Beta Reader Group discussion

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Do people beta readers charge?

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message 1: by Crystal (new)

Crystal Beutler | 12 comments Do beta traders charge for their services? If so, how much??


message 2: by Lea-Ellen (new)

Lea-Ellen (Lea-Ellen_night_owl_in_IL) | 66 comments Crystal wrote: "Do beta traders charge for their services? If so, how much??"

Ninety-nine percent of beta readers do not get paid {except if you're asking a teacher or a professor} - they just like to help authors out - although most authors do send them a print &/or ebook copy of the book when it's published.


message 3: by Crystal (new)

Crystal Beutler | 12 comments Thanks for clearing that up. I have always done it for free but wondered if I should be charging.


message 4: by Laura (new)

Laura I think as long as it is just beta reading it should be free, if you give really detailed editor style feedback or proofreading then you should charge for that.


message 5: by Anne OK (new)

Anne OK (anne-ok) | 1 comments I'm beta reading for four authors at the moment. I offer them "the complete package." I don't charge but the authors I've associated myself with do show their appreciation with kind gifts from time to time. I don't ask for payment nor do I expect it -- but it is always nice to know I've done a job well.


message 6: by Elizabeth (new)

Elizabeth Davies | 43 comments I don't charge and I"m more than happy to read a manuscript as many times as it takes and also to proofread if required.


message 7: by Kris (new)

Kris Wellen | 6 comments I have recently gotten notes from so-called "professional beta readers" who want money. Now i regret my offer to give friendly compensation in gratitude. I'm happy to trade a beta reading if anyone is up for it. (YA, Historical Fiction, 65K words).


message 8: by Luccia (new)

Luccia Gray | 9 comments Kris wrote: "I have recently gotten notes from so-called "professional beta readers" who want money. Now i regret my offer to give friendly compensation in gratitude. I'm happy to trade a beta reading if anyone..."


That's a pity that some beta readers are asking for money. I was fortunate enough to have four generous and disinterested beta readers for my first novel whose opninions were very valuable to me. I needed a 'fresh' and 'honest' take on my novel, and as a result I'm sure it was greatly improved. By the way, I found them on Goodreads.
I have not beta read much myself, because I'm new to publishing, but I have done some and enjoyed it. It's great to see a work in progress, help an autor, and be able to give an opinión which may shape the final product.
I would be able to beta read your novel if you are not in a big hurry, as I may take 8-10 days.


message 9: by Sheri (new)

Sheri | 16 comments Writers, editors, proofreaders, and beta readers need to STOP giving away work for free. Just stop. It adds to the idea out there that the work is easy and not worthy of a price. When I got into this business, I was astounded at how practitioner efforts are so little valued, not only by those who need our services, but by those who provide them. This profession needs to take back some self-respect. It's easy. Charge a fair rate, and stop giving it away for free.


message 10: by Sydney (new)

Sydney K. | 9 comments Sheri, I'm sorry, but I disagree. I'm not a beta reader, so maybe I have a biased opinion, but I think it should be up to the people who beta to choose whether or not they charge for their services. I see nothing wrong with charging since I understand that everyone needs to make a living. However, many people beta just for fun during their free time, and many can't afford a beta, no matter how fair their rate might be. Betas want to see writers succeed, but that can't always happen if the writer does not have access to the beta's services.

Of course, there are a few bad apples out there who under appreciate betas and get mad when they charge them, and maybe the betas themselves don't realize how important they are to the writing process, and that's really sad. Betas have given me the drive to keep going when I think the story has lost hope, and I doubt I'm alone. Many people cherish betas' insight and know it's difficult work, and I think the fact that betas are willing to give their time for nothing in return communicates that they do understand how important they are and respect themselves.

There's nothing wrong with charging for your services, and people shouldn't think bad of the ones who do (unless their work is not to the standard of what you paid), but saying those who don't aren't self-respecting of their talent isn't fair, either. (I know I use betas throughout this, but I mean to include all people who are part of the writing process.)


message 11: by Sheri (new)

Sheri | 16 comments Hello Sydney,

I'm guessing this topic could be argued into infinity as much as whether or not using the the plural pronoun "they" as singular in some instances constitutes correct usage, but—I thought I'd share more of my perspective with you as you were kind enough to respond to my post. I thank you for your insight.

I'm not against sharing or giving feedback, and I agree, somewhat, with what you’re saying, but beta reading goes beyond feedback and into details that can be included as tasks of heavy editing. The tasks can even be applied as elements in developmental editing. For this kind of effort, I think beta readers should be compensated. How much to charge is another argument. I provide beta reading services with all the books I edit because it is more of an editing task than one of feedback. But that, too, is another argument.

I suppose it’s not my business if people want to give away their hard work. I've done my share of it when I was working at another job. But that's the point. I had another form of income. I offered my services as a side option, and I loved it. I still love it, but as a freelancer, to produce this type of intense work for free takes time away from paying jobs. As freelancing is my only source of income, I have to consider how I spend my work time, and I have to wonder if all I did for free in the past didn’t help to undercut the value of the work I’m trying to do now.

As a freelancer, I bid on jobs in a variety of different ways, and I know that different types of jobs pay different rates, buy I can't afford to work for free. My motivation is not to make money. It never has been. It's to help writers and to write for myself. I enjoy the intellectual stimulation of reading and helping others clarify what they're trying to write. I would, however, like to be compensated at a fair rate for my services.

