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Thread: What is a beta reader?

  1. #26
    Lost in School Work icerose's Avatar
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    To answer the original question.

    A beta reader is a person who reads a book before it starts being shopped around.

    What a beta reader does ranges depending on the beta and it also depends on the stage your story is. The rougher or more off mark it is, the broader the comments are going to be in my experience.

    Some read and simply give a basic reply, my own recently told me to basically stay the hell out of children's writing and stick to genres where I could torture puppies. It was a strong remark and got the point across, my book isn't appropriate for the age group I was trying to gear it toward, that is my fault and I don't know if it's something I can fix or if I'll end up gearing it toward an older audience where it's okay to go deeper and darker.

    There is the beta that will talk about your voice, structure, characters and so forth. The big elements. The elements that if you don't have nailed down your whole story won't work. And those need to be fixed first before you focus on anything little.

    If your work is just about there and you need tweaks, then that's the comments you'll recieve. You'll recieve the nits and missed word and grammar fixes if that's the beta's specialty. You'll get the minor changes and adjustments, shifts in POV's those kinds of things.

    So what a beta does partially rests on the beta who volunteers but mostly rests on you as a writer and where you've taken your story.

    Hope that helps.

    WHat a beta isn't.

    A beta isn't your personal editor or slave. They are not someone whom you should degrade or talk back to in any way. They are volunteering their time. Ask them questions? Absolutely. Combat them? No. If you don't agree with what they're saying at least attempt to look into the whys. Why are they saying they don't like your main character. You might not have agreed with their suggested fix, but you might be able to see the reason they're saying it and how to fix it to your own satisfaction. They aren't ghost writers, it is not their job to rewrite your work.

    Betas are fantastic, but they have lives of their own.
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  2. #27
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    Quote Originally Posted by birdfeeder View Post
    what is a beta reader?
    A beta reader is someone an author uses to critique and provide feedback on their writing after it has been completed in the rough draft but prior to the final editing and submission stages.

  3. #28
    SSSSShhhhh! I'm taking a nap! narcolepticgi's Avatar
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    I found this thread quite useful, thanks to all who participate. I'll be seeking beta readers very soon for RISING FROM THE ASHES.This is a Fantasy-Fiction with embedded graphics.
    It is in the final stages of editing. I've always had trouble correcting my own work, but I'm learning to focus...somewhat.
    I was published June 2008 by :-( Pub...PPublis...OMG :-( I'm so embarassed...Publish America) there I said those awful words, please don't tar and feather me!!

    Rising from the Ashes is my way of moving on and I've had a wonderful time writing the story. Makes me warm and fuzzy inside :-)
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  4. #29
    permaflounced
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    A beta reader is what I expect from anyone who critiques my work. They read it and offer all types of advice. They behave more like somebody you can go out to coffee with.

    Everybody else, get ready to rumble. No holds barred.

  5. #30
    Girl Detective Stacia Kane's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Newguy1428 View Post

    Everybody else, get ready to rumble. No holds barred.

    What the heck does that mean? "Everybody else" who? Who is reading your work that you didn't give permission to/solicit an opinion from, since as far as I can tell you aren't published anywhere? Are you saying if someone dislikes your work you fight with them about it?

    Part of being a professional writer is learning to accept criticism, critique, and reviews, and learning and accepting that everyone has their own opinion and a review/crit/beta read is just that: one person's opinion. Anyone who reads your work is entitled to express their own opinions on it, just FYI. Especially when you do get published, and people you don't know personally are reading your work, they WILL express those opinions. And if you don't like what they have to say, that's pretty much too bad, because the fastest and best way to make yourself look like a total ass is to attack a reviewer or reader whose opinions you don't agree with.

    Of course, that's assuming one cares about being seen as an ass...
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  6. #31
    Let's see what's on special today.. Bufty's Avatar
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    What utter ignorant nonsense you post.

    You wouldn't know a beta reader if one jumped up and bit you.


    Quote Originally Posted by Newguy1428 View Post
    A beta reader is what I expect from anyone who critiques my work. They read it and offer all types of advice. They behave more like somebody you can go out to coffee with.

    Everybody else, get ready to rumble. No holds barred.
    Everything yields to treatment.

  7. #32
    Moderator AW Moderator Maryn's Avatar
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    Oh, great, another thing I have to worry about, beta readers who bite. Maybe I'd better rethink this...

    Maryn, who's beta-read several novels for AW people, most finding print publication soon after
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  8. #33
    practical experience, FTW MsJudy's Avatar
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    I ain't bit noone yet. But Newguy, you sure make me wish I had Cujo's fangs.
    Last edited by MsJudy; 03-27-2010 at 09:48 PM. Reason: fixed the grammar...
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  9. #34
    Moderator AW Moderator Maryn's Avatar
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    What about his rabies?

    Maryn, thinking ahead
    Pretending I'm a reasonable and pleasant person is utterly exhausting.

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  10. #35
    practical experience, FTW MsJudy's Avatar
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    Ah, now I get it. I wondered why he was always foaming at the mouth...
    represented by Jenny Bent of the Bent Agency. Most happy.

