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Thread: What is a beta reader?

  1. #1
    practical experience, FTW
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    What is a beta reader?

    Showing my newbie-ness here, but what is a beta reader?

  2. #2
    Tumhe na koci puujetha Death Wizard's Avatar
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    A beta reader is someone who reads your work with the aim of helping you to improve it (content, grammar, punctuation, what works/what doesn't) before your work is published. At least, that would be my definition.



    Author of The Death Wizard Chronicles, a six-book epic fantasy. Book 1 (Forged In Death) is now available for purchase on bellebooks.com, amazon.com and other venues. Also, Book 2 (Chained By Fear) is now available here, Book 3 (Shadowed by Demons) is here and Book 4 (Torn by War) is here. And a pair of DW short stories (Torg's First Death and The Black Fortress) also is available for free.

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  3. #3
    A Suburban Farmer Thrillride's Avatar
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    To add to the definition - A critiquer/critique group (or critter) is most often used along the way to a finished piece, be it a novel or short-story or what-have-you.

    You might have a critter look at a slightly rough draft of a chapter or page(s). In most of the writer circles I come a cross, a beta-reader is usually a term saved for the person(s) that looks at the whole draft of a novel or a completed story or poem.

    Seems like it's easier to find critters as opposed to true beta-readers if only because often a beta is committing to reading and critting an entire piece of work that could very well be in a novel form. Big undertaking in some cases.

    This is not to say that someone who crits for you can't do exactly the same thing or vice-versa (tomato/tomahto in truth). It just seems to me that once a critter is asked to read the entire manuscript to prepare it to go out into the cold world, the critter gets promoted to beta-reader.

    Thrill

  4. #4
    Tumhe na koci puujetha Death Wizard's Avatar
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    Smile

    Quote Originally Posted by Thrillride View Post
    To add to the definition - A critiquer/critique group (or critter) is most often used along the way to a finished piece, be it a novel or short-story or what-have-you.

    You might have a critter look at a slightly rough draft of a chapter or page(s). In most of the writer circles I come a cross, a beta-reader is usually a term saved for the person(s) that looks at the whole draft of a novel or a completed story or poem.

    Seems like it's easier to find critters as opposed to true beta-readers if only because often a beta is committing to reading and critting an entire piece of work that could very well be in a novel form. Big undertaking in some cases.

    This is not to say that someone who crits for you can't do exactly the same thing or vice-versa (tomato/tomahto in truth). It just seems to me that once a critter is asked to read the entire manuscript to prepare it to go out into the cold world, the critter gets promoted to beta-reader.

    Thrill
    What she said. (ha!)



    Author of The Death Wizard Chronicles, a six-book epic fantasy. Book 1 (Forged In Death) is now available for purchase on bellebooks.com, amazon.com and other venues. Also, Book 2 (Chained By Fear) is now available here, Book 3 (Shadowed by Demons) is here and Book 4 (Torn by War) is here. And a pair of DW short stories (Torg's First Death and The Black Fortress) also is available for free.

    www.jim-melvin.com; www.amazon.com/author/jimmelvin; www.deathwizardchronicles.blogspot.com; facebook

    "It is better to conquer yourself than to win a thousand battles. Then the victory is yours. It cannot be taken from you, not by angels or by demons, heaven or hell." -- The Buddha

  5. #5
    A Suburban Farmer Thrillride's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by deathwizard View Post
    What she said. (ha!)

    Deathwizard, I like you already.

  6. #6
    practical experience, FTW
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    Thank you!

  7. #7
    Resident Curmudgeon Requiescat In Pace ResearchGuy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by birdfeeder View Post
    Showing my newbie-ness here, but what is a beta reader?
    In software development, the term "beta tester" refers to a person who tries out a program to evaluate how well it works, identify bugs in actual use, and so on, before it is commercially released. That is a step beyond the "alpha tester," who is testing software at an earlier stage, not much past prototype.

