Beta Readers

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Welcome back, loyal listeners! This week, we talk about Beta Readers–everything you wanted to know but were afraid to ask. As always, we appreciate you listening. Please hit the “like” button on YouTube and subscribe to our show via whatever podcast app you use. Thanks!

 

  1. What exactly is a beta reader?
    1. Where the term comes from. The computer industry. Beta is the second letter in the Greek alphabet, so beta is used to mean the second thing in a series.
    2. There are several answers to this. A “beta reader” is the term we use to describe a non-professional reader of your work. Where an ALPHA READER reads your work as you write, a BETA READER will look at your completed draft before you submit for publication. It’s important to note that a Beta Reader is NOT AN EDITOR, though they will occasionally point out a few errors, they are not reading with an editor’s eye, nor should they.
  2. What does a beta reader do, then?
    1. A beta reader is going to read your draft and make comments on several aspects–characterization, plot, pacing, prose, etc. They’ll tell you where the prose is lacking, what characters seem flat, where the plot lags, etc. They’ll tell you where the story contradicts itself, what plot threads have dropped, what they’d like to see developed, etc. Essentially, it’s an early reader opinion that can help shape your book before a publisher sees it.
    2. Writers get too close to their work. The brains sees what the writer “meant,” a beta reader sees with fresh eyes.
  3. How many should I have?
    1. Don’t do too many. Later on, we’ll recommend returning the favor. It can be a large commitment. I have three, but generally only use two per project (depending on who is available). You want to avoid having too many as it will slow down the process.
    2. Remember, you’re asking them to do an awful lot of work.
  4. Can’t I just get a writers’ group? A workshop?
    1. You can, but they constitute “alpha readers.” Also, reader groups mean more work coming in. They can be more time intensive. While they can give you a variety of perspectives, some of the opinions can vary widely, which compromises the quality of the feedback. Some workshops can be very competitive (Iowa Writers’ Workshop is famous for this).
    2. It’s part of human nature to look for fault in the work of others. (Al’s experience from his architecture days). You want people that care more for your project than in trying to look smarter than you.
  5. What should I look for in a Beta Reader?
    1. Someone who is willing to do the work for you, and has the time to do it.
    2. Someone who can be tactful, but specific. One who doesn’t mind telling you his/her honest opinion.
    3. Someone who will also praise the good work you’ve done and encourage you.
    4. Someone who understands what you’re trying to accomplish as an author.
  6. What happens if I disagree with my Beta Reader?
    1. It’s your book. But if you trust your beta reader (as you should), you will want to consider their opinion.
    2. This is where having two beta readers help. If they both see the same problem, then there’s a good chance there is a problem that needs to be addressed.
  7. How do I keep my Beta Reader happy? (http://www.thebookdesigner.com/2014/03/5-things-you-should-know-about-working-with-beta-readers/)
    1. Don’t give them a draft.
    2. Give it to them in the format they prefer. (zamzar.com)
    3. Give them guidance.
    4. Don’t take it personally.
    5. Return the favor.

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