Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Kari's Kave: Beta Readers

Good morning everyone!

I'm coming out of my deadline "kave" to talk about beta readers because, basically, I will need some soon myself :-)

That got me thinking about when to use a beta reader.

So I decided to start at the beginning. Who are beta readers? Well, a beta reader is someone who looks at your work with an objective eye and "hopefully" points out any problems they see. Some people use fellow published authors while others use fans of the genre.

To me a beta reader is not a critique partner. A CP is a writer who can point out plot problems as well as help you clean up editorial polishing problems like grammar and spelling, etc. I like to use beta readers who are not writers, but fans of the genre. Not your mother or sister or best friend, but someone you might know who is a huge fan of the genre. They know the genre and know what they like and what they don't like.

So my plan is to start with my CP's first. Change any plot problems and polish the book the best I can. Then send to beta readers to catch anything my CP's might have missed, especially because my CP's know my story so well. My CP's rock at brainstorming :-) But you'd be amazed at what even they can miss because they already know what's coming.

Sometimes I wonder if I should wait and use my beta readers after I get my edits from my editor. Make all the changes and then use the beta readers as a final pair of eyes before the book is accepted and goes to print. Or maybe the answer is to have several readers. Start with CP's, then a couple first round beta readers. Then edits from the editor and then final round "new" beta readers. I truly think once someone has read the story they are no longer objective enough.

So then the questions becomes how many beta readers do you use and where do you find them?

What do you all do?

Enquiring minds need to know :-)

14 comments:

Barbie Jo Mahoney said...

I like the thoughts of having a "line-up" of Beta Readers. Definitely CP's first so you can polish and what you're giving the Beta is basically the finished product, barring anything out of the ordinary or any issues they may pick up on.

And you're absolutely right, once someone has read it they are no longer objective and I agree that is why CP's don't work for that. There is a reason WHY they are your CP's because they DO know you so well.

Before I go on my pre-caffeine ramble (LOL)... I think it's a great idea to have Beta Readers before edits and after edits. :-)

But since I have yet to use a Beta REader, do people share their readers?

Cassy Pickard said...

Great topic, Kari. I think that timing is important. Once the comments start coming in, either from CPs or beta readers, then your thinking changes. Who is right? What comments should be important and which are "thank you very much" but not to be incorporated? I find I need to time the feed back when I'm "there." I mean by that, that I'm clear on what I want to write and I'm ready for feedback. If I ask for opinions too early, my writing changes.

Anita Clenney said...

Dana is my only CP since I just don't have time for more than one. I don't have enough time to reciprocate. I'm struggling to fit everything in as is. As far as beta readers, for the first book I didn't even have one, other than family members and friends. I have one now, and have just gotten a couple more. On the second book, the first girl looked at it after edits. It's better to have lots of eyes because it's easy to miss things. I just caught a mistake in the copy edits for the second book. A mistake it would have been easy to overlook. I think if you have enough readers, it's probably good to have some look before, and some look after.

This brings up a question about trust. I have a girl on FB who wants to be a beta for me, but I don't know her. I haven't accepted yet because I started thinking, what if she posts the book somewhere before it's published. What do you guys think?

Anita Clenney said...

Dana is my only CP since I just don't have time for more than one. I don't have enough time to reciprocate. I'm struggling to fit everything in as is. As far as beta readers, for the first book I didn't even have one, other than family members and friends. I have one now, and have just gotten a couple more. On the second book, the first girl looked at it after edits. It's better to have lots of eyes because it's easy to miss things. I just caught a mistake in the copy edits for the second book. A mistake it would have been easy to overlook. I think if you have enough readers, it's probably good to have some look before, and some look after.

This brings up a question about trust. I have a girl on FB who wants to be a beta for me, but I don't know her. I haven't accepted yet because I started thinking, what if she posts the book somewhere before it's published. What do you guys think?

E.C. Smith said...

Awesome questions, Kari. I'm trying to figure all of that out myself right now.