I left a career because of violence in the workplace. At my former job, I was paid to help others write well, and I’m too young to collect my retirement, so I freelance my services. When I entered the world of freelance writing and editing, I was astonished by how poorly writers and editors were paid for their work. I knew they didn’t make much, but good grief. I didn't expect anything like what I found. I also discovered how fickle the applications of editing rules are as applied by different editors—another topic.

Super low rates were hard enough to accept, but imagine my surprise when I learned that beta readers—the ones who get into the meat of a piece, the part of editing that is the most detailed, the most comprehensive, the most analytical, and the most evaluative—were giving it away for free! And they still are! Yes. I’m left incredulous. It’s still an eye-opener to me how undervalued the profession is in general. If I could get paid for every time someone informed me of how easy it is to write or analyze or synthesize or evaluate or edit, I wouldn’t have to work at all.

In my view, the more writers, editors, and beta readers give it up for free, the more it cheapens what they do, or at least makes it seem undervalued as a profession. It also makes it seem like those who do it for free don’t respect it as a profession, and by default, don’t respect their efforts enough to charge for their work.

But I have learned that beta readers have been giving it away for years, so I’m not trying to change anything. I’m asking why. Perhaps my view of beta reading as a profession is shortsighted given the history of how it has been offered freely over the years.

I also understand your experiences have been positive ones, too, and I’m happy to hear it, truly.

I’m not saying that beta readers who give it up for free are lousy at their jobs, or that those who charge are better than those who don’t charge. And the answer for me is not to leave the profession just because it is undervalued.

I’m saying that from an outsider’s perspective, it looks like a lack of self-respect.

I am two years new to the freelance world of document services, and I sometimes wonder what would happen if writers, editors, and readers held out for a fair wage.

I love what I do, and I will continue to advocate for fair rates for all those who work with written documents.


message 12: by Sheri (last edited Mar 26, 2016 04:08PM) (new)

Sheri | 16 comments Dear Crystal,

I appreciate your question. It needed to be asked. I hope this thread and others on this site don't turn into discussion types that serve chastisement when opposing viewpoints are offered. I wish you well.


message 13: by Sydney (new)

Sydney K. | 9 comments Hi, Sheri!

I definitely understand what you're saying more now. You're right, this is a topic that could be argued forever. I guess the real problem is that, at some point, people just start expecting it to be free, and we all got too afraid of what might happen if we raised our rates or started charging at all (Would people start to hate us? Turn to someone else for the same service?). That's not okay. It does cheapen what all of us do, and many other artistic fields have come across this issue lately (like artists offering commissions for their work and meeting backlash or musicians cracking down on copyright).

I suppose what I was trying to say was that betas, writers, and everyone else who offer their services deserve to be paid if they wish, but free offers shouldn't stop if it makes the offerer happy (as you said). Most people's rates aren't really fair. They deserve to be paid more to reflect the quality of the work they do because most put a lot of care and effort into it. I guess those using the services are partially to blame. It's not okay that we all expect it to be free/cheap, and the industry definitely needs people who advocate for fair rates because the lack of those people is what led us here. As a writer and someone who would like to enter editing as a profession, I worry about those kinds of things.

Anyway, thank you for your insight (you have definitely opened my eyes), and good luck with your freelancing! Have a nice night! Happy Easter!


message 14: by Sheri (new)

Sheri | 16 comments Happy Easter to you, too, Sydney.

You know, I also think we give our talents away because we love what we do, and because we love it so much, we don't even realize what we've given away until we've done it. I have to say, also, that I've never been sorry to have helped someone because life is about giving and sharing. I'm just forced to really examine how it's all done now.

Best,

Sheri


message 15: by Romarin (new)

Romarin Demetri (RomarinDemetri) | 3 comments This is a very good question! I have beta readers who are friends, but also a beta who goes line by line with comments and charges a fee. Because my beta went line by line, my editing services were at a lesser rate (she found the words my brain would fill in and simple mistakes). I agree that authors don't have much money to start off, but paid beta readers are a true advantage.

I've responded to beta readers looking for writing to read for fun on Goodreads, and none of the free beta readers actually read my book, and gave me no explanation as to why. Because 3 GR beta readers pulled the plug on my project, even after I gently reminded them it was going to editing, paid beta reading was the path I started on.

I hope that helps!


message 16: by John (last edited Mar 28, 2016 09:01AM) (new)

John Simlett | 41 comments Not for the first time, I find myself in total agreement with Sheri.

Originally, before commercial software was released onto the market, it was sent to a list of Users who would Beta-Test it for a number of months in order to de-bug it. Hence the term, which has migrated to the 'beta readers' of books.

There is room for the 'hobby-writer' to get feedback from 'hobby-beta readers' - within a community environment. If hobby-writers wish to give their work away for free then they won't want to incur any costs. The system is not without merit.

Most writers, hope to get their MS published, making a lot of money from their efforts. The majority of published writers, however, don't make much money and supplement their income by, for example, writing short stories or feature articles for magazines ... and/or from beta reading, teaching Creative Writing etc.

In order to become a published author I spent four expensive years paying my way through University Diploma Courses in Creative Writing before going on to get degrees'. Consequently I don't feel it very logical for me to give away my hard earned 'skills'.

