Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Is Beta Reading Right for You?

Beta readers... What do they do, exactly? I've compiled quite a list of articles regarding beta readers below, but first, a definition and my take on why they're so important:

When attempting to describe the definition of a beta reader, I came across this. 
Thank you, Wikipedia, for always being so prompt and informative.

So, in a nutshell, writers use betas for feedback. (Betas are a bit different from critique partners, as critique partners--also referred to as CPs--tend to who know their stuff and really dive down into the nitty gritty of a manuscript.) Beta readers don't necessarily have to have a background in editing, or writing. Their job is to look at the manuscript as a first reader. Betas are great at pointing out inconsistencies, especially series inconsistencies writers tend to gloss over/completely miss after reading that 70+ thousand word MS fifty times already (like, But two books ago you said her eyes were orange, not yellow, or whatever).

Betas are our a writer's best friend. Or, at least, my betas are. I'm not saying they're the people you hang out with and tell your innermost secrets, but they are your manuscript's best friend, because their job is to help you make it the best it can be. When I send stuff to my betas, I know they're going to point out things the readers will notice. I expect suggestions, knowing I might not use them all (but better to conteplate now rather than later, once the book is out and changes can't be made, right?). I expect my betas to tell me things politely, but they do have the right to disagree with my decisions, as long as they're tactful about it. It's important to remember that all beta readers are different, and that, if you choose to beta read for someone, it's okay for your personality to shine through. Some betas send back two pages of notes. Some have detailed suggestions on every page. Some only point out their favorite and not-so-favorite things. Some don't say much other than "yay" and "I'm so excited for ____". The point is, reading it and saying, "It seems decent" isn't going to help anyone, nor is sending twenty negative comments per page. 

Last, betas, a lot of times, end up being an author's core team of fans (but it's also okay if they don't). And by fans I don't mean crazy people who squee over you and stalk you online and get confused and think they ARE you (although, I could deal with that); I mean people who are your advocates. Who spread the word about your work, because they get it. Who you can count on in a pinch to read that novella or ask about a character list and if you missed something before sending something off to print. I don't know where I'd be without my beta readers. 

Now that I've explained what betas do, here are some great articles on beta reading that I've come across, as well as a great recent #k8chat (held by Kate Tilton on Twitter every Thursday night at 6:00 EST) regarding beta readers (lots of tips from readers and authors). I'd like to point out that most of these are written for the writer, not the beta reader, but they're still great and will also potentially give you ideas as to what to request as a beta reader (like knowing what format you'd prefer the document in, for instance). 

Another point real quick: it's important to remember that betas are not editors. It is not their job to point out the technicalities of punctuation (though, if that is your forte, you are more than welcome to mention that to an author before beta-ing... they might appreciate catching that stuff before their MS goes to the editor). I think of betas as the person you go to and say, "Hey, do these shoes go with this outfit?" To which they respond, "Well, last month you wore them with this dress, and it kind of goes but you seem to do better wearing these with pants. Oh and those earrings you had on last week would go great with it! That eyeshadow is not working for me at all, though." (Bad example? Oh well.)

Without further ado, here are some great tips on beta reading (including a couple from the OA blog, too): 

What is a Beta Reader and Where Do I Find One? via Casey McCormick (@Casey_McCormick***make sure to read the comments in this post!

* What is a Beta Reader? Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Getting and Giving Feedback on Your WIP via Jamie Gold (@JamiGold) at Anne R. Allen's blog

The "Art" of Beta Reading via Kati Brown

* Beta Reading Etiquette via Trisha Leaver (@Tleaver)

Five Things You Should Know About Working With Beta Readers via Corina Koch MacLeod and Carla Douglas of Beyond Paper Editing

* Agent Q & A part one: Revisions (in which agent Laura Bradford discusses the benefits of a beta reader) via Kell Andrews (@kellandrewsPA)

**This post was originally featured at my blog, Let Me Tell You a Story, but was tweaked a bit to be more applicable here at OA. :)

If you have any experiences, suggestions, or questions, feel free to share them in the comments!


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