Looking for beta readers

Stephen Cooper

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Hi,
I have almost finished an 80000 word scifi novel, and am looking for beta readers. I don't mind paying $80 or thereabouts as seems to be the rough going rate.
Please can I have some suggestions as to where to find some good beta readers? I notice there are some options online, e.g. Frostbite publishing, from a brief google search, but I have no idea if this would be a good place to start. Someone else also suggested approaching university students, although I would imagine it would be hard to find good critique, particularly from fans of the genre there...
 

Jo Zebedee

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Hi,
I have almost finished an 80000 word scifi novel, and am looking for beta readers. I don't mind paying $80 or thereabouts as seems to be the rough going rate.
Please can I have some suggestions as to where to find some good beta readers? I notice there are some options online, e.g. Frostbite publishing, from a brief google search, but I have no idea if this would be a good place to start. Someone else also suggested approaching university students, although I would imagine it would be hard to find good critique, particularly from fans of the genre there...
I suspect the mods will move this from critiques but here's my tuppence worth (I've worn out a lot of beta readers in my time):

1. Don't pay anyone until you know they're a good match for you. A beta reader who doesn't like what you write and how you write it will do more harm than good.
2. I've never paid a beta reader, ever. Well, not in money. But I've paid in returning beta reads and that's the way it's normally done.
3. Most seasoned betas for a full novel will be pretty wary of someone whose work they've never seen, or whose response to critique is unknown. I've always found it better to get to know the community first, to ask for a crit (you need 30 posts) and to crit others on the board. That way, I know if someone will take things graciously. Toys out of the pram is not what I need if I take the time to beta, nor long wearisome conversations to try to convince me I'm wrong.

So, yeah - hang out here, get to know us, let us get to know you, and it might just happen organically. All my betas come from here - and they're all awesome.
 

-K2-

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Hello @Stephen Cooper ; I'm K2. Welcome to the forum.

With that out of the way, I'm too uneducated to beta-read anything, let alone supplying any worthwhile feedback. Nevertheless, I look forward to reading your introduction post to learn a little more about you.

K2
 

The Judge

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I have almost finished an 80000 word scifi novel, and am looking for beta readers. I don't mind paying $80 or thereabouts as seems to be the rough going rate.
To be frank, if this is only just being finished and it's your first attempt at a novel, I'd suggest you put the beta reader idea on hold for a while. Unless you're a genius, the novel is going to need a good bit of work and possibly several drafts to deal with larger issues of characterisation, character arcs, pace, point of view, story development and the like, and that's if you've edited as you've gone along and have therefore dealt with all the grammar, spelling and continuity errors that can occur in the white heat of first-draft typing.

Rather than use up beta-reader goodwill on this first draft, I'd recommend you leave sending it out until you've gone through the novel at least twice yourself, and I'd further recommend that you don't actually start on the next draft/first editing pass for a few weeks after it's finished. Put it away and let it rest, and you'll be surprised how many obvious errors you pick up that you're at present too close to see. You might then be better off getting into a writing group or having some first/alpha readers to help you on a chapter by chapter basis, before finding people who will read the whole thing straight through.

While you're waiting, have a read around of a few How-to books about the larger issues, if you've not done so already, or even if you have done so. I've found that I'm more able to understand and apply advice from those kinds of books once I've had a go at something -- reading them in advance only serves to confuse me, but afterwards things slot into place a little more.

Also while you're waiting, spend some time looking at the pieces in our Critiques section. You'll see a lot of opening scenes there and a lot of advice which might well be pertinent to your own work. Join in with us on those or other writing threads, and then when you've hit 30 counted posts, perhaps put up the first 500 words of your own novel in Critiques and see how it's received. That will show if there are other immediate issues you need to address in your writing, and also allow others here to see if you're writing the kind of stuff they might be willing to beta read at some point in the future.

Meanwhile, here are some more recent-ish threads about beta reading which might be of interest:

I hope to see you around in the writing threads, but in any event, good luck with your book!

Almost forgot! Hello and Welcome to the Chrons!
 
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Brian G Turner

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Please can I have some suggestions as to where to find some good beta readers?

I would echo The Judge's comments - get the piece edited first.

I'm supposed to know what I'm doing, but even still tried to rush out a book last year without having it edited - and ended up burning a lot of goodwill from beta readers in doing so.

It's often said that publishing is a marathon, not a sprint, but that applies as much to self-publishing as traditional publishing. So make sure you get the piece - even just the first couple of chapters - professionally edited before you even think of beta readers. By editing I don't mean spell-checked - I mean a proper fiction editor who can advise on structure, as that's almost certainly where your weaknesses will be.

