PDA

View Full Version : Betas, Paid Editors, Life Constraints



ap123
05-17-2013, 01:55 AM
Has anyone else seen this post (http://blog.nathanbransford.com/2013/05/why-im-paying-someone-to-edit-my-guide.html) on Nathan Bransford's blog?

It struck me when I came across it, because I'm nearing a point where I'll be ready for beta readers, but I don't think it's ok to ask people to beta when I'm not in a position to offer enough time for a thoughtful read of anyone else's work. Of course, I'm also broke, so his solution doesn't work for me. ;)

I'm wondering what other AWers think about this. Is the outcome of a paid editor (never had one) comparable to that of a few good beta readers? Do you think it makes a difference if the manuscript is fiction vs non-fiction?

Buffysquirrel
05-17-2013, 02:28 AM
I might prefer a paid editor, but that's a pipe dream.

I think with non-fiction you could benefit from having an expert in the area covered critique your work, yes. Facts are less subjective than fiction :D.

DancingMaenid
05-17-2013, 02:37 AM
I haven't used a professional editor, so I can't make a comparison. Though as someone who's interested in self-publishing, it's definitely something I would seriously consider down the road.

That said, I've had beta relationships that were more or less one-sided. In fact, not counting critique groups that, obviously, were reciprocal, I think I've only betaed for one person who also betaed for me. While some people do go into betaing hoping to have a reciprocal relationship, I think a lot of people are primarily interested in helping someone out and/or improving their own critiquing skills.

I do feel guilty about asking someone to beta for me, because it can be a big commitment. And I usually offer to beta something for them in return. But I also think there are other ways you can show your appreciation, like offering to beta for them in the future when you have more time or taking them out to dinner (if you know them IRL). Personally, just knowing that the person appreciated my input and is grateful for my help means a lot. In my experience, a lot of people treat betaing more as a favor than a deal, unless they treat it as an exchange of services from the start.

ap123
05-17-2013, 03:02 AM
I might prefer a paid editor, but that's a pipe dream.

I think with non-fiction you could benefit from having an expert in the area covered critique your work, yes. Facts are less subjective than fiction :D.

Interesting point. Since Bransford's manuscript is about writing, hiring a paid editor is having an expert look at the work.


I haven't used a professional editor, so I can't make a comparison. Though as someone who's interested in self-publishing, it's definitely something I would seriously consider down the road.

That said, I've had beta relationships that were more or less one-sided. In fact, not counting critique groups that, obviously, were reciprocal, I think I've only betaed for one person who also betaed for me. While some people do go into betaing hoping to have a reciprocal relationship, I think a lot of people are primarily interested in helping someone out and/or improving their own critiquing skills.

I do feel guilty about asking someone to beta for me, because it can be a big commitment. And I usually offer to beta something for them in return. But I also think there are other ways you can show your appreciation, like offering to beta for them in the future when you have more time or taking them out to dinner (if you know them IRL). Personally, just knowing that the person appreciated my input and is grateful for my help means a lot. In my experience, a lot of people treat betaing more as a favor than a deal, unless they treat it as an exchange of services from the start.

When talking about other writers, I've assumed it's more reciprocal (that's been my experience in the past, but through critique groups).
The word "guilt" feels right. For me, it's like someone offering to buy my dinner. If I've got the money in my pocket to pay for it myself-- excellent, thank you so much. But if I don't, it makes me uncomfortable, and I'm more likely to turn down the invite.

Axordil
05-17-2013, 03:20 AM
A beta reader and an editor do different things, though, don't they? Unless people have betas that do copy edits/line edits/whole book issue suggestions...in which case they're basically editors, albeit amateur and unpaid.

ap123
05-17-2013, 04:22 AM
A beta reader and an editor do different things, though, don't they? Unless people have betas that do copy edits/line edits/whole book issue suggestions...in which case they're basically editors, albeit amateur and unpaid.

I'm not completely sure, I've never hired an editor, and I've had beta readers give different types of crits, depending on their strengths.

DancingMaenid
05-17-2013, 05:43 AM
A beta reader and an editor do different things, though, don't they? Unless people have betas that do copy edits/line edits/whole book issue suggestions...in which case they're basically editors, albeit amateur and unpaid.

