1. M.A.

    M.A. Member

    Joined:
    Jul 13, 2019
    Messages:
    21
    Likes Received:
    16
    Location:
    Norway

    Experiences with beta-readers

    Discussion in 'Revision and Editing' started by M.A., Sep 6, 2019.

    Hello,

    I've been writing for ages, but recently I've wanted to take my writing to the next level and aim for publishing in some form. As a part of this process I require beta-readers. I have found several forums and services that offer manuscript critique, but I'm hesitant to send my manuscript to strangers.

    I was wondering what experience people in the forum have with regards to beta-readers - specifically strangers on the internet. Are there any tips or tricks I should know about, or anything I need to be careful about?

    Thanks
     
    jannert likes this.
  2. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    17,674
    Likes Received:
    19,876
    Location:
    Scotland
    As somebody who beta reads a lot, and has been extremely lucky with good betas for my own novel, I'd say the most important thing needs to be trust. I don't mean trusting somebody not to steal your ideas—which is one of those fears that proves groundless nearly all the time—but trusting them to be honest and helpful.

    You're not going to know who to trust till you get to know people a bit. It's possible to build a picture of what somebody is like when you're a fellow member of a forum they're on—like this one—even if you've never met them personally.

    Maybe make a habit of reading the critiques and feedback they give to others in the Workshop. What kind of writing do they do themselves? What kind of writing do they seem to like? They might be really nice people, but if they absolutely hate the kind of stuff you write, then they're not going to be your best choice as a beta. I mean, somebody who hates Horror and never reads it won't be a good fit for a Horror novel. Of course some people can cross genres to beta-read, so that's not an absolute. But just one thing to pay attention to.

    If somebody's got a short attention span, they're probably not the sort of person who will be comfortable reading a 200,000-word historical novel. And etc.

    I'd say don't rush this process. Let your 'relationship' with potential betas develop naturally. At some point, you could ask openly for betas on a Workshop thread, and see if anybody you trust takes up the idea. In other words : here is a sample of my novel; is anybody interested in reading the whole thing? That way you're not putting anybody on the spot, and you can feel free to gently say no to anybody you aren't keen on using as a beta. (Just say you've already got two others, or something like that.)

    Mod hat on here: You can also ask for a beta in the Collaboration section of the forum. However, there are requirements that must be met before you can use Collaboration. These rules (found in our FAQ section) were written by the site owner, so please read this particular FAQ before attempting to post threads there. https://www.writingforums.org/faq/collaboration.131/

    You can certainly offer a swap, but don't offer to read somebody else's simply because you want feedback for your own. To be a good experience, this needs to be a two-way affair. You both have to be truly interested in helping the other person, for this to work.


    Please be VERY cautious about approaching members via PMs, asking for beta reads or swaps. If you have developed a longstanding friendly relationship with these particular members, it's probably okay. But we've had instances in the past where new members immediately start PM-ing people asking for beta-reads. This isn't on, and if the recipient reports this to our Moderating team, it will garner a firm knuckle-rap.


    If you don't want to overwhelm your beta, you can send them only the first couple of chapters for starters. They can let you know if they want to continue.

    I think it's very important to let the beta know that you will NOT get angry or hurt if they don't like your stuff. Also let them know it's okay for them to stop, and you won't ask any questions.

    Pay attention to what they say if they do offer critique, because you can learn from negative responses as well as positive ones. But however it turns out, thank them for their time, and be truly thankful they tried. Even if it didn't work out.
     
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2019
    Fiender_, Hammer, peachalulu and 3 others like this.
  3. M.A.

    M.A. Member

    Joined:
    Jul 13, 2019
    Messages:
    21
    Likes Received:
    16
    Location:
    Norway
    Thank you for a nice and extencive reply :) I really appreciate it! I've never been good at developing online relations, but I realize that as a writer it can be usefull to have an online presence. So I will take your advice to heart.

