PDA

View Full Version : Beta Readers v. Share Your Work (SYW) Option



Rowan
05-17-2010, 03:22 PM
I know this topic has been discussed before in the various beta threads but I feel it warrants another pass. I love :heart: the Beta Forum and I salute all the willing beta readers. It's often a thankless job but the pros generally outweigh the cons (IMHO). I know I've personally benefitted from beta reading MSs and having mine read by others!

Lately, I've been seeing a lot of writers posting for beta readers only to have others recommend or insist they post a chapter or so in the the Share Your Work forum first (and one suggesting that the MS be reviewed by a professional first). To me that suggests you're not allowed to request a beta without first posting in the SYW forum or running your draft through a professional editor, which sends the wrong message. Beta reading and SYW are too different animals.

First, I had a few "drive-by" beta requests back when I was a willing beta reader. By this I mean individuals with ZERO posts PMing me requesting a beta. I don't think I need to spell that out! ;) I therefore understand some of the rationale behind encouraging folks to post in the SYW forum.

I've been an AW member for a while and I pop into the SYW forum on occasion and even critiqued a few query letters/chapters. I've also had my projects beta read and beta read for others. Having said that, the SYW forum isn't for everyone, and I guess it just irks me that it seems members are discouraging others from seeking beta readers. If a member wants a beta reader they should be allowed to request a beta reader without being pressured to post in SYW. Beta readers are volunteers and they can decide whether or not to take on a project. When I was beta reading, it was a general interest in the project that encouraged me to take it on. Whether or not the writer posted in SYW never factored into the decision. However, I always started with three chapters (or 50 pages) before committing, and I specifically didn't take on "first draft" MSs.

So, where do you stand on the Beta v. SYW issue? Should a writer be allowed to request a beta reader without being pressured to post in SYW? Do you have a personal preference (Beta Reader or SYW)? Opinions? :)

dpaterso
05-17-2010, 03:41 PM
Just my opinion.

There's certainly no hard and fast rule that says you should post in SYW before asking for Betas.

As general advice however I think it's pretty reasonable. Author may receive feedback on style and content from several SYW readers that influence the entire novel. And if the author *isn't ready* for a Beta reader yet, this is going to come out in the wash.

If I were looking for a Beta reader I would offer a couple of chapters first to see if my writing suited them, and if their feedback style suited me (sending my novel to a total stranger doesn't seem like a very good idea to me, but whatever arrangement people come to privately is obviously up to them).

If I were offering Beta reader services, I'm thinking that perhaps a quick peek at author's writing samples in SYW and their reaction to reader feedback (plus their willingness to give something back) might provide useful character refs.

Having said all that, I think you're right, members shouldn't be pressured into posting in SYW, and shouldn't feel obliged to do so. It's up to the Beta reader to vet applicants to their own standards, and take on whatever they wish to take on.

-Derek

Rowan
05-17-2010, 04:38 PM
If I were looking for a Beta reader I would offer a couple of chapters first to see if my writing suited them, and if their feedback style suited me (sending my novel to a total stranger doesn't seem like a very good idea to me, but whatever arrangement people come to privately is obviously up to them).


-Derek

Bolding is mine.

I couldn't agree more. That's the approach I took--on both the reading and critiquing end--and it served me well! :)

Maryn
05-17-2010, 04:50 PM
As I so often do, I agree with dpaterso completely.

A couple thousand words at the appropriate SYW board tells me whether the author seeking a beta has mastered basic writing mechanics, such as punctuation and constructing a sentence that makes sense. It's not a good use of my time to teach somebody how to punctuate dialogue, or what a predicate is and why we need them.

It shows me what sort of work they write and whether I can stand an entire novel of it. Lots of people who think they're writing general mystery, for example, are writing cozy mystery, which I don't care for and probably can't critique without that bias leaking through. Same thing with erotica and erotic romance, and probably other genres, too. A beta read is a large commitment of my time, and I'd rather not spend it doing something I do not, and cannot, enjoy, like reading a genre I dislike across the board.

