Ode to the beta reader: An author’s approach to the editing process

Intro by Anastasia Koutalianos; article by Martin Crosbie

On March 1st, I attended the Federation of BC Writers’ self-publishing fair. Editors, writers, publishers and aspiring authors filled the room, sharing their tales of woe and joy, and the dreaded review process. This is when editors are needed most, however, with changing times come new approaches. Here is writer and self-published author Martin Crosbie’s take on eBooks and how he goes about his edits. What do you think?


Once I complete (what I believe to be) my final draft, the same thought always goes through my head. I think to myself, “It isn’t going to need much.” I’m always wrong.

No matter how many rewrites and revisions I do, my work always needs to go through several changes before it’s ready for the next stage. This is where I use beta readers. A beta reader is someone who will read your work and offer input. I wrote a romance novel last year and I sent my draft copy to twenty beta readers who exclusively read traditional romance stories. The input they gave me was invaluable. Their comments told me the writing was good but the story wasn’t a traditional romance and if I marketed it as such, it would probably bounce back on me with poor reviews. In addition, they helped me with some character development, showed me where I had a plot hole and even corrected some minor edits. So, after receiving their input I rewrote and revised once again. Then I sent my masterpiece to another different group of beta readers. They came back with more suggestions.

Some authors send out a form letter to their betas asking for feedback in certain areas. I don’t do this. I’ve found that betas will give you what they’ve got and they each have their individual strengths. Their input is valuable and they don’t charge a fee. Their mandate is to find a new author or book they believe in. They donate their time and effort to try to make our work the best it can be. So I use lots of beta readers each time I finish a draft. I find them through beta reader groups on Facebook or LinkedIn, and sometimes they find me. Although there are readers I use for every book, most of my betas are new to me. I want honest input. If I have a glaring hole in my story I want to know about it and it’s easier to receive that information from someone I’ve never met.

I also find that if I enlist the help of enough beta readers it decreases my editing costs and typically I only need a copy edit. This varies from manuscript to manuscript and I’m sure I probably have a huge substantive edit looming somewhere in my future. But right now the process of sending my draft to multiple betas is saving me money and helping me send a tighter version to my editor.

Beta readers are becoming an integral part of the process for writers and although they don’t take the place of editing they can fill the gap between the (almost) final draft and the copy that goes to the editor. I also use them as proofreaders once I’ve corrected my edits. Betas are golden. They can often mean the difference between releasing a book that will find readers and garner positive reviews and having it bounce back on you.


Martin’s next self-publishing workshop is March 22 and 23 at Douglas College in New Westminster. He is offering a discounted rate of $299 (versus $449) to all EAC-BC members.

Martin Crosbie is the author of several eBooks and was among Amazon’s success stories of 2012. His self-publishing journey has been chronicled in Publishers Weekly, Forbes online and The Globe and Mail. My Temporary Life, Martin’s debut novel has been downloaded over 150,000 times thus becoming an Amazon top-ten overall bestseller. Other books by Martin Crosbie include: My Name Is Hardly(book two of the trilogy My Temporary; Lies I Never Told: A Collection of Short Stories; How I Sold 30,000 eBooks on Amazon’s Kindle: An Easy-To-Follow Self-Publishing Guidebook (2014 edition) and Believing Again: A Tale of Two Christmases.

You can learn more about Martin on his website or connect with him at martin@martincrosbie.com.

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