If one goes to an agency for editing, the costs can be astronomical whilst, from what I can see in here, the fees are minimal.

We are all part of a community who are undertaking the same 'writers journey', it is simply that some are further along it than others. There may come a time when you need to supplement your income as a writer, and the wisdom of Sherri's words will become more apparent to you.


message 17: by Kathy (new)

Kathy Joy | 27 comments In my honest opinion, as somebody who has occasionally beta read a few times before (not on Goodreads but elsewhere online and for a few good friends) I don't think it is a problem to beta read for no monetary gain. I can see what some people are saying about how writers shouldn't work for free (especially given that writers in general are paid so little for their work even when they do get paid for it) but beta reading isn't really the same level of work (as I have experience it) as editing or proofreading. You're just reading a story and say if you liked it - it's no different to buying one from the bookshop and deciding whether you liked it and what worked and what didn't.

Now, some beta readers might be much more in depth. I'm not saying I give no information at all, but what I don't do is highlight every spelling/grammatical mistake. I simply say 'well there were quite a few grammatical errors' or 'this sentence is a bit clunky' but that's it. If the work is littered with so many grammatical/spelling errors that the piece is unreadable, I tell the author their work is still in an early draft and to pass it back to me when they've ironed them out but I am always upfront that this will be the case (again because I do not correct every single grammatical error). I have a vague template for feedback but it is simply to least at least one thing I liked and that worked well and at least one thing that could be better. That's it.

What feedback I give is related to the story. Did the characters seem believable and organic? Was the plot consistent and did it make sense? Where the scenes believable and easy to visualise? Was the dialogue okay? As an avid reader, it is no effort really for me to see this. I point out plot errors or incontinuities or if a character acts in a way that seems out of sorts but again this is nothing more than what I do when I am reading any book, finished or not. It is not the same as editing.

Writers, editors and proofreaders should not work for free, but these services (IMO) are very different to that of a beta reader. Now, again, I realise the approach might vary from beta reader to beta reader, and I am always up for payment by exchange (i.e if I read your work, you can in turn read and give feedback on mine) but I wouldn't expect payment because again IMO beta reading is not the same as going more in depth with editing or proofreading - I am not correcting the manuscript in any way nor am I making any changes. I am just telling them what I though of their story as a reader in the same way I might tell somebody what I thought of a book I recently read. The formatting and grammatical and other technical bits should be left up to a professional who you would indeed pay or to the author to soldier on with.


message 18: by Sheri (new)

Sheri | 16 comments If you give out any response to any element of content, checklist or narrative, it's editing. It's structural analysis that crosses over into heavy and developmental editing tasks.

Editing is not just correcting every grammar and spelling error, or correcting or changing things in a manuscript. There are levels of editing. The deeper you go into content/structural elements, the more time consuming it becomes, the more analysis, synthesis, and evaluation is required, and the more higher level thinking is involved. Whether or not it's easy is irrelevant, and I hate that people continue to say "Oh, it's so easy," because it cheapens the work involved. The work is time consuming, and it deserves monetary compensation.

People---this is all editing---just in varying degrees with Beta Reading being a lighter version of developmental editing.

From what I've read so far throughout this website, the phrase beta reading is used as nothing more than a clever phrase to convince people to give their work away for free.

It's always your choice to do anything for free, and on every job there is always some work that is done for free, but to say that it's okay to not charge for beta reading because it's not editing, is incorrect. To say the same because it's easy is insulting.


message 19: by Kathy (new)

Kathy Joy | 27 comments Sheri,

I can see your point but I disagree when it comes to Beta Reading. As I said, I don't do anything different than when I read a book I buy from a shop.

Again, perhaps it varies from reader to reader, maybe others do things more in depth. That's their choice. I would say if they went into great depths with their beta reading then maybe they should be paid for it because it crosses into the field of editing and deep analysis.

I'm not saying it's 'easy' either, I'm just saying I don't think it warrants paying (or at least not for the level of observations and feedback I provide at least). When I said 'no effort' what I meant was it's no different to me than reading a book. I just read it as a reader, and readers quickly come to decide if they like something. It's not easy, it's not hard. It just is. There is no need to take offence.

Also I would argue that just reading and saying a few things you liked or didn't like is not editing - after all when you read any book are you saying you are in fact editing it? Do you ask the author for money every time you leave them a review anywhere such as on goodreads or amazon or wherever? No of course not (or at least I hope not!). Editing involves much more involved processes than reading as a reader. Take that as a personal insult if you like, but what I do is NOT editing any more than me reading a book and leaving a review about it on amazon is. Again, based on my level of beta reading, I would disagree wholly that it is editing. Although, again, as I said earlier, another beta reader might go more in depth than me and so yeah, maybe they are entitled to payment. It's their call.


message 20: by Sheri (last edited Apr 03, 2016 08:05PM) (new)

Sheri | 16 comments I understand what you're saying, but I'm not offended. I'm incredulous. I'm expressing an opinion I feel strongly about. It makes me cringe every time I hear the words easy and free when it comes to this kind of work. But because I disagree with you doesn't mean I'm offended by you.

You make an interesting point. You suggest that beta reading is no more than leaving a review on Amazon, and no, I don't charge for leaving reviews on Amazon. But I also don't enter into agreements to leave reviews there.

