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Thread: Alpha or Beta?

  1. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by luckyscars View Post
    and more importantly I am by no means qualified to edit anybody’s work so when I am made to feel like that’s part of the expectation I don’t like it.
    See that's it exactly. Betas are gold dust. I've worked with these Alphas and betas for years. They know me, but I know them too. It's why I have three betas. One's really good at spotting plot holes: she's such a logical thinker, where the logistics from one scene to another come like perfectly timed ticking bombs. Get something out of synch, and she feels the glitch and starts shouting 'unclean, unclean'. The other's really good at pace, and easily says "Yeah, this here is boring me", the other, she's reads by her sleeve, and I know if she's not reacting in her usual ways, then it needs more. They may not speak as an editor but they do feel the same, and it's those gut instincts of theirs that I trust and want. It's why I've stayed with the same betas, or more why my betas have let me stay with them. Their time is as valuable as any editors.

  2. #12
    Which costs more, a reader or an editor? Doesn't that answer the question as to the order in which a writer prefers to employ them? Professional readers probably cost virtually as much as professional editors, but are they the people that we are discussing here? It comes as no surprise that a writer would prefer to employ an amateur reader before employing a professional editor.
    'Sharing an experience creates a reality.' Create a new reality today.
    'There has to be some give and take.' If I can take my time I'm willing to give it.
    'The most difficult criticism that a writer has to comprehend is silence.' So speak up.

  3. #13
    I use both alpha readers (I call them critique partners) and beta readers (generally non-writers, if I can get them). And there's no reason I'd show them my work after the editor's involved... the editor is the professional, and I give more weight to her opinion than to the opinion of amateurs, so why would I change something she's happy with because a random person doesn't care for it?

    My critique partners and I exchange bits of WIPs as we go. We can discuss character development, plotting issues, etc., as the problems arise. If one of us gets stuck on something, the others can provide ideas and encouragement. The work I show them isn't polished, but neither is the work they show me. And we all write reasonably well, so it's not like we're sending illegible drivel back and forth.

  4. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by Bayview View Post
    My critique partners and I exchange bits of WIPs as we go. We can discuss character development, plotting issues, etc., as the problems arise. If one of us gets stuck on something, the others can provide ideas and encouragement. The work I show them isn't polished, but neither is the work they show me. And we all write reasonably well, so it's not like we're sending illegible drivel back and forth.
    I think it's more relaxed and focused when you're swapping between peers. You can get straight to the issue and use terms you wouldn't use with betas, maybe let off a little steam too.

  5. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by Bayview View Post
    I use both alpha readers (I call them critique partners) and beta readers (generally non-writers, if I can get them). And there's no reason I'd show them my work after the editor's involved... the editor is the professional, and I give more weight to her opinion than to the opinion of amateurs, so why would I change something she's happy with because a random person doesn't care for it?

    My critique partners and I exchange bits of WIPs as we go. We can discuss character development, plotting issues, etc., as the problems arise. If one of us gets stuck on something, the others can provide ideas and encouragement. The work I show them isn't polished, but neither is the work they show me. And we all write reasonably well, so it's not like we're sending illegible drivel back and forth.
    I have no experience of what professional editors do but I did send a hundred page extract from my draft novel for assessment at a professional agency that advises and instructs novice writers. They gave it to an appropriate published writer for comments, but published writers know what they personally can make work and are evidently not particularly good at seeing the potential in the works of others. He actually suggested that I change the main theme of the story entirely, which was not particularly helpful. That's the problem with paying for someone to read just an extract, especially when it has to be the opening extract from a story that develops substantially later on. At the rates they charged I certainly wouldn't have paid for the entire work to be read, given that I'd only written the novel on a whim with no real ambition to get it published.

