MY REVIEWS
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