View Full Version : Charging $ For a Beta

03-23-2017, 04:05 AM
Put this somewhere else if it isn't the right forum, best I could figure this is the place for it.

I got asked to beta someone's fantasy novel (not an AW'er), and I'm sorta, well, neutral about doing it. To sweeten the pot, I'm being potentially offered payment for my services. How much is a good amount to ask for? This isn't gonna be a line edit, and I'm'a gonna be pretty clear about what she can and should expect (I suspect this person's never had anyone beta for her before). And, frankly, less $= less pressure, so I'm willing to lowball this one.

Any suggestions for what's reasonable? YA fantasy, let's say 85-100k.

Gale Haut
03-23-2017, 04:32 AM
$50 for a full read. Deduct based on percentage read if you just absolutely can't get through it.

03-23-2017, 07:37 AM
Perfect, thank you!

Old Hack
03-23-2017, 08:45 PM
Beta readers don't get paid, so you shouldn't charge anything. If you're going to be paid you need to have a skill which you've nurtured and trained, which makes you an editor.

03-23-2017, 10:02 PM
I see where Old Hack is coming from (and agree, for the record). But I did pay for my very first beta, and would say it was a good choice at the time. The novel was indescribably bad, but I was blind to the things I was doing wrong, even though I had spent months on AW reading and learning and put in many hours in the SYW forums. For me, I think everything I write is good when I first write it (or I wouldn't have committed it to the page...), and it takes fresh eyes to help me see where it's bad. The whole self-editing thing has been the biggest challenge in writing. I'd tried getting betas on here and always had them politely bow out after the first chapter. In frustration, I turned to the English department at the college where I graduated and asked for a student contact. The head of the department gave me a name and email address of one of his better students and we worked out an arrangement where I paid her $10 an hour, with weekly updates and no more than 4 hours at a time. Either could bow out at any time. Honestly, she was just doing it for the money, since nobody would have read the thing for pleasure. But it was worth every penny to get someone to work through the whole thing with me. At the end, I could see patterns and bigger issues that no amount of banging my head against the wall (i.e. reading and re-reading) would have gotten me. I re-wrote the book from scratch and ended up with a novel that went from inexpressibly horrible to merely really bad. But it was tolerable enough that I could get a "regular" beta on here to help me, which was an essential step I couldn't seem to pass before. And - six years of off-and-on work later - I have something that's finally getting more positive comments than negative.
But the better part is that my second attempt at a novel (which you just read for me, Kevin) was stronger out of the gate than the first book was after two re-writes (though it's at five, now...). Granted, I'm still not publication-worthy, but I would have just given up if a patient soul hadn't been willing to do a read purely for the financial gain.
My point, I guess, is that betas shouldn't make a practice of trying to charge for their services. I've had well over a dozen different readers and they vary widely in their abilities. But if this writer of yours is willing to pay and is a complete novice (with all the room for growth that implies), it might take some money to get somebody to hash through it. But that's such an individual thing, that it's hard to make a solid rule.
I can vouch for you that you do "get inside" the story and give helpful advice. Of my dozen readers, you are easily in the top four. So if you need a reference, hit me up!
EDIT: Personal anecdotes aside, Old Hack is correct. Playing editor is generally frowned upon. Why isn't your writer friend on here? Every writer should be! And there might be another YA fantasy writer willing to swap and skirt the whole issue.

03-24-2017, 12:02 AM
Beta readers don't get paid, so you shouldn't charge anything. If you're going to be paid you need to have a skill which you've nurtured and trained, which makes you an editor.

I've seen a number of 'educated readers' (such as bloggers) offer beta reading as a service in the last year or two. I've even seen one or two freelance editors rebrand their standard manuscript eval as a 'beta read', presumably for marketing purposes. It's a new trend, but it definitely seems to be something that is becoming more common.

I don't see it as a bad thing. Not everyone has a network that contains willing, suitable beta readers and not everyone is willing to put in the effort to develop that network. For authors, paying for these services can be a shortcut or convenience.

As for the readers, beta reading for new novelists is quite often not enjoyable and readers put in a lot of time (and often thought and effort!). I don't see why this labour should be strictly unpaid. There is a huge difference between the proposed charge here and what any editor worth their salt would charge for a manuscript evaluation. It's pretty clear that it's not a professional editorial service.

