Professional Beta Readers?

NbDawn

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I just finished writing a 92,500 word sci-fi novel. I know in the past that my writing skills have not been all that great. But I've been working and studying really hard to improve my skills. Where can I get feedback on my novel? Currently, I'm only able to get a few of the people in my writing group to read it but most aren't interested in the same genre or don't have the time. I'm willing to pay for a professional beta reader but I'm worried about those fakers out there who will steal it and publish it for themselves. I don't mind reciprocal readings, but I'm not sure how qualified I am to beta read someone else's story. I have posted the first chapter here in the past and the feedback was helpful. I may post the improved version again here shortly. In the meantime, what are your thoughts on beta readers? Do you know any good resources?

Thanks!
 

Vaz

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Personally I've never heard of preffessional beta readers, sorry!

This website seems like the best place for attracting beta-readers who are willing to help without payment. Usually, if you're heavily involved on the critiques board its likely you'll attract someone interested in reading your work. :)

Hope that helps some.

v
 

Cory Swanson

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That sounds like an awesome job. Maybe you are looking for an editor? I feel that a good professional editor would also be able to tell you about structure and coherence.

But if you're paying enough, I'd gladly give my totally unqualified advice. ;)
 

HareBrain

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Maybe you are looking for an editor?

I think a few freelance editors do offer a "beta reader" service, basically a single read-through and a few comments. I don't know any off-hand, so you'll have to do some searching (unless any that are members here chime in).
 

NbDawn

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That sounds like an awesome job. Maybe you are looking for an editor? I feel that a good professional editor would also be able to tell you about structure and coherence.

But if you're paying enough, I'd gladly give my totally unqualified advice. ;)

I do have an editor already. I've found with editors in the past that they strictly look at grammar, punctuation, and such. The only other place I've found feedback on the story itself is through Simbi. But they weren't professionals. Just people who offered to read it and give feedback. Most of the information was helpful.

What do you mean by 'unqualified' voice? I'd certainly consider paying but I'd expect the feedback to equal the level of payment. In other words, a chapter-by-chapter analysis and overall analysis on structure, character development, writing ability, coherence, etc. would be worth paying for over an "Oh, yeah! It's great." review with three or for bits of feedback. I'd be happy to discuss it if you're interested.
 

Venusian Broon

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'professional beta reader' sounds like what I would call a content editor (or as Teresa has said, developmental editor). I hope she doesn't mind me saying that she herself offers such services and I paid her to critique my entire novel. She was excellent and IMHO worth every penny for my writing development.
 

NbDawn

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It sounds like what you have is a copy editor, and that a developmental editor is what you are looking for.
I guess I'm not familiar with the proper terminology. So yes, I'm in need of a content editor or two or three... people who aren't friends and family who will give me more honest feedback.
 

Cory Swanson

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I call it unqualified advice because I have no experience in the industry. I have never been published, and I'm trying to learn the ropes myself. I know what I like to read, and I'm hyper critical, but I would have no idea how to relate that to what other people want to read or whether it will sell, etc. I think that, if you're going to spend good money, you should hire someone who works with these things and could point you to changes that make the book more publishable.

I just know what works for me.
 

Jo Zebedee

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I'all also recommend Teresa and mention @Boneman too.

I think you are looking for two different things - betas where you have more than one and developmental editors where you'd usually only work with one.

I'll throw another option in the bag which might be worth looking at - a writing group. Mine sit between beating and editing.
 

NbDawn

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Thank you all.

Cory, I kinda laughed at your comment that you just know what works for you. One problem I continuously encounter when I have several people read my story for feedback is the conflicting information. One says I need to ground the beginning of my story in the character's normal world and one says to start with action. One says I have too much description and one says I have too little. One says I don't give enough information on all the characters and another says I have too many characters and there's no need to describe them all. Despite the conflicting information, though, ebeta readers have been exceedingly helpful in pointing out things I missed and especially helpful when they all point out the same issues. Even the conflicting information is helpful because it makes me think more about my writing and what I want to accomplish.

I am currently part of a writing group but either they don't have time or their genre is way too different from mine. I'm not sure I post here often enough to feel comfortable asking for beta readers outright. I'll certainly consider Teresa and Boneman. (And Teresa and Boneman, if you see this, I'd be more than glad to compensate you for your time if you're interested.)
 

The Big Peat

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Professional betas should be a line below developmental editor, but developmental editor does sound like what you need.
 