Beta reading a book for free is a choice. I get that. And simple reviews, like the ones on Amazon don't fall under editing tasks, but in some of the work here, more is expected than that.

And I get it. It's a choice to work for free. That's never been my point. Also never my point is that just because I think beta readers should be paid for their work means that those who don't take payment are not as good as those that do. Just wanted to clear that one up because it's one of the arguments that continually occurs when supporting work for pay.

Another is that writers are poor, so they need for people to help them for free. What? Editors and beta readers aren't poor? I mean—really?

But let me repeat - this is only my opinion. That's all.

And even if I don't agree with working for free, I get that it's a choice.

I say Rock On with your choice!


message 21: by Michael (new)

Michael Lewis (mll1013) | 30 comments John wrote: "...There is room for the 'hobby-writer' to get feedback from 'hobby-beta readers' - within a community environment. If hobby-writers wish to give their work away for free then they won't want to incur any costs. The system is not without merit..."

I agree with you John, especially because I put myself in the "hobby-writer" camp. I posted my first novel on Amazon for free in Kindle format, simply because writing is a hobby. That said, because I don't make any money from my writing, I also don't want to spend thousands of dollars for editing, cover art, and beta reading services. Because there are so many people out there who read as a hobby, I find it mutually beneficial for the hobby-writers and hobby-readers to seek out each other. The writer gets the benefit of an extra pair of eyes to help improve the quality of the story while the reader gets to check out a fresh, new novel at no cost... before it gets published even. Seems like a win-win situation to me.


message 22: by Richard (new)

Richard Nixon (richardnixon) | 12 comments If you are considering paying for a beta read, take a careful look at the beta reader's web site to see what they actually provide for $$$.

I'd also want to know: what are their qualifications - have they helped anyone get published? Do they offer to do a sample? Do they guarantee their work?


message 23: by S.D. (new)

S.D. Robert (sdrobert) | 11 comments Richard wrote: "If you are considering paying for a beta read, take a careful look at the beta reader's web site to see what they actually provide for $$$.

I'd also want to know: what are their qualifications - ..."


I don't know if there are scammers out there, but after I asked for betas on Goodreads and did not find any I went with the paid route.

One of the betas have yet to answer my emails ever since I made the payment (most are asking for payments up front). This is a bit worrisome to say the least. Hopefully, that person is just very busy, but I can only agree with you, better be careful than sorry.


message 24: by John (last edited Apr 07, 2016 12:19AM) (new)

John Simlett | 41 comments S.D. wrote: "Richard wrote: "If you are considering paying for a beta read, take a careful look at the beta reader's web site to see what they actually provide for $$$.

I'd also want to know: what are their q..."


SD,

There are scammers most places, but they won't get rich in the beta-reading world :)
I make a nominal charge, but always invoice via Paypal, AFTER I have sent the feedback (and mini-edit) to the writer. This way I take the risk and not the writer. I've had no complaints, nor has payment been withheld ... so far!


message 25: by S.D. (new)

S.D. Robert (sdrobert) | 11 comments John wrote: "S.D. wrote: "Richard wrote: "If you are considering paying for a beta read, take a careful look at the beta reader's web site to see what they actually provide for $$$.

I'd also want to know: wha..."


Yeah, I guess they would not stay in business for a long time before their name would be posted in these forums. Gladly, I received news from my beta since posting and it really was a simple case of a busy schedule.

I think paying for betas is fine, the amount is more often than not reasonable considering the amount of work involved. If someone is willing to do it for free, then be really grateful he does and make sure to thank him accordingly (or pay it forward in some way).


message 26: by Polly (new)

Polly Zetterberg | 73 comments As with any exchange of service or goods, a fee is often part of the exchange. Beta readers who charge, myself included, are interested in helping writers to make their writing into the very best it can be. For my case, I am a trained editor, and my time is important to me, so is helping new writers. I do charge fees for reading, but nothing close to copyediting or developmental editing fees.
Check out readers' websites, ask questions when in doubt. I think that most times if your reader is charging, there is a valid reason.
Readers who do not charge are fine as well, and most likely have experience enough to give helpful reviews, if needed.
The more reading and help, the better for writers, paid or not.
Polly
http://zetterbergediting.com


message 27: by Bryant (new)

Bryant Reil | 23 comments I found several beta readers (some from Goodreads and some among my friends) who were free and very valuable. I did find one professional beta reader for my final draft and did notice a couple advantages. First, the feedback was extremely detailed. There were three reports issued, one of which was comments entered directly in the text, then two other forms. Many facets of writing were addressed, and done for each chapter of the book. In addition, I was never allowed to contact the beta reader directly. This was frustrating for me trying to get follow-up feedback, but was a blessing in disguise. The beta reader had no reason not to be honest, whereas my own friends might be disinclined to criticize. Also, the beta reader worked hard and I got my results rather quickly.
I'd say paying a beta reader is a gamble; I can imagine there are a lot of scammers out there, or ones who simply want the money and don't put a valiant effort into it, but I was very satisfied with mine. I'm sure there are free beta readers out there who are just as efficient and dedicated but my experience with a professional was very positive. Also, it wasn't that expensive. I think it was about $1 per 1000 words.


message 28: by Polly (new)

Polly Zetterberg | 73 comments Glad to hear you had a good experience, and I hope the reports gave you good information.
Competent editors, and readers, are truly doing their job to help writers.
Please remember that for your next book!
Polly


message 29: by Kathy (new)

Kathy Joy | 27 comments Sheri wrote: "I understand what you're saying, but I'm not offended. I'm incredulous. I'm expressing an opinion I feel strongly about. It makes me cringe every time I hear the words easy and free when it comes t..."

