Archive for the ‘Alpha readers’ Category

Beta readers

My last blog was on Finished writing first draft. What next? And today I want to talk about beta readers and to answer some questions I am sometimes asked.

What is a beta reader?

‘An alpha reader or beta reader (also spelled alphareader / betareader, or shortened to alpha / beta), also pre-reader or critiquer, is a non-professional reader who reads a written work, generally fiction, with the intent of looking over the material to find and improve elements such as grammar and spelling, as well as suggestions to improve the story, its characters, or its setting. Beta reading is typically done before the story is released for public consumption.[1] Beta readers are not explicitly proofreaders or editors, but can serve in that context.

Elements highlighted by beta readers encompass things such as plot holes, problems with continuity, characterisation or believability; in fiction and non-fiction, the beta might also assist the author with fact-checking.2]’  

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beta_reader  (June2015)

I have a few beta readers, some for my fiction and some for my non-fiction. It is important to get the right beta readers for the job. I say ‘job’, but it’s not paid and I don’t give them a contract. Although I do give them a list of open-ended questions to answer. If I didn’t they could come back and say, ‘I enjoyed reading it’ or ‘It’s fine’. But how does that help me, the writer? It doesn’t.

Do I need one?

It is a good idea to have more than one. I have four beta readers for each genre I write. For some of my writing I have a first beta read and a final beta read.

Have you got people who can give you objective and constructive feedback? Some people think that their partner or friend can be a beta reader and some can, but be aware that some may fall into the category of the ‘I enjoyed reading it’ brigade.

How do I get one?

As a writer you will have a platform whether it be a Blog, Facebook or Twitter account, or all three. (And if you haven’t got any of these you may consider having at least one.) Once you have one or more of these you can give a call out for some beta readers.

What skills do I want in a beta reader?

A reader who normally reads the genre you are writing

Someone who can give helpful objective criticism

Someone who says they can meet your deadline, and does (I usually give a two week deadline)

If you are writing about a different country try and get a beta reader from that country

Someone who has the knowledge required e.g. when I write my non-fiction this is usually workbooks for staff who work in social care so my Beta readers are staff and Managers who work in this field.

When I write fiction e.g. My Chatty Cat series my beta readers are cat lovers and when I write romance my beta readers are readers of romance. Along with choosing beta readers with the knowledge you also want them to have a good degree of skills in grammar, plotting etc.

What do I give to my Beta Readers?

Be up front about what you want the beta reader to do/to look for

How will the beta readers receive your work email, hard copy? Can they write on the hard copy? Do you have a preference on the pen colour they should use? If it’s on email do you want them to use ‘track changes’?

When you want the work returned.

What do I do when they give me their feedback and comments?  

The feedback they give you will be constructive advice and you should not see it as criticism but see it as they are helping you with your writing If they didn’t give you this type of feedback then they are not doing their job right.

Plan some time to sit and relax and read through their comments and feedback.

Don’t forget to make contact with your Beta Readers and thank them.

Should I acknowledge Beta readers in my book?

Some authors do and some don’t. Beta readers play an important part in a writer’s life and I name them and thank them in my book for their support. I also send them a personalised signed copy of the book.


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