1. LastMindToSanity

    LastMindToSanity Contributor Contributor

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    What Are Beta Readers?

    Discussion in 'The Lounge' started by LastMindToSanity, Feb 21, 2018.

    Okay, I can't post in the Collaboration forum for whatever reason, so I guess I'm doing it here.

    What are Beta Readers? Like, could someone please explain it to me in depth? I get that they read the rough drafts of stories, but do they cost money? How can you find one that you can trust? How does the whole process work?

    Thanks in advance!
     
  2. CoyoteKing

    CoyoteKing Good Boi Contributor

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    WHAT THEY ARE:

    A beta reader is a person who reads your book (for free) and gives you constructive criticism to help you improve the book.

    The criticism they give you can be anything. They can point out technical problems, grammar issues, or major plot issues. Basically... it's literally just a person who reads your book and gives you their opinion on it. Maybe you're capitalizing words incorrectly, so they explain the rules of capitalization. Maybe you have a big kiss scene that's supposed to be romantic-- but the scene is boring, so they point it out and try to help you make it more exciting.

    Different beta readers will give you different kinds of criticism. Me, for example... I help with pacing, plot, and character development.

    DO YOU PAY THEM?

    No. If you pay them, they're not a beta reader, they're a professional editor. You do not pay betas. They are usually amateurs, like you. Usually, a beta reads your work either because they like the book and want to read it, or because you're "swapping" (helping them in return).

    HOW YOU GET ONE

    It's complicated.

    Basically... you just sort of know people and ask. Let's say you hang out on this forum for a while. You get to know people. You post your first chapter in the Workshop and get some help on it. Eventually, you start to become friendly with some of the other posters here. One day you post asking for a beta. Mary Beth knows you and likes you, she's seen your work and she's interested in it, so she offers to help you. Mary Beth has her own book she needs help with, so you offer to help her with it in return.

    Or maybe the opposite happens. You notice someone needs help, so you offer to help them. Later, they offer to help you. (Keep in mind, though, that just because you helped someone doesn't automatically mean they have to help you. They may not have time to help you, or they might not like your work.)

    You can also ask people in real life to help you. My partner reads all of my work and gives me his opinion on it.

    It can take time to find a beta that's compatible with you.
     
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  3. LastMindToSanity

    LastMindToSanity Contributor Contributor

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    Thanks for the help!
     
  4. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin A tombstone hand and a graveyard mind Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Yeah, what @CoyoteKing said. Basically a beta is somebody who reads your book not for pleasure or entertainment but to help you on a structural level as a writer. You can have your spouse, mother, or BFF read your book but they're not likely to help you much on a dispassionate, business level. Betas read it with a mission to help you improve... not to stroke your ego.
     
  5. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale Guardian-eating, tofu-reading dormivitus Supporter Contributor

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    Basically, what we do in the workshop is beta reading, but if you're writing something longer than a thousand or two words, you're not likely to get someone willing to just drop in and offer critiques. However, the workshop can be a good place to scout for potential betas in that you can find people whose sensibilities agree with yours, and also get a look, through their work, at their abilities as writers. That isn't to say that every good writer would be a good beta reader, but if you find someone whom you feel has serious issues with SPAG, storytelling, whatever, they probably won't be the best one to help you with your work.
     
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  6. NobodySpecial

    NobodySpecial Contributor Contributor

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    The reason you haven’t been able to post in the collab forum is you’re shy on the posting requirments. According to the about thread you need 90 days membership and 100 posts. As the forum is for non comercial situations only, I’d assume that’s partly to help prevent any dastardly scabs from posting paid services.
     
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  7. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll It's Coffee O'clock everywhere. Contributor

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    A Beta reader is a highly intelligent fish, that has been genetically
    enhanced to read and give feed back. :p

    Nah, it is basically what @CoyoteKing said.

    And @NobodySpecial seems to have peered into da-rulez that
    keep this place from falling to utter chaos.
     
  8. NobodySpecial

    NobodySpecial Contributor Contributor

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    The aspect of betas that hasn’t been mentioned is trust. Not trust that your beta reader won’t steal your work, but that you’ll be given brutally honest critique and evaluation.
    You can ask your beta for specific things- ‘did I leave any plot holes?’ ‘are my characters real enough?’ ‘are my diversions too obvious?’- just asking how is it usually doesn’t help much, that’s where betas come in. By the time you get to a beta reader you should have most, if not all, SPAG issues corrected. If your betas are overwhelmed with those errors, they won’t be able to concentrate on what you’re looking for, so make sure your work is ready for a beta. Send work that’s not too often and you may have trouble keeping good readers willing to work with you.