Having looked at some other beta readers advertising here, I can certainly see why they charge. What they do offer is very inclusive compared to what I have done in the past.

I am capable of giving a much more detailed analysis but never thought that Beta Reading could include this and so I gave stories passed to me a basic once over general impression I suppose (hence why I never really asked for money).

I do agree that you should absolutely ask for payment if what you are offering is going to be as in depth as what I have seen. Those kind of levels do indeed as you say constitute editing - it's just the way I had been doing it wasn't really. It was more an outline of what I thought worked well and what could be better it wasn't really all too content specific. If you are going to look deeply at plot and characters, then that is going to take up your time, and it is likely you are going to have to re-read certain bits as you build feedback the same as you would do for copy-editing or proof reading.

So I guess my final stance is whether you ask for monetary compensation for your time depends on the level you work you do. If you give the absolute basic like I used to do, I don't think that was worth paying for. There's the old (and somewhat cliche) saying that 'you get what you pay for'. That's true for everything in this world and that means if you want something in depth observations on your work, you should expect to pay for it. People give up their time to look closely at your work. If, however, somebody offers to just let you know if they liked it or what they liked and didn't like in general terms, I'm not sure I'd be happy to pay for that myself.


message 30: by Sheri (new)

Sheri | 16 comments Hey, Kathy,

I've included at the end of my post a more detailed analysis of what's going on in the writing and editing world. Exposed is the undercutting and exaltation in marketing schemes that get writers to work for free.

It's a podcast well worth the listen for anyone regardless of their profession. I think you and others will find it interesting.

"Media Outlets Not Paying Writers (and Why Freelancers Shouldn't Stay Silent)"
https://soundcloud.com/jennmattern/ep...


message 31: by Kathy (new)

Kathy Joy | 27 comments Sheri wrote: "Hey, Kathy,

I've included at the end of my post a more detailed analysis of what's going on in the writing and editing world. Exposed is the undercutting and exaltation in marketing schemes that g..."


I listened to the pod cast - it was very informative. I am aware that writers are being exploited and even when they are paid it is very little when you look at hours put in and compare that to any other freelance occupation. I would like to point out that when I did beta read for free I was very specific about what the author was getting and generally I worked through word of mouth for friends or friends of friends (not saying that this isn't cause for charging of course, the reason I didn't was because of the basic level of my reading and feedback - my narrow audience was intentional because I didn't think what I offered was worth offering to a wider audience because it was very limited. If I had provided a more thorough experience and charged I would probably have advertised to a much wider group). I did it because I enjoyed reading, not for exposure.

I do remember though one guy I got who was colleague of a friend looking for a beta reader. I told him what I would do (which was a very minimal service of reading it like a reader and telling him which bit I liked and which I didn't and who my fave character was - that was it.) and he wanted me to do more - he wanted something really in depth and presented me with this list of some 30+ questions he wanted me to address while reading (all for free) and I recommended he get himself a paid editing service because that simply wasn't what I was offering so he started saying that we would both be doing each other a favour and that he would mention me in his acknowledgements and dedications when the book was published and it would give me some great exposure and he got angry when I wouldn't, so I have always been aware that there are many who expect a lot from writers for free that shouldn't be free.

I stuck to my guns though and never gave a more in depth review/feedback for free. As I my feedback wasn't that differwnt to a review on Amazon or Goodreads but I was often under pressure to do more (because I was capable of more) for free as well.

As I said, I can certainly see why some beta readers charge, especially after looking through their websites and seeing everything they cover in a beta read. After listening to that podcast I think I am going to consider offering a more in depth service and charging appropriately for it. My initial comment was only based on my experience of beta reading which didn't really equate to taking up much of my time or concentration (hence why I never saw a problem with offering it for free). As I said before you get what you pay for and I think this was covered in the pod cast too. Now, however, I know I am capable of more in depth analysis I think I might shoot for being paid for my time.


message 32: by Claudia (new)

Claudia Gruy (lilmerlin) | 20 comments I really don't want to get into the argument as both sides have valid points, and I most certainly do BY NO MEANS want to put down the insight (or work) of Beta readers, I just think most writers (and most Betas I have encountered) see it as different levels: It's first Betas - to see if things work in general for a reader (test-reader) - then it's editing services and last the editor a publisher works with.
Yes, a Beta reads a MS for free instead of having to buy one at the store - and the writer supplies the literature for free - so yes, both do it for free at this early stage. I don't see that as taking advantage of either. As a reader I get something original and have the chance to maybe even be part of changes if I make suggestions - as writer I get feedback, not professional in most cases, just unbiased opinions of readers in what works for them and what not, what bored them, what did they miss.
But that is just my opinion of course. My sister had TONS of Betas (from the lady at the post office to friends and fans) before submitting to her private editing service, from there to her agent who would pass it to the editor. She said Betas are usually bookworms who devour books and not everybody can afford buying three books a week. That's where authors are happy to hand out early works - for readers to read and for them to get inspirations on where to revise. Betas in her opinion only rarely do any kind of serious editing and that's not what she asks of them. The question is "Was it an enjoyable read or not and if not why".
But she has had those serious creature who just love hobby-editing - which she says is neat, but usually unnecessary as she is still rewriting and serious line editing useless at that stage...


message 33: by John (last edited Apr 17, 2016 04:30AM) (new)

John Simlett | 41 comments Claudia wrote: "I really don't want to get into the argument as both sides have valid points, and I most certainly do BY NO MEANS want to put down the insight (or work) of Beta readers, I just think most writers (..."