Theophania Elliott

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As far as I can tell, the other-people-giving-feedback stuff seems to go:

1. Developmental/content editor. This is a person with some experience/knowledge of knowing how stories work. They can tell you things like, your main character doesn't do anything except react/your pacing is too slow/you need to tighten here and here/your protagonist makes a major logic leap in chapter 6 to make the plot work, and while you're at it, delete chapters 1 & 2 because they don't do anything useful. You can probably expect advice on how to fix the problems.

2. Beta-readers. These are non-professionals. They're not going to give you specific structural story advice: that's not their job. Their job is to be the first 'real readers' to see your story at a fairly advanced stage, and they give you a reader's-eye view of it. Do they hate your protagonist? Is it boring? Did the pages fly by or did they have to struggle to get to the end instead of doing something more interesting, like the washing-up? Did the plot make sense? It's their job to tell you what readers are likely to feel/think when they read your story, not necessarily how to fix it. This may not seem very helpful, but it's vital: after all, your story is going to be read by readers, not editors. You need a 'normal person' view. The real qualification for being a beta-reader is that you love to read.

2a. Some people have alpha-readers, who see the story at an even earlier stage than beta-readers (which is why beta-readers are beta). I'd guess that it's before even the developmental editor sees it. Presumably their job is to say things like, "This is basically Star Wars, isn't it?" or, "You do realise none of it makes any sense at all, right?" That is, is your story working, even in a very rough way? Sometimes you can be so close to it that you just can't see the major problems, and having a second pair of non-specialist eyes can point you towards big problems you can fix - that don't need an editor's expertise once they're pointed out.

3. Copyeditor. These people look at the spelling and grammar, so they come last in line. There's no point getting all the commas right if you're going to delete the entire chapter.

For developmental editing, you probably want to find someone with good testimonials: this is the expert who's going to tell you how to fix things. You want it to be right. You also need to make sure that the person likes the kind of story you write: no point sending your sword-and-sorcery fantasy to someone who generally does chicklit; the styles are too different. Unless you've got friends who know about story structure etc, expect to pay.

For beta-reading, there are quite a few ways to get beta-readers who will read for free. Goodreads is apparently a fertile source - there's one group called 'Support for Indie Authors' or something of that nature; it's quite big and quite active, so if you join that and ask, they might be able to point you in the right direction. Or some of them might be willing to do it themselves. There are other groups on Goodreads where you can ask for beta-readers too, I think.

For copyediting, I'd strongly advise you to put your work through something like Grammarly first - preferably before you send it off to your beta-readers (be nice to them!), but definitely before the copyediting stage (Grammarly picks up more errors more reliably than Word, even in the free version). Every error you can pick up with a computer program is one that a real person doesn't have to pick up. And I know from experience that if a page has twenty errors on it, chances are a human will pick up eighteen and miss two. If there are a lot of errors, there are just so many you can't get them all. The fewer errors there are, the more chance a human will pick them all up. A messy manuscript is just distracting. Plus, if you're paying for copyediting, I think they charge by the hour. The more errors they have to correct, the longer it'll take and the more it'll cost.
 

Jo Zebedee

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Alpha readers are an interesting one - my writing group see my fairly horrid first drafts. They comment on structure, characters and anything that makes them twitch (we are expected to polish at least a little).

As to finding betas - every single one of mine came from here (named this week on the top 100 writing sites). Join in. Critique others. Strike up friendships - and, gradually you'll find beta readers :)
 

NbDawn

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This is all very helpful, everyone! I think I'm ready for a context/developmental editor. (I had no idea there was such a thing). I've found one so far. And thanks for the copyeditor advice on using grammarly first.
 
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Tim Murray

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I just finished writing a 92,500 word sci-fi novel. I know in the past that my writing skills have not been all that great. But I've been working and studying really hard to improve my skills. Where can I get feedback on my novel? Currently, I'm only able to get a few of the people in my writing group to read it but most aren't interested in the same genre or don't have the time. I'm willing to pay for a professional beta reader but I'm worried about those fakers out there who will steal it and publish it for themselves. I don't mind reciprocal readings, but I'm not sure how qualified I am to beta read someone else's story. I have posted the first chapter here in the past and the feedback was helpful. I may post the improved version again here shortly. In the meantime, what are your thoughts on beta readers? Do you know any good resources?

Thanks!
I found plenty of beta readers in my small circle of friends. Some even knew others they recommended who enjoyed the genre. If you can, find an English teacher, or a retired one to help out. One of my physical therapists (terrorists) even volunteered to beta read my second book. There are a lot of Sci-Fi fans out there. Sometimes, just asking will get you one. May good fortune follow you!
 

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