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    • In order to reduce the number of new members requesting a Beta reader before they're really ready for one, we've instituted a 50 post requirement before you can start a thread seeking a Beta reader.
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Are Beta readers able to steal your work?

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Ugawa

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Well basically what it says above. Are beta readers able to steal your idea/work? Or is it copyrighted?

Just thought i'd ask because i read something about it before on the internet and wondered if i got a beta reader is it possible for my work to end up being stolen.

Thank you

XX
 

Siddow

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Anything is possible, but yes, your work is copyrighted as soon as you write it.

If you're worried about it, make sure you choose betas you can trust. Don't just send it out blind to complete strangers, get to know people first.
 

Matera the Mad

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Anything is possible. That is why it is a good idea to get aquainted with people -- exchange some kind of corresponcence, get an idea of their character by reading their forum posts and/or blogs, and so on -- before handing them finished manuscripts. Of course in a writing community like AW, there are not likely to be lurking thieves. Nor is anyone likely to submit a manuscript as their own that needs a lot of work yet. Betas all too often find that "finished" manuscripts are not-so, alas.

If you hang around here a while and get aquainted with people, you will surely find readers that you can trust.
 

Ugawa

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Wow very quick responses.

Thank you both ^^

XX
 

citymouse

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A beta reader cannot legally steal your words once they are set down. However, some years ago I wrote a novel on a subject that is widely written about in non-fiction but isn't typical fiction fodder. I had a beta reader who is also a novelist. She too knew this was pretty much unplowed ground and was eager to work on it. After beta reading my ms (with feedback) she dropped off the radar and within a few months produced a co-written novel on my topic. She didn't use my words but the locale, type of characters and plot device / dilemma were mine. Even the plot flow closely followed my work.
Of course there was nothing I could do. She showed a lack of ethics but her behavior was not illegal. She simply beat me to the punch.
Nowadays, through emails, I ask for and usually get, an agreement that my ms is not to be discussed with anyone until after publication.
All my betas are listed in the acknowledgments and I send them a signed copy of the book for their work.
Two of my betas (a married couple) actually scoured Philadelphia looking for the venues I wrote about. They found all but one. The report back was that they liked McGillin's Olde Ale House the best. By their accounts it's a good thing they kept it 'til last! They did complain that they were forbidden to compare notes, but I bet they did. There is after all such a thing as pillow talk.
C
 

Carmy

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It's a risk you take. A Beta can steal your plot, give it a different setting, rename your characters, and market their version before you get a chance.

I asked for Beta readers only after an agent asked for changes to my novel. The agent is my proof that I wrote the story first. The Betas I chose were long-time members of AW -- and I checked what they'd posted on here. I felt as if I knew something about them, and could trust them.
 

Ugawa

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Okay ^^ Thankyou for ur help.


XX
 

citymouse

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Typically I ask for at least eight betas to read for me. I also ask people who read my genre because they are most likely to pay attention. I also prefer strangers because I believe they are not likely to sugar coat remarks.
If a writer is fortunate enough to have a friend who can separate the business of writing from friendship then I say go for it. That would be especially so if the beta knows how the writer thinks and expresses him/herself.
The gig with the writer was supposed to be a quid pro quo. As you may guess I wasn't asked to beta read my own story. My daddy always said that you pay to learn. Ain't it the truth!
C

Of course, if you want a trusted beta reader, you could use a friend who is an avid reader, but not a writer.
 

citymouse

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I want to stress that my dealings with beta readers have been excellent.
One bad experience was just that, and experience.
C
 

dgiharris

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I know that theft does occur, but my opinion is that it is rare.

Truth is, ideas come a dime a dozen, the hard part is in the actual writing. And if they do not love the story like you do, have the story in their head like you do, and understand the backstory (80% of which doesn't even make it in teh book) they will not be able to write as well as you.

