I never heard the term ‘beta reader’ until I started blogging last year. Everywhere I looked people were talking about their ‘betas’ and how useful they were and I kept thinking ‘what the hell’s a beta? Is it some software or gadget I don’t know about? It looks like I should get myself one. They seem to be all the rage…’
Eventually I realized that betas were people you have read and give feedback on your work before you send it off to agents or for publication. Apparently (according the Wikipedia)- the term did come from software fabrication released for testing before hitting the big market.
And did you know that in this little hierarchy of give and take-we authors can call ourselves the ‘alpha’ when we send it out to our ‘betas’? I’ve always wanted to be an alpha in some form! -so there you go.
A beta reader is NOT the same thing as a critique partner. A critique partner is more of a cheerleader who helps you through the writing of a first draft- you send them your manuscript in chunks as you write them and they help you identify big or small problems as you go and keep you on track.
A beta reader reads in the entire manuscript in one sitting and gives feedback on larger issues such as plot, characterization, and pacing.
When I finished my first book, I had a small critiques group on The Word Cloud that was really helpful. Some of us still keep in touch but I haven’t had an honest to goodness ‘critique partner’ in a long time. Now a’days I prefer to get my whole manuscript out of me at once in a first rough draft and do my best with initial edits and revisions before sending it out for feedback.
What do you look for in a beta reader? How did you find yours?
With my last project I specifically asked a few fellow bloggers who I thought might be interested in the story and genre itself- who were around the same level of experience- or (in some cases even more experienced:) that myself and who’s style and devotion to the craft spoke to me on a personal level. I have to say that I was very lucky to have my betas on my last project- they made a huge difference and I look forward to working with them again!
So now it’s your turn! What do you look for in a beta reader? And how did you find yours?