Got the Beta Reader Blues? Try a Big Little Beta Read.
Updated: Apr 26
You almost can’t believe it.
It took months of late nights and early mornings, dozens of rain checks, and enough caffeine to resuscitate a beached baleen whale, but you did it.
You finally finished your damn manuscript.
So who’s going to beta read it?
You’re a proud mama, but you’re a realist too. Who’s going to stick it out through the flubs, the rough patches, the detours, and the plot holes? More importantly, who’s going to report back on all of the above?
A good beta reader will, but those are hard to find. Instead of hunting down beta readers, why not try a Big Little Beta Read from Little Guy Editing?
Wait, but what’s a Big Little Beta?
Created by a team of itty-bitty editorial mad scientists, a Big Little Beta Read is a combination of traditional beta reading and developmental editing.
A BLBR editor analyzes your manuscript according to principles of good storytelling and reports back their findings. Each Big Little Beta Read report is full of professional insight and practical advice, answering questions such as:
How might targeted world-building help better immerse your readers in the setting?
What's missing from your characters' motivations?
Is your POV standing between your readers and the plot?
What recurring grammar and syntax mistakes should you unlearn ASAP?
A successful BLBR gives an author a springboard for self-editing well before they decide to undergo a full developmental edit.
Do any of the following problems sound familiar? Then consider a Big Little Beta from Little Guy Editing.
1. You want beta readers, but you don’t know any
There are many writers who thrive in communities of other writers, but that’s not everybody. Some would rather shut out the world to commune with their own. But when it comes time to gather beta readers, suddenly that seclusion isn’t so helpful.
Currently, Big Little Betas at Little Guy are performed by me: Michael Manahan, chief editor and founder of Little Guy Editing. I have helped dozens of first-time and amateur authors prepare their novels for publication, and I’m no stranger to a writer’s workshop, especially what it means to give truly constructive criticism. I’m here, as all good editors are, to lift you up.
2. You’re not sure whether your beta readers are up to it
On the flip side, maybe you have an army of fellow writers and smarty-pantses who agreed to beta read your manuscript. Lucky you! But take heed—beta-reading is not for everybody:
I hate to break it to you, but parents, siblings, spouses, and even best buddies are often terrible beta readers. They pull their punches because they care about you, which will color their critiques of your novel.
You hand them a copy of your novel and never hear back. You could try pestering them regularly or setting a deadline, but what leverage do you have? It’s not like you’re paying them. The time wasted with these people is better spent revising your novel.
What if you hand your romance novel to a beta reader who secretly hates romance novels? Yikes! Best-case scenario, you receive an itemized list of everything they didn’t enjoy, which means nothing. Worst-case scenario, they abandon the novel entirely. It’s just not their thing. Will either situation help you write your next draft?
Their bookshelves are chock full of New York Times best sellers—the real story behind American factory farms, biographies of dead presidents, the latest science-packed self-help guide to organizing your life. Hey, no judgment here, but unless they also read their fair share of fiction, they simply don’t have the vocabulary to articulate what’s wrong with your POV or why your characters feel flat.
As a fiction editor, I've heard all the beta reader horror stories. Don't become the next victim.
3. You’re light on cash
First comes the next great novel, then comes the payday.
You're willing to fund a beta read out of pocket, but paid beta readers can be awfully pricey. And there's no quality assurance for things like this. No two beta readers beta-read alike. Why gamble with the future of your novel?
Big Little Betas were designed to be as helpful as they are inexpensive. Currently, the rate for a BLB is $5 per 1,000 words. That’s half a penny per word!
Better still, authors who undergo a BLB walk away with a ten-page templated report about your plot, setting, characters, tone, style, pacing, dialogue, point of view, themes, and recurring grammar and syntax mistakes.
I might be biased—I am, but there's reason to be—but if I had a novel, a custom report of practical advice from an editor sounds much better than a five-minute conversation from an untested beta reader.
Stuck in a rut with your beta readers? Can’t find any at all? Then it's time to submit your manuscript to Little Guy Editing for a free sample edit and quote.
Learn more about Big Little Betas here.
(Cover photo by Fabiola Peñalba)