Anyone familiar with software, in particular video games, is usually familiar with beta testing. Beta testing video games involve interested players being given access to the game months, sometimes years, prior to the game’s release. The beta test players are allowed to play the game in its rough, pre-release form and provide feedback to the developers about the game.
Beta testers are encouraged to submit “bug reports” for things like glitches in the game, broken dialogue/quests, or other issues found while playing. These “bug reports” are reviewed by the development team to determine if the item(s) reported are problems to be fixed, by design, or perhaps not an actual bug but maybe something that could be retooled or clarified to provide better balance to the game/story.
Well, beta testing of a book is not that much different. Potential interested readers are given access to rough edits of books before they are released for retail to the public. Those readers read through the books and provide feedback to the author. That feedback could be anything from punctuation errors to spelling errors to major plot holes in the story. That feedback gives the author an opportunity to review the details provided to determine what, if any, corrections or changes need to be made to the story to improve the overall quality of the future release.
Different authors may use different tools to provide beta content to readers and manage their feedback. My personally, I use the Beta Copies feature on StoryOriginApp.com’s website. Readers can create free accounts that can access hundreds of pre-release books that have been put out there by a variety of authors.
They way the beta program on StoryOrigin’s website works in a very compartmentalized fashion. Each book is a beta project. Within a project, each chapter of a book is uploaded individually. Potential readers “apply” to be given access to each project. Once approved, a reader goes online and reads the first chapter of the project’s book through their browser. There is nothing to download and no special apps needed, just a browser on a PC, tablet, or even a phone. After reading the first chapter, the reader is given an opportunity to leave feedback for the author. Then, after submitting the feedback, the reader “unlocks” the next chapter in the project and keep reading. Meanwhile, the author receives an automated email from StoryOrigin notifying them that a reader has provided feedback on one of their beta projects.
Authors can login to the StoryOrigin website and review the feedback given for each chapter. The feedback contains the name of the reader and their comments. The feedback is specific to the project chapter it was left for so there is no need for authors to determine which chapter any given feedback is related. It is all very organized in the website’s interface, which is handy. From there, if the author chooses to make changes to that chapter based on the feedback, the author can upload a new version of a single chapter. The new version is then made available to readers to read or re-read while giving a version history for the author to track their changes.
For authors like myself, these beta programs can be very helpful. We read and review our works multiple times over but because of our close association with the stories and characters involved it is easy for us to overlook things. Beta readers provide a fresh pair of eyes unfamiliar with the story. Those fresh eyes have the potential to find a number of issues, shortcomings, or plot holes that might be otherwise overlooked. Such errors can be the difference between a top selling novel and a junk book. Such help, even from strangers, is greatly sought after and appreciated by many authors.
If you are interested in being a beta reader, sign up for a free account on StoryOriginApp.com and you can start finding and reading unreleased books within minutes.
If you’re curious about what books I currently have on offer for beta readers through StoryOrigin’s website, check out my website, www.GaryRichardsonAuthor.com. There you will find a brief synopsis for each book on offer and quick links to each project where you can apply to be a beta reader.