    I have found some free and paid services online that I'm curious about, such as these two. Do you have any experiences with such services?
    https://www.laptiast.com/free-beta-reading.html
    https://www.jenichappelleeditorial.com/services
     
  4. Shenanigator

    Shenanigator Has the Vocabulary of a Well-Educated Sailor. Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 17, 2017
    Messages:
    4,886
    Likes Received:
    8,761
    I can't see any situation that would warrant paying beta readers. If you're building an audience, you'll have plenty of people who'd be happy to Beta for you at no cost.
     
    M.A. and The Dapper Hooligan like this.
  5. Necronox

    Necronox Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 1, 2015
    Messages:
    724
    Likes Received:
    802
    Location:
    Canton de Neuchatel, Switzerland
    Asking on the forums here for beta readers probably would net you quite a few people, thought it is often on a "scratch my back if you scratch mine" kind of deal.

    Generally speaking, I havn't had a lot of negative expertiences, but I'm not a proper writer, just a hobbyist writing out stuff on W/Es.
     
  6. M.A.

    M.A. Member

    Joined:
    Jul 13, 2019
    Messages:
    21
    Likes Received:
    16
    Location:
    Norway
    The back-scratching deal isn't really a deterrent - I don't mind helping others. Also, I think that if I find someone writing similar content as my own it would be interesting, and probably educational, to read it.
     
  7. big soft moose

    big soft moose An Admoostrator Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

    Joined:
    Aug 1, 2016
    Messages:
    21,342
    Likes Received:
    24,603
    Location:
    East devon/somerset border
    There are people who offer paid services as a kind of editor-lite , but I would not be interested in that unless they had some serious credentials

    The other area where payment can occur is in specialty readers - for example there are lawyers, doctors, cops, and soldiers (and doubtless other specialties) who supplement their income by providing a fact checking service across their field of expertise.

    Its probably worth saying that asking or offering payment for beta reading on this forum, would be a big no no
     
    Catrin Lewis, deadrats and jannert like this.
  8. HeathBar

    HeathBar Active Member

    Joined:
    Feb 28, 2019
    Messages:
    143
    Likes Received:
    211
    I used a paid beta-reading service I found online and was very pleased with the experience (if interested, can provide the name in a PM, not sure what the rules are about promotion). I resorted to this only after sending my MS out to four friends who agreed to read it and provide feedback. Only one of the four actually did, and it took forever (but when I did get the feedback, it was very helpful). I'm in my mid-40s, but new to the writing community - so I haven't established a network yet. I'm on this forum, as well as another on FB. I tried to dip my toe in the "let's trade work" pool, and agreed to swap a query letter with someone on the FB forum for review. I reviewed hers and gave prompt, thoughtful feedback. And never heard a peep about mine. So . . . that didn't inspire a whole lot of confidence. The beta reader I found online had positive reviews. I reached out to her and found the process very professional (very responsive, written agreement covering confidentiality, etc.). Good, thoughtful commentary, and actual suggestions on how to improve.

    Like I said, I'm new to this, but have learned a few lessons:
    -Asking someone to read and review a 100K+ MS is a huge ask. Especially for lay people who don't know what they're getting into. It's A LOT of work. I'm grateful for the feedback I got.
    -Next time I will be much more specific about my expectations with respect to timing and what feedback I want.
    -Next time I will be much more specific about what it's about. My MS follows two families over 50 years. It's not whodunnit or fantasy or erotic. It's not for everyone.
    -I would use a paid beta reader again. I liked having a reader who didn't know me. And because it was a paid transaction, I felt comfortable that I could hold them to deadlines and the agreed-upon scope of feedback (which happened). When I sent it to friends, I didn't want to pester them, but was also annoyed when I never heard from them. I ended up affirmatively telling two of them there was no need to read (in a nice way; e.g., I've made a bunch of changes, so no need to read the one I sent you. Thanks anyway). Which leads to . . .
    -I will continue to keep my writing and non-writing lives separate.
     
