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November 21, 2019

Professional Beta Readers: What to Expect — Guest: CeCe Downs

Heart-shaped shadow of a ring on a book with text: Book Love by a Professional

I’ve shared many tips about beta readers before, from advice on where to find beta readers to how to make beta reading work for us. One assumption throughout most of my posts is that we find beta readers through a beta-reading exchange with other writers.

When that option works for our situation, it can work well. We get the benefit of free feedback on our story, and at the same time, we learn about what makes for good writing through the reading and feedback we do for our exchange partner.

However, a beta-reading exchange isn’t always the best choice. We might struggle to find beta-reading partners at all, much less ones who are competent. (In fact, the reason I created the Beta Reading Worksheet was to help us get better feedback from those who don’t have experience.) Finding good readers who are also reliable? *pshaw* Or we just might not trust our work with those we do find.

Getting harmful feedback or facing the fallout of a bad beta-reading experience can be worse than not having any beta readers at all. So I was interested in what today’s guest poster, CeCe Downs, had to say about the realm of professional beta readers.

Even though I haven’t used CeCe’s services, it’s good to know our feedback options, especially if we struggle to make the typical beta-reading partnership work for us. So check out CeCe’s insights into the benefits of a professional beta reader and what we should look for to make sure we’re dealing with a real professional.

Please welcome CeCe Downs! *smile*

*****

The Role of a Professional Eye-Banger (AKA Beta Reader)

By CeCe Downs

I know what you’re thinking: What the hell is an eye-banger? Are you sockin’ people in the eye? Are you poking them in the eye with a pencil? For that matter, where in the hell did you come up with this word?

Being the creative soul that I am, I wish I could tell you that I pulled this little gem out of my hoo-hah.

But alas, I did not.

I actually borrowed the word.

I subscribe to a couple of romance publishers’ newsletters and a team member from one of these newsletters used to write recaps of Arrow episodes (one of my favorite shows that I no longer watch, btw). They used the term “eye-banging” in reference to the way Oliver and Felicity, the main characters, would look at each other.

For the record, this word is not in the dictionary, urban or otherwise.

I looked it up just to see.

And there you have it, a new word in your vocabulary. So, professional eye-banging (aka beta reading) is a thing?

What should we expect from a professional beta reader? @DownsCeCe shares her insights Click To TweetYes, it’s a thing. No fisticuffs needed.

I’m not going to tell you what a beta reader is, why you need one, when you need one, how to find them, yadda yadda yadda. Jami has written plenty of posts, and you can find other in-depth articles about the subject across the Internet.

When a service like this is normally offered for free, you may wonder why an author would come through my company. Well, let me break it down for you:

Consideration #1: You Get What You Pay For

There’s this prevalent idea going around in our society that people should not be paid for creative services (or services that cater to that market) like writing, editing, design, etc. Some people believe they’re entitled to have someone work for them for free or really cheap. I’m calling BS on that.

It takes time to read (maybe even reread) your book and formulate an in-depth response. If you want someone to do good work for you, pay them. If someone’s offering you free services… Again, you get what you pay for.

While some authors do find good, reliable beta readers for free, others find themselves with an entire group of readers who don’t follow through.

Example of What to Expect from a Professional:

An Eye for Romance is a one-woman show, so you’re just going to get lil’ ol moi. And my feedback won’t be a vague “I liked it” or “It needs work.” Oh, no, no. You’ll get the good, the bad, and the ugly.

I may be a little bit of an introvert, but I do know how to use my words. Depending on the package you choose, you will receive a one-page summary, or an in-depth book report that focuses on six main elements. Both of these options will also include additional notes as I read, either in the manuscript or in the report, and any questions/elements you want me to focus on.

Consideration #2: Great Customer Service

Writers have many fears, but I feel one of our biggest is “What if no one reads my book?”

I’ve read the complaints, like the one where the beta reader just up and disappeared after being sent a book, never to be heard from again. Or the one where the reader wasn’t able to finish because they didn’t like the book. Or the one where the reader didn’t even read it because, well, sonuvabiscuit, they just didn’t have time to read it.

Example of What to Expect from a Professional:

At An Eye for Romance, there’s no such thing as radio silence. You will know upfront, before handing over your hard-earned dollars, whether or not you’re in like Flynn. And if, for whatever reason, neither one of us can deliver (because, hey, shizz happens), there are policies in place.

After I return feedback to you, you will receive a feedback survey five business days later. Your responses will allow me to better evaluate business practices, and in turn provide better service for future and returning clients.

Consideration #3: Confidentiality

Finishing a novel is a big accomplishment for a writer. You’ve bled (paper cuts are no joke, people!), cried big, ugly, snot-coming-out-your-nose tears, abandoned your family, housecleaning, and most likely personal hygiene, to get those words out of your head. Hell yeah, you’ve earned those calluses on your fingertips!

Then you send it off to a beta reader and the unthinkable happens: they steal your work. Yes, it happens. Yes, it’s scary. And it’s a writer’s worst nightmare as well as their number one fear.

Example of What to Expect from a Professional:

Honestly, it’s my worst business fear, too. But I have a process: It involves a pinky-swear ceremony followed by me grabbing my hair pick and belting out “My Lips Are Sealed” by The Go-Go’s (remember them? Loved their music) at the top of my lungs.

Ahem. Just kidding. But know that, as your Professional Eye-Banger, I am all about the dance breaks.

Sinceriously though (thank you for that word, Stephen Amell), at An Eye for Romance, contracts are whipped out like bras being tossed across the room, and I promise to ixnay the talkingay about your bookay. To anyone. Unless you want me to, that is.