    Beyond the trust, there’s a matter of mutual respect and courtesy(of only presenting beta ready work). They read for you- you return the favor and the honor of reading for them. That’s how they get paid.
     
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  9. LastMindToSanity

    LastMindToSanity Contributor Contributor

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    Quick question, Nobody, what do you mean by SPAG? I'm horribly new to writing for a purpose and I've never been good at jargon. Thanks in advance.
     
  10. izzybot

    izzybot (unspecified) Contributor

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    It stands for 'spelling, punctuation, and grammar'.
     
  11. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale Guardian-eating, tofu-reading dormivitus Supporter Contributor

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    Also, and correct me if I'm wrong, but on this forum the term "alpha reader" seems to be used for someone who is willing to help you out when you're concerned about SPAG. If that's what you're asking for help with though (not saying that you need it, but to anyone reading this), make sure you're very clear in telling your reader that, otherwise you might lose them quickly.
     
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  12. CoyoteKing

    CoyoteKing Good Boi Contributor

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    I’ve always understood that “alpha reader” means a person that helps you before the story is really nailed down. So you might work with them chapter by chapter while you write, or you might bounce ideas off them, or talk over the story structure before its written.

    I could be wrong, though.
     
  13. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man or BayView

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    Yeah, this. The SPAG issue @Iain Aschendale refers to is more that alpha readers shouldn't expect the SPAG to be spot-on, whereas betas should expect a relatively clean copy - some typos and mistakes will always slip through, but it shouldn't be every page. Alphas usually ignore the SPAG, understanding that the author will do a thorough polish when the story is nailed down. Unless the author writes cleanly to begin with, it would be far too much to ask an alpha to correct SPAG.
     
  14. big soft moose

    big soft moose An Admoostrator Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    When I say alpha reader I mean someone who reads my stuff on a chapter by chapter basis while I'm working on it rather than waiting for a complete work ....

    My copy for betas is moderately clean - in that its legible and free of awful spelling but IMO trying to get it perfect is pointless since the work will be altered again after the beta read , and again after the editor ,

    I tend to leave spag for the end as there's no point in doing a lot of line by line editing of punctuation on stuff that might get cut .... I guess a proof read would be a delta reader .... but in general I call them a proof reader to avoid confusion.

    ( I would say that I usually make this clear when i'm asking for Beta's so that anyone who volunteers knows what they are getting)
     
    Last edited: Mar 9, 2018
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  15. big soft moose

    big soft moose An Admoostrator Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Incidentally the reason the Op can't post on the collab forum is that that requires 90 days membership and 100 posts
     
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  16. JLT

    JLT Contributor Contributor

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    I've used at least four beta readers apiece for my books. They are people I know who have an interest in the subject, so they can catch some of my misperceptions. Some correct spelling, some will offer useful insights, others will underline or highlight a segment and ask me "What are you trying to say here?"

    That last aspect, in my opinion, is the most valuable service a beta reader can offer. When we write, we know what we mean to, and can read a sentence fifty times and not catch an ambiguity. The beta reader approaches the work with fresh eyes. The reader doesn't have to be a professional editor (although it helps if they are), but they have to be proficient enough at reading to hold you to a certain standard of clarity.
     
  17. Catrin Lewis

    Catrin Lewis Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Something else a beta reader can do is help you define your target audience. Some betas will start your novel, then decide they don't want to go any further. It could be your writing (we all have to be open to that), but it could just be that they're just not fans of what your novel turned out to be.

    And I could move this post to Collaboration for you, if you like. I could do it right now, but maybe, to keep all things kosher, I'll wait till you've achieved your 90/100.
     
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  18. LastMindToSanity

    LastMindToSanity Contributor Contributor

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    Thanks for the offer, but I don't think you have to go through the trouble. I think I have all the answers I need by now, including the one you just wrote (Thanks for that, I never would have considered it). Anyway, it's still a question that could belong to The Lounge, so I don't think it would make much of a difference if it moved.

    Once again, thanks for the offer (As well as the explanation), but I think I'll decline.
     
  19. Moon

    Moon Waking Contributor

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    That one person you keep in the basement to read your drafts. Make sure you keep them well fed and read.
     
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  20. honey hatter

    honey hatter Banned

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    This is all extremely useful. Interesting idea. Not the basement though, perhaps a guest room with fuzzy cuffs.Perhaps they can sit for one reading and then keep me well fed.
    I might consider taking only a little, if the pretty one like Scheherazade from Arabian nights told me a thousand and one tales.
     

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