Is it ethical to review a book you’ve beta read?

March 5, 2014 Discuss With Danielle 22

Hey guys. Welcome to another instalment of  Discuss with Danielle!

Today I want to talk about something that’s been playing on my mind since I became a reviewer and I wanted your input.

I love to beta read books for authors and friends, if you have written something and you need someone to look over it? I’m your girl! What can I say? I love giving my opinion and love it even more when people take my advice on board lol (just ask my friends!)

One of the main reasons I love to beta read is because I get to see a book take shape, I see the changes, I see how much work an author puts into it and it staggers me every time I read their work and see how their talent is put to such amazing use. I also love to be able to discuss how a story should progress and work out any issues I think as a reader would raise my hackles.

When an author takes your input and implements it…that’s an awesome thing. It’s a huge show of respect and trust for your opinion and something that should be honoured and respected and is very highly by me. I am so grateful to the authors over the years who have entrusted their work to me and taken my opinion on board.

Which brings me to my issue…

When I’m on Goodreads and checking out books to add to my (ever growing) TBR, on occasion I see ratings from people who mention they beta-read the book and I’m like “cool whatever” but then sometimes I go back and I see that mention of “beta read” has been replaced by a full-on review that is more often than not glowing and it.just.doesn’t sit right with me…

If you beta-read a book, you’re giving an opinion that will more than likely shape the outcome of that book so then if you later review it, don’t you have a vested interest in that book’s success? Are you more likely to praise that book because you know how much work has gone into it (and perhaps in the back of your mind thinking about your own time and effort not just the author’s)? Isn’t your opinion essentially tainted?

As a reviewer, you read the book with fresh eyes, your opinions are shaped by your reading and not by anyone else’s (on another note isn’t this why many reviewers refuse to read reviews of a book they haven’t read yet to guard against their opinion being swayed and unconsciously plagiarising?) so you can honestly assess the book’s strengths and weaknesses. If you’ve beta read the book are you impartial? Can you be?

I personally don’t think so, I will not review a book that I beta read. I know it too well. I have developed a relationship with the author, we have discussed how to make the book stronger, what to cut, how to develop the characters more. Can I  honestly review that book without being swayed by my previous experience with it? I don’t think so…what do you think?

Is it okay to review something you have a personal interest in its success? Do you think it matters? Is a 5 star review from a beta reader the same as those reviews on Amazon that are clearly from friends and family “I don’t usually read this type of book…but something made me pick it up…wow, just wow. It’s AMAZING”, I’m sure you’ve seen them too.

My reason for writing this post is because I don’t think I could be impartial. I can be a beta reader or a reviewer but not both. I can promo the book in other ways, Release Day Blasts, Excerpts, Giveaways…all of which I think are personally fine but for me, in good conscience, I do not think I could post a review that was 100% honest. Could you?

Let me know what you think!


22 Responses to “Is it ethical to review a book you’ve beta read?”

  1. tonyalee

    Loooooooove this.

    I personally, wont review a book that I beta. You’re right, your thoughts, time, love and everything get poured into that book because, in a way, it’s your baby too, right? Therefore, I think your review could, and possible is, biased. I will promote the book though, I see nothing wrong with that.

    I see quite a few reviews from Beta’s, that gush and gush and I don’t take their word for it, I can’t. It doesn’t sit right with me either. Even if I see someone had was a beta for one of their OTHER works. You still have that relationship, ya know?

    The two don’t mesh well, IMO.

  2. Christina Franke

    You know, I don’t really know. I think it depends on the person somewhat and whether you feel comfortable. If you don’t think you can be impartial, then definitely best to just make the policy. I’m approaching the point where I’ll have to make this choice for myself, and I’m not sure what I’ll decide ultimately. I’ll probably write out the review for the first one and see how I feel about it. If I don’t feel like I can be completely honest, then I won’t post it. Though I hope I can be. I rated one on GR a four, so…maybe?

  3. Ana @ Read Me Away

    I’ve done some beta reading for friends before, but it was mainly for stuff like essays where I fixed up some loose arguments or grammar. I’ve never beta read for something like a narrative. :O But I can totally understand where you’re coming from here. Glowing reviews from beta readers about a finished book seem… I don’t know, weird? Not completely objective? Even if they aren’t the author, they do have an interest in the book’s success, like you said.

    Very interesting topic, Danielle! 🙂

  4. Ashley

    No, I would never review something I beta read. If you’re beta-ing it, it’s not finished. There’s always going to be something changed or edited.

  5. Becki @ The Flutterby Room

    This is a really interesting topic. I totally agree with your position, that if you beta read a book then you probably shouldn’t review it. I do however have a caveat to add: if the reviewer was honest in the review, and they say within say the first paragraph that they were a beta reader, then I wouldn’t be bothered. I would know that they would have an investment in the book and treat the review accordingly.

  6. Kelley (Oh, the Books!)

    This is a GREAT topic, Danielle — I’m glad you brought it up! I absolutely agree that if you’ve beta-read a book, then it’s kind of impossible for you to be impartial and unbiased when writing a review. I’m not really sure how you can review something that you’ve been so intimately involved with! At least these people are stating right up front that they were beta readers, so you can take that into account when reading their review (or dismiss it altogether).

  7. Kelly

    This is a really interesting topic! I’ve never been a beta-reader, so I can’t draw from experience. As someone reading a review however, as long as the reviewer mentioned that they were a beta-reviewer, I could probably be ok with it. I’d probably assume that they had rated it higher than it might deserve though, because they have a vested interest, so maybe it would actually work against the book’s favour?