How a person reacts to feedback in SYW tells me whether they're going to be hostile, defensive, blithely ignore input, launch into explanations that shows why they're right and critics are wrong, or shrink away if they receive anything short of thunderous applause, never to be seen again.

So while I think any agreement writer and beta can make is fine, I won't be beta reading for anyone who won't post a chapter. Others, of course, will.

Maryn, curmudgeon

aadams73
05-17-2010, 04:56 PM
If someone is looking for a beta, I'd prefer they post a little in SYW so others can get a feel for their story, their skill level, etc.

Offering a couple of chapters is a nice idea--in theory. But in my my experience, when I've read that sample and found it not to my taste or in poor shape, I've received an earful of whining like:

"Keep reading. It gets better!"
"OMG, it sucks, doesn't it? I'M GONNA THROW IT OUT AND START ALL OVER."
"Grammar? Punctuation? That's an editors job!"
"Grammar? Punctuation? That's a beta's job!"
"Let me send you the good bit instead."

And variations thereof, including insults about me, my dog, my mother, and several generations of my forebears.

(A subforum in SYW specifically for "looking for beta/mentor" samples might be a good idea.)

Having said that, pressuring someone doesn't sit right with me either. People have all kinds of reasons for not wanting to put their writing out there, although, of course, if you're serious about this gig you're going to have to face criticism sooner or later. And what they get here is usually more sugar-coated than it is out there.

But I appreciate that not everyone wants to jump in the deep end right away, and pressuring someone is just rude.

Rowan
05-17-2010, 05:00 PM
All good points, Maryn. :)

On that note, I used to review a member's posts before considering a beta read or swap. Blogs and websites are also a great place for "getting to know" someone's style, personality (to some extent) and how well they've mastered the art of writing. :)

As someone who works full time and is extremely busy when I'm not at work, I agree that you must love the project before making the commitment to critique the entire MS.

Rowan
05-17-2010, 05:10 PM
If someone is looking for a beta, I'd prefer they post a little in SYW so others can get a feel for their story, their skill level, etc.

Offering a couple of chapters is a nice idea--in theory. But in my my experience, when I've read that sample and found it not to my taste or in poor shape, I've received an earful of whining like:

"Keep reading. It gets better!"
"OMG, it sucks, doesn't it? I'M GONNA THROW IT OUT AND START ALL OVER."
"Grammar? Punctuation? That's an editors job!"
"Grammar? Punctuation? That's a beta's job!"
"Let me send you the good bit instead."

And variations thereof, including insults about me, my dog, my mother, and several generations of my forebears.

(A subforum in SYW specifically for "looking for beta/mentor" samples might be a good idea.)

Having said that, pressuring someone doesn't sit right with me either. People have all kinds of reasons for not wanting to put their writing out there, although, of course, if you're serious about this gig you're going to have to face criticism sooner or later. And what they get here is usually more sugar-coated than it is out there.

But I appreciate that not everyone wants to jump in the deep end right away, and pressuring someone is just rude.

OMG--you've had some interesting experiences! :) Insulting the dog is inexcusable. Not all my beta swaps have worked out, but all were very professional and courteous.

I don't object so much to the suggestion of the SYW forum as another option, or tool in the writer's toolbox. I just get irked when people immediately respond to the beta request with a "post a chapter in SYW" (or else). ;) It's nice to point out that the SYW forum is there, especially for new members who didn't read Jenna's Newbie Guide, etc. But most people asking for a beta reader seem to want just that--a beta reader. It's a personal preference. You know what I mean?

aadams73
05-17-2010, 05:15 PM
OMG--you've had some interesting experiences! :) Insulting the dog is inexcusable. Not all my beta swaps have worked out, but all were very professional and courteous.

