So, you heard of BetaBooks?
It’s a program for beta reading your book. As you may know, I write books, it’s a thing, not my profession or anything, it’s actually quite expensive and addictive and perhaps beginning to be a problem (I am joking) but it’s definitely a thing I do.
And one of the important steps to getting a book out there, is beta reading.
For my first book I gave pdfs to some and printed (like on A4 printer paper, nothing cool) copies to others. The pdfs got barely any comments, just a general opinion at the end. That was still very helpful! I’ve said it before on many platforms, but I’ll say it again, hearing the first beta reader, who read the whole thing in two days, fangirling over the characters and world had me nearly in tears and motivated me to keep going much further than I probably would have without it.
And my grandmother was an English teacher, so she really helped with grammar and spelling!
But I want to take this seriously. So I knew I wanted a bigger more varied group for my second book. So, I’m using BetaBooks to help. And here are a couple of things I’ve noticed.
-Being able to filter feedback. You can filter by user, chapter and marks. You can also search keywords. This is really cool because you could go say to chapter 2 and see everybody’s feedback. Or perhaps there’s one person who’s feedback isn’t relative to this chapter (for whatever reason), you can get rid of that.
It’s definitely a comfortable feature that helps.
-I find inline commenting really useful. Browsing my chapter and seeing the highlighted text that informs you of a comment, hovering over it and seeing who’s it is and what it is. It just works really well for me. It helps me to understand what’s going on.
-Reader directory. Basically a place where you can browse through beta readers, read what they’re into and whatnot and send them a preview and synopsis of your book. I currently have two beta readers from this option. It’s a useful feature. (Editing Hannah here, although I do have two beta readers from this option, neither of them have actually started reading so perhaps this feature isn’t as useful as I thought).
-So, with your own comments or notes you can mark them as unmarked, ignore, consider, to-do, done or keep. This is really useful. However, I can’t mark the comments that my betas have added with this same tags. Which would be really useful! But no, I can’t do that…
-I can’t respond to inline comments. Instead you have to reply via an end of the chapter discussion. Not a big deal with most beta readers of mine who don’t comment too much, but I have one who will leave like 72 comments on a chapter (he is the most amazing beta reader one could ever dream off), but it’d be nice to respond to individual comments so that things are easier to understand without me having to first specify which comment I’m referring to before, responding.
-This isn’t a big deal but I do find it super annoying, so, on your track readers page, it shows you what chapter a reader is on and which version of that chapter. It’s a useful feature because it also shows how many comments they did on that chapter and some other stuff. But bellow that is the list of your readers, and it includes the last time they connected. Why do I need to know this? I don’t. And I don’t care. I’d rather they remove it. Not because I feel like a stalker just by having this information, but because it’s not even correct. I was so confused when someone had last been connected the day before I actually sent out invites to beta readers.
I think it looks a the local timezone of the reader. But because I of course don’t know what timezone everybody lives in, it’s absolute useless information. Other than the fact that one of my readers either went to bed really late or got up really early to read this book. I know what it’s like to get stuck in a fantasy world while reading but I hope you get some more sleep.
-It gives me the option to do questionnaires, useful, right? Except, it’s just another block of text just like every other chapter. And people can respond in the same way. So this feature is… literally useless. Maybe it doesn’t count towards the word count of your book? It’s the only thing I can imagine this being useful for.
-It limits you to 20 readers per book. Which is a lot. But if like me you’re a new author, you don’t really have a reliable team and although I have some amazing readers, most have accepted the invitation but not actually read anything, meaning the slot is taken up but I don’t get feedback. This is something you should probably consider if like me you’re new.
I know the cons list seems bigger. That’s because it’s easier to talk about the problems and the things I wish were better. Despite this, I do think beta books is working well for me. Especially in-line commenting, I just love reading through a chapter and hovering over text to see people’s reactions. It’s also way more comfortable to send out an invitation than to send emails and stuff.
Also, I’m beta reading another person’s book right now and I can say that the user experience on an ipad is good as both a writer and reader!
I have since quit BetaBooks. Personally I wouldn’t recommend it, the price just doesn’t match the service it offers. There’s a bunch of free apps or WAY CHEAPER apps that do a far better job. And honestly the pricing is just ridiculously high.