It's all very simple. There are writers who want beta reader services, and readers that supply those services. Of the latter, there are those readers that charge a fee and those that do not. The writer is free to choose.

There should be no conflicts and no arguments. The writer SIMPLY chooses which they require. Amen.


message 34: by Claudia (new)

Claudia Gruy (lilmerlin) | 20 comments John wrote: "Claudia wrote: "I really don't want to get into the argument as both sides have valid points, and I most certainly do BY NO MEANS want to put down the insight (or work) of Beta readers, I just thin..."

lol. There we go. I guess I will file this under: "How to tighten your manuscript and get the point across in less words" :D


message 35: by John (new)

John Simlett | 41 comments Claudia wrote: "John wrote: "Claudia wrote: "I really don't want to get into the argument as both sides have valid points, and I most certainly do BY NO MEANS want to put down the insight (or work) of Beta readers..."

But then you come from Austria, Claudia, which is my favourite place, so: you made your point beautifully :)


message 36: by Claudia (new)

Claudia Gruy (lilmerlin) | 20 comments John wrote: But then you come from Austria
Haha - thanks! Hasn't been an asset so far since neither Lippizans, Boy's Choir nor long dead emperors make good Bete-readers. Alas they make for a nice backdrop!


message 37: by Kathy (new)

Kathy Joy | 27 comments Claudia wrote: "I really don't want to get into the argument as both sides have valid points, and I most certainly do BY NO MEANS want to put down the insight (or work) of Beta readers, I just think most writers (..."

I think, as with anything, it all comes down to what is being offered. If the feedback is 'yeah it was a good story' or 'Nah it wasn't for me' and that's about it, then I personally wouldn't expect to pay for it, nor would I ask for payment if this was what I provided. However, some beta readers offer some very detailed feedback, thoroughly analyzing the work in much the same way an editor might but they also discuss what they liked or didn't like as a reader which is invaluable. In cases like these, it is only fair to ask to be paid for the countless hours they have poured into giving the author such vital and comprehensive feedback. Also, a lot of paid beta readers have many years experience and relevant qualifications such as degrees, copyediting and/or proofreading certificates and more.

Many beta readers do what they do for free simply because they enjoy reading, and this is fine. It might be they have no relevant qualifications except their insatiable desire to read.

Let's look at it another way. When I go to the hairdressers, I have a choice of who I see. I can have a senior stylist with several qualifications who has been cutting hair for a long time but it'll cost me more. Or I can get a student from the local hairdressing college to cut my hair and pay a minimal fee (or sometimes not anything at all). Both can do a great job and my hair will come out fine (and I have had my hair cut by students and it's been fine), but the senior stylist has a larger repertoire and knowledge pool to draw from hence why he/she charges more. I wouldn't ask the student to do anything other than trim my hair because that's the extent of their knowledge. If that's all I need then that's fine, but if I want a new look or something more involved (like highlights or a perm) then I would trust my hair to a more senior, qualified and experienced hairdresser.

Now let's use this analogy to look at beta reading.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with going with a free beta reader, and nothing wrong with hiring one. Both are likely to offer useful input on your manuscript, but it's worth noting that a free review may not be detailed (although there may be some who do - I can't speak for every single beta reader out there). If you don't need a detailed review then a free beta reader might be the best option for you. If you do require something more thorough, though, it might be worth trying a trusted, paid beta reader. A single, more comprehensive paid beta reader can often give you more useful, worthwhile feedback than a hundred unpaid beta readers whose feedback consists of 'yeah it was fine, I liked this character, this bit was funny' and that's it. However, you should make sure when hiring any beta reader, paid or otherwise, that you are on the same page and you know exactly what you are getting. If you are paying for a beta read, ensure that what they offer is: a) what you are looking for and b) worth paying for (for example if they want paying but the things they look for and comment on are quite limited, you may wish to find somebody else.)

Like in anything in this world, you get what you pay for.


message 38: by Claudia (new)

Claudia Gruy (lilmerlin) | 20 comments Well there are BRILLIANT Beta-readers who did and do it for the fun and for what beta reading originally meant - simply test-reading because they enjoyed reading.
And yes there was a time before beta-readers charged and I remember it. This somehow developed into a new "profession" - and I heard from now "charging" beta readers that they only do because suddenly if you don't you are not taken seriously anymore and writers don't trust betas who don't charge because they can't be "good"! I - personally find that sad. For me it will always be greatly appreciated Betas for test reading and my professional editor for the beyond.
So in my opinion the like "you get what you paid for" may be true for some things but not for everything. In life I have received some of the best help for free and I paid for really bad service.
And that's it for me, because in my world people are still allowed their opinion. If paying makes you feel better - do. Trust and mutual respect has always worked best for me.


message 39: by Barbara (new)

Barbara G. Tarn (BarbaraGTarn) | 127 comments I second Claudia and subscribe to everything she said - and not just because she's European and ESL writer like me! ;)


message 40: by Kathy (new)

Kathy Joy | 27 comments Claudia wrote: "Well there are BRILLIANT Beta-readers who did and do it for the fun and for what beta reading originally meant - simply test-reading because they enjoyed reading.
And yes there was a time before b..."