Alternatively, stay here and get up to 30 posts and put up your first 1500 words in our Critiques section and you'll get feedback for free. The bad news is that it's likely to sting a little - the good news is that it gets better over time, to the point where you welcome criticism because it means your blind spots are being shown. :)

In the meantime, if you really want to challenge yourself, read Wonderbook by Jeff Vandermeer and apply what you learn to your manuscript. That will likely result in a redraft. You may also want to read Save the Cat by Blake Snyder, which is superficially about screenplay writing but is very focused on character development as it applies to novels as well. Possibly another rewrite would follow after reading that - if you're going to allow yourself to question what you're already done.

Hope that helps. :)
 

TheEndIsNigh

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I'm up for a sample/test/looksee/try-out/quick look. - Say the first 5000 words.

However, as others have said, it might be worth hanging on to get your message count up to thirty and slapping a chunk into critiques.

1. You'll get an idea of how people that might be interested will critique you.

2. You'll get multiple opinions to get a feel for what the general feel is.

3. You'll be joining in the camaraderie of the site.

4. There will be at least (usually) one person that has some insight into you're story and will point out the good and the bad.

A few points I would make.

Those that critique here are into SFF. They aren't a cross section of the general population so they are usually more picky than you're average reader (not always the case but..). This can result in you getting depressed/euphoric (depending on results). Often in critiques we pick up on things that the average Joe would skip over/accept/not even notice IMO.

Anyway, In my case, I'm a picky sod. I'm pretty useless at grammar/spelling (Word does that anyway) and tend to pick up on positional or absurd anomalies.

As an example If you have an artificial gravity system caused by spining your space-craft you'd better have the rate of spin for the circumference of your ship right. (which for anything less than 1 KM is sickening by the way)
 

Stephen Cooper

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Thank you for your replies! I am going to regroup and consider options. Any recommendations for professional editing? Looking forward to posting some more soon, (I should be working at the moment) :)
 

Jo Zebedee

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Thank you for your replies! I am going to regroup and consider options. Any recommendations for professional editing? Looking forward to posting some more soon, (I should be working at the moment) :)
Refer back to The Judge's report. Professional editing before you're sure you're on the right track can be a waste of money.

Critiques first. Beta readers next. Then editors. :)
 

The Judge

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We can recommend good editors whom we have used and who have been of great help, but these are best used as heavyweight guns to come out when you've exhausted other options. Save your money and use knowledgeable free help first, such as that which Critiques here can give you. I'd differ from Brian in saying I'd look to experienced betas before professional editing, but either way, that's some time in the future.

Just in case our advice rankles a little, I should make it clear that we're not trying to belittle you or your writing in what we advise, nor pour cold water on your hopes and dreams. Many of us -- very likely all of us -- completed the first draft of our first novel absolutely convinced of its excellence and ready to take on the world, only to discover somewhat belatedly that it wasn't nearly as good as we'd thought. It's very much a case of been there, done that, annoyed the agents. I don't know why it is that because we can string a few words together we all initially think writing a novel is easy -- none of us would think that because we can walk we could immediately represent our county at running, let alone take part in the Commonwealth Games or Olympics! Training, practice, learning from experts and more training are just as important to novelists as to athletes.

Discovering how to write a novel is like being at the foot of a very long flight of stairs. Some of us start a few steps higher than others, because of past experience or courses we've undertaken or sheer innate ability, but aside from the geniuses, none of us is ever more than about a quarter of the way up when we first start. So pack your ruck sack with plenty of goodies to eat and some nice wine or beverage of choice, take a deep breath, and let us help you up the stairs as far as each of us can go!
 
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tinkerdan

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A couple of thoughts.
If the ultimate goal is to self publish and if you go with a POD that offers editing services, then you will likely end up with something equivalent to using university students for your editing. So don't blow off the idea of using university students--it might still be usable.

I happen to work with a bright young person who is 17 and has been a book doctor for a number of years. They are in their first year of college and are a bit busy now and not so much available.

As someone else mentioned; with betas you should find a fit first and then start considering paying them.

Edit your own work first until you are tired of it and you think it reads well. Set it aside and maybe play around here in the critique section for a while and periodically look back at the original work until you can see room for improvement and then work at it some more--before you give it to betas.
 

-K2-

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My stuff is perfect the first time... It's just that everyone else on the planet is wrong. ;)

With that blatant bit of nonsense out of the way, @Stephen Cooper , I'm in the same boat regarding the stage of my work, so I'm soaking in all of this advice as well.

K2
 

The Big Peat

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I can only give the second verse, same as the first, so I'll just say welcome to the forum and I look forwards to seeing you around and some of your stuff up in crits.
 

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