With my professional beta reading/manuscript critique service, I offer a kind of ‘test’ reading of an unreleased and, usually, unpolished manuscript.
The exact elements examined may vary depending on the project and any specific concerns of the author. Typically, though, I will address things like plot, characters, writing style, theme, pacing, consistency etc. It’s basically a really in-depth review, except it’s pre-publication and aimed at the writer rather than the potential reader.
Traditionally, beta reading was offered for free by kind and voracious readers. While this option still exists, finding suitable and willing readers can be a tricky thing and many authors don’t manage it. Those that do risk being let down by unhelpful feedback (“I loved all of it!”) or not hearing back from readers at all.
It’s the old adage: you get what you pay for.
Paying for a beta read or manuscript critique means you can be sure your beta reader will follow through, on time, and within your agreed parameters.
Beta Read or Manuscript Critique?
Both and neither.
Due to my background and the way I approach the critique – often with reference to writing theory, books and blog posts – my work resembles that of a developmental editor’s manuscript critique more than you are perhaps used to. But a “proper” manuscript critique is a lengthier and more extensive process. Someone who calls themselves an editor should generally also be able to demonstrate appropriate training and/or experience.
I can’t, so I don’t.
But due to my degrees in Creative Writing and Publishing, in addition to my own self-studies of story and writing theory, I’m not exactly Joe Anybody either. Which is why I include the word “manuscript critique” alongside “beta reading” and feel comfortable charging for my services.
I like to think that what I do marries the best of both worlds. Like an editor, I have training in and experience with writing and story theory, and I approach the work like a professional, delivering on time and within the agreed parameters. But, like a traditional beta reader, I am a thoughtful and knowledgeable reader first and foremost; my feedback is briefer and (I hope) less overwhelming, focusing on the essentials of my reading experience; and, of course, my prices are more manageable.
To get a better idea of what I’m about, download the samples linked in the pricing table below.
Pricing and Packages
PER 1,000 WORDS
Essential feedback (500–750 words):
• Straight-to-the-point covering of reading highlights and/or addressing your key concerns
• Focused on possible improvements so may read as harsher than expanded feedback
10% off second reads (must be recognisably same project)
PER 1,000 WORDS
Expanded feedback: (2000–3000 words):
• Guaranteed to cover both content (story) and craft (how story is communicated) feedback, emphasis varying according to MS needs
• More aspects discussed and at greater depth.
20% off second reads (must be recognisably same project)
PER 1,000 WORDS
Everything in Standard, plus
Choice of: annotated commentary or in-depth prose critique
Guaranteed 10-day turnaround for standard-length manuscripts (<100K)
30% off second reads (must be recognisably same project)
Word count will be as determined by Microsoft Word and is rounded to the nearest 100. The cost for a manuscript of 65,137, for example, will be 65.1 * the relevant rate. Please note that very short manuscripts may incur a higher per-word fee to better reflect the time and energy going into these projects.
Made your choice? Get in touch with me to discuss your needs and get your project booked in.
If you’re concerned about managing the cost, do start a dialogue with me. There are various options that may be considered, including a modest discount on non-urgent work and spreading the cost across multiple payments – just ask and I’ll do my best to work something out for you.
Add-on: spelling and grammar check
For an extra £0.40 per 1,000, I will check your spelling and grammar as I read, marking up any errors/issues I find (Word documents only).
Note that while I am a trained proofreader, this is not equivalent to a proper proofread. My main focus will remain on taking in the story, so errors will undoubtedly be missed.
Still, this check can be useful as a last line of defence if you are in the final stages before publication.
Or perhaps you know that spelling/grammar is a problem area for you (maybe English is not your native language) and could really benefit from a “clean-up” up of your manuscript before you move on. It can also be a great way to see the sorts of mistakes you make and learn from them.
If, on the other hand, you have only just finished your first draft, I would advise against spending money here. It’s likely that portions of your manuscript will be rewritten, rendering any proofreading at this stage of less value.
Beta reading FREEBIE: a fourth option
- Max 10,000 words
- Distilled feedback (~150 words)
This can be a great option if, for the moment, you’re looking for little more than a “yay” or “nay”, i.e. some relatively broad feedback. It can also be of use if you want to get a feel for my style and whether we might work well together, before moving on to a paid read.
Your 10,000-word submission does not have to be part of a longer work you intend to have beta read/critiqued. It can be a complete work on its own.
You do not need to intend to use my paid services later on; you can simply take advantage of the freebie.
- Turnaround: usually within two weeks, and I try to take into account anyone who is anxiously waiting to move forward with a longer project, but no guarantees are made. This is a free service and sometimes I get busy.
- Number of submissions: no formal restrictions. However: submissions beyond your first will move to the back of the queue (if one exists) and may not get read very soon, if at all. Broadly: a submission every few months should be fine; several per week will likely mean that they won’t all be read.
- Please do not submit more than once from the same project. This is not a way to get a major project critiqued for free. Apart from the fact that I’m not actually a charity, a fractured reading like that just wouldn’t yield good results for you.
This varies, but primarily it will be down to the length of the manuscript and your chosen package.
For full novels (around 80K words), expect 2 weeks for the Lite and Standard packages. Premium will take no more than 10 days.
Note, though, that turnaround times are estimates, not guarantees (unless you’ve chosen Premium). It could be more or less, all depending on my schedule and how your project and I get along. If you are on a tight schedule, do let me know from the beginning, and I will do my very best to have your project done within the requested timeframe.
If you require guaranteed fast turnaround, consider upgrading to fast-track. This service incurs an extra charge of 40% of your base quote. For example if your base quote is £76, the fast track fee will be £30.40 (£76 x 0.4), giving you a total of £106.40. For the delivery date, we will discuss your needs (and the project’s) to arrive at a suitable date.
Key Terms and Features Explained
I’ll flag things that are unclear or don’t quite work, comment on parts that work particularly well or that I had a strong reaction to. There will necessarily be some overlap between the commentary and the feedback report. The commentary offers more specifics/examples, brings up minor points that I might not cover in the report, and gives you a more visceral sense of my reading experience.
In-depth prose critique
This will take the form of an extended “craft” section of the feedback report + a close look at a section of your manuscript. I will use Track Changes and Comments to make suggestions for improvements and highlight bits that work well. I might, for example, suggest places where you could benefit from showing rather than telling, highlight awkward phrasing or specific bits of dialogue that don’t read naturally, point out POV breaches etc. Where appropriate and/or to illustrate my point, I will suggest specific alternatives. This has elements of a line-edit but is not an actual line-edit.