    I would read "beta reader" as analogous to "beta tester." That is, the beta reader is evaluating a piece of writing after a couple of stages of development--not a rough draft. Not ready for the public, but already edited and polished by the author and perhaps subjected to earlier, more conceptual comments that the author has addressed.

    IMHO FWIW.

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  8. #8
    Five by Five katiemac's Avatar
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    Although the main concept of a beta reader is the same, many people have different ideas about what they actually want in their beta readers. So, to eliminate confusion and stay on the same page, it's best for an author and a beta reader to discuss how the relationship is going to work.

  9. #9
    practical experience, FTW
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    Thanks, Research Guy and KatieMac!

    Research Guy--Your definition was along the lines I had thought, but I wanted to be sure. (Don't want to show my ignorance if I hear the term in an actual conversation!)

  10. #10
    figuring it all out dropsofjup2's Avatar
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    Collaborative Writing and Beta Readers

    So where do we hook up to Collaborative Writing Groups? I'd like the scenarios played out and be a part of it. My experience of such teams are what keep me motivated to continue to do my best. A beta reader is part of the team.
    Carol A. Miller
    Writer/Storyteller
    C. A.Communications
    c.a.communications10@gmail.com

  11. #11
    I just found out that Wikipedia has a really nice article about beta readers, including the new trend of authors thanking beta readers on the acknowledgments pages of their published novels.

  12. #12
    figuring it all out dropsofjup2's Avatar
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    Thanks, for the Wikipedia note, Jamihall. Monsters and mystical creatures have their place in small portions for me.
    Carol A. Miller
    Writer/Storyteller
    C. A.Communications
    c.a.communications10@gmail.com

  13. #13
    Banned for Spamming JacobWorld's Avatar
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    hi mate

    I reckon I qualify for a beta reader , just stared my reading but I love it
    Mostly I read about travel

  14. #14
    figuring it all out CCE's Avatar
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    I can't help it! I LIKE my own work.
    Chelle Cordero
    combining Passion & Suspense

  15. #15
    I'm a grrrl dog, yo Greenwolf103's Avatar
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    So a critter is someone who reads part of a manuscript to offer feedback, and a beta reads the whole thing? Am I reading this right?
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  16. #16
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    Question: Could people come in and gain trust here and pose as Beta readers, but their purpose is to steal ideas? Don't be offended, it's just a question that came to mind and I thought it was worth asking!

  17. #17
    Beware of the Thorns! Gray Rose's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by PeekABooWriter View Post
    Question: Could people come in and gain trust here and pose as Beta readers, but their purpose is to steal ideas? Don't be offended, it's just a question that came to mind and I thought it was worth asking!

    PeekabooWriter: this topic was recently beaten to death here:
    http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/...d.php?t=112254

    Ideas are a dime a dozen.
    There are very few original ideas out there.The idea of "betas stealing ideas" is kind of funny actually. Execution is everything. Your actual manuscript is copyrighted the moment you write it.

    While I heard some beginning writers express concern that beta readers might steal their work, I have never actually heard of that happening. I might be wrong.

    To be sure, don't send your work to beta readers you don't trust. If a person has nothing in their profile and has not posted anything on these boards, I personally wouldn't send my stuff to her/him. If you read some posts by the people who offer to beta-read your work, you will, no doubt, be able to judge whether they are trustworthy.

    Remember, it is also a huge leap of faith for a beta to take on your work. After all, they are committing their time and effort for free to read a work that might not be their cuppa / badly written, and thus are also risking conflict with the writer.

    good luck!
    Rose

  18. #18
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    Not all ideas are a dime a dozen, but I do understand what you're saying for sure! Thanks for answering. I appreciate your viewpoint!