  9. big soft moose

    big soft moose An Admoostrator Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

    Joined:
    Aug 1, 2016
    Messages:
    21,342
    Likes Received:
    24,603
    Location:
    East devon/somerset border
    Recommendation of relevant services for writers that you've used, in which you have no financial interest is fine... affiliate links, or anything you are being paid for or otherwise benefiting from would not be.

    we'd also caution that such recommendations are the posters own opinion and not that of the site
     
    jannert likes this.
  10. big soft moose

    big soft moose An Admoostrator Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

    Joined:
    Aug 1, 2016
    Messages:
    21,342
    Likes Received:
    24,603
    Location:
    East devon/somerset border
    with my mod hat off the only other caution i'd put out there about paid beta reading is price... i have seen Beta readers charging north of $500 for a 80k manuscript... if you want to spend that kind of cash you'd be better off paying a structural editor
     
    deadrats likes this.
  11. HeathBar

    HeathBar Active Member

    Joined:
    Feb 28, 2019
    Messages:
    143
    Likes Received:
    211
    :eek:

    Wow! I paid nowhere near that. I think it was $80.
     
  12. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    17,674
    Likes Received:
    19,876
    Location:
    Scotland
    I think you have written a very thoughtful and well-considered post here. This is such a reasonable-sounding option.

    Why not tell us, here on this thread, who you used (if they're still doing that kind of work) and maybe a link to their website or how to get in touch with them? If it's okay with them, of course.
     
  13. Shenanigator

    Shenanigator Has the Vocabulary of a Well-Educated Sailor. Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 17, 2017
    Messages:
    4,886
    Likes Received:
    8,761
    Those have always struck me as either scammy or a waste of money. Why not just pay more and hire an editor with serious creds? (In which case their title would be "Editor", not Beta Reader.) It's the in-between of that that's the problem.

    Ahem. *checks bank deposit statement* Yeah, so I've heard. But the proper title for that when you're paying someone (or getting paid, ahem) is "Consultant" or "Fact Checker" ("Consultant" for films or TV) and that's in my contract. If I'm not getting a credit, with my proper title, in the book, my fee is higher, because I'm not getting the benefit of potential referrals.

    If I'm doing a Beta Read for free for a friend, my title is Beta Reader.

    I stand by the fact that Beta Readers are free, not paid. Otherwise, that ain't a Beta Reader.
     
  14. big soft moose

    big soft moose An Admoostrator Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

    Joined:
    Aug 1, 2016
    Messages:
    21,342
    Likes Received:
    24,603
    Location:
    East devon/somerset border
    i'm not sure what its called matters that much - often a paid beta reader will call themselves a 'critique service' other names ... so long as both parties are clear on what they are getting a rose by any other name ... (would be a tulip according to a lad in my class during a mock exam)
     
  15. Shenanigator

    Shenanigator Has the Vocabulary of a Well-Educated Sailor. Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 17, 2017
    Messages:
    4,886
    Likes Received:
    8,761
    Actually, Moose, a title matters a lot. Most people, myself included, don't want their years of education and professional expertise in their chosen field lumped in with a bunch of people who are recruited for free via an ad for readers. "Consultant" looks a hell of a lot better on one's professional resume in their chosen profession. In my case, and in the case of a film consultant, there's also a lot more involved than reading the manuscript/script*. The title is reflective of a different type of professional service.

    *such as fact checking, set visits, etc.
     
    EFMingo likes this.
  16. big soft moose

    big soft moose An Admoostrator Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

    Joined:
    Aug 1, 2016
    Messages:
    21,342
    Likes Received:
    24,603
    Location:
    East devon/somerset border
    sure but i'm talking about whether beta reader means paid or unpaid - i never mentioned film consultants (although consultant is one of the most over and miss used terms in the history of the written word...)
     