I wasn't trying to undermine betas who don't charge and I did say that I couldn't comment on every beta. A beta reader who offers their service for free can choose to give as much or as little detail as they like - it's their time they are donating.

I also said that if a beta is charging that you should ensure their charged service is worth paying for - there are some con artists out there, but there are also honest beta readers who are simply offering something that is not suitable for your needs, hence why I said it was very important to ensure you know exactly what to expect from a beta reader - especially if you're paying for their service (although I also said you should do the same for unpaid beta readers too).

My point was that not every beta reader who charges is just charging for nothing or to be taken seriously, and not every free beta reader gives all the information you might need. There are so many factors to consider when choosing a beta reader. I agree that it can go both ways - you can pay for a beta read and get a bad service and get a great service from an unpaid beta but it can equally be that paying a beta reader will get you what you need as well.

If you get a beta reader who doesn't charge and who gives you exactly what you need, you should be respectful and grateful but understand that a paid beta deserves the same.

A large part of this comes down to what you need for your manuscript as well. As I said before, if you aren't looking for highly detailed feedback free beta readers are for you as it doesn't matter how detailed their feedback is. You might get lucky and get a beta who offers excellent, detailed feedback, but if you need very specific areas looking at, you may very well need to pay somebody to do that. You might find a beta willing to do it for free. You might not.

It's also worth considering that beta readers who give highly detailed feedback for free may have very limited availability and/or may only read for a select number of people so there may be occasions where somebody looking for very detailed feedback/analysis will have to pay for it. They may also be in low supply.

I myself have beta read for a long time for free, usually for friends or friends of friends - my service was passed on by word of mouth. The service I offered though was very basic.

I recently made the move to charging for my beta reading, but this paid service is much more in-depth and covers a hell of a lot more than what I did when I beta read for free. I am not doing this to be taken seriously. I am doing it because I enjoy beta reading but I also think that my time and effort is worth the money. Since I started beta-reading for free I have gained several qualifications as well.

I recently beta read a 5k short story and was paid for it. Annotating the manuscript and reading it thoroughly took me three hours (I read it several times to ensure I didn't miss anything and that I covered everything I promised I would). Not only that but as part of my service I offer a report which gives additional, highly detailed feedback that covers plot, place, scene, setting, narration, POV consistency, exposition balance, character development, dialogue, use of language, the strength of the opening and ending (amongst other things - it depends on the manuscript). It serves to tie up the annotations and highlight at a glance problem areas but also parts of the story that work really well. As you can imagine, this takes me even longer to compile. All of this for just 5000 words. Imagine how many hours I would put in for a novella or even a full-length novel? I would not do this for free. My time is too valuable for that. New professions pop up every day. Times change. I work hard at what I do - why shouldn't this be my profession?

You are right that trust and mutual respect work best but there is nothing to say that you can't have that with a paid beta as much as you do with a free one. "You get what you pay for" goes both ways too. A beta reader must decide what their time is worth. Now I haven't been charging long but I have noticed the difference in the type of client I get. I used to get a lot of people trying their luck when I offered my less detailed service for free - they wanted me to do what I charge for now for free - wanted all those hours for free. Now as I say, I have just started this and I am sure I will get somebody who will demand even more for me, or even try to demand I do this for free.

Let me say again that there is nothing wrong with doing it for free because you enjoy it and enjoy helping people but just because you charge does not mean you are not interested in that either. I go out of my way to ensure people who pay for my service get exactly what we agreed to. I would not settle for less because I have pride in my work but if somebody believes my time is valuable and worth paying for, then I aim to prove them right and ensure they get the best I have to offer and that they are 100% satisfied. Again I realise that some paid betas don't care and some unpaid betas share this level of pride in their work.

It may interest you to know that I have used free and paid betas and some of the free betas gave little to no useful information and the paid beta gave excellent feedback that proved invaluable. I did not pay the beta reader to 'make me feel better' but instead because they were the only beta reader who offered exactly what I needed. I did my research and discussed exactly what I needed and the paid beta delivered. I had similar discussions with the unpaid betas too.

It is great to hear that you managed to find such invaluable beta readers for free, but this is not always the case all the time.


message 41: by S.D. (last edited Apr 23, 2016 05:56AM) (new)

S.D. Robert (sdrobert) | 11 comments Finding free beta reader is not easy and when it comes to unbias critique, I think it's best to ask a perfect stranger. I went the paid route to make sure to get some feedback but writers beware, not all paid betas are professionals. I paid two betas, and one is three weeks behind the original estimate and not answering my emails anymore -- this is getting a bit frustrating. :( Gladly the other appears to be top notch.


message 42: by Kathy (new)

Kathy Joy | 27 comments S.D. wrote: "Finding free beta reader is not easy and when it comes to unbias critique, I think it's best to ask a perfect stranger. I went the paid route to make sure to get some feedback but writers beware, n..."

Completely agree. It's all well and good giving it to friends and family but I find they will not be as brutally honest as I need them to be and often the only recourse is to ask somebody who knows nothing about you to look at your work and give their honest, unbiased opinion.

