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PattiTheWicked
07-17-2005, 12:16 AM
I'm wondering what you all think of this...

I'm preparing to send out my ms to four beta readers. I've considered doing it via email, as they are all people I trust, but the small paranoid part of me is saying "No! Send hard copies only!"

How do the rest of you get copies to your beta readers?

Birol
07-17-2005, 12:28 AM
My betas are members of my writing group and I e-mail them what I want them to read. I have friends who are willing to serve as a betas, too, should I feel the need to run it past any non-writers. I would e-mail the manuscript to them as well. Those who have used me as a beta or asked me for a crit have also e-mailed the manuscript to me.

It doesn't matter what form you send the manuscript to them in. Either you trust them or you don't.

PattiTheWicked
07-17-2005, 12:36 AM
It doesn't matter what form you send the manuscript to them in. Either you trust them or you don't.

Cool. That's what I was hoping to hear.

Do you send them the entire ms at once, or do you do it in bits and pieces? In the past, I simply handed out chapters as they were completed, but I'm not sure that worked so well, in retrospect.

Shai
07-17-2005, 12:47 AM
If you're going to email the manuscript and have some concerns, you could make it into a PDF first so that the text cannot easily be copied or manipulated, or even printed. If you aren't able to make PDFs, you could lock the file with Word (Tools > Protect Document).

Birol
07-17-2005, 01:30 AM
Do you send them the entire ms at once, or do you do it in bits and pieces? In the past, I simply handed out chapters as they were completed, but I'm not sure that worked so well, in retrospect.

I'm still working on finishing my first novel, meaning so far, the writing group has only seen bits and pieces of mine, but we have discovered that sending out the entire manuscript works best for us. It lets us read it as one complete work and stops us from speculating how the author is going to use a seemingly trivial detail later. Then we break it into chunks for critting purposes.

Nateskate
07-17-2005, 01:36 AM
Generally I'll give sample chapters in hard copy. But I've emailed to others. It depends on the size of the document, because most of them want to print it out and read it.

PattiTheWicked
07-17-2005, 01:49 AM
If you're going to email the manuscript and have some concerns, you could make it into a PDF first so that the text cannot easily be copied or manipulated, or even printed. If you aren't able to make PDFs, you could lock the file with Word (Tools > Protect Document).

Well, when one of them said to me, "What if my kids accidentally types over it when I step away from the computer, and then I can't read what you wrote?" we decided it could just send it as a read only file. I'm not really worried about any of these folks copying it, because I trust them.

I didnt' know what the standard protocol was, because I've never sent a ms in its entirety before. It's always been bits and pieces here and there. Seems much more practical to email it than printing out five copies of 375 pages.

Birol
07-17-2005, 01:56 AM
More practical for you, yes. ;) Your betas may prefer hard copies. I do. But I also don't want to wait for the mail to receive it -- I'm impatient that way -- so I print it out in chunks on my own and carry it around with me. I think most of my writing group does the same, but I can't be certain. I'd have to ask. I'm pretty positive none of them have the patience to wait for postal mail. As soon as one of us reaches The End, the clamoring starts.

If their kids type over it, you could always just send the copy to them again. It's not like they'll have the master copy.

maestrowork
07-17-2005, 02:16 AM
Most of my betas prefer to read hard copies (either print it out or have it in the mail). But for speed I usually just send them a PDF. They'd either print out a few chapters at a time to read or the whole thing and put it in a binder... but it's up to them.


For my crit group, I send them a formatted word file (not the original) so they can comment on it (using Word's collaboration tools).

katdad
07-17-2005, 04:47 PM
By "Beta" readers, I assume they are 2nd line readers, since Beta is secondary.

Who are your Alpha readers (besides yourself, of course)?

As far as sending hard copy, don't worry -- it's copyrighted, isn't it?

Myself, I don't have "readers" per se, because every time I've sent something to a person to read, I get all sorts of misdirection and oblique criticism.

This doesn't mean that I don't value friends' criticism -- I just don't know if it's for the best. Often they will want me to be writing a totally different story (true crime, SF, fantasy) when I'm actually writing hardboiled private eye.

I depend on my agent for doing all the "beta" reading. If he likes it, I'm happy. If he sends it back with commentary, I'm gonna take his feedback seriously. Thus far, everything he's recommended has improved my writing I think).

Jamesaritchie
07-19-2005, 01:45 AM
By "Beta" readers, I assume they are 2nd line readers, since Beta is secondary.



I think pretty much everyone assumes the writer is the Alpha reader. All those I know who use the term "beta readers" means whoever is next in line after the writer.