  17. Shenanigator

    Shenanigator Has the Vocabulary of a Well-Educated Sailor. Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 17, 2017
    Messages:
    4,886
    Likes Received:
    8,761
    AKA Consultants and Film Consultants.
     
  18. big soft moose

    big soft moose An Admoostrator Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

    Joined:
    Aug 1, 2016
    Messages:
    21,342
    Likes Received:
    24,603
    Location:
    East devon/somerset border
    true but I'm talking about writing - since this is a writing forum for the discussion of writing.. the ones I mentioned are supplementing their income by providing a fact checking service for writers as informed beta readers.. they are mostly not the same people who act as film consultants.
     
    deadrats likes this.
  19. Shenanigator

    Shenanigator Has the Vocabulary of a Well-Educated Sailor. Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 17, 2017
    Messages:
    4,886
    Likes Received:
    8,761
    Moose...This is getting silly. Breathe, man. Maybe we're having a difference in semantics of title because things are different across the pond. Or perhaps you're just in the mood to argue with me. But I, and many people in various professions use the expertise from our respective professions as fact checkers for novels and as Film Consultants for scripts. The job is very similar for each, with the exception of set visits when the director or production designer wants to know if they have it right.

    Maybe it's different on your side of the pond, but in this town, when people hear the word Beta Reader, it's assumed that person merely read the work and took some notes, and has not done any of the extra services a fact checker or consultant would do. And our respective titles and billable hours reflect that.

    Got anything else to quibble about? I'm done.
     
    Veloci-Rapture and EFMingo like this.
  20. big soft moose

    big soft moose An Admoostrator Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

    Joined:
    Aug 1, 2016
    Messages:
    21,342
    Likes Received:
    24,603
    Location:
    East devon/somerset border
    Let us agree to differ ... I did not mean to devalue the experience of people such as yourself - merely to point out that one area in which you can pay beta readers is to check your facts - sure you can also (for a probably higher price) hire consultants to perform a deeper service than just reading the book and taking notes, but that wouldn't be beta reading and thus not germane to this thread

    In fact I rarely pay my fact checkers since i have various who do it for free - but if i were dealing with something highly technical where I did not have contact I might pay a beta reader, or hire a consultant depending on the importance to the plot
     
    jannert and Shenanigator like this.
  21. matwoolf

    matwoolf Banned Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 21, 2012
    Messages:
    6,629
    Likes Received:
    10,135
    Location:
    Yorkshire
    In the OP's shoes -

    ...in many ways I am in the OP's shoes...asides from my 'fame/beauty' and such.

    What I should do, and what OP 'should do' is get up and visit that "local writers' group" on a Wednesday evening for plenty of feedback, community, back-scratch, beta readers. That is proper effort - reaping tangible results - down the line...

    Instead, oftentimes, well...

    well, personally, I still sniff & spit at the -

    'Pay £600 pa,' those authors' websites...[typically evolved from writer forums]

    ...where 'you shall have access to our professional editors' and 'our 20 years in publishing'...

    ...I mean, I shouldn't be dismissive - they tend to be owned or managed by kind of tier 2 authors [FAILED heeeheeeeheee] offering the type of resources A N Body with any white collar or any education, or a reading background of any description, or knowledge in some kind of fish food manufacturing, or able to vote unassisted might google for themselves...NONETHELESS...they do offer community without much-any effort...for middle-aged people with writer aspirations, or like ancestry websites.

    ...so that's one way to go... ?
    ...
    [I wasn't particularly clear, should delete that crap]

    ARSE POST
     
    Last edited: Sep 9, 2019
  22. Shenanigator

    Shenanigator Has the Vocabulary of a Well-Educated Sailor. Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 17, 2017
    Messages:
    4,886
    Likes Received:
    8,761
    We good. Thank you.