In short, it takes wayyyyy too much work to steal. I'm sure it does happen, but it is by no stretch of the imagination common.

just my two cents.

Mel....
 

Wordonawing2

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What if a beta, after five months of winning your trust, requests that you send the rest of your ms/novel? (Let's say that up to that point the beta had only read the first quarter.) After you send the entire rest of the ms, the beta informs you that he/she "feel a need to focus on writing with my local contacts" and not only stops reading for you, but stops responding to your emails? What do you do then?
 

HeidiHole

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beta readers

Actually, something like that just happened to me, in this forum.

The beta offered to read my entire ms with revisions but backed out because she didn't feel she got equal crit value from me, after asking for general comments only.

Now she has the characters and plot of a ms she said had a lot of publishing potential. She couldn't duplicate my writing style, but could easily copy and paste the plot and characters into hers.

However: I also have her horrible chick-lit ms filled with typos and grammar howlers, that I could clean up and sent out. But I'm not going to do that. Nor will I allow my name to go on chick-lit regardless of how well-written it is.

And I will never again send out a complete ms to anyone regardless of how many graduate degrees in English they have, or regardless of how respected they might be in publishing circles.
 
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Carmy

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Ouch, Wordonawing and Heidihole! I'm so sorry to hear of your bad experiences. I hope you kept the emails from them as some sort of proof you had contact and sent them your novels.

I was very lucky when I asked here for Betas. Two exchanged complete novels and the third asked me to "alpha" a novel in progress. I felt comfortable with all three, but it could easily have gone the other way.
 

Chumplet

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Now she has the characters and plot of a ms she said had a lot of publishing potential. She couldn't duplicate my writing style, but could easily copy and paste the plot and characters into hers.

But... did she? Or do you suspect she will? Even so, if she took your plot and characters and her writing was inferior, you have nothing to worry about. Write your book, submit your book, and the quality will show through.

Sometimes the exchange is unbalanced, but that's the risk you take when helping others. I've read stuff by raw beginners, and wished I could help them improve, but sometimes the job is just too big. Better to wait until they learn for themselves.

I've handed pure crap to my crit partners and beta readers, and to this day I wonder how they got through the torture.
 

Wordonawing2

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Thank you for your commiseration, Heidihole and Carmy. I feel especially for you, Heidi, because your situation really is quite similar to mine. The lesson I took away is go slow. Even after five months, and feeling I knew this person very well, I could still have thought better of sending the whole thing. I wish now I'd only sent the next quarter. Of course, it might all have worked out the same way eventually. It's just a very bad feeling to know that an entire ms, and one I've been told is extremely good, is now in the hands of someone who could try to market it independently. Live and learn.
 

MaryMumsy

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I only beta for friends and friends of friends (does that make sense?). I have no hesitation in telling them when something is crap. Fortunately for me, they value my input. I'm looking forward to the day one of them is published and I find myself in the acknowledgements. I'll even buy my own copy for them to sign. And they know I have no aspirations to write fiction in any form.

MM
 

HeidiHole

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beta readers

I didn't think the beta reading process was an activity in which each side kept score like opposing managers in a baseball game. I've stuck with beta reads when it was obvious, due to the gap between our respective writing levels, that I wasn't getting what I was giving. But I made a promise to finish the project, and kept it. And I never ever, on my worst day, considered telling a beta "I can't read it" due to any perceived uneven exchange.

In fact, my experience has told me that the unwritten rule here is that, once you agree to take on a beta project, you finish it. No inventing reasons to back out of it.

Actually, the whole concept of beta reading by e-mail is so open to abuse that sometimes I wonder why anyone who values their work would be part of it. A beta could be line-editing away, making valuable suggestions, while at the same time saving a copy of the ms edited per his own advice, to send out later with his name on it!
 
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katiemac

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But... did she? Or do you suspect she will? Even so, if she took your plot and characters and her writing was inferior, you have nothing to worry about. Write your book, submit your book, and the quality will show through.