But I'm like you. I don't use beta readers. Never have liked the kind of feedback they give. Agents and editors have always been my beta readeres, and it's worked out fine, and has been far less frustrating.

Button
07-19-2005, 02:06 AM
If I'm going to critic, I'd rather have the whole thing and a hard copy so I can use a red or blue pen and mark all over it. :p

I like for someone else to go over it just once. One person is enough for me so I don't have like ten different people saying ten different things. Just someone to catch my mistakes. I prefer using someone who has actually been through the publishing process and is working on my genre to give me feed back. Yes I know, competition but hey, we're all in this together.

Mistook
07-19-2005, 03:53 AM
I think that "beta" refers to the draft that's being read. In software circles, the beta version of an application is one that is ready to be tested in real environments, but with the knowledge that there are bugs to be worked out.

People who test the beta version are known as beta testers.

So I guess an alpha reader would be the consumer. The alpha version of your MS being the one on the shelf at the bookstore.

Jamesaritchie
07-19-2005, 04:13 AM
I think that "beta" refers to the draft that's being read. In software circles, the beta version of an application is one that is ready to be tested in real environments, but with the knowledge that there are bugs to be worked out.

People who test the beta version are known as beta testers.

So I guess an alpha reader would be the consumer. The alpha version of your MS being the one on the shelf at the bookstore.

Alpha comes before beta, doesn't it. All the writers I know who use beta readers do so long, long before the manuscript is published. They send out the fiished, polised manuscript to beta readers just before sending it out to an agent.

PattiTheWicked
07-19-2005, 08:37 AM
Alpha comes before beta, doesn't it. All the writers I know who use beta readers do so long, long before the manuscript is published. They send out the fiished, polised manuscript to beta readers just before sending it out to an agent.

That's the point I'm at now. It's gone through as many revisions as I can do to it, and it's the best it's ever been. I'm pretty damn happy with it. But I figure before I send it out to the agents on my Short List, I should have four or five avid readers go through it. I'm not expecting things like, "Oh, well, what if you made the lawyer into an astronaut, and instead of having it rain on page 142, I think there should be an earthquake and some flying monkeys, and could you put some kittens in there because I like kittens?" Mostly what I'm hoping for is "Well, here's the parts I really liked, but these parts here confused me/bored me/could be stronger/really sucked/whatever." I figure if more than two of them have the same concerns about the same areas, then it might be something worth re-evaluating. Once I get feedback from my reader-types, I'll send it to agents.

I've never heard of anyone refer to an alpha reader before. In this house, the only alpha is Gypsy the Giant Calico Spider-Killer.

And I've decided that if my betas want hard copy, they can have it, or if they want it emailed, they can have that too.

Thanks to all for your advice.

NicoleJLeBoeuf
07-19-2005, 10:21 AM
Alpha comes before beta, doesn't it....I do believe that is the case for programming--the "alpha" version comes even before the version intended for "beta testing". But I don't know who the alpha testers are. Maybe they're the company's Quality Assurance department.

I suppose that if we want to stick with the analogy to programming, then we'd call the version of the book that's on the bookstore shelf the "gold" release--getting published would be "going gold." And then if there's a second edition, we could call it the "upgrade." I shudder to think under what situation a publisher might release a "patch"...

reph
07-19-2005, 10:27 AM
I shudder to think under what situation a publisher might release a "patch"...
The situation that calls for an errata sheet.

Errors make me shudder, too.

NicoleJLeBoeuf
07-19-2005, 10:35 AM
The situation that calls for an errata sheet.Do novels even get errata sheets?

Patch Release Notes And Installation Instructions: "We apologize for the glaring printing errors on pages 33 through 64 inclusive. Upon receipt of the patch, simply rip the erroneous pages out of your softcoverware and glue in the replacement folios. Again, we apologize for the inconvenience."

reph
07-19-2005, 10:50 AM
Do novels even get errata sheets?
I guess not, but some of them should. "In Chapter 14, delete the description of Misty's pink dinner suit. Misty wore jeans and a gray sweatshirt in Chapter 13 and had no time to change."

Mistook
07-19-2005, 10:54 AM
From http://www.loony-archivist.com/ptcarchive/beta_readers.html


The term "Beta Reader" originated in computer software. "Beta Testers" and "Beta Readers" were those individuals who reviewed software before its release, to check for bugs, critique ease of use, and basically test it to make sure it's something that should be loosed upon the world. Online fan fiction adopted the term several years ago to refer to volunteer copy and content editors who preview a story and provide critical and constructive feedback to help the author whip a story into shape before it is loosed upon the world.