Before going with any beta reader, paid or otherwise, you should see if they can offer testimonials or examples of their work and really ensure you're both on the same page. There are sharks out there who will take your money and run. If you are paying, go for a beta reader/critiquer who offer guarantees so that if they cannot get your work back to you by the date agreed they will refund you.

If you are trusting somebody with your hard work, it really pays to find out as much about them and what they are offering even if they're not charging for it.

For example, I myself am in the middle of starting a paid critique service and am drafting out the legal bits to ensure that both myself and the clients are well protected - they know that I will deliver what I promised when I promised, and I know they will pay me for the hours I put in (the risk can go both ways). I protect myself by asking for 50% of the fee as a deposit. However, I have a clause whereby if I cannot give a client their manuscript back by the agreed time I will ask for an extension of 3 days but I MUST give the client ATLEAST 48 hours notice of this. This is to cover me against unexpected events such as hospitalisation rather than 'I fell behind'. Life happens. If I do not give suitable notice, or I cannot give the manuscript back by the extended date, the client gets a full refund of the deposit, no questions asked and a 25% discount on the next manuscript they send, even if it is the same one I didn't get done.

This is the sort of thing you want to look for. I know many good beta readers/critiquers who do offer this and they have raving reviews. These are the people you want to go with. Find somebody who is interested in helping you improve your work rather than somebody looking to make a quick buck for nothing.


message 43: by John (new)

John Simlett | 41 comments Kathy wrote: "S.D. wrote: "Finding free beta reader is not easy and when it comes to unbias critique, I think it's best to ask a perfect stranger. I went the paid route to make sure to get some feedback but writ..."

My answer, as usual, is simple. I only charge my fee after the writer is happy... I run the risk.


message 44: by S.D. (last edited Apr 23, 2016 08:02AM) (new)

S.D. Robert (sdrobert) | 11 comments John wrote: "My answer, as usual, is simple. I only charge my fee after the writer is happy... I run the risk."

Yeah most I have seen were asking to be paid upfront. I did not mind at the time because the amount was reasonable considering they were offering more than a critique. I will definitely be more careful next time.

Bottom line in my case, finding betas was a struggle, maybe because my novel is not that interesting who knows! I had some people that read it for free, but I sometimes felt they were trying to be nice which was not helping. In my mind, paying was a sure way to get an unbiased opinion.


message 45: by John (new)

John Simlett | 41 comments S.D. wrote: "John wrote: "My answer, as usual, is simple. I only charge my fee after the writer is happy... I run the risk."

Yeah most I have seen were asking to be paid upfront. I did not mind at the time bec..."


give me a buzz if your stuck, S.D. betareader2016@outlook.com


message 46: by Kathy (new)

Kathy Joy | 27 comments S.D. wrote: "John wrote: "My answer, as usual, is simple. I only charge my fee after the writer is happy... I run the risk."

Yeah most I have seen were asking to be paid upfront. I did not mind at the time bec..."


What's you novel about? Can you give a brief synopsis, genre and word count?


message 47: by S.D. (last edited Apr 23, 2016 09:11AM) (new)

S.D. Robert (sdrobert) | 11 comments Thanks for the offers, however, I don't intend to pay other betas for this round. Kathy I will PM you the information so that I don't pollute this thread.


message 48: by Jesslyn (new)

Jesslyn (le_books) | 36 comments I think that betas should be paid, honestly. But if you're going to pay a beta, they need to be worth your money. I'd go with an experienced beta, and always ask if they'll do a sample chapter to see if they're worth it.
A lot of betas just go in and say that they love the story, or they don't take the time to expand on their notes and explain why something may not be working. In my opinion, if you're going to pay someone to beta, they need to be able to do this. Yes, feedback is invaluable, but if you don't fully understand the feedback, there's not much you can do with it.

That being said, I do think that the good betas are underpaid. It takes hours to not only read a novel, but to comb through it and try to piece together why something may not be working is a long process. I'd like to charge a lot more, since I want nothing more than to make a living of this, but since betas have a reputation of being free most authors aren't willing to pay more than $.001 per word, or even less. Not to mention finding jobs is hard work, since most people don't see it as a profession.


message 49: by Jessica (new)

Jessica | 115 comments I don't have much new info to add, but I'll say what makes sense to me.

If you, the beta reader, have a project and the author you connect with also has a project and you swap--no charge. You're already getting something out of it.

If you, the beta reader, are going to make a few comments here or there and give general impressions--no charge. You're already getting paid with a free book to read.

If you, the beta reader, engage in intense line edits and pages upon pages of reports on what's working, what's not, and where the author should go next--charge. You're doing WAY more than simple reading. But only charge if you have experience and are committed to your service. It's a job, so take it seriously.

If you have any sort of schooling/degree (English, Creative Writing, Editing internship, etc.)--charge. Provided you do a good job and not a general overview of the book like mentioned above.

That's what makes the most sense to me :)


message 50: by John (new)

John Simlett | 41 comments Jessica wrote: "I don't have much new info to add, but I'll say what makes sense to me.

If you, the beta reader, have a project and the author you connect with also has a project and you swap--no charge. You're a..."


Makes total sense, Jessica.

Trouble is most people want a lot of 'something for nothing' ... and then complain if nothing's what they get.

That's almost a lyric ...now for the music...!


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