  11. #36
    Moderator AW Moderator Maryn's Avatar
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    I don't recall running into NewGuy elsewhere. So he foams at the mouth? Maybe he's rehearsing for the home-made version of that one scene in Close Encounters, with the toothpaste?

    Maryn, always willing to give people an out
    Pretending I'm a reasonable and pleasant person is utterly exhausting.

    Brick by Brick, a ménage à trois novel (soon to be re-released)
    Taming the Wilde, FemDom spotted--and striped--in the wild
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  12. #37
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin leeblewb's Avatar
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    Thank you for the information. I was also wondering about what exactly a beta-reader does. I am thrilled to have found this site and that people seem to be so supportive of each other, for the most part.
    Leila - mother, wife, doula and presser of the keyboard


  13. #38
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    fromgrandpa norm thanks for all the info on beta's i have written 14 children's adventure books i think a beta that is more interested in this venue would be of more help as they would enjoy rreading it more than a say history buff ?? let me know what you think . never ask directions from a blind man never ask a beggar how to make money never ask a unknown beta to rread your book??? get what you ask for ??? thanks norm

  14. #39
    Moderator AW Moderator Maryn's Avatar
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    Norm, I only ask people who are well-read in my work's genre to beta read for me. Most of my beta readers also write in that genre, but not all.

    Someone who does not read, for example, paranormal romance (which isn't what I write, just a better example), won't know what's a cliche, what's been done many times and better, how far they can go with the sexual scenes, and more.

    My experience has been that each beta brings different skill sets into play. I found something useful in every single one. Some offered a lot, some a little, and at least two forced me to rethink major elements (and in the end, to make substantive changes).

    Maryn, serious beta fan
    Pretending I'm a reasonable and pleasant person is utterly exhausting.

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  15. #40
    Attack me with everything you have. Kim Fierce's Avatar
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    Never had a beta reader but I have been curious about it. My book is still in the works, but I write short stories as well, and was wondering about having a beta reader for those before I attempt publication too.
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  16. #41
    figuring it all out Flexi's Avatar
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    Still a bit confused how the beta reader thing works here at AW.
    If you want work beta read where do you post your request? And how does this work? Do you exchange emails and send each other your manuscripts? Does it have to be between two people and exchanging similar genres to critique?

  17. #42
    practical experience, FTW EnitaMeadows's Avatar
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    I'm so grateful for this thread! I knew that I wanted a beta reader to help crit me with my finished MS, but I didn't know the vocab of it. Thanks to all who contributed.

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  18. #43
    figuring it all out
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    I kept seeing articles about beta readers and didn't have a clue as to what they were until I saw this tread. Does the beta reader make recommendations for change in grammar, content, tense, etc.? What's the difference between them and an editor? Maybe these have been asked but I'm just a newbie looking for answers. Thanks in advance for any help.
    Carol

  19. #44
    I know what happened to Baby Jane. warofthesparks's Avatar
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    I have a question about beta readers. Should someone attempt to get their work beta-read before the work is polished? Or after? In other words, does the manuscript have to be completely ready, or can it be close to the final stages and just have someone go over and critique the overall plot and stuff?

  20. #45
    Cat Laurelle Cat Laurelle's Avatar
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    Wink

    Quote Originally Posted by ResearchGuy View Post
    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.

    --Ken
    So the "alpha" person who has contact with material is the writer and we are just speaking in greek acronyms LOL.

  21. #46
    Moderator AW Moderator Maryn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by warofthesparks View Post
    I have a question about beta readers. Should someone attempt to get their work beta-read before the work is polished? Or after? In other words, does the manuscript have to be completely ready, or can it be close to the final stages and just have someone go over and critique the overall plot and stuff?
    Whatever works for the parties concerned is fine, of course, but I strongly prefer to see or let be seen only polished work as free of errors as the author can make it.

    That's undoubtedly because I'm a can't-see-the-forest-for-the-trees reader; mistakes in writing mechanics or format render me unable to step back and see big picture issues like overall plot and character development. Other people can and do.

    Maryn, who knows her limitations
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  22. #47
    I know what happened to Baby Jane. warofthesparks's Avatar
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    Thank you, Maryn.

  23. #48
    practical experience, FTW
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    I've beta-read things which the writer didn't consider polished in order to help with plot issues...but only for writers whose unpolished work is still basically correctly written technically.

    If someone's definition of "unpolished" meant "full of typos and grammatical errors" then I wouldn't do it - like Maryn said, I also can't see the wood for the trees if I'm having to read past technical errors. If it meant "I may have reused words and not have tightened everything up yet" I'd be happy to.

  24. #49
    Cat Laurelle Cat Laurelle's Avatar
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    I have decided to use my mother for the basic technical stuff just in case and as a sort of beta reader. She is a retired secretary, and spend all of her time fixing typos for a 1/2 a dozen engineers in the 70's-mid 90's. Then she's the inspiration for my choosing to write, she's completely addicted to romance novels. So she may be one of my most experienced toughest critics in proximity to me generally speaking.

  25. #50
    Cat Laurelle Cat Laurelle's Avatar
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    Well, I'll need a second beta reader, and maybe I can exchange this service with someone with regards to writing very straight erotica designed strictly for a male audience.

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