View Full Version : Creating Guidelines for Alpha and Beta Readers

Gilroy Cullen
03-26-2012, 09:25 PM
After a search of the forums, I didn't find my answer so I'm going to try to post a question here. If wrong, I apologize and ask the Mods move it accordingly.

I have a small group of fellow writers who have agreed to be alpha and beta readers for me. So far, all is good.

What I want is to establish some type of guideline for my readers so they have an idea of my expectations and how I will try to work getting back to them.

I realize this probably sounds OCD or controling, but I don't want to be waiting three months for an alpha read to respond to a 2000 word short story.

So I guess I have a few questions.
1) Do you have similar guidelines?
2) If you do, what are they like?
Or if not, how do you work with your alpha and beta readers for timely responses?
3) Have you ever had to drop a reader for being outside of reasonable response times?

Yeah, lots of questions. Thanks for considering.

03-26-2012, 09:29 PM
I tell them the genre and kind of publisher I will be sending it to. I credit them with sense to give any advice they feel might be relevant after that.

03-26-2012, 11:11 PM
As far as response times go, I ask, gently, how long it might take. If they're late, I expect some type of update, or I gently ask for one. Don't pester. They're doing you a huge favor. If they're dramatically late, and you haven't heard why, write them off.

03-27-2012, 04:29 PM
I tell them the genre and kind of publisher I will be sending it to. I credit them with sense to give any advice they feel might be relevant after that.


and expected response times.....

i can't speak for your betas (and shouldn't speak for any; I have a pretty spotty record of making my time deadlines, although I've also only worked gratis, without them being expected to look at mine) but the moment I saw caveats beyond time deadline, genre, and publisher, I would start looking for reasons to decline.

Gilroy Cullen
03-27-2012, 07:17 PM
I think my biggest concern was about setting the deadline...

04-01-2012, 01:36 AM
I take anyone who is willing to read my unpublished, far-from-perfect manuscripts as a very generous and giving person. The least I can give them in return is a bit of patience. If you place too many guidelines down, people might be put off from giving advice - and any constructive advice is useful advice, even if you do not choose to act upon it.

If you're going to send the manuscript chapter-by-chapter, then your beta will provide more thorough feedback. This means they might well take a week or two to get back to you on 2000 words, but then what you receive back is of a high quality.

I would encourage you to seek more than one beta reader. That way, if one person takes longer to get back to you, you can be working on the advice of another.

04-01-2012, 01:47 AM
My beta readers and crit partners receive my manuscripts along with a short email that has some effusive derivation of "THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR DOING THIS."

Occasionally, if there is a plot point I am unsure of, I ask them to pay particularly attention to it.

But I don't set guidelines for my betas/crit partners. If you are PAYING them, then yes--you could ask them to return the MS by said date. But if you're not, then why start off the relationship with something that is--pardon me for saying this--kind of rude? THEY are doing YOU a favor in their spare time. People read at different speeds and different times of day and under different circumstances.You send them the MS and THANK them for the forthcoming expenditure of time and energy they will spend on your manuscript.

04-01-2012, 02:03 AM
As a Beta reader, I try to read as quickly my schedule allows, because I know that if someone were reading my book I would be on tenterhooks!

That said, if the author requested that I commit to a certain time frame, I would politely decline...not only the time frame, but the reading as well.

Remember however long your project is, your Betas are doing you a favor. I understand you mean that you want to have some agreement on expectations, but be careful that this doesn't come across as "demands". I think you should be content to let your Betas crit they way they feel comfortable, and trust that they will do it in a reasonable time frame.

Also as a beta, I send periodic emails..."I'm at page 50, really enjoying it!" Something like that so the author knows how it's going.

Mr Flibble
04-01-2012, 04:33 AM
My guideline:

Please eviscerate as necessary.

Amy and all comment are useful, whether I want them or not. The ones I don't want usually end up being he most useful
You can't (well you can try) tell people how to crit, because it;s personal;, you van only say how you want it delivered (softly or not etc)

They crit how they crit. You can ask for soft or vicious etc, but the actual crit wil depend on them - I tend to go for nuts and bolts - a fellow member of my crit group goes for theme and emotion for example.

So you can ask for the level of crit, but the crit you will get ( on that level will depend on what the critter crits best and you cannot control that. Nor should you. Critters are your first readers,and they are (should be ) readers first. If several readers don't like , then change X, IF you feel it will make your story better - but you should consider it.

Because critters are only people