    Shhh! :supergrin:
     
  23. HeathBar

    HeathBar Active Member

    Joined:
    Feb 28, 2019
    Messages:
    143
    Likes Received:
    211
    Sure thing. This is the service I used: https://yourbetareader.com

    I get that services like this might be unnecessary or ill-fitted for many folks, particularly those more entrenched in the writing community. But it was a welcome option for me. I had little luck (and much angst) relying on others to read and wanted feedback from someone other than my spouse. For me, the feedback was easily worth the cost.
     
    deadrats likes this.
  24. LazyBear

    LazyBear Banned

    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2017
    Messages:
    374
    Likes Received:
    231
    Location:
    Uppsala, Sweden
    My experience
    One reader I had actually liked reading the book, but didn't have much to offer in terms of feedback.
    Another was slightly different in taste and disliked things that others had liked the most.

    Selection
    The hardest is to find your target group without ending up with someone who just say "perfect". If it's all positive, at least get specifics about which parts have a hook. If too far off, it will steer into another type of book but might still have good feedback about pacing, narrator voice and the ability to understand.

    This is close to the problem of selecting training data for deep learning, so clearly there's a risk of over-fitting to a certain reader's own bias. In AI, this requires more test cases (beta readers) and a better generalization (by figuring out why they like/dislike it). Keeping a checklist from feedback that made sense before allow keeping them with you when you're writing alone in the same style.

    Before getting a beta reader
    * Use a grammar checker just to prevent them from sending a list of obvious typos instead of valuable feedback. It's a huge distraction to some even if you tell them to ignore it.
    * Double check facts. They won't.
    * Don't narrate as the opposite sex unless you're really good at writing, I can easily tell when something is written by a man or woman. A guy had to throw away a whole book because he tried to write from female perspective on his own.
    * Get early feedback on concepts and drafts from a writing partner before wandering off a thousand miles in the wrong direction. Especially if you're new at writing and often gets corrected.
    * Take some free online lessons in what others have pointer out as your weakness. Make it your new strength.
     
    jannert likes this.
  25. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    17,674
    Likes Received:
    19,876
    Location:
    Scotland
    I agree with you on most of these ...well, all of them, although there are a few tips I've never used myself, such as getting feedback on concepts and drafts. Nobody ever gets even a sniff of my story till I think it's done! :)

    I think a good concept to keep in mind is this (I'm using the generic 'you,' here ...not 'you, Lazy Bear!) : Your beta reader is a READER, not an editor.

    Don't give them copy you know needs lots of correction. Correct the flaws yourself, first, if you know the flaws are there. Give your beta what you think is a perfect piece of work and see how they react to it.

    Of course then you should pay attention to what they tell you. Don't go into instant defensive mode, vigorously defending every writing choice you made that they don't like. But don't be in too big a rush to do everything they suggest, either. You can get very led astray by this sort of response. Let what they say sink in. Give it time. If it makes perfect sense to you, go ahead and work on it. If it gives you a few niggling doubts, go away and think about it.

    One of the things I ALWAYS pay attention to is if a reader has missed something in my story. They missed that the boy they see standing by the lake in Chapter 30 is the same boy they saw riding a horse down the road in Chapter 4. It's not enough to say, "But I made it clear that was the same boy." Maybe you thought you did, but the connection obviously didn't stick. So go back, add a couple more lines to the earlier horse scene—make that scene more memorable—so that when the same boy turns up again in Chapter 30 the reader will definitely remember him.

    These are the kinds of things a beta is SO useful for. They bridge that gap between what you thought you wrote, and what you actually wrote. It's pretty easy then, to tweak the story so it works better.

    I'd be wary of people who say "I don't like that character." The temptation may be to get spooked and try to change the character. Instead ...keep the character as he is, but strive to portray him as more likeable, if you want the reader to like him. (Obviously if you don't want the reader to like him, you've done your job to perfection. :) )
     
    deadrats likes this.

Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.
    Dismiss Notice