    I also sent the entire draft novel to an acquaintance in America who happened to teach English literature and especially literary analysis in depth at a university there. He had very kindly offered to read the whole thing for no fee and he actually read it twice, telling me that he enjoyed it even more the second time and that "the reader is repaid handsomely for the time he spends with it." I don't think that it was simply that he was an acquaintance offering undeserved praise as literary critique was specifically his profession. In fact students' appraisals of him are to be found on ratemyprofessors.com and they often state just how demanding he is. Hence I must assume that he was for me the ultimate alpha reader as he clearly wasn't applying any bias towards market demands, so I received an appraisal of my work purely in its own right. Regarding publication potential he said that the work might only appeal to a limited readership, which hardly surprised me and certainly didn't bother me. Whether by that he meant others of his calibre I don't know but I am well aware that my style of writing has its idiosyncrasies. So apparently it isn't just whether a reader is a professional but what their specific profession happens to be and indeed what the writer expects to gain from their writing that decides how to seek and value any pre-publication critique.

    A writer specifically has to decide whether they can achieve their objective best by keeping within the publishing mainstream or by ploughing their own furrow. The fact that, as my acquaintance wrote, "the reader is repaid handsomely for the time he spends with it" doesn't mean that an editor or publisher would necessarily see the same potential in a work as they are commercial professionals with different criteria to fulfil. How many mainstream readers actually read a novel twice to get the full experience that it offers if it isn't already an acknowledged classic? How many professionals in the publishing industry could devote their time to doing that to assess it for publication?

    Writers must understand what their objectives in writing are and then allow themselves to be guided by readers and editors only to the extent that it assists them in fulfilling those objectives. The choice of particular alpha or beta readers, critique partners and editors stems from those objectives but, as I stated previously, expenditure is often behind one's decisions. That's why I joined WF of course, because I've run out of expert university professors willing to read my draft novel for nothing.
    'Sharing an experience creates a reality.' Create a new reality today.
    'There has to be some give and take.' If I can take my time I'm willing to give it.
    'The most difficult criticism that a writer has to comprehend is silence.' So speak up.

  6. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by JustRob View Post
    I have no experience of what professional editors do but I did send a hundred page extract from my draft novel for assessment at a professional agency that advises and instructs novice writers. They gave it to an appropriate published writer for comments, but published writers know what they personally can make work and are evidently not particularly good at seeing the potential in the works of others. He actually suggested that I change the main theme of the story entirely, which was not particularly helpful. That's the problem with paying for someone to read just an extract, especially when it has to be the opening extract from a story that develops substantially later on. At the rates they charged I certainly wouldn't have paid for the entire work to be read, given that I'd only written the novel on a whim with no real ambition to get it published.

    I also sent the entire draft novel to an acquaintance in America who happened to teach English literature and especially literary analysis in depth at a university there. He had very kindly offered to read the whole thing for no fee and he actually read it twice, telling me that he enjoyed it even more the second time and that "the reader is repaid handsomely for the time he spends with it." I don't think that it was simply that he was an acquaintance offering undeserved praise as literary critique was specifically his profession. In fact students' appraisals of him are to be found on ratemyprofessors.com and they often state just how demanding he is. Hence I must assume that he was for me the ultimate alpha reader as he clearly wasn't applying any bias towards market demands, so I received an appraisal of my work purely in its own right. Regarding publication potential he said that the work might only appeal to a limited readership, which hardly surprised me and certainly didn't bother me. Whether by that he meant others of his calibre I don't know but I am well aware that my style of writing has its idiosyncrasies. So apparently it isn't just whether a reader is a professional but what their specific profession happens to be and indeed what the writer expects to gain from their writing that decides how to seek and value any pre-publication critique.

    A writer specifically has to decide whether they can achieve their objective best by keeping within the publishing mainstream or by ploughing their own furrow. The fact that, as my acquaintance wrote, "the reader is repaid handsomely for the time he spends with it" doesn't mean that an editor or publisher would necessarily see the same potential in a work as they are commercial professionals with different criteria to fulfil. How many mainstream readers actually read a novel twice to get the full experience that it offers if it isn't already an acknowledged classic? How many professionals in the publishing industry could devote their time to doing that to assess it for publication?