  8. Trish @ Between My Lines

    I have never really thought about it but now that I’ve beta read my first book, I need to think about it. A review is just an opinion and I think if you state clearly you beta read it and are not totally impartial, then it think it’s ok. Great discussion topic, I’m looking forward to checking all the replies.

  9. Jasprit

    This is an interesting discussion Danielle, I have to agree with you on a lot of the points you’ve made, I’ve not done a beta-read before, but I don’t think I would feel comfortable with reviewing it either, especially when you’ve played such a major role in contributing to the changes. Also what I’m interested in, is when did this reviewer actually share their review? Whilst changes were still being made? As I’m sure from beta-reading to the book being published a lot of changes are made? But I do go with what Becki says, as long as the person states that they beta read the book at the beginning of their review than I am fine with this.

  10. Aven Ellis


    Great topic, Danielle! May I present the other side? Okay, great, thanks for letting me! (LOL.) I think it is okay to review a beta read. First of all,sometimes beta readers just read and let you know if the story is on course, do you enjoy the characters, does this make sense. With my beta readers, I want to know if they are laughing (because that’s my thing) and is the hero someone you’d add to a boyfriend list (my other big thing.) To me, that kind of feedback is no different than what you would provide in an ARC review. You are just getting the ARC in a rougher state (and again, this depends on the author and who you are reading.)

    Second–Authors don’t take all the advice beta readers/critique partners/editors give. At the end of the day, it’s our story, our characters, and we have to follow our own gut. So while you might be providing feedback, not all of it will show up in the final copy.

    Third–At the end of the day, you are reviewing the ARC and not the beta copy. That is what you are basing your review on, and as long as you are honest in your review, it’s all good.

    And that’s my hot sports opinion on it. 😉

  11. Jeann @ Happy Indulgence

    Great post Dani, I haven’t actually beta read a book before but I think you’ve hit the nail on the head where it’s probably towing the line between what’s acceptable. But when you think about it, lots of authors give out ARCs and stuff like that in order to get positive reviews, is it ethical then? Although the more savvy reviewers know better these days, it’s still something I question.

  12. Faye @ The Social Potato

    That’s a pretty tough call to make. If you’re a beta reader, you’re still kind of contributing to the final product, don’t you think? So in short, you’re a part of the team that makes it, albeit the ones that help polish it, so for me, you can either be one of the two but you can’t be both. Yes, you do have a say, and I guess you can “review” it, but it would be more proper to do so privately. That’s just my two cents though ;P

  13. Tabitha the Pabkins

    I see what you’re saying. I never thought about it really until recently when I beta read a book. And of course I plan on reading and reviewing the book as well. It never occurred to me that there would be an issue. But then I’ve read their other books and still have yet to 5 star their past work so in my case I don’t think I would give a glowing review unless it really deserved it. I think often beta readers can sometimes fall into the friendzone with these authors and they then develop a subconscious bias. I however still like what I like and I let that author know up front that I will unfortunately say it how I thought it was and not just sprout flowers where weeds are growing. Ya know?

  14. Miranda @ Tempest Books

    Hmmm this is a really interesting post. You make some good points! I’m actually just starting to do beta-reading with a friend’s book and I’m really excited! I don’t know if she ever plans to publish it, though.

    Occasionally I’ve seen those beta-read reviews on Goodreads, and I agree with you about the inability to be impartial, so I usually just ignore them. But I think that, for me personally, if the situation ever came up…I would totally review it! At least, I would review it on Goodreads. I might stay away from reviewing it on Amazon and my blog, but I write reviews for EVERY book I read on Goodreads, so it would feel weird not to review it. I would, of course, state that I’d been a beta reader, because you should definitely warn people. But if I’m posting it mostly for personal use (which is true in my case — I like to sometimes go back and see what I thought of a book a while after I’ve read it), and make sure to include a disclaimer, I see no reason why it wouldn’t be okay to review it. And if somebody were really that worried about it, they could just not give it an actual star rating, but still post the review part, so that they wouldn’t have to worry about how their review is affecting the book’s overall rating. But I think it’s overkill for somebody to be so worried about it that they don’t post a review at all.

    Great post 🙂

  15. CeCe

    Great post! I don’t think you can be impartial but I think you can review it anyway as long as you clearly state that you beta read it. I think if you say that you were involved, readers can assume that you are biased. I’ve done different things for my beta books – One I reviewed, but I made it so obvious that I was involved and excited about it that I do not think I mislead anyone. Another book, I did not do a full review but I promoted it and said some nice things about the series – stating again that I was biased. I am working with a new author now on a couple books and I am not sure if I will review them or not, but I think they are amazing books and it almost feels unfair to not be able to tell the world how great they are just because I was involved early on. I try to make my review comments as specific as possible so people can see WHY I liked the book and not just feel my general excitement at being involved.

  16. Allura

    I’m going to let you know how much this post resonated with me. I didn’t really ever think of it from this perspective. I’ve reviewed books I’ve beta-ed but I’ve been abundantly clear that I did beta it and to take my opinion for what it’s worth. I don’t give glowing reviews for books I don’t absolutely love no matter who wrote them. I will say what did and didn’t work for me just the same. Other people don’t do this though, and it kind of upsets me. Or there are people who I know have a relationship with an author and literally 5-star every single one of their books. There is not a single author I’ve read multiple books by that deserves a five-star rating for every book they’ve written. But that’s just my opinion. This is a really fantastic post! I seriously have been thinking about it all week.

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