I don't object so much to the suggestion of the SYW forum as another option, or tool in the writer's toolbox. I just get irked when people immediately respond to the beta request with a "post a chapter in SYW" (or else). ;) It's nice to point out that the SYW forum is there, especially for new members who didn't read Jenna's Newbie Guide, etc. But most people asking for a beta reader seem to want just that--a beta reader. It's a personal preference. You know what I mean?

Well, the dog thing was hyperbole, but--in my early AW days--I got a few really rude ones that made me raise my brows. Naturally, some were also very nice about the whole thing. To them, I wish all the success in the world, ya know?

And yeah, I know what you mean. If they're asking for something specific, that's what they want. It's like giving someone a pizza when they order a burger. :D

Rowan
05-17-2010, 05:21 PM
Well, the dog thing was hyperbole, but--in my early AW days--I got a few really rude ones that made me raise my brows. :D

I was just joking! Dogs are sacred... :D

Wayne K
05-17-2010, 05:28 PM
Dogs bow down before cats

Wayne K
05-17-2010, 05:29 PM
I don't think it should be a policy on AW or anything, but if I'm going to beta a full, I'd like to see the first chapter stand alone first. Whether it's in SYW or in an e-mail

DeleyanLee
05-17-2010, 05:41 PM
Having been a member of various writerly forums for eons, I can say that there are two ways I get to the point of wanting to enter into a beta-relationships with someone. One is via snippets provided in chat (when available) and the other is sections posted for critique. When I find someone who has a story I want to keep reading, I'll make the offer to read the entire thing. When I find someone who offers what I consider to be worth-while comments, I'll make a gesture to exchange work.

The majority of the writers I know who do beta-reading use similiar tactics for deciding who new to read and who to avoid and who to ignore, FWIW.

Outside of that, I honestly don't do it, so the suggestion that someone who's looking for a beta-relationship put something out there for people to see seems to be the fairest option, since there's a protected forum to do it here. I don't see it as a requirement, but as a courtesy--which is why I will always suggest that they post it for consideration with the note they're looking for a beta and not just a critique. That way, people can read it at their leisure, stress-free, without giving up their email or other contact information--just in case they decide it's not for them.

I like the idea of a "beta preview" area of SYW, though.

justarandomname47
05-17-2010, 05:45 PM
I'm pretty new to AW...I was even one of those who asked for a beta reader with 0 posts (lucky for me she said yes and it has worked out fantastically!) but I imagine many new writers wouldn't want to post a chapter because they are scared that their work will be stolen. yes, I have read over and over that this doesn't happen, but that fear is out there. Also, if they do go on and become JKRowling big then there will be this thread out there with their original version. (and almost everyone dreams to be that big someday) Then there's the question of whether or not a publisher would get mad - some won't take a ms if you've posted it or parts of it to your blog.

There are a lot of scary reasons that authors, especially newbies like me, may not want to post their work at a site they just registered at. Not saying they are reasonable fears, but they are out there.


BUT I get frustrated seeing posts requesting betas with no details or idea of what their book is about. Maybe there should be a more detailed list of what you should include in a post asking for a beta reader (genre, word count, completeness, draft number, short SYNOPSIS!)

honeysock
05-17-2010, 06:11 PM
I don't think it should be a policy on AW or anything, but if I'm going to beta a full, I'd like to see the first chapter stand alone first. Whether it's in SYW or in an e-mail

I've had two great beta experiences (thanks guys!) that I found through the boards here and one that didn't work out. (The third just asked for sample chapters and I never heard back. Could have been a case of not liking my stuff *sob*.)

At any rate, I agree with Wayne, but I'd prefer to send a sample chapter through email rather than posting it on SYW.

So now, I'm off to post a "personal ad" to do exactly that. (It's not unlike that, is it? :tongue )

Rowan
05-18-2010, 03:24 AM
Honeysock, you're so right. It is like a "personal ad"! :)


Posted by aadams73: (A subforum in SYW specifically for "looking for beta/mentor" samples might be a good idea.)

