Both the linked posts are from the blog Write to Done. They’re obviously related, but it’s the first that puzzles me. I can see someone saying, “You know what, I bet I could make a decent second career out of freelance proofreading.” I can also see someone saying the same thing about freelance editing. But beta reading? That seems like … like … like deciding to be an amateur unpaid editor, when I sort of thought people mostly fell into beta reading. Or else traded beta reads with another author.
Here’s the post:
If you want to become a beta reader, the great news is, you’re not far away from this dream. Beta readers are an integral part of a writer’s process, and while they are most commonly associated with newer writers, you may get to try your hand at beta reading for an established author at some point.
A beta reader is a person who commits to reading a book before publication with the purpose of providing feedback for the writer. If an author asks you to beta read their book, you will need to focus on finding:
- Plot discrepancies
- Characterization issues
You will also need to read the book as a reader. This acts as a mock test for the writer. If you find characters engaging, tell them so. If a particular character drives you crazy, the author needs to know this as well.
I disagree about the first of these. Spotting typos, while a nice perk, is absolutely not the same thing as beta reading. If someone is focused on finding typos, I think that makes it much harder (MUCH HARDER) to look at bigger things, such as plot discrepancies and characterization.
Plot and characterization blur together, of course; one of the things that always catches my eye when I am beta reading for someone else is a character who does something that is out of character or that does not make sense in order to push the plot along. Particularly if the character is acting stupid in a way that is not in character. “Character acting stupid” is certainly something I want beta readers to point at for me. People who beta read NO FOREIGN SKY caught various plot details that did not make sense. That was definitely helpful.
This post contains tips about how to become a beta reader for an established author. Some apparently have an actual application. There are also tips on how to find a beta reader if you have completed a manuscript.
Have I mentioned how much I appreciate everyone here who beta reads for me? I appreciate you very much! If any of you ever want me to beta read for you, just ask! I will find the time!
I appreciate proofreaders very much as well, as I’m sure you all realize because I post about proofreading pretty often when getting close to a release date.
I find that if I proofread the manuscript myself half a dozen times in three different formats AND at least four other people read the manuscript AND at least one of those people is either Hanneke or Linda S (preferably both), THEN readers will still send me emails the first week after the book is released, pointing out about half a dozen more typos. Inclusive, at least, rather than each.
People have not found very many typos for TASMAKAT, far fewer than I expected. I cut that manuscript HARD twice, which involves very close reading, so maybe I actually cleared out a larger proportion of typos than usual. But everyone is finding SOME typos.
Whether you want to be a proofreader on the side or want to turn it into your career, this article will cover the basics of proofreading and everything you need to know about how to get your foot in the door. …
Proofreaders typically focus on fixing punctuation, grammar, and any other sentence structure issues. They usually don’t focus on fixing the larger issues of a piece and instead just make sure it is free of any essential errors.
Exactly. Punctuation, grammar, and syntax. Also glaringly obvious continuity errors or logical flaws, but those are extra. It’s really punctuation, grammar, and syntax. Missing words. It’s astoundingly easy to read a word that isn’t there, over and over, through many proofreading iterations.
Some people have much more of a knack for proofreading than others. I’m about average. I will ALWAYS see effect/affect and lay/lie and “and I” vs “and me” errors. For those, I have extra-sharp radar. But I can read over a missing word without noticing and fail to see “has” when it should obviously be “had” — that is a particular issue lately. I mean, in my own work. I would probably catch most of those errors in someone else’s manuscript. But I still think I’d be toward the average side of good at proofreading. Hanneke and Linda S. have much more of a knack than I do.
I do think probably everyone here could be a pretty decent proofreader, though. If you want to see how your skill stacks up, here’s a proofreading quiz. I scored 8 out of 10, but I think I was stylistically right about one of those. Oh, here’s another one at the Grammarist blog. This one is too easy and also too much about theory and not enough about practice, imo. Who cares that the standard form of a sentence is subject-verb-object? The point is to catch errors, not look for nonstandard sentences. There are lots of quizzes online that purport to test proofreading skills, it turns out. Here’s another. I think this one offers the most relevant questions for checking proofreading skills.