  19. #19
    figuring it all out Staceyp67's Avatar
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    I am so glad that someone asked what a beta reader was because I was dying to know. Thanks birdfeeder for asking and thanks to everyone else for providing an answer. Now I am "in the know!"
    Last edited by Staceyp67; 03-03-2009 at 11:16 PM. Reason: Another thought

  20. #20
    At least I don't need backing-up Samantha's_Song's Avatar
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    I call myself a beta-reader:
    I will only accept whole MS's; no bit parts and no odd chapters here and there. I couldn't settle myself into something that isn't a whole; it wouldn't get my undivided attention.
    The author has to think that their work is ready for the querying stage for me to think it's worth my while taking it on.

    I drive a hard bargain and am quite brutal at times, but most of the recipients seem happy with what they get back from me.







  21. #21
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    Beta reader wanted

    I am writing my first book. The subject is youth soccer for new parents and coaches. I am basing the book on my experiences as a youth soccer coach, who started out as a dumb parent and navigated my way through the world of youth soccer, eventually coaching competitive teams and even being a referee. I did this for 18 years and have a lot of thoughts on the subject and good (I think) advice for new parents and coaches who enter into youth soccer.

    I am about 60% done with the first draft. It is in MS Word. I have been looking ahead to POD publishers, editing services, etc. I will need a lot of help with editing, marketing, and everything that goes along with putting a book on the shelf. Don't want to spend a ton of money, though. Maybe $1500 or so to get the book done. Most of the basic packages at POD services (Dog Ear, Mill City Press, Iuniverse) are within that range.

    I am doing this for self satisfaction, and have a lot to say about the subject. I am not in this for the money or recognition. I would like to eventually cover my costs.

    I will have a few comments from "experts" that I know, but mostly it is my opinion based on my personal experiences.

    I have seen here where there are "beta readers" who will review your MS and make suggestions. This might be very helpful for me. I expect the book to have about 200 pages, if I can trim it down that much. Like I said, I have a lot to say. I tend to be wordy to put it nice, so I am sure someone can cut it down after I am done.

    Is anyone interested in being a beta reader for this project? Should I wait until the whole MS is done in first draft, or is it good to do it in sections as it progresses? As I understand, beta readers do this for free. Is that so? If not, maybe I could work something out with a qualified person who is interested.

    Again, I know nothing about writing, publishing, but I do know a lot about my subject.

    I appreciate any suggestions related to my writing or my book. Any takers on being a beta reader?
    Paul

  22. #22
    Back in the Saddle Again... diGriz's Avatar
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    Getting back to the topic at hand, Beta Readers are volunteers (most of the time), or who have the education but are looking to pick up experience as they launch into career paths such as copy editors, editors, associates, publishers, etc.

    At least that's what we qualified the term when I learned about beta readers back in the mid '80s.

    First rule: Be nice to your Beta Readers... they do it out of the love of reading. Doesn't hurt to throw a little compensation their way, either...

    Remember a good editor (or freelance editor) these days can run you between $35 to $90 / hr for about 6 - 10 pages. So if you're looking to have a beta reader look over a 400 page novel, understand the cost can run into the $1000s.

    Here's my question... Be honest, ladies and gents. How many beta readers have you used on 1 given project?

  23. #23
    Cover Me! Lainey Bancroft's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ResearchGuy View Post

    I would read "beta reader" as analogous to "beta tester." That is, the beta reader is evaluating a piece of writing after a couple of stages of development--not a rough draft. Not ready for the public, but already edited and polished by the author and perhaps subjected to earlier, more conceptual comments that the author has addressed.

    IMHO FWIW.

    --Ken
    Ditto, Ken. That is my understanding of 'beta' as well.

  24. #24
    Not-so-new PortableHal's Avatar
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    Ditto to both Ken and Lainey, as far as I'm concerned.

    A side note: Lainey was a fantastic beta reader for a project of mine. She was knowledgeable, tremendously helpful, absolutely wonderful.

    I am a Lainey Bancroft fan.

  25. #25
    Five by Five katiemac's Avatar
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    We've gone far enough into derail territory. Let's return to the discussion. I'll probably end up removing these posts from this thread, anyway, as I like to keep the stickies informative.

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