This is actually a great idea! It'd be a way for writers to post a sample chapter not for critique but for beta reader's consideration. Exposes the writer to more possible beta readers too. And there's still the personal e-mail method for those who prefer it. :)

BarbaraSheridan
05-18-2010, 08:10 AM
I guess it just irks me that it seems members are discouraging others from seeking beta readers.

Since I made the dreaded why don't you post a sample in SYW comment today I guess I'm one of the aforementioned irksome members.;)

I certainly don't mean to discourage anyone from asking for a beta. I only suggested it because it can help to avert problems down the road for both beta reader and beta seeker.

It's much better for the beta reader to look over sample pages in a way they can anonymously click away if the project isn't to their liking or if the writing needs more hands-on work in terms of critiquing than they can put into it.

It can also be to the beta seeker's advantage as far as not receiving comments they feel are harsh. Or worse yet, getting no reply at all after sending their work directly to a reader who didn't realize what they were getting into.

Edited to add:I did in fact go look at the sample of the person I recently directed to SYW and it was the perfect example of what I said above.

Rowan
05-18-2010, 02:18 PM
Hi, Barbara!
While I'll admit your post is what prompted me to open this thread, it wasn't what initially set me off. It just happened to be the 'final straw' (or catalyst). And in all fairness, the poster you responded to more or less asked, "What do I do now?", and didn't sound as if they were seeking a beta so much as guidance. Your response was fair and came across more as an option v. a directive.

This thread is different:

http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=179809

The writer (poster) is clearly seeking a beta reader and yet the responding post asks whether the poster has...
"had input from an outside source or a professional edit. If the answer is no then perhaps you could try testing the waters in Share Your Work?"

Again, I think aadams73's suggestion of a subforum within SYW or this beta forum for "beta previews" is a great idea! :D

BarbaraSheridan
05-18-2010, 09:17 PM
Again, I think aadams73's suggestion of a subforum within SYW or this beta forum for "beta previews" is a great idea!

That's a wonderful idea! I think it would be really helpful to be able to see an opening chapter before commuting to beta.

As much as we hate it, I think all writers who've been at this any length of time can understand that yes, agents and editors can often tell if a book is "right for them" by just reading a few pages.

DeleyanLee
05-21-2010, 06:49 PM
So how do we go about petitioning for such a subforum to be created?

firedrake
05-21-2010, 07:21 PM
I'm one of those who suggests posting a snippet in SYW.

To be blunt, if you're serious about your writing, you have to be ready to 'put it out there' at some time. SYW is password protected. I'm not seeing a problem.

If you have concerns about posting your work on a password protected forum for critique, perhaps what you've written isn't ready to be read by Betas

Just something to think about.

Rowan
05-22-2010, 12:07 AM
I'm one of those who suggests posting a snippet in SYW.

To be blunt, if you're serious about your writing, you have to be ready to 'put it out there' at some time. SYW is password protected. I'm not seeing a problem.

If you have concerns about posting your work on a password protected forum for critique, perhaps what you've written isn't ready to be read by Betas

Just something to think about.

To be blunt as well, submitting to beta readers is also "putting your work out there", just in a different venue. How does one having reservations about posting in the SYW forum have anything to do with the quality of their work? It's a personal preference.

Like I said, there are pros and cons to both critique methods. I'm not going to badger someone who chooses one over the other, and that was my point in the initial post. I think aadams73 said it best, it's like giving someone a burger when they ordered pizza (or something like that :) ).

If beta readers don't wish to beta for someone who hasn't posted in SYW (as Maryn stated), that's their perogative. I just think it's wrong to discourage people from seeking betas unless they've posted in SYW. If Mac wants to make posting in SYW a requirement before one is allowed to seek a beta reader, she has that right. As of right now, I don't believe it's an AW rule.

