Home « Forum « Author Hangout

Forum: Author Hangout

Alpha and Beta Readers

Crumbly Writer

For those of us seeking to eliminate errors before we post/publish, there's an interesting article here on alpha and beta readers (who know there was such a thing as an alpha reader?)

What to expect from beta readers and where to find them.

As an aside, I'm thinking we should ask Lazeez to set up a special beta-reader page for SOL readers to volunteer to get advanced peeks at stories in exchange for feedback which might improve the stories the rest of us read. At the very least, we might consider using the forum to request beta readers.

Replies:   awnlee jawking
richardshagrin

Would that make most of the readers on SOL gamma readers? Unless they live in lower Mississippi, so they are Delta readers.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
awnlee jawking

@Crumbly Writer

ask Lazeez to set up a special beta-reader page


I would have thought that's covered by the 'Volunteer Editor' system, since the work of a beta reader seems to be a subset of the editing function.

AJ

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@awnlee jawking

I would have thought that's covered by the 'Volunteer Editor' system, since the work of a beta reader seems to be a subset of the editing function.

Beta readers (as well as alpha readers) are separate from editors. Instead of examining syntax, punctuation and form, they specifically note when they lose interest, taxing sections, exciting sections, funny (and unfunny) sections. In short, they notice everything the author doesn't about the story, rather than how the story is constructed.

As such, they don't need any particular skills other than being perceptive readers, though they need to be brutally honest (ex: this section doesn't work, I don't understand why you think this is humorous, or I don't understand this entire paragraph).

On the other hand, authors, if they choose, could appoint readers who respond and are interested in the story to beta read their next story.

Crumbly Writer

@richardshagrin

Would that make most of the readers on SOL gamma readers?

ha-ha. No, the SOL readers are the final readers, though they can still contribute to the story by pointing out any typos, errors or inconsistencies they find (something most editors never receive from readers).

Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer

Beta readers (as well as alpha readers) are separate from editors.


Of course they are, because the beta readers have to use the betamax machines. lololol

Ross at Play
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer


I would have thought that's covered by the 'Volunteer Editor' system, since the work of a beta reader seems to be a subset of the editing function.


I think proofreaders are capable of checking stories with content that does not particularly interest them, but beta readers probably DO need some interest in the story.

CW was right that authors can "appoint" their own beta readers. We can look through past emails from readers, and ask those who've made perceptive comments. The future "supply" of readers to choose from should be greater with the new comments section after stories.

awnlee jawking

@Crumbly Writer

The dire wikipedia (spit!) article https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beta_reader reckons beta readers check grammar and spelling - those are editing/proofreading functions. And everything you listed above falls withing the purview of a competent editor.

AJ

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@awnlee jawking

The dire wikipedia (spit!) article https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beta_reader reckons beta readers check grammar and spelling - those are editing/proofreading functions. And everything you listed above falls withing the purview of a competent editor.

Sorry, but every time I've spoken to other authors about beta readers, they speak of someone who'll pick up story/reader issues, rather than an editor function. I have no clue where Wiki gets it's references, but I'm betting it's not authors (possibly editors looking for more work?).

If beta readers check grammar, then why do they need a separate title? Why isn't that a normal function of editing? And why have another editor proof the finish product if it's already been throughly edited?

Replies:   REP  awnlee jawking
REP

@Crumbly Writer

I have no clue where Wiki gets it's references


I did an Internet search on Beta Reader. Almost every result said Beta Readers addressed grammar, punctuation, and other editing functions. (?)

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer
Updated:

@REP


I did an Internet search on Beta Reader. Almost every result said Beta Readers addressed grammar, punctuation, and other editing functions. (?)


Again, I was quoting authors in author forums, rather than any definitions defined by editors looking for additional work.


Beta reader - Wikipedia

An alpha reader or beta reader (also spelled alphareader / betareader, or shortened to alpha / beta), also pre-reader or critiquer, is a non-professional reader who reads a written work, generally fiction, with the intent of looking over the material to find and improve elements such as grammar and spelling, as well as ...


Ok, one point for you. But seriously, why would an author use a non-professional reader correct his grammar before they submit it to a proofreader (other than the similarities with cleaning up before the maid arrives to ensure they have nothing to do).


Beta Reader Group Group - Goodreads.com

A place to connect writers with Beta readers. Sometimes writers get so involved in the plot they can't see the wood for the trees. Hang on a sec'--that's a cliche and it's better to remove it. A cliche is just one of the things to look out for while writing.


Clearly, the beta readers see their role as being distinct from correcting grammar and spelling mistakes! Why would anyone assume readers would know more about writing then someone whose entire career is dedicated to understanding the English Language and how it's used?

