Monday, May 30, 2011

Beta Beta Bo Beta

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?

24 comments:

Jessica Bell said...

I too had no idea what a beta reader was when I started.

I found my critique partner through blogging. I've got two actually and they both write in a similar genre to me. I don't know what I'd do without them!

Tamara Narayan said...

For the first book, I had family and friends read for me and got a few helpful comments. People from a local writing club were more helpful. The best feedback was from agents I queried. For the second, I will reach out to other writers online and find some Betas. Bransforums would be a good place to start.

Sarah said...

I found Justine at Nathan Bransford's forums, and she's become both a good friend and a trusted beta. She's harder on me than anyone else, but it makes me better. Recently, I found Jaime as well (through JD), and now I feel truly fortunate to have two lovely, intelligent readers who always find stuff I don't even think of.

Read my books; lose ten pounds! said...

i used my two best friends, when they had the same complainet, I knew it was serious.

Its so important.

Dan said...

"A beta reader reads in the entire manuscript in one sitting and gives feedback on larger issues such as plot, characterization, and pacing."

Or, in my experience, your beta readers read a couple chapters, then disappear without a trace.

Don't know why, but it's happened to me three times now. Maybe my book's magical. Maybe I spilled reader repellent on the pages. Maybe it's the beta-blockers I'm taking, I don't know.

Hope your experience continues to be a positive one.

Dan

Lindsay said...

I had no idea about Beta readers either when I started.

I found my awesome CPs via blogging. I don't know what I'd do without them. :)

Old Kitty said...

When I started blogging last year I had to get to grips with blogger lingo - all these acronyms!!! LOL!!!

At the moment I'm just with CPs (yes I can do the writerly bloggie acronyms now too!! LOL!!!) to cheer me on and buck me up for now!!!

Betas mean business!! Yikes! Good luck with yours!! Take care
x

Dorothy Evans said...

I've known about beta readers for a while - haven't got any as I haven't got a complete ms to hand over, but I plan on getting some. Hadn't heard of critique partners though - interesting idea I'll look into. Thanks.

PS Loved Dan's "beta-blockers" - wonder if they'd work as an antidote to a bad review, perhaps?

Stina Lindenblatt said...

My CP was originally my beta reader for my last book. She's awesome.

This weekend, I received feedback from one of my a beta readers. Okay, more like she kept emailing me questions about my theme and inner motivation of mc. Between talking to her and my CP, I realized I had my theme all wrong (it's still there, but it's no longer the major theme). Thanks to both of their help, I'm going to do some revisions to the first act to strengthen it. But the funny thing is, this is the area my BR was struggling with on her own project so it came out when she read my book. And her questions caused me to question the book I was reading for someone else. ;)

Gina said...

I found them through blogging. It surprised me how much easier it is for me to share my work with strangers... I still haven't shown my current writings to anyone who knows me personally.

And I didn't know you were a fellow UConn alum! I lived in Hilltop and graduated in 2002. How funny to think we might have been there at the same time!

Theresa Milstein said...

I've used a different combination of readers for each manuscript, depending on people's schedules. This time, my friend Aubrie looked at my manuscript every three chapters. Then I edited a few times. Now it's out with two beta readers. One has gotten back to me with some general comments, and now I'm waiting on the other. I hope to have a final reader after I incorporate their suggestions. Then off to the agents and editors it goes!

Love my critique partners and beta readers too.

Caitlin said...

I'd never heard of beta readers, either. Not until I started blogging! I don't have any beta readers right now. Not going to lie, the thought kind of scares me! But I plan on finding one (or several) when I finish my manuscript.

Talei said...

I've not sent off my entire manuscript to anyone as present but I have found some great friends via blogging who I can send to.

While writing, I send chapters to friends who are in the target audience for the genre. I think this makes sense for Betas too. ;-)

Carolyn V said...

I love my beta readers. I have four. Two YAs and two writers. They have great feedback and help so much.

LTM said...

oh, wow. LOL! And here all this time I've been calling my beta readers my crit partners... :D I found all of mine through blogging. Seriously. Blogging wins.

I've never had a crit partner. I would love a crit partner, but everyone just wants to see it when it's done around here.

I'd offer, but you know. I got these two sacks... :D <3 xoxo

The Empress said...

I still think it's incredible that you can find someone to read what you write (not you personally, I just mean, in general)

Are there really people that generous with their time out there??

Creepy Query Girl said...

Gina-That's too funny! I went there from 2001-2004. Shippee Hall and then the North Campus resident appartments. Fun times! I still miss that place but it's changed so much since I went there I wonder if I could still even find my way around!

Katie

Jennifer said...

Being in the technology field I knew what a beta reader was as we use that term for software testing. Anyway sorry for the nerd alert there...I have my sisters as my beta readers. They are my worst and best critics and never go easy on me which is exactly what I need.

Laura Maylene said...

I found my current beta readers and writing buddies through other writing groups in my city. Those writing groups themselves didn't end up being a good fit for me in the long run, but they were absolutely priceless in introducing me to these wonderful writing friends (and beta readers).

It took a long time, though. I went to multiple writing groups for years before finding them.

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Before I started blogging, I didn't know what a beta reader was either. Blogging teaches us SO MUCH! :-)

Nicole L Rivera said...

1. Someone who avidly reads the genre. 2. Someone who is timely with their response

I've had a few who qualify under #1 but not many #2's. And vice versa. Still looking. Can't wait to have one that does both :)

Nicole L Rivera said...

1. Someone who avidly reads the genre. 2. Someone who is timely with their response

I've had a few who qualify under #1 but not many #2's. And vice versa. Still looking. Can't wait to have one that does both :)

Talli Roland said...

Someone who reads in my genre and can let me know what 'works' and what doesn't. That's my definition and I'm sticking to it! :)

Nicole L Rivera said...

Not sure. I think it's like you said, it just happens. You get into your next project and you forget about the last. It's kind of like heartbreak. You fall in love with someone else and eventually it's like your heart was never broken before.

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