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View Full Version : How many betas do you need?



L.Blake
04-10-2012, 04:42 AM
I am getting serious now and have one beta reader. He's a natural born critic. I know there is no magic number but start off point would be helpful.
Thanks for the help.

I hope this is not in the wrong spot to be asking.

Drachen Jager
04-10-2012, 09:37 AM
Really depends on quality not quantity. One good beta reader gives you a serious edge, a bad one can set you back a few steps.

It's all about two things, how close you are to achieving the necessary level, and how good the beta's eye is for things that will improve the manuscript (and by improve, I mean in agents/editors eyes).

If you're close and just need a few fixes one good beta is all you need. If you're fighting an uphill battle you may need a half-dozen.

But, avoid the bad ones if you can. The trick is to tell the difference. Although, if you CAN tell the difference you're already most of the way there.

As with beta readers, criticism is quality over quantity (unless your MS needs a LOT of fixes).

Polenth
04-10-2012, 12:23 PM
It can depend on the individual project too. I have one person who goes through my stuff. But sometimes I'll need other advice, like I'm writing about a place I've never been, so I'd like betas who live there.

Fallen
04-10-2012, 01:39 PM
I usually have a feel for where I'm falling down, so I'll look for betas that know how to handle those areas in particular. But knowing which betas usually comes about through watching how they handle themselves on the forum over a period of time. I don't go for more than two at a time, but that's just me. I know the betas I've chosen have the skills I need to bounce off.

You could have five or more betas and still miss the itch. Quality over quantity for me any time :)

HoneyBadger
04-10-2012, 04:37 PM
I had 1 writer who is into the kind of stuff I'm into and a handful of non-writers (who begged to read it, which is a nice little feeling, especially as most of them don't read "weird" stuff) beta, and was happy with all their combined feedback.

Maryn
04-10-2012, 05:00 PM
For me, it depends on the quality of the beta. And you can't tell until you try a person out.

The last thing I had beta readers on, I had two beta readers whose entire feedback was under ten words apiece. This did not help me strengthen the manuscript at all. I suspect they just wanted to read it--or didn't read it at all. Maybe both, if they started it and found it just wasn't their thing.

Others offered everything from noting an extra blank space to minor details' inconsistency to suggested reordering of plot elements to ending at a different point, all of which were worth having.

Maryn, heading out

L.Blake
04-10-2012, 05:01 PM
Thank you HoneyBadger, Polenth, Fallen and Drachen Jager. I'm so new to all of this. I appreciate the help. Time to go hand over the MS. Thank you Maryn...didn't see you there

:)

quicklime
04-10-2012, 05:49 PM
it depends on what you need and what they bring to the table.....could be one or it could be seven

Netz
04-10-2012, 05:55 PM
Others offered everything from noting an extra blank space...

Lol, I do that (not on Maryn's though). Glad to know I'm not the only one.

L.Blake
04-11-2012, 03:31 AM
Thanks Netz and Quicklime. I decided that for now I will stick with the one I have. Who knows, I may need more later on.

SomethingOrOther
04-11-2012, 06:43 AM
I had 1 writer who is into the kind of stuff I'm into and a handful of non-writers (who begged to read it, which is a nice little feeling, especially as most of them don't read "weird" stuff) beta, and was happy with all their combined feedback.

http://img171.imageshack.us/img171/6875/doglook.png

HoneyBadger
04-11-2012, 07:26 AM
And that one writer was very helpful and I sure hope he's not scooting down those steps I JUST HAD THE CARPETS CLEANED FOR CHRISSAKES

L.Blake
04-11-2012, 05:11 PM
No scooting dogs, it's bad news.

WriteMinded
04-12-2012, 12:57 AM
I would suggest more than one. Three seems a good number. Different eyes see different things. They also miss different things. I'd want to get different kinds of feedback. Otherwise how would I know what to work on? If three different people think the same things need work, I wouldn't have to guess if they were right or not.

Just my thoughts. I'll be looking for a couple more betas myself soon so your question has been on my mind, too.

strandedhero
04-12-2012, 01:15 AM
I think a few are good, if they are good betas, but I think it's important to correct between betas. Somebody already mentioned not having too many at once, and it's pointless to have 5 people waste their time pointing out the same thing again and again. Might as well have 1 point it out, fix it if you agree, and if not, then the next beta will probably point it out too, and then you can know you really need to fix it. This is my first completed novel so I plan to have at least 5 betas total, but probably more. I really want to make it the best I can.

L.Blake
04-12-2012, 05:12 AM
WriteMinded and strandedhero, I can see your points as well.

melanieconklin
04-12-2012, 08:26 PM
On my first novel, I have three betas, and I have exchanged with them sequentially. I got very, very lucky with my first beta - she is a great storyteller, and very focused on plot, story structure, pace, and characters. She read and dissected my novel as though it were her own(yet without turning it into what she would have written). Her feedback drove a major re-write that made the novel ten times better.

