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Thread: Editors vs. Beta-Readers

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    Publishing Mentor dsieg58 is a Premium Member
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    Editors vs. Beta-Readers

    I was going to post this in Kay's Editors thread, then thought differently about it.

    I sort of lump editors and beta-readers together as "editors" when they aren't and I shouldn't. So, let's start with definitions:

    An Editor: Is a professional, or semi-professional person who can look over your work from a "nuts and bolts" point of view. Consider them a mechanic for fixing your manuscript. You can also have technical editors, who understand the craft of book writing, as well as consulting editors who may be professionals in other lines of work (A Doctor say, if you're writing a medical thriller) but not have any knowledge of book writing.

    When to use an editor: Generally speaking, once the manuscript is created, all elements in place, proof read, and 85% "there."

    What you want an editor to do:
    You want the editor to
    • Find the holes in your storyline, inconsistencies, passages and parts which don't work,
    • Edit down passages that are too wordy or bloated.
    • Find better, or more concise, ways of conveying a thought, or passage.
    • Suggest plot elements you haven't thought of.
    • Refine characters
    • Refine dialogue.

    What you don't want an editor to do:
    • Nitpick over grammar.
    • Call attention to slang, or "voice" in dialogue.
    • "Insist" on rewrites. (Or insist on anything)
    • Tell you what you "really meant to say."
    • Give you ultimatums ("Change this or I won't publish!") If he's your boss (at a newspaper, say) you have no choice. If you're self employed writer, or self published, tell him to shove it and split.


    A beta-reader, on the other hand, is a completely different type of editor. A beta-reader is (Ideally) a fan. Or Someone (at the very least) who likes the genre, reads a lot of it, and is in a position to comment on the "readability" of your story. A good beta-reader, is a semi-professional in their own right. What they can contribute is...
    • Emotional impact of your story. (Did it make them cry? laugh? or roll their eyes in absurdity?)
    • Were the characters believable?
    • Did they emotionally connect with the characters?
    • Did they hate the bad guy?
    • Did they like the good guy?
    • Which character did they like best? How come?
    • Did they like the dialogue?
    • Did it sound real?
    • Could they see, feel, smell, the location?
    • Did it take them away to "somewhere else."
    • Most importantly, Was the ending satisfying?
    • Etc.

    And elements of the story which only readers see, and connect with. What the writers see, and what (professional) editors see, and what readers FEEL, are totally different things. The beta-reader allows you inside the emotions of the reader.

    Where to you find beta-readers?

    Once you've been writing, publishing, and marketing a while, the best ones come to you. Some people will love your work. Others will hate it. Both will write to you and express their opinions. Both make good beta-readers. Buyers, if you have their email addresses, you can offer a "free sneak peek" in return for constructive comments. This can go a long way to cementing your customers as well. You can also use their comments as testimonials on the book itself, or on your website. Some consider it a privilege and an honor to help. These people you acknowledge in writing, in the appropriate section of your book. They become raving fans of your work for life. They'll buy a 100 copies of the book and give them away to their friends because their name is in it. They can also become excellent friends who contribute insights you never would have discovered any other way.

    If you haven't been published, or this is your first time, you can also find them in writing forums. There are people there, where you post a sample chapter and they will tear it apart for you.

    The problem with beta-readers is that they are fickle. Many will take the manuscript, but not give any feedback, or not give feedback in a timely manner. Then you're stuck with either browbeating them, or blowing them off. Others become upset if something happens to their favorite character (Like kill them off) and want you to alter the story arc for their benefit. They can become angry when you don't.

    The point of this post is, both are necessary. They are separate and distinct, and both play necessary roles. Both are hidden joys, and a complete pain in the ass at times.

    I hope this helps,

  2. The Following 3 Users Say Thank You to dsieg58 For This Useful Post:

    Chabrenas (22 June 2013), JimWaller (22 June 2013), Kay (25 June 2013)

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