(For me personally)... This isn't about writers not wanting to post work on a pswd protected forum. It's about AW offering writers a choice: public and random critiques within the SYW forum or cultivating relationships with one or ten beta readers (or even forming a critique/writing group). Just as all writers have different writing styles and writing quirks, we all have our preferred critique methods. I fully understand what works for me won't work for everyone. Above all, I feel everyone has the right to make that choice.

DeleyanLee
05-22-2010, 12:25 AM
If beta readers don't wish to beta for someone who hasn't posted in SYW (as Maryn stated), that's their perogative. I just think it's wrong to discourage people from seeking betas unless they've posted in SYW. If Mac wants to make posting in SYW a requirement before one is allowed to seek a beta reader, she has that right. As of right now, I don't believe it's an AW rule.

I think you're misunderstanding--either that or I've greatly misunderstood.

My understanding is that people are suggesting that someone wanting a beta post a little something from their book as an advertisement so anyone interested in such a relationship can see what's being offered. Like a book-ly personal ad.

Fantasy novel, completed at 85K, seeking beta reader for this and sequels. All commentary helpful, but a focus on plot structure preferred. Please see snippet below. Hope we can connect soon. Will be willing to return beta.

That's not a requirement by any stretch of the imagination. I wouldn't mind beta'ing or finding one for my own work--but I'm not going to blindly agree to beta someone and find out their novel is the one thing in the genre I can't stand and can't comment on properly. I wouldn't expect that of anyone. It's too awkward and too many people don't handle it gracefully on either side of the arrangement.

Just seems like common courtesy, not a requirement.

Rowan
05-22-2010, 01:18 AM
I think you're misunderstanding--either that or I've greatly misunderstood.

My understanding is that people are suggesting that someone wanting a beta post a little something from their book as an advertisement so anyone interested in such a relationship can see what's being offered. Like a book-ly personal ad.

Fantasy novel, completed at 85K, seeking beta reader for this and sequels. All commentary helpful, but a focus on plot structure preferred. Please see snippet below. Hope we can connect soon. Will be willing to return beta.



That's not a requirement by any stretch of the imagination. I wouldn't mind beta'ing or finding one for my own work--but I'm not going to blindly agree to beta someone and find out their novel is the one thing in the genre I can't stand and can't comment on properly. I wouldn't expect that of anyone. It's too awkward and too many people don't handle it gracefully on either side of the arrangement.

Just seems like common courtesy, not a requirement.
I was specifically responding to Firedrake's post but I'll try to explain...

To me that's a given--if you post a beta request it's common sense to share a summary of the work (the query letter even). If someone posts a one-liner such as: "I've written a book. Bring on the beta readers. PM me if interested", I fully expect everyone to suggest they give us more--at a minimum the genre, word count and a brief summary (within the same thread).

What I'm referring to here are the posts where a writer requests a beta by providing a summary of the work (as in, "I've just completed a 65K YA fantasy about a girl who falls in love with a boy only to learn he's a sparkling vampire. Girl blah blah and boy blah blah and she has to blah blah before blah blah" :) ) and is immediately told "go post in SYW". As it's obvious that I'm not making any sense, I'm going to take a break and go cook something. Long day at work and long work week at that!

[Hopefully someone will understand me while I'm gone :) ]

Maryn
05-22-2010, 01:46 AM
What time should we all arrive for dinner, and should we bring red or white wine?

Maryn, who wishes we all lived in Writerville

Rowan
05-22-2010, 03:19 AM
What time should we all arrive for dinner, and should we bring red or white wine?

Maryn, who wishes we all lived in Writerville

Red or white--and all dogs are welcome too! :D

DeleyanLee
05-22-2010, 04:47 AM
I was specifically responding to Firedrake's post but I'll try to explain...

Ah! Sorry. Misunderstood that part. Mea culpa.


