Author Topic: beta reader request etiquette?  (Read 2494 times)

scrubbyfish

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beta reader request etiquette?
« on: July 15, 2015, 12:09:31 AM »
I've seen several people on the forum refer to beta readers, which is a new term and concept for me. I have a project I will at some point like feedback on, and wonder if anyone can tell me about the etiquette in asking for this. My wonderings are things like:

1. What does a beta reader do? Read and then provide any feedback they wish to? Something more specific?

2. At what stage of a project is it ideal to request this? i.e., Should it be very, very polished so they are not too irritated?

3. What do we give/offer in return for such a service?

4. Is it more appropriate to hire people via a site like fiverr.com to do this, since then we can pay them for that time?

5. Are any MMM members offering services on fiverr?

Lis

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Re: beta reader request etiquette?
« Reply #1 on: July 15, 2015, 06:56:04 AM »
I think on a forum like this, just ask and you shall receive. Everyone here has the option of skipping over it if they don't want to participate, but I think some people will help out because they want to. Since this isn't a writing/author based forum, I'd ask once you have a 'finished' product.

In a former life, I beta read for fanfiction writers just for fun. I typically made sure their grammar was correct, had the correct punctuation, etc. Few times, if they were working on a longer piece of work, we'd talk about where they wanted their stories to go and how they would get there.

There are plenty of authors around here who can give better input and recommendations, but try checking out Amazon Kindle's author's forum.

As for your last two questions, I used to sell on Fiverr (though nothing to do with reading/editing). While you can certainly find some gems on there, I'd avoid it. I think you'd end up paying a lot more than $5 to get genuinely good service. Try checking out writers forums (or here!) first.

MonkeyJenga

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Re: beta reader request etiquette?
« Reply #2 on: July 15, 2015, 07:46:30 AM »
Hi scrubbyfish! Here's my input:

1) Beta readers typically are looking for issues of incomplete characterisation, confusing plot flow, anything that needs to be clarified, fleshed out more, or cut because it doesn't add anything. In the case of a novel, you have a whole world in your head, and everything makes sense in the context of that world. The plot happens this way because of this and that, and Character A says something seemingly nonsensical because of this thing in her history that only you know, and everyone needs to know what happened two Sundays ago while characters were buying ice cream because IT'S IMPORTANT TO YOU even if nobody else cares. Beta readers are relying only on what's been written, so what's in your head won't bias their reading.

2) There may be differences in opinion on this. Certainly, beta readers don't expect perfection, otherwise they wouldn't be beta reading it. All the elements of the text should be in place, though, with basic proofreading and some editing done, so they won't be taken out of the story by glaring errors. A second round of more comprehensive editing after receiving their feedback will usually catch more small typos and sentences/paragraphs you want to reword.

They should be given clear instructions to be brutally honest. You're trying to make a great piece of art, and it doesn't help you to hear "I loved it! I loved everything about it!" Good for the ego only in the short term, until strangers read it and shred it apart.

On the flip side, be prepared for negative comments from friends. You need to approach it as an academic exercise, with the understanding that everyone's first book is terrible, Harper Lee notwithstanding.

3) Your sincere thanks and a free e-copy of the book once finalized should do it. I think that's how arebelspy handled it when forum members beta'd his wife's novel. Malaysia41 is nearing the end of a round of beta reading, you may want to talk to her about how she handled it.

4) For beta reading, if you're lucky enough to have friends, virtual or otherwise, who want to read your work and help you out, it's fine to do that step without getting money involved. Keep in mind that beta readers are usually not going to proofread or copy edit your piece, although they may point out specific typos that they noticed. For comprehensive copy editing, as well as more extensive editing like moving parts around, rewriting for better flow, catching any big picture stuff the betas didn't, you should pay someone.

5) I set myself up on fiverr as a copy editor at M41's suggestion so I could help out with her Italy book. If you're interested in talking more or have any other questions, feel free to PM me.

Villanelle

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Re: beta reader request etiquette?
« Reply #3 on: July 15, 2015, 07:51:12 AM »
If it is a novel, consider services like Scribophile.  You critique other people's work to earn points, and those points allow you to post your own work.  Critiquing other works, especially in your genre, can really teach you a lot about your own work.  Also, I think it is easier for strangers to be brutally honest. 

scrubbyfish

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Re: beta reader request etiquette?
« Reply #4 on: July 15, 2015, 01:30:58 PM »
Thanks very much, Lis, MonkeyJenga, and Villanelle!

Definitely I would like brutal honesty; alas, I don't write novels/fiction (people who do that are gods to me!).

MonkeyJenga, please PM me your fiverr profile! :)

Lis

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Re: beta reader request etiquette?
« Reply #5 on: July 15, 2015, 01:57:01 PM »
Villanelle, thanks for the recommendation of Scribophile! I just signed up, and as a pretend author, this is definitely awesome and inspirational.