P.S. I would NEVER hire an editor to beta read for me. As the article I first referenced specifies, that's more the role of Alpha readers, who are typically either Content Editors or other authors who'll spot plot holes before you commit to the full story. Beta readers, by definition, are used once the book is finished editing and is ready for publication.

Replies:   REP
awnlee jawking

@Crumbly Writer

I suspect the term 'beta reader' is based on the stage at which they are given the opus for perusal. An alpha reader gets an unedited first draft, a beta reader gets a version which is just about ready for publication.

I have no evidence to support this other than an analogy with software testing. Indeed, the dire Wikipedia (spit!) article would appear to disagree, drawing no distinction between alpha and beta readers.

AJ

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Ernest Bywater
Updated:

I'm very likely wrong in this, but my understanding of the terms is:

An Alpha Reader is the person you give the story to once you finish writing it and have a full draft you're prepared to let someone else look at. I call that the Finished Rough Draft. They're looking to see if the story makes some sort of sense and is worth going ahead with, they'll usually point out any plot holes.

The Beta Reader is the person you give the publication draft to read after you've finished with all your editors and it's ready to be published. They're looking to see if the story is polished, and if they can spot any plot holes or continuity errors the editing has created.

If there are issues at this stage it goes back around the circle of fix, edit, beta reader.

NB: Yes, editing sometimes creates continuity errors and plot holes.

typo edit

edit to add: Sometimes the proof reader and the beta reader are the same person.

Crumbly Writer

@awnlee jawking

I have no evidence to support this other than an analogy with software testing. Indeed, the dire Wikipedia (spit!) article would appear to disagree, drawing no distinction between alpha and beta readers.

Alpha reader is a new concept, as everyone was a Beta reader if regular (non-paid) readers reviewed a story.

I don't object to the concept of proofreading by Beta Readers, but that's not their primary role, otherwise few would seek them out instead of using an editor. However, authors aren't likely to refuse assistance wherever they can find it.

Does it play a role? Yes it does. Does that restrict the use of the term? In my humble opinion, absolutely not!

By the way, in that case, every single reader on SOL is, by Wiki's definition, a "beta reader".

As I mentioned earlier, I've mentioned how many recommend contacting a Content Editor before writing the entire story. This is where an Alpha Reader coincides with a full-on editing function.

awnlee jawking

@Crumbly Writer

Alpha reader is a new concept


Nonsense, an alpha reader is a beta reader with a harem :)

AJ

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer
Updated:

@awnlee jawking


Nonsense, an alpha reader is a beta reader with a harem :)


Or at least one who growls the most!

But it raises the question, if ALL non-paying readers are now defined as "beta readers", then what role does Glib's usual responses play? :)

awnlee jawking

@Crumbly Writer

By the way, in that case, every single reader on SOL is, by Wiki's definition, a "beta reader".


Surely that only applies to the heroic few who provide feedback.

AJ

richardshagrin

If an alpha male sends you a letter, is that alpha mail?

Ross at Play

The distinction I make between editors/proofreaders and (pre-publication) readers is one of expectations.

I hope a reader will detect some problems; I expect an editor to detect most problems [of the types for which they claim some degree of competency].
Thus, there is no inconsistency in the fact that the types of problems each look for are overlapping.

Replies:   sejintenej
REP
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer

Yeah. Too many terms with everyone tacking on what they mean by the term. Then they explain to the rest of us what the term means.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@REP

Yeah. Too many terms with everyone tacking on what they mean by the term. Then they explain to the rest of us what the term means.

I think Ross nailed it on the head. Authors appreciate feedback and corrections, but proofreading isn't why they're including readers in the process. Thus proofing is a side benefit, rather than a primary role.

sejintenej

@Ross at Play

I hope a reader will detect some problems; I expect an editor to detect most problems [of the types for which they claim some degree of competency].

Thus, there is no inconsistency in the fact that the types of problems each look for are overlapping.

I tend to read stories that have been up for a long time - for example one written by a Brit (I'm fairly sure) in 2010. How I wish I could have seen it before it went on SOL simply to weed out the umpteen spelling mistakes per chapter (and NOT differences between UK and USA spelling). It was really frustrating. The story is very well put together but spoiled.
Being so old I don't expect the author to go back and correct the SOL version but he has published it so that may be better

How many authors here actually look at the list of volunteer editors?

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@sejintenej

How many authors here actually look at the list of volunteer editors?

Typically, most write for some time before even realizing it's an option, and even then, they tend to go through quite a few before finally learning the ropes. A few of us have been around for a while before tackling writing, so we knew we needed help and looked for it before posting (or completing the story), but I think we're few and far between.

Back to Top