I think what a beta does can really depend. I've had betas who have done line edits and whole book issue suggestions, but usually not as extensively as what I would expect a paid editor to do.

Siri Kirpal
05-17-2013, 06:23 AM
Sat Nam! (literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

I use both.

Beta readers are good for certain things. One of mine gave excellent critiques on where the emotion was missing from my memoir. One is catching typos.

But betas tend not to be as thorough in some ways as paid editors. If you are writing a non-fiction proposal (which I don't think you are), then a paid editor who's been in the business is going to be much more help than a beta, unless said beta has been through that process. Editors can be better at finding solutions to organizational problems. Mine pointed out what needed filling out and what needed cutting back. (I tend to underwrite rather than the usual overwrite.) With my Sikhism book, the editor's suggestions on the title probably made the difference in the sale. So they can be a big help.

For non-fiction, there may also be peer group review, which checks the facts, etc.

If you can't afford an editor but don't have time to beta in exchange at the moment, you can reciprocate with a beta in exchange for help later.

Hope this helps.

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal

Jamesaritchie
05-17-2013, 07:42 PM
If you need a paid editor, a paid editor can't help you. Forget agents, why would an editor want a writer who can't do his own writing, revising, and editing?

When a publisher accepts a novel, chances are that novel still needs a lot of work, and the writer has to do that work. What, are you going to hire an editor in before you submit a novel, and then again when the editor asks for a rewrite and revise? What if the rewrite and revise come out poorly, and the editor asks for more? It happens all the time.

Bransford is self-publishing this book. Self-published writers most likely do need a hired editor, especially when they've never demonstrated that they can write well enough to sell. For anyone else, no.

LBlankenship
05-17-2013, 10:49 PM
As someone who uses both beta readers and hires an editor...

After having gone through several (six, for Disciple) beta readers and revised, I've hired an editor as a final check before self-publishing. So far, my editor's feedback has amounted to minor tweaks and a good line edit pointing out my grammatical sins.

So maybe several beta readers can equal a freelance editor? Except for the line edit? (If you're self-publishing, get a line edit.) It depends on how confident you are in your ability to revise and improve your story, of course.

As far as what you can offer your betas, I think one ought to at least offer to read in return. Of my six, some have yet to take me up on it. I'll drop everything the moment they do -- beta feedback is priceless and I owe them my best in return.

Does that apply to non-fiction? Can't help you there.

quicklime
05-17-2013, 10:59 PM
Has anyone else seen this post (http://blog.nathanbransford.com/2013/05/why-im-paying-someone-to-edit-my-guide.html) on Nathan Bransford's blog?

It struck me when I came across it, because I'm nearing a point where I'll be ready for beta readers, but I don't think it's ok to ask people to beta when I'm not in a position to offer enough time for a thoughtful read of anyone else's work. Of course, I'm also broke, so his solution doesn't work for me. ;) to be contrarian, what are you saying you aren't ready for, furthering your own development? You are so busy you can't even find time to write?

I'm wondering what other AWers think about this. Is the outcome of a paid editor (never had one) comparable to that of a few good beta readers? Do you think it makes a difference if the manuscript is fiction vs non-fiction?


I can't see paying an editor. i'm on the fence as to how much betaing I intend to seek out. But I also wouldn't say one is better or worse, it depends what you need, and who you know, and perhaps in this case who you can afford. there are folks who edit for $$ here I'd absolutely consider worth investing in, but I also don't believe I need an editor so much as a beta reader.

That said, "having time to beta" is just like "having time to write." Nobody "has" time. You find it. Or you don't. If you have cash you can theoretically buy your way out in hiring an editor, but they may not offer the same things, and to some extent,y ou could be short-changing yourself. A beta agreement forces you to critique, and dissect someone else's work. That's not exactly time "wasted" if you intend to learn how to write...

Jess Haines
05-17-2013, 11:40 PM
I did use a paid critique service on my first book. It helped in a lot of ways, but I later found a lot of the same info from the crit here on the AW boards in various threads.

It might help if you want someone to point out specific weak points, but it's not a guarantee you'll sell your book, so keep that in mind.