03-24-2017, 12:56 AM
Agreed, LillithEve. I think there is a space for vastly underpaid betas in some cases. For me, six years ago, I was a very motivated (and minimally talented, I don't think it's unfair to say) wanna-be writer. I just didn't have the chops and experience necessary to attract a beta reader. My first attempt on the SYW forum was a humiliating experience - and rightly so! My favorite thing about AW is that the good folks on here are honest first and foremost. Now, I'm living proof that improvement is possible. But it took a little financial "skin in the game" for me to get the first step along that road. Hiring a "real" editor (at thousands of dollars) would have been a foolish waste of money, and I knew it. So I'm glad I found a middle path.
In my opinion, suffering through someones early attempt at writing should be reimbursable in some way. Beta readers are truly the unsung heroes of the writing world. I'm always amazed at how much work a total stranger is willing to do to help me become better. I swap when I can (and always offer to read in the future for someone who doesn't have something to swap right then), since that's the most logical payment. But sometimes a swap might not happen. I don't personally have a problem with payment of some sort in those cases. It's hard work. It should get something.
Also, I would hope the writer wouldn't be expecting professional-level work for the few bucks they're spending (although, you never know...).
This is a good discussion, even if it's typically taboo.

03-24-2017, 01:24 AM
I am beta-ing for the first time. I am enjoying doing it, and getting feedback. As I offered to do it I never thought of being paid for it. At the other end of the scale a bloke in a local tea room I go to asked me to read through his novel and correct it for him. Spelling, punctuation and grammar. He asked me when I could start. I told him we had to agree terms. He got up and left. Shows how much he values his work if he was not prepared to invest in it. If he had made me an offer I doubt if I would have taken it - and would have read it anyway. One of the other regulars over heard our conversation and told me he had looked over the first chapters of the hand written manuscript and that is was really awful. Phew!

03-24-2017, 02:11 AM
I've done a fair bit of beta-reading recently and would never charge for it. I do like to do it as a swap--so I tend to end up doing more reading when I have something that likewise needs it. Ends up being mutually beneficial not just for the mentorship but in forcing me to put a project aside for a bit.

The problem with charging is neither side really knows what it's getting. I'm a big believer in having more than one beta-reader--the term is borrowed from software beta testing and the whole point there is to have broad test base with ready-to-go work (I have also done software beta tests). Beta-reading isn't really appropriate, IMO, for a new author whose never had eyes on his or her work. That's an alpha read, and it should, again IMO, be someone the author trusts who can nurture and mentor as much as give that objective feedback. The book probably isn't ready for it, and at that stage a beta reader is just going to be wasting his or her time correcting basics the writer needs to learn on his or her own.

The best solution there, I think, is a crit group. AW's Share Your Work is a good option, too, if you want blunt feedback from experienced writers and critters. A lot of times, though, a writer just has to develop self-awareness and critical distance from his or her work. You can't buy that. You only get it by writing more, reading more, and critting others.

OP, in your case I'd suggest a swap but if I suspected the work was really raw I'd direct her to a local writer's federation or writing group, or suggest she post in SYW.

Hope that helps.

Old Hack
03-24-2017, 11:22 AM
Hiring a "real" editor (at thousands of dollars) would have been a foolish waste of money, and I knew it. So I'm glad I found a middle path.

Editorial agencies will give you feedback for a lot less than "thousands of dollars". Last time I looked, reputable agencies charged 350-600 for a report, and they're written by good, experienced editors who know their stuff.

03-24-2017, 01:20 PM
I don't have a problem with beta readers charging. Beta reading, when done right, is a serious, time-consuming project that takes tens of hours. It *is* work. It has real value.

Most of my beta-reading experiences have been in the context of swaps, but I have beta-read for others where I got nothing in return. That was because I knew them and wanted to help them.

Suppose there's someone who is a big reader in my genre. That person's feedback would be useful to me as market research. But that person is not a writer and doesn't know me, thus there is no swap option and it's unlikely that person will simply do me a favor. I'll have little reason to expect that person to spend, like 20+ hours, to beta my book for free. If etiquette frowns upon paying for betas, then chances are nothing will happen.

But if I offer money for that person's beta service, a win-win transaction may occur. Most of us sell our time to make a living. If I pay that person, that person earns an income to support itself and I get useful feedback from a target audience. We are both better off.

Good beta feedback is extremely helpful. I would rather have the option to pay for it than to not get it at all. Most of us are motivated by money. If the prospect of profit increases the supply of good beta readers, that's a plus to writers.

Now, it would not be cool to promise something that you can't deliver and charge for it, but that applies to all services, not just beta-reading. As long as you are honest about your background and what you will provide, let the buyer decide. If the buyer doesn't like it, the buyer can say no.

ETA: If you want to charge for beta reading and are afraid of misunderstanding, you can always offer to crit a chapter for free. This way the buyer will know what it is getting from you.

Gale Haut
03-26-2017, 08:35 PM
Beta readers don't get paid, so you shouldn't charge anything. If you're going to be paid you need to have a skill which you've nurtured and trained, which makes you an editor.

This. I just figured this was some sort of unique situation.