What I'm referring to here are the posts where a writer requests a beta by providing a summary of the work (as in, "I've just completed a 65K YA fantasy about a girl who falls in love with a boy only to learn he's a sparkling vampire. Girl blah blah and boy blah blah and she has to blah blah before blah blah" :) ) and is immediately told "go post in SYW".

I understand that, but all that tells me is whether or not the story is in my general field of interest. Beta is a LOT of work, particularly if the author is new and has a lot of challenges. No offense to them, but I, for one, am not often in the mood to mentor someone through the basics, so I still ask for a writing sample before I'll commit. If anyone's ever taken my request for that as a "you can't have a beta, you're just stuck with SYW", I'm terrible sorry.

Rowan
05-22-2010, 05:03 AM
Ah! Sorry. Misunderstood that part. Mea culpa.



I understand that, but all that tells me is whether or not the story is in my general field of interest. Beta is a LOT of work, particularly if the author is new and has a lot of challenges. No offense to them, but I, for one, am not often in the mood to mentor someone through the basics, so I still ask for a writing sample before I'll commit. If anyone's ever taken my request for that as a "you can't have a beta, you're just stuck with SYW", I'm terrible sorry.

bolding is mine

re: "Beta is a LOT of work": Yeah, it is a lot of work and as someone who works 50+ hour work weeks I can relate to this.

re: "I still ask for a writing sample before I'll commit": As do I, but I do it via e-mail in lieu of insisting that they post to SYW. I've turned some projects down and some partnerships didn't work out, but I learned something from all of them.

I think I've thoroughly explained my stance on this and I'm bowing out now before I bore anyone to tears. Cheers and happy writing! :)

MacAllister
05-23-2010, 06:03 AM
Lemme think about the subforum idea for a bit, folks - it seems like we've already got a LOT of different rooms for people to try and navigate -- but if we decided we needed a beta-reading subforum, it might be better to put that here, within this room, rather than over on SYW.

Rowan
05-23-2010, 03:38 PM
Lemme think about the subforum idea for a bit, folks - it seems like we've already got a LOT of different rooms for people to try and navigate -- but if we decided we needed a beta-reading subforum, it might be better to put that here, within this room, rather than over on SYW.

Bolding is mine...

Thank you, MacAllister :) I think that would help differentiate "critique" postings (SYW) and "preview postings" (Beta Reader seekers). Perfect!

Bufty
05-23-2010, 07:12 PM
If submitting sample chapters in SYW is not an option for some seeking a beta reader I would like to see those folk state they had finished, revised and edited their novel.

I usually check profiles and posts and it seems to me many requests for beta readers may be from beginners seeking 'readers' without any real clue as to what a beta reader is.

The opposite side of the coin is the risk of getting a 'beta reader' who adds nothing to your work but surface skimming because they haven't the experience to do so.

In SYW, there is the safety net of numbers. And the risk of having your work pinched, or being turned down by a publisher because a chapter (or three) was posted there is truly non-existant.

Just my twopenneth.

firedrake
05-23-2010, 07:20 PM
If submitting sample chapters in SYW is not an option for some seeking a beta reader I would like to see those folk state they had finished, revised and edited their novel.

I usually check profiles and posts and it seems to me many requests for beta readers may be from beginners seeking 'readers' without any real clue as to what a beta reader is.

The opposite side of the coin is the risk of getting a 'beta reader' who adds nothing to your work but surface skimming because they haven't the experience to do so.

In SYW, there is the safety net of numbers. And the risk of having your work pinched, or being turned down by a publisher because a chapter (or three) was posted there is truly non-existant.

Just my twopenneth.

This.

I can certainly think of one example on SYW, where someone posted three different first chapters, from three different books. The OP actually stated that the one she was concentrating on and looking for critiques on was a
first draft. This was after several people had critiqued the piece.

If this sub-forum is put in place, it really does need to be made quite clear that it's for finished pieces only.