I'd like to back Chumplet on this. I understand Heidi and Word feel burned by their beta experiences, but there's no reason to assume the other writers will try to publish your work--just like there is no reason to assume that in beta exchanges that go well someone is going to try to publish the other's work. It's hard enough to publish, it's much more difficult to publish something you didn't write. People pass full manuscripts between each other all the time and nothing happens. "Stealing" is a very rare thing.

However, it is appropriate to check yourself. Make sure you know the beta so your critiques will be worthwhile. Keep a record of sending the manuscript so you have it in the rare moment you'd need it. But it's a bit useless to worry off-hand that someone will try to publish your manuscript. It takes the thought and care out of the work you need to write.
 

HeidiHole

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No, it's not really an issue of having my work copied. It's an issue of having stolen time away from other things I need to do to revise, and highlight the revised text to make it easier for the beta to find in the full ms, and getting this in reply to my it's-ready message:

Glad you're working on it. My offer to reread was to give a fair critiquing exchange based on your comments of the first chapter of mine. After that I only got a summary, so I feel the critiques were likewise as they stand. I was hoping to get comments in the text, like I provided, so I was disappointed to be frank.

Good luck with your manuscript. I think it has potential but can't reread it.


Nice, eh? No second chances. Just gone. Get lost. The beta knew I was going to let her know when the revisions were ready, and had this waiting for me.

Many a chapter I have line edited and sent out, and received in return a chapter with one, maybe two, comments in the text and one short note at the end. That's not a fair exchange. I never said a word.

Betrayal has been a constant companion of mine, but I never expected something this petty from anyone in these forums.

Again, proof that it's the people who repeatedly quote the word "fair" who have the least respect for the concept.

I would now be beta reading not as much with an eye for the writing as I would wondering if the other beta has her own kiss-off message ready if she doesn't think what she's getting is "fair." (Or maybe if someone points out to her the spelling and grammar mistakes that should have been corrected long before the ms reached beta stage.)

Computer technology and the anonymity of the Internet also make possible things that, until a few days ago, I never had the need to think of. Like whipping up a synopsis and query for someone else's ms -- that shouldn't be too hard for even a novice with command of the language -- and sending it out, or simply sending the complete ms file as-is to someone else who never heard of AW and letting them have at it.

The offer of a ms for comments and crits might also just be a project for a college human behavior class, like many personals ads already are.

Dishonest writers have been known to exist. Anyone remember James Frey? Doris Kearns-Goodwin and Kaavya Viswanathan are two other well-known plagiarists of recent times.

Double crossing, game playing, the possibility of easy plagiarism ... there are already enough reasons to wake up at four in the morning and be unable to get back to sleep. My stay on this beta exchange forum is over.
 
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Robert Toy

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Anything is possible, but yes, your work is copyrighted as soon as you write it.

If you're worried about it, make sure you choose betas you can trust. Don't just send it out blind to complete strangers, get to know people first.
Or, to completely blind strangers...;)
 

Nakhlasmoke

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...

Many a chapter I have line edited and sent out, and received in return a chapter with one, maybe two, comments in the text and one short note at the end. That's not a fair exchange. I never said a word.

...
.

Wow. I'm pretty glad I've never had anyone like you or the other person as a beta, tallying up line editing scores.

A beta is doing you a favour.

And different betas bring different things to the table, just as different manuscripts need different levels of editing.

Even someone who is able to give very little feedback, other than - I love this line! or This part really resonated with me, is still giving you something.

It might not be the constructive criticism you're looking for, but sometimes it's those little moments of YAY that keep me writing.
 

HeidiHole

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A beta is doing you a favour.

That's why I never said a word. Until now.

The beta is not doing you a favor if the beta decides she's not getting as good as she's giving and doesn't at least offer the other beta a chance to make up the difference.

I'm not the one with scorecard and pencil in hand.
 
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