    Writers must understand what their objectives in writing are and then allow themselves to be guided by readers and editors only to the extent that it assists them in fulfilling those objectives. The choice of particular alpha or beta readers, critique partners and editors stems from those objectives but, as I stated previously, expenditure is often behind one's decisions. That's why I joined WF of course, because I've run out of expert university professors willing to read my draft novel for nothing.
    Oh, I agree - you absolutely need to keep your own goals in mind, and you absolutely need to evaluate any opinions you get and decide which ones are valuable. I do write for the market, so I do value the opinions of the people who know that market best, but if those aren't your goals, those opinions won't hold as much value!

    Quick note, though - when I think of editors I think of the people employed by the publishers I want to work with. I think we all have to be really careful about the rise of people calling themselves editors, but without much experience to back that claim up. I certainly wouldn't think someone was qualified to offer editorial advice just because they're a published writer!

  7. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by luckyscars View Post

    I honestly find the idea of asking people to read unedited work to be rude. Often it is an obvious sign of astronomical laziness, too.

    Truth!

  8. #18
    Quote Originally Posted by Bayview View Post

    Quick note, though - when I think of editors I think of the people employed by the publishers I want to work with. I think we all have to be really careful about the rise of people calling themselves editors, but without much experience to back that claim up. I certainly wouldn't think someone was qualified to offer editorial advice just because they're a published writer!

    Yup: Most writers actually use proofreaders, not editors. An editor not only proofs the book, but provides artistic guidance based on their publishing experience.

    A real editor doesn't just fix your book, they show you its true potential.



    One reason that I prefer BETA testing (versus alpha testing) is that I have found that I get better feedback with a nearly perfect manuscript. Errors and problems distract the reader. Once the reader starts thinking they are smarter than the writer, they view your work with a more subjective attitude. I want feedback that is not swayed by a buncha typos.

  9. #19
    Quote Originally Posted by JustRob View Post
    as I stated previously, expenditure is often behind one's decisions. That's why I joined WF of course, because I've run out of expert university professors willing to read my draft novel for nothing.
    I can understand this, more than. We use what we can at the time.

    However (and on a generic note here away from you, Rob), forget a script not being ready for an editor, most new authors you see aren't ready to talk an editor either, and I mean that in the loveliest way possible to any new author. A good content editor can take an hour to edit 2-4 pages an hour, so you can imagine the notes that come with just those pages. It's why those stages before that: with betas... peers, all add their weight in gold to the process. Each step teaches a new author to not only handle critique but also how to react and talk about it in order to get their thoughts across. All of it's a major part to the process.

    To be honest, I love working with new authors who come into DSP, and I'll prefer to work with them over established authors, mostly because you can see they need to bridge that gap a little more between moving from aspiring into first-time published authors. Editor comments are always tailored differently to that and each author's needs, say to more seasoned authors who may not need as careful approach to explain the 'why' behind any recommendations. I don't expect a new author to know what seasoned authors like Bayview know about working with recommendations (and Bayview is a cracking writer who's been published with DSP), but I know my genre, and I'd like to trust that a new author would respect that insight enough to discuss it with me without any drama, just either: 'okay I like the recommendation" or "Can I stet as I think it this needs to be kept because....". And most times you only that by having gone through alphas... betas etc. So it doesn't really matter who you get to look at your script, what it does or doesn't cost: it's just really good that you do. It all helps in the long run.

    Although... if you find you're needing a beta read after an editor has seen it, I'd certainly question the skill of the editor, or an author's respect for editors who can do their job.
    Last edited by Aquilo; July 12th, 2019 at 11:57 AM.

  10. #20
    Quote Originally Posted by Aquilo View Post

    Although... if you find you're needing a beta read after an editor has seen it, I'd certainly question the skill of the editor, or an author's respect for editors who can do their job.

    That depends on the editor. In BV's case, she typically has a professional editor involved, which is much different from what most of us Indies use.
    If you have a working editor proofing your work and ensuring that it gets the right arc, then there is little need for a beta.
    But most Indies and self-pubs use proofreaders, not real editors. Huge difference.

    Just wanted to clarify my perspective as an Indie.
    If you are publishing classically then your process will be different.

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