Friday, December 4, 2015

Alpha Readers and Beta Readers

A popular post from 2011

I was recently looking for beta readers for my most recent book when a friend of mine asked me if I had already used alpha readers. I blinked stupidly at her and told her I'd never heard the term. She explained what she meant and I realized that was basically what I used beta readers for--so we have a synonym issue; two words, same definition. Like child and kid (not the goat kind...moving on)

So, then I did a little research to see what the world at google-large thinks and here's what I found:

Alpha Reader:
*The first people to read the book, often while it's being written who help you craft the story as it develops.
*Someone who reads the book before anyone else in regard to how it works on an industry level, often a published author or expert in the genre your writing.

My comments: Well, I happen to have a writing group who helps me chapter by chapter so that means I have alpha readers--who knew? I've never used the second type of alpha reader. It sounds to me like an alpha reader would have to have some understanding of craft since they are either helping you develop the story or they are reading it as compared to other similar works. So here's my definition:

Alpha reader: Craft-savvy readers who either assist in the development of the book as it is being written, or can help with the industry-specific aspects when it is finished.

Beta Reader:
*Someone who will read the manuscript in its entirety after it's finished who will offer discerning advice on how to best prepare it for your editor.
*Not necessarily a professional editor
*Often has a specific focus, expertise, or experience.

My comments: This was my understanding of beta readers and I have a very good pool of them I alternate between for my books. I try not to overwhelm any of them by asking them to do every book because I'm writing 2+ a year. I also have a basic agreement that if they beta read for me, they get a free copy of the book AND I will reciprocate by being a beta reader for them. Some of my beta readers are writers, but not all of them. I find beta readers who are just 'readers' to be very helpful since they don't get caught up in line or craft things. That said, writers catch things that a reader never would so having a variety of perspectives is helpful. So here's my definition:

Beta Reader: Someone who reads the manuscript after its completed prior to submission who then gives feedback on the overall book based on their perspective.

A few more thoughts on beta readers:
*Have at least two. Unless your mother is Dr. Laura who will tell you the honest truth whether you like it or not, she should not be a beta reader.
*Too many beta readers can become obnoxious, you have to go through each of their feedback.
*If a beta reader doesn't give you useful feedback, consider them strongly before you send them another manuscipt.
*A good beta reader will help you identify things you couldn't see on your own.
*A great beta reader will give you suggestions on how to fix it.
*Every manuscript should go through beta readers before its submitted.

What did I miss?

Happy writing!


Heather B. Moore said...

Great breakdown. I definitely use both alpha and beta readers before submitting.

Curtis Moser said...

Good stuff, Josi. I've never used either. Maybe that's one of my problems. :)

Nancy Campbell Allen said...

Awesome definitions! Love this post.

Sulthana said...

I heard the term alpha reader for the first time today and googled to land on your page. Thanks for this insightful and helpful piece! I too had only heard of beta readers before.

Nicci said...

I have plans to use both Alpha and Beta readers.