Beta / Proof Readers discussion

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General > Beta Reader Etiquette

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message 1: by Jerry (new)

Jerry (yjerry) Great work,is a good advice.


message 2: by Crystal (new)

Crystal | 9 comments This is really good! Beta expectations were outlined clearly. Thank you!


message 3: by Robin (new)

Robin Glassey | 5 comments Thanks for this advise on Beta Reader Etiquette. I especially love the reminder about line edits. I'm always so tempted to do line edits - it's like an annoying itch I have to scratch. But if it isn't what they asked for, then I have to respect that.


message 4: by Ellen (new)

Ellen | 27 comments Thanks for this. I have questioned wether the writers I read for, think I am doing a good job or not. I have always gotten appreciation, but none have ever told me if I did ok or what they expected of me. Also, I'm kind of new at this. I am most proficient at catching spelling, grammar and sentence structure issues.


Roughseasinthemed | 27 comments Mostly, beta reading isn't about the detail. It's what did I think to this book, why did I like/dislike it? What about the characters? Plot? Pacing? Structure?

Yes, some authors may want detail and tbh, I provide that as well, but I concentrate on the bigger issues.

Do you check with your authors what they want? How you are going to respond? Basically, a beta read isn't a free proofread.


message 6: by Scarlet (new)

Scarlet Darkwood (scarletdarkwood) | 2 comments These are great pointers.


message 7: by Ben Hoover (new)

Ben Hoover | 6 comments Another thing that I'd ask if it is okay to clarify? Beta's are really a form of developmental editor in most instances, and as such, as roughseasinthemed stated, as an author I want their feedback on the big picture, not the minutiae of the line by line.
As an author I believe on of my responsibilities is to be appreciative of their effort, and if they don't meet my requirements (and I do not consider being a yes-person a requirement, I want critique and honesty, not fans with my betas) I will gently just stop sending them stuff to proof as time goes on.
I also believe it is my responsibility to give them more than ample time to read and process the material I asked them to beta.
Nothing worse than sending a beta 3,000 words of your latest work and stating 'tomorrow is the deadline'.
I try to operate on a three to four day window per chapter, simply because beta's are devoting their time to helping me.
I appreciate it. And, since they are doing it for free, one thing I personally do, and think other authors should do as well?
When I get it printed, be it self published or via trad publication, they will receive a complimentary, signed copy, and I personally note and thank my beta's in my dedication.


message 8: by Ellen (new)

Ellen | 27 comments Thanks Ben.
I guess I am a first and foremost a proofreader. I can't read through a book and really concentrate on the storyline until I have corrected the grammar, spelling, and punctuation. For me, it's like trying to ride a bike down stairs. Sometimes I'll read a piece several times just to be thorough in the storyline aspect.


Roughseasinthemed | 27 comments Ellen wrote: "Thanks Ben.
I guess I am a first and foremost a proofreader. I can't read through a book and really concentrate on the storyline until I have corrected the grammar, spelling, and punctuation. For ..."


And the whole point is, that beta reading is not detailed (free) editing or proofreading. As Ben says, it is big picture.

If you want to offer free proofing that's up to you (although I don't).

I do agree with you though, that reading something full of errors is sooooooo distracting. That raises the difficult issue of at what stage should an author send their MS. If they get it polished before beta reads they may end up paying extra to editors/proofreaders. I did one beta read that had already been professionally edited and was in good condition, but I've seen other MSS that are dire, and like you I can't see the story for the faults. I've also read some extremely well self-edited books.

To me, an MS should only be sent to betas when it is looking good, not full of spelling, grammar, and punctuation problems. It's not doing the author any favours.


message 10: by Megan (new)

Megan (ReadingRover) | 10 comments Everything listed here is extremely helpful. There are often times when I have trouble finding an easy positive way to put into words the changes that I think would benefit the work. Some authors can be sensitive and I understand why. It's their baby you're criticizing so it's often hard to suggest changes that they may not like.
Also, I see what you're saying that the beta should focus on the story line if that's what's asked for and not a line edit. However, I agree with Ellen and the others that it can be incredibly distracting to read someone's work when it's sent to you asking only for plot, character and pacing critiques but hasn't even been run through a spelling and grammar check. I've had a few authors send me things that had great storylines but were so completely a wreck when it came to structure and even just spelling that it took me 10 times the amount of time it usually would to get through it. By the time I was done I was so frustrated I had to step back and remind myself that the line edit wasn't what was wanted. It can definitely make the writing less enjoyable. I can't understand why an author doesn't do something as simple as use spell check before sending out their work.
It's one thing if there is just the occasional error but another if the work is such a mess that you can barely read it. Sorry to rant about it. I just finished reading one like that and it killed me!


message 11: by Ellen (new)

Ellen | 27 comments Megan wrote: "Everything listed here is extremely helpful. There are often times when I have trouble finding an easy positive way to put into words the changes that I think would benefit the work. Some authors c..."