My CP is definitely first up, but for me, I think having fans of the genre (trusted ones!) read through is a great way to go about it. They catch all kind of great stuff that some who had read the story before misses. And read the story with a "reader's eye" not a writer's.

Liz Lipperman said...

I love my beta readers. Here's how I do it. When I finish each chapter, I send it off to my CP who line edits. Since she's never read the synopsis, she sometimes gets so into the action and hollers at me to finish the next chapter. We're never harsh with each other - that's not our job. A simple WTF??? does the trick just as well.

When I finish a manuscript I print it off and do the first editing myself. Since we edit every chapter, this first go round is usually not too bad. Then it goes off to 3 writer friends for the beta read. These are people I trust and who I think write similar to me.(1 is published)They line edit as well on a smaller scale, pointing out typos, inconsistencies, repeats and my "comfort" words. They'll even suggest different ways to say something. I love it.

Of course, this comes with a price - reciprocation. If they're doing it for me, it's only fair I return the favor..and I do, no matter how crazy I am with a deadline. When I finished Book 2, it seemed like everyone else had finished a story, too!!

Anyway, that's what works for me. I have a lot of friends who ask me to read for them, and I just can't. On that note, this is a good place to slip in a plug for Brenda Novak's Auction for juvenile diabetes. I'm giving away a 50 page LINE edit, and right now the bid is only at $7. Kari is also giving away a critique. so hop on over there and bid.

http://brendanovak.auctionanything.com/AuctionHelp.taf?S=N&R=2&C=2&m=3&sort=1&ST=1&days=10&category_id=9787&skipkw=1&status=&_start=1

And Anita, if it were me I would NOT send an unpublished manuscript to someone you didn't know and trust. An ARC is a whole different thing, though.

Kari Lee Townsend said...

Great question Barb. I think people do share beta readers. Sometimes that's how we come across them. That's also how you know you can trust them.

Kari Lee Townsend said...

I hear ya, Cassy. I don't use any beta readers until the book is finished. I do, however, use my cp's before it's finished, but mostly for brainstorming. I used to have it critiqued as I went along, but now it works better for me to wait until it's finished. then I won't change things as I go and I will have a clearer head for the whole story once it's done.

Kari Lee Townsend said...

I hear ya, Cassy. I don't use any beta readers until the book is finished. I do, however, use my cp's before it's finished, but mostly for brainstorming. I used to have it critiqued as I went along, but now it works better for me to wait until it's finished. then I won't change things as I go and I will have a clearer head for the whole story once it's done.

Kari Lee Townsend said...

Trust is an issue, Anita. That's why I get to know my beta readers and I ask them to read for me, not the other way around. Like for my mysteries there are tons of bloggers who are fans and reviewers and truly know and love the genre. In that case, I feel comfortable using them, especially when I know they are professional and are beta readers for other authors of the same genre.

Kari Lee Townsend said...

That's what I love about beta readers, EC. They typically are NOT writers, but they are also not your family or really close friends. They are avid readers and might not be able to tell you "why" something doesn't work like a CP can, but they can for sure let you know if it's slow or boring or confusing.

Kari Lee Townsend said...

I hear ya, Liz. I get asked to read a lot of other people's work as well, and have had to learn to say no. There's just not enough time.

That's why I truly do love beta readers. If they are not authors, then you thank them with a finished copy of the book and maybe an acknowledgement, but you don't have to read for them.

They are also a great judge of how your book compares to others in the same genre. That's why it's so important to choose carefully. Don't just pick an avid reader. Pick someone who reads the genre you are writing in. I have different beta readers for my MG than I do for my cozies.

Lindsay said...

Anita,
I agree with Liz on not sending an unpublishd work to someone you don't know.
You never know what they'll do.

Anita Clenney said...

Great topic. Thanks for the advice. I wasn't comfortable sending the story to this girl since I don't know her.

Loved seeing your process Liz. I'm always interested in how other writers handle these things.