Layered beta reading

If you follow my blog or read the acknowledgments in my books, you know that I work with a beta reader and two critique partners. For simplicity’s sake, let’s just call all of them beta readers for now.

As soon as I have finished a new chapter of my work in progress, I send it off to my three beta readers and they return it with comments and corrections. If a chapter undergoes major revisions, I might resend the revised chapter and ask them to read it again to see if it works better now.

That’s how the beta reading process works for me, and I never thought to do it any other way.

But recently, I discovered that one of my critique partners has a different system. I call it “layered beta reading.” She sends a new chapter to one beta reader first, then uses the comments from the first beta to revise the chapter before sending it to the second beta reader.


Compared to my system, the “layered” beta reading has two main advantages:

  • It allows you to pick up on any problems the revisions might cause. For example, beta reader #1 points out the characters should wear gloves during the snow-shoveling scene. So you revise and have them put on gloves. But by the end of the scene, you mention one character wiping a snowflake from the other’s cheek with her bare hand… without having her take off the glove first. The second beta reader would pick up on that continuity error.
  • The second beta reader’s reaction will let you know whether the revision worked.
  • Since the first beta reader already pointed out the major mistakes, the second beta reader can focus on the finer points.

The “layered” system as a few disadvantages too:

  • It takes more time.
  • Each beta reader gets a different version of the chapter, so you can’t compare their reactions before you decide what to change. You make changes based on what the first beta reader said without being able to compare it to another beta reader’s opinion.

There are probably a lot of other methods for working with beta readers, but this is how I do it.

Created by Krystel Contreras & Jorge Courbis