Beta readers can be excellent resources. If you find someone who knows their stuff, they're worth their weight in gold. So far, I've had 3 of 5 books and 1 of 2 novellas pass by my editor with no changes, and the changes suggested on the other 2 books/novella were not substantial. My betas are fabulous and I love them to pieces because they do such a good job of shredding the weak points in my work before I submit it to my publisher. YMMV.

dangerousbill
05-18-2013, 12:29 AM
It struck me when I came across it, because I'm nearing a point where I'll be ready for beta readers, but I don't think it's ok to ask people to beta when I'm not in a position to offer enough time for a thoughtful read of anyone else's work.


Not using a beta or a critique group shouldn't be an option, but surely, if you have time to write the novel in the first place, you can find the time for a critical read of someone else's work in exchange for a read of your own.

Ken
05-18-2013, 12:50 AM
... would seem like a good way to go.
As long as you find a really good one,
with references, and credentials.
Otherwise you might get swindled.
And the crummy thing about bad advice is that if you follow it,
you might mess up a good manuscript or one with real potential to be good.
So caveat emptor, and g'luck.

ap123
05-18-2013, 01:15 AM
Thanks for the thoughts, all. :)

Just a discussion, wondering what others would say re of this line of thought. Hiring someone to edit my work is not on the table for me, and not likely to be.

Anna Spargo-Ryan
05-18-2013, 03:42 PM
When (if) I finish this manuscript, I'll pay to have it edited and pay to have it assessed before I query it.

To be honest, I'd worry that paying beta readers might skew their opinion of the book, or that they would tell me what I wanted to hear.

aruna
05-18-2013, 09:36 PM
I used a paid editor for my first book and would always do it again, if I could afford it.
There's another reason betas might not work. If you use a paid editor, you know that you'll get your edited ms back by such and such a date. You don't have that certainty with a beta. And you can't demand it, either. You have to accept delays as they come. I have read other people's mss and I'm sorry to say I often took far too long. I'm sure they were biting their nails, just as I did when people read my mss. I hate it. You are waiting, and they might mail to say, sorry, life is getting in the way, and all you can say back is, it's OK, take your time, no rush, and all the time you're thinking: they must hate it! They're bored! The book is awful!
Nope, I like to pay for a service and get it back in time, thanks!
Also, I am far too soft to give a truly honest review. I hate hurting people's feelings, and I would tend to soften any critique. That's just the way I am. I guess I am not a good beta reader and so can't expect others to do it for me.
Plus, as Nathan says, I haven't got the time.

Becky Black
05-20-2013, 01:32 PM
I saw an acquiring editor on Twitter say that she is uneasy when she has an MS submitted to her that's had a professional edit, because she's then unsure of the actual skill level of the writer. Which makes her worried about the quality of the revisions they'll get back from the writer. Seems a valid point. If a writer can only get an MS to saleable quality by hiring an editor, are they going to hire the editor again for every round of revisions? It's not like the publisher will say "oh, this has had a pro edit so it must be fine, we'll publish it as is!"

Self-publishing on the other hand, that's different, since the writer is acting as the publisher too and just doing what a conventional publisher does - hiring an editor to whip the book into shape before publication. So I can see the value of hiring an editor there.

Betas, well, they don't all have to be fellow writers you do a manuscript exchange with. They can be discerning, clever readers, with an eye for detail and great critical faculties. They don't want paid and they don't want an MS of their own critiqued. Maybe they're looking to get into pro editing themselves and want practice. Maybe they like to get the first look at a book. Maybe they just like doing it and the only "payment" they want is an acknowledgement and your endless gratitude. ;) But of course the trick is finiding someone like that.

aruna
05-20-2013, 02:45 PM
I saw an acquiring editor on Twitter say that she is uneasy when she has an MS submitted to her that's had a professional edit, because she's then unsure of the actual skill level of the writer. Which makes her worried about the quality of the revisions they'll get back from the writer.


I think she is misunderstanding what a "professional editor" actually does -- or else the one I had is atypical! Or else it's me who's got the definition wrong.

My first book had a professional editor. This doesn't mean that the editor took my ms and made all the changes she thought necessary. She did exactly what a publisher's editor does (because that's what she had been previously): she told me what was working and what wasn't, what needed changing, which character needed work, and most of all, how I could restructure the book by reorganizing the chapters and thus strengthening the story. ANd then I went through the ms and made all the changes I agreed with -- MYSELF. So, all the actual work was done by me, not by the editor.