One other beta made it clear she had great technical skills from the get-go. She again gave me very detailed feedback, with over 200 tags in my doc, and really nit-picked the holes for me, as well as the grammar. I didn't agree with some of her opinions, but she is a very good devil's advocate. And very good with grammar. Her feedback really polished the novel.

Now, I am on my final beta. The novel is upper MG, and she is a middle school teacher. I have not asked her for grammar feedback, but rather for any remaining red flags or tweaks with dialogue. This way, I hope to end up with a well-rounded novel.

This is my first experience with beta swaps, and I am enjoying it greatly. I would say the key is to ask yourself, am I getting enough different perspectives, to address all aspects of the novel. I recommend exchanging your queries, or first two ch before committing. And be honest with yourself about whether you click. Selecting good swaps is key. I am a very detailed, thorough beta, and I wanted to be sure that I was getting the same thought and effort that I would give. It becomes obvious once you exchange a few emails if that will happen.

In the end, this is my first novel, and though I'm proud of the work on it, it may end up a "warm-up." Now, I'm writing a YA historical, but I have the added bonus of perspective about the publishing industry--which I did not have when I wrote the first book. SO I am confident it will be marketable. Now I just have to build some connections with betas who are more relative to historical -- it's a whole other genre!!

austen
04-17-2012, 12:05 AM
I think 3 is a good number too. It's interesting to see how different people's perceptions can be. On my last beta round, I had three readers, and one had some comments that were very different from the others. But they were some questions I had in the back of my mind (and had tried to ignore), so I paid attention. I am so glad I didn't stop at just one beta reader because I would've missed those things. At the same time, more than five betas would be too much for me. I'd have a hard time sorting through so many comments, especially if they contradicted each other.
I do like melanie's idea of having them read sequentially which I may try with the next book. :)

L.Blake
04-19-2012, 04:36 PM
melanieconklin and austen, thank you. I am looking for one more reader right now.

I like to wait until one reader is through and then move to the next one. I'm too scattered to go between three readers at the same time.

DennisB
04-21-2012, 07:55 PM
Here's a radical thought: How about having the proposed beta show US her/his stuff so that know whether she/he is qualified to pass judgement?

SomethingOrOther
04-21-2012, 08:50 PM
Maybe. But I'd be less interested in a prospective beta's writing and more interested in their reading habits. My ideal beta reader would be drawn from the subset of people who read a lot (in my genre/category, and widely in general) and can make cogent points about what they read. That's what "her/his stuff" could entail. Also, I'd want a beta in Fledgling Writer Critique Mode to switch to Attentive Reader Mode.

I'm still learning how to beta--in retrospect, my last one could've been more thorough, but eh, there are always learning curves.

DiannaG
04-23-2012, 12:00 AM
I've done a number of swaps with different people, and I've occasionally put my stories out to large critique groups. A bigger group doesn't necessarily help if they don't really know your genre. One problem with a lot of critique groups is that you need so many critiques to keep your membership, so a lot of people end up critiquing stories in genres they don't really read, which is of limited usefulness.

As for actual beta readers, I think it really varies by project. I have one consistent beta reader right now for all my short stories. She's the first person I've had who's consistent, and she'll probably look at my Novel of a Thousand Drafts when I've finished it. She's also a pretty awesome friend.

Different beta readers provide different things. You might have one beta reader who's great at pointing out plot inconsistencies and another who mostly points out grammatical errors. It all depends on what you're looking for.

Liz_cm
04-23-2012, 10:54 AM
I would suggest more than one. Three seems a good number. Different eyes see different things. They also miss different things. I'd want to get different kinds of feedback. Otherwise how would I know what to work on? If three different people think the same things need work, I wouldn't have to guess if they were right or not.

Just my thoughts. I'll be looking for a couple more betas myself soon so your question has been on my mind, too.

I feel the same way, three always seems like a magic number to me. Seeing as I do plan to send my manuscript to three or four betas. Right now it is on Beta #2.

Orchestra
04-23-2012, 12:52 PM
Three was my gut-reaction as well. But they obviously must be good at giving feedback and I think they also have to critique the work independently, without input from each other. If all three spot a problem, you can safely assume there's a problem.

Liz_cm
04-24-2012, 12:02 PM
I think they also have to critique the work independently, without input from each other. If all three spot a problem, you can safely assume there's a problem.

How would they be able to look at it together? I guess it's possible, but I always thought of giving my manuscript to one person to look at instead of a group. You're correct with that statement.