Author Topic: Mythological creatures: chimera, unicorns, and professional Beta Readers?  (Read 294 times)

Evelyn Alexie

Question: does anyone know of a beta reader who isn't an editor in disguise? I'm beginning to think they don't exist.

I thought using a professional beta reader would be a good way to avoid the pitfalls of a)beta readers who don't get around to reading or b)readers who don't want to hurt my feelings.

But every professional beta reader I've tried wants to edit the story instead. They seem to think that this is a bonus, something I should be glad for. Even when I explain at the start that I'm going to send this to an editor, but I want a reader to look at it first.

I'm assuming the following facts:
  • When the average person reads a novel, they read it emotionally. They want to enter into the character's viewpoint and find out what happens next.
  • When an editor or writer reads a novel, they read it analytically, looking for flaws or inconsistencies.

These are separate mindsets. Thus, if I ask for a beta read and get a report on how to revise the story structure and whether or not there should be semicolons, my first thought is that they were in analysis mode, not reading mode. I do not believe a person can be in both mindsets at the same time.

Have you ever had a professional beta reader who simply told you what they did or didn't like about the story?
A reader who said "I liked the twist about the custard pie but the hero jumping out of the steak-and-kidney pie didn't make sense to me and I was confused when the butler shot the space alien with the ray gun when the dog had already buried it in the yard next to the vampire"?

Note: I'm using the non-biological definition of chimera  as "A vain, foolish, or incongruous fancy, or creature of the imagination."


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I use 1 beta reader now, who is a fan, who used to report the most goofs to me until she offered to beta read and make it official.

Works well for both of us. She gets advanced reading, and I get a cleaner release.

But you're right about the modes. Now she does a reading pass first as soon as the book is out of editing, and then, having understood the whole story, she does a proofing pass. This works a lot better than just proofing, as before I was getting too many 'dont understand this' comments, which were largely answered later.

While she doesn't actually edit, she does sometimes point out places where some editing is needed. Usually where a paragraph would be easier to understand if reworded. Occasionally where my explanation is weak, or in the wrong place.

She understands that I will ignore anything which I consider is character voice or deliberate writing, which might have bothered her while in proofing mode, and I do ignore quite a lot of what she comes back with.

Getting editing suggestions is part of the process I think, but it's up to you to use what you feel is appropriate, and ignore the rest. And your beta reader has to accept that.
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One reason I seek out new beta readers is so they can have the shock of the new when they read my stories. In most cases, I'm sending out a story that I think probably has some rough edges. I want the readers to respond naively and tell me what those are--and just as important, I want to know what story events, no matter how improbable, they take in stride.

If you are receiving repeated reports on story structure and grammar/mechanics, that probably means you have some issues with them, but it could be that you need to spell out to the betas in advance that they should ignore those elements and simply concentrate on whether they enjoyed reading your story. I've had this problem with proofreaders who want to edit, and with copyeditors who want to be developmental editors. It's important to set expectations. I think it's just as important to get several beta reads, not just one, unless you are lucky enough to have a special relationship with a beta reader who likes your style and has the ability to point out unwelcome departures from your strengths.

I recently discovered that Fiverr has over 800 people listed who do beta reads. They have vastly different pricing and some appear to offer more than just a beta read. I spent a couple of hours reading their summaries of what genres they like and then contacted a couple in my price range with my requirements for the read. So far, so good.

And then there's the ego involved. We don't like getting criticism even though that is implicit in soliciting a beta read.

Edited to add: I just received a third beta report on my newest novel, and that makes two votes for and only one against the men I've put in it. (One beta reader hated them all.) Multiple reactions help me assign due weight to any negative comments that might otherwise send me scrambling to make big revisions.   
« Last Edit: June 28, 2020, 11:01:11 PM by LilyBLily »
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Evelyn Alexie

Absolutely, if you get multiple comments on the same issue(s) then you need to pay attention to it. I haven't experienced that.

I think what made me so irked this last time was that I specified that I was looking for a reader's opinion and that I was going to send it to an editor afterward. All I got back was an edit. If you're being paid for a service, it behooves you to perform that service.

Okay, enough venting. At least I got to use the word "behooves" in a sentence. That's a plus.

And thanks for the tip about Fiverr! I'll check that out :)
« Last Edit: June 29, 2020, 04:23:48 AM by Evelyn Alexie »


I suspect that most beta readers have internal editors that are hard to turn off. Mine tends to be on all the time but I stick to what the author of the work needs. There's no point in doing line edits when the work itself needs proper development. I find that when the story flows, my internal editor is silent. That's what I love about good stories. The pages disappear.

Author of over 100 books and magazine pieces, primarily for children
Vijaya Bodach | Personal Blog | Bodach Books
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I've never hired a beta reader and, for me, the more reader-like my beta readers are, the better. I use a beta reader and then hire an honest editor. For beta reads, I choose friends, fans, to read the book and let me know their opinion. I agree that you'll get enough comments over technique by a professional editor.

IMO, if a beta reader doesn't finish your book, then that tells you something about your book (I once rewrote an entire novel because of this). If they read the book and aren't critical enough, then I would just not use that reader anymore.
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So far i've found a couple of both.

I do think there is a value to be had from beta readers and editors pretending to be beta reader. The key is asking them to put their gut responses in. When they read the first pass give thoughts and feelings only. Ask for simple terms. Love hate bored stupid doesn't make sense laughed put the book down read all night.

These give feelings not evaluations. Then you look to see if the emotions match what you wanted to evoke from the reader. When they don't search for the root cause of the response. Sometimes I've found its that the reader doesn't normally read my genre. Then another time i found it was a minor flaw that became a larger emotional issue in my story.

Any one that takes the time to read your book and give insightful feedback can be a useful tool in the creative process.
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I do think there is a value to be had from beta readers and editors pretending to be beta reader. The key is asking them to put their gut responses in.

I write for kids and one of the best ways to get this kind of feedback is to ask them to rate using the ABC method--A for awesome, B for boring, C for confusing. It's quick and easy.

Author of over 100 books and magazine pieces, primarily for children
Vijaya Bodach | Personal Blog | Bodach Books
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