If OTOH "professional editing" by definition means the editor does all the work, then I agree with you: that's cheating.

Terie
05-20-2013, 03:44 PM
I think she is misunderstanding what a "professional editor" actually does -- or else the one I had is atypical! Or else it's me who's got the definition wrong.

My first book had a professional editor. This doesn't mean that the editor took my ms and made all the changes she thought necessary. She did exactly what a publisher's editor does (because that's what she had been previously): she told me what was working and what wasn't, what needed changing, which character needed work, and most of all, how I could restructure the book by reorganizing the chapters and thus strengthening the story. ANd then I went through the ms and made all the changes I agreed with -- MYSELF. So, all the actual work was done by me, not by the editor.

If OTOH "professional editing" by definition means the editor does all the work, then I agree with you: that's cheating.

It's not a matter of cheating, though. Even in the situation you describe (which I think is typical of good, reputable freelance editors), the quality of future revisons requested by the publisher won't necessarily match the quality of the manuscript.

Even though a writer makes the changes themself (!), there's no guarantee that they absorbed the lessons and will consistently apply them to future work.

Imagine being in an editor's shoes and contracting a manuscript, only to find that when you request further revisions (say, new scenes and chapters), the quality of the writer's work is substantially lower than the submitted manuscript.

If the problems are bad enough, it's actually justification for cancelling a contract.

Getting a professional freelance editor can be a boon for people whose skills are such that they can permanently absorb the lessons to be learned. Assuming that you're one of those people (and I'd bet money you are, Aruna :)), it's beneficial for both the manuscript in question and the writer's long-term career.

But there are plenty of people who just won't or can't absorb those lessons. Believe me; I'm a technical writer and I have loads (and Loads and LOADS) of experience of writers who continue to make the same mistakes year after year after year, no matter how much their work is edited, no matter how many times they're pointed to the same sections of the style guide, no matter how many times they fix the same damn errors.

aruna
05-20-2013, 04:02 PM
It's not a matter of cheating, though. Even in the situation you describe (which I think is typical of good, reputable freelance editors), the quality of future revisons requested by the publisher won't necessarily match the quality of the manuscript.

Even though a writer makes the changes themself (!), there's no guarantee that they absorbed the lessons and will consistently apply them to future work.



But that's the risk an editor takes with EVERY writer she hopes to publish, whether not it has been "edited", or the author has been beta'd and helped by professionals. The editor simply doesn't have any guarantee as to how well the author will make the necessary changes. The only guarantee, I guess, is to take on only near-perfect mss.

Axordil
05-20-2013, 04:12 PM
I will say this regarding my writers' circle, whom I regard collectively as operating at the same level as a pro editor: I learn as much about my work by critiquing theirs as they do. As quicklime said:


A beta agreement forces you to critique, and dissect someone else's work. That's not exactly time "wasted" if you intend to learn how to write...

One thing we do that spreads the beta/editing burden out is do separate reads for line edit level concerns and for whole-book concerns. The former we do weekly in 2000 word chunks (usually about 12-15 of us a week, meeting together one night), the latter we do monthly (one long-form project per month). Having a number of people involved helps to average out personal tastes. Having a number of genre preferences involved exposes places where you're relying too heavily on trope knowledge. The tone is a good balance between supportive and editorial, usually of the "This works over here, so you should keep it up there" and such variety.

It's a great setup if you can manage it...and accumulate the right people. I came on board five years ago and it had already been going for a decade.

Namatu
05-20-2013, 04:32 PM
But that's the risk an editor takes with EVERY writer she hopes to publish, whether not it has been "edited", or the author has been beta'd and helped by professionals. The editor simply doesn't have any guarantee as to how well the author will make the necessary changes. The only guarantee, I guess, is to take on only near-perfect mss.Agreed. I can see an acquiring editor worried that the ms is more polished than an author may be able to replicate on his/her own, and by that I mean grammar, punctuation, and consistency in style. But how well revisions are executed on the substantive changes an editor may ask for can never be known until the work is done. The grammar/punctuation thing can be a nightmare if the freelance editor spent a lot of time fixing it and the author hasn't absorbed those lessons.