I’m not here to steal your work. I just want to help you become a better writer. However, if I happened to be in a situation where I was being tortured by Jason Statham, then all bets are off.

Consideration #4: A Book for Every Reader and a Reader for Every Book

The reality of being a writer is that not everyone is going to want to read what you write. It’s a bummer, I know, but that’s the beauty of genres. So many books, so little time.

How can we find a beta reader who's a good match for *our* book? @DownsCeCe suggests professional beta readers Click To Tweet Just think: If we didn’t have choices, libraries or bookstores wouldn’t exist. Can you imagine what kind of world that would be? Oh, the horror!

As important as your novel is, in whatever genre you choose to write, it’s equally important to find your reader tribe. Make sure your tribefolk fit into your particular requirements (i.e. how long they’ve been reading your genre, how many books per week or month do they read, do they have a book review blog or post reviews elsewhere, etc.).

If a beta reader prefers YA steampunk, then I’m absolutely positive you won’t get any valuable feedback on your paranormal erotica story. Just sayin’.

Example of What to Expect from a Professional:

I started reading adult romance novels as a freshman in high school. In fact, I cut my reading teeth on the Loveswept line.

I was going to our public library so much *cougheveryweekendcough* that the people at the desk knew me by name. Utter. Craziness. I even switched to writing this genre (I was writing YA) due to a recurring dream about a female character that wasn’t a teenager.

If you work with me, you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that I’ve been reading adult romance for a long-ass time. And I’m now in the Writing Trenches right alongside you.

Well, wait. Like Jami, I live in Arizona, so there won’t be any trenches, per se, more like the Sexy Pool. The Sexy Wading Pool. I’m still a newbie after all.

Bonus Consideration: Professional Beta Readers Love Their Job

By reading your stories and making them better than they were initially, I’m helping get more books out there. And that makes me want to do the Snoopy Dance.

If you’d like me to eye-bang your book, I’m currently accepting clients for both beta reading and proofreading.

And if you’re participating in NaNoWriMo this month, be sure to check out the beta reading special I’m running in December for participants.

CeCe Downs - NaNoWriMo 50% Off Special

(Note from Jami: Click on the image to view larger, and newsletter readers should click through to today’s post to see the details of CeCe’s 50% Off special.)

*****

CeCe DownsCeCe Downs is the Founder and Chief Eye-Banger at An Eye for Romance. As a proofreader and beta reader, she wants to help independent adult romance authors write better books.

She loves Betty Boop, Linkin Park, and is a huge James Bond fan (Sean.Pierce.Daniel. In that order).

You can connect with her on:

Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | LinkedIn

*****

Thank you, CeCe! I’d vaguely heard of the existence of professional beta readers before (and I’d mentioned that option in one of my posts), but I hadn’t really thought about the difference they could bring to the table if they’re good professionals.

Like CeCe’s services on her website, most professional beta readers’ prices are very reasonable compared to editing prices. So I can see a professional beta reader being a good fit for us when:

  • We struggle to find good beta reading partners (good meaning both competent and reliable).
  • We want the benefits CeCe outlined above of dealing with a professional, such as confidentiality, more in-depth feedback, a better match for our genre, etc.
  • We already have normal beta readers, but we need a deeper read after they’re through, and we can’t afford a full editing service.
  • We plan on getting editing later, but we know our story isn’t ready yet, so we want insightful feedback before paying for expensive editing.

And those are just the examples I can think of off the top of my head, so there’s obviously a place for professional beta readers on our list of options. *smile*

I hope CeCe’s insights help you know what we should expect from someone calling themselves a professional beta reader. Yes, we often get what we pay for, but we need to watch out for scammers too. If we’re going to pay someone, we want to make sure we’re getting the benefits of dealing with a professional. CeCe’s perspective can point us in the right direction.

Do you struggle to find good beta readers? Might a professional reader be helpful to your situation? Can you think of other situations where a professional beta reader might be a good option? Have you used a professional beta reader before, and if so, how did it work out for you? Do you have any questions for CeCe?

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<strong>Comments — What do you think?</strong>

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CeCe

Hey Jami! Thanks for having me. You are made of awesome!

Sharon Hughson

As much as it would be amazing to have a professional beta reader for every project, I’ve yet to see enough sales to pay for the mandatory things like cover design, manuscript editing and some advertising. I still think indie author co-ops are the best way to get great beta reading. This would be a group of authors from the SAME genre who trade beta reads withing their group. In fact, I’d LOVE to see indie author groups make this a priority. Good beta readers improve my stories and it can be difficult to connect with them.
Thanks for this post. The information was great. I made a beta reader checklist that I modify for each story to address specific needs of THAT story.

CeCe

Hi Sharon,

Totally understandable and I’m so glad the info was helpful.

Shayla McBride

Wonderful post! I just finished a beta read for a suspense writer during which I almost fell asleep from boredom. Beta reading is *work*, serious work. You want to do right by the author without causing them too much grief. You’re tearing into their baby. In this case, I’d listened to the reading for over six months, and each time I’d counseled more tension, more confrontation, more winners and losers, why should we read this when you’ve backed away from the tension in nearly every scene. Imagine my frustration when the ms was unchanged. I don’t think I made the author very happy with my comments on the 78K ms, but if my suggestions are followed – at least some of them! – I believe there’ll be a much more sellable book. Now I think I’ll start charging!
Thanks to both of you for bringing more light to this subject. Beta readers are precious gems to be treasured!

CeCe

Hi Shayla,

YASSSSS!! Exactly. We are a precious breed. I’m glad you liked the post.

Click to grab Pure Sacrifice now!