In defense of authors, there is a thing that happens with our brains that has us see things the way our minds are thinking it. Meaning we become blind to the errors either grammatical or otherwise. I used to do proofreading for a living and sometimes you just need 'a new pair of eyes' to look at it. When we would get 'stuck' we'd pass around what we were proofreading for a new view. After reading/writing something multiple times, your eyes will just see what your mind thinks should be there. The same goes for balancing money as well.


message 12: by Ben Hoover (new)

Ben Hoover | 6 comments Ellen speaks the truth. I do run mine through a spell check and do my best with grammar, but I do get blind to some of the errors. I don't mind if they correct what they see, but that isn't my focus when I send it to my betas.


message 13: by Megan (new)

Megan (ReadingRover) | 10 comments Ellen wrote: "Megan wrote: "Everything listed here is extremely helpful. There are often times when I have trouble finding an easy positive way to put into words the changes that I think would benefit the work. ..."

I definitely get the whole being blind after rereading your own stuff over and over again. I have it happen to me too. I'm not saying the writing should be a perfect manuscript when a beta receives it. It doesn't necessarily even have to be close. A courtesy spell check is just something that would make reading any writing easier and more enjoyable. I don't expect a finished product or a polished work. I'm not trying to pick on anyone. For me it's like second nature to do a spell check especially before I have someone else read something of mine. I'm just curious why someone else wouldn't since it's so simple and can make a big difference. (Lol As I now tediously reread each word of this post cringing and looking for errors!)


message 14: by Ben Hoover (new)

Ben Hoover | 6 comments You are quite right Megan. I view that as a common courtesy to send it to your beta in the best condition you can get it.


message 15: by Donna (new)

Donna Hokanson | 14 comments Ellen wrote: "Megan wrote: "Everything listed here is extremely helpful. There are often times when I have trouble finding an easy positive way to put into words the changes that I think would benefit the work. ..."

It's one of the reasons I tell authors to listen to their work via text to speech. Our eyes and brain will put things in or take out what does or doesn't belong. The double the the, or a missing a, etc. But that's the proofreader in me.
As for the beta reading:
Having lived with a writer, I found that the story in the brain of a writer and what gets put on paper sometimes lacks certain things. The author has a part of the story in their mind, but it never makes it onto paper.


message 16: by Zellie (new)

Zellie | 5 comments Thank you so much for this it helps a lot Im reading for three authors and two are amazing to work with as a team I follow their guielines to the letter. But one is driving me insane no matter how nice I am so argue's every point I make 🤕


message 17: by Christine (new)

Christine Goodnough (christinev-g) Excellent advice. As a writer, I don't want to be shot right out of the sky --- but I've been writing long enough that it's not so likely to happen. As a beta reader, I'm with the writer in wanting the manuscript to be the best it can be. So I'll point out areas that I think need help. I'll always try to be tactful, but will be honest.


message 18: by Tito (new)

Tito Athano (bobspringett) | 69 comments As a writer, I need all the help I can get! I know that I carry a lot of assumptions in my mind that I think are obvious but the reader won't share, and will therefore miss some aspects which might be critical to a character or plot twist.

I NEED TO BE TOLD THESE THINGS!!

I have one Beta-reader who is excellent, but my one complaint about her is that she is apologetic when she points out a fault. I've told her to no be so shy about doing her job! That's what she's there for; to optimise the book, not to stroke my tender ego!


message 19: by Christine (last edited Oct 08, 2017 04:29PM) (new)

Christine Goodnough (christinev-g) Zellie wrote: "Thank you so much for this it helps a lot Im reading for three authors and two are amazing to work with as a team I follow their guielines to the letter. But one is driving me insane no matter how ..."

I know how you feel. The writer, being the one who has the clear understanding of this point---or the whole scene in his head---can't figure out why the reader isn't getting it. It's so clear! Must be that person is a mite dim or even pig-headed---at least on this point.

I've had (family) writers argue and elaborate at length about what they mean when they wrote this paragraph. And it is very frustrating. Don't explain it to me---get it down on paper! And why ask my opinion if you don't want to hear what I think?

Patience, patience!


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