A beta reader should be someone with a strong grasp of the mechanics of writing, but need not be a writer. However, a certain level of knowledge regarding spelling, grammar, pacing, plotting, and copy and content editing is required in order to truly help a writer edit his or her work before he or she publishes it to a mailing list, newsgroup, fanzine, archive, or website.

Line and content editing are vital, but at the very least, a beta reader should be able to:

Tell you what's working, and why
Tell you what's not working, why, and give suggestions on how to fix it
Beta readers who simply volunteer because they wish to be the first to receive new fiction, without providing critical and editorial feedback, are frankly a waste of time and should be avoided. Beta reading takes an enormous amount of time and effort, and a skilled beta reader is the author's greatest asset.



This page lists several other links for further research.




And, according to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alpha_version , and drawing the parallell to novel writing, the unfinished MS would be "Pre-Alpha". The finished, but unpolished MS would be your "Alpha", and the polished version would be the "Beta" or "test" manuscript.

gp101
07-19-2005, 11:18 AM
An agent as your beta would be great. But not everyone is fortunate enough to have an agent, and I think for folks like us, a person who just likes to read a lot can still be valuable. I use mostly just avid readers who can't produce a paragraph of their own; they just like to read. I ask them what they like what they don't like, where it gets boring, where it gets exciting. If I know the person really well, I also ask what they think about the characters (do they all seem/speak the same), was the opening a good hook, was the ending satisfying.

I think it's real important to obtain beta readers like you obtain agents: find ones that like the kind of subject matter you write. A fantasy reader might find it a chore to read my crime novel, after all, and will find certain passages completely boring or unnecessary or trashy when a reader of crime might find those passages very satisfying.

Try not to send it out the second you type "THE END" unless you're under a deadline and need immediate feedback because you're at a crossroads with the clock ticking (as happened to me recently). Read it over a few times and make your own grammar/typo corrections so as not to aggravate the reader. Then all your beta reader has to do is tell you whether or not they liked it, and if they're really good, they'll tell you why. If they can point out flaws in the plot or problems with continuity, that's gravy. Character analysis?--they make the Christmas list.

I'll probably continue to use a couple of my current beta's even after I get an agent. They've proved valuable before, and I'd want the agent to see my best.

PattiTheWicked
07-19-2005, 06:21 PM
I guess not, but some of them should. "In Chapter 14, delete the description of Misty's pink dinner suit. Misty wore jeans and a gray sweatshirt in Chapter 13 and had no time to change."

Or maybe it would be like soap operas, where a character is suddenly replaced by a new actor, and they do that really serious sounding voiceover.

"Today, the role of Misty Cummerbund will be played by Taffy LaTreene."

batgirl
07-20-2005, 01:54 AM
[QUOTE=NicoleJLeBoeuf]Do novels even get errata sheets? QUOTE]

They can, on occasion. They used to be commoner than now, and much commoner for non-fiction. And it is called an erratum or errata sheet, quite right.
It is (or was) a loose slip of paper, half or quarter page size (roughly) usually tucked in at the title or half-title page, with notes like:
"on p.164, "sounds" should read "seconds"
"the captions for the illustrations between pp.80 and 81 have been transposed."
I haven't seen one for a while, so they may belong to the days of typesetting and sewn signatures.

The term 'beta reader' comes from fanfiction, I think, and is derived from the concept of 'beta tester'. Being a useful concept, it has migrated into profic.

-Barbara

Jamesaritchie
07-20-2005, 03:13 AM
An agent as your beta would be great. But not everyone is fortunate enough to have an agent, .

You don't really have to have an agent. If you send one sample chapters, she becomes your beta reader.

My problem with beta readers is that, from my experience, they help those most who need help the least. If seen too many new writers over the years who listened to beta readers, even when those readers were dead wrong. At least an agent stands a good chance of being right.

Though I greatly prefer listening to editors. An editor has a checkbook, and that carries far more weight with me than any reader who lacks same.

jules
07-21-2005, 01:10 AM
My personal take is that you gain more from being a beta reader than having betas read your books -- going over somebody else's text like that can really give you an insight into the kind of errors you might be making. Then you read your own manuscript, and you can see them.

maestrowork
07-21-2005, 01:19 AM
Alphas are yourself and/or your co-writers, maybe even an editor who works closely with you. Once you've finished a draft, put it aside of a while, then read it as a reader and read it out loud -- you are now your own alpha reader.

Betas are first and foremost READERS. They are the first people who will read your books with a reader's eye. They're your test audience. Once you have a second or third draft done, send it out to your betas.