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Sunday, May 1, 2011

Readers... Alpha, Beta: What's the difference and where do I find them?

So I've been thinking a lot about readers lately. I'm still finishing up the first draft of my novel and getting to the point where I'm really considering taking on new readers. I've had a total of 5 readers so far; 4 Alphas and then my cheerleader, Alpha/Beta Extraordinaire, Sherry.

Each of these tremendous folks have agreed to read the story again from start to finish. It's possible when all is said and done that I may even tweak a couple Betas outta my Alphas. (Get your head out of the gutter!) HA!

Oh, wait, that was me. My bad.

Anyway... What's the difference?

Well, from what I gather (and feel free to correct me if I'm mistaken) Alpha's are straight up readers. They're the people who cheer you on when you could be bombing horribly because they like you too much to hurt your feelings. (see also: your significant other and your Mom)

Beta's on the other hand are the brutally honest critique people. They're essential to making sure your ducks are in a row and not swimming up shit creek without a paddle. Or something like that. Depending on the Beta, they question your motives, your characters, your plot lines, your word structures... they question it all.

Here are my questions to you fine folks...

Did you use Beta Readers? If so, where did you find them? Were they the people lurking in the dark spaces behind your staircase or did you seek them by more scholarly means? Is there a website that is reputable for such a thing? (I haven't yet gone googling, but I will resort to it, if necessary... I just trust you guys more than the monolith of search engines.)

Another concern - albeit conceited and somewhat paranoid - Did you ever worry about sending your work out into the ether? The internet is big, wide space and what happens if your masterpiece gets into the wrong hands? (Think Sauron!) What if it gets stolen/copied before you have a chance to birth it yourself?

I can lock the PDF file until dooms day, but it's a pain in the ass for the Beta who has to retype all of the corrections because they can't copy and paste.

Am I the only crazy one with these thoughts?

At any rate, I'd love your feedback, thoughts and experience yet again. Your wealth of knowledge makes my day. Truly. 


Anita said...

Hey there Clarissa! Yes, I have seven betas. Six are writers, and one is simply a reader, but all of them are honest to the point of pain when it comes to telling me what's working and what's not.

One is my sis in law. She's a little competitive w/me (although she doesn't write) so I always know she's not going to cut me ANY slack. But she's also one of my biggest fans when I get a story right, so she ROX in the tell it like it is dept.

Four of my betas are my crit partners, and the other two are writers I met via blogging. After emailing each other for several months and exchanging chaps here and there, we finally exchanged MSS and the rest is history.

I, too, would be leery of just sending out my MS to someone I barely know. My advice would be to maybe contact some peeps here in the blogasphere?

Two of my blogging pals are looking for beta readers right now. I recommend them highly. You can TOTALLY trust them with your stuff. The only stipulation would be that you'd have to read theirs, too. A tradeoff. If you're up for that, here's their info:

One is Kalen:


Go take a look at their blogs and see if you think they'd be a good fit. And you can tell them I sent you. :)

BTW, I dropped in tonight to tell you you're getting an award tomorrow from me. So please stop by my blog!

Shay-ster said...

Well from my experience the free publisher I went through has a multitude of people ready to read and critique each others (except mine for whatever reason... I swear my book has some kind of subconscious stink on it.) Now you don't have to get your book published through them but using resources are very helpful.

Besides I've only ever known Beta readers, mostly. A few alphas but mostly Betas and these are all people I know in my real everyday life. Most believe it or not willingly volunteered but I pursued a few and they have been very beneficial. it's $35.00 to process but you the wonderful thing is then the title is under your name for your entire life! That alone blew my mind.

The internet can be a little scary place. I've been worried for a while about my own book but I hope that helped a bit.

Well before you do anything you can always buy the copyright for your book. Even before the final product is out there you can register the name.

Carissa Elg said...

Hey, Anita!

Thanks for the feedback and blog links! I've briefly looked at both and they both seem awesome! Kalen, in specific reminds me a lot of myself! It's crazy! HA! Lori seems super sweet!

Once I have my MS done, I will definitely be keeping them in mind. I have no problem whatsoever reading in trade!

Thanks for all of your advice! :)

Carissa Elg said...


Thanks for the info and website links! I appreciate it!!

Margaret Yang said...

I met my betas at local writer's conferences. It's a great place to network with other writers and it has that F2F benefit.

Carissa Elg said...

Hi Margaret! Thanks for your comment! I live in a small town which doesn't seem to have a whole lot going on for writers. I'm involved in a small writers/artist group, though and I'm sure they would be willing to look at it. As far as conferences, I think I need to branch out from a local setting and see what's out there. (I've been more focused on writing this novel so far) Do you have any suggestions?

Anonymous said...

Oh whew you just validated my borderline paranoia! I am deathly afraid of being plagiarized so I would personally never send my work to a complete stranger out in cyber space somewhere.

I wasn't aware of Alpha vs Beta reader definitions. I was basing my info on how game companies launch MMOs. *hangs head*

My alpha readers are generally supportive, however my expectations is for them to give me the truth, provide suggestions, critique, & generally fine tune the ms as much as possible. My beta readers are readers for pleasure to 'test drive' the ms to see if its polished enough, how well it flows, and correct any blaring grammar or typos.

For me, both my alpha/beta readers are close friends who I respect and in-return who understands me. I think getting feedback from someone you don't really know or necessarily respect is probably not the most productive because I know I'd question their push back in direct contradiction of my intent.

Our books are like our babies and its difficult to have it poked & prodded in order to make it better. Its just my personal preference to seek out those opinions I value and trust. Ya know?

Carissa Elg said...

Hi Sophie!

Thanks for your feedback! I really want to make sure that I do this process right without rushing any outcomes. As much as I'd love to just let go and query right away, I know it's not ready. There are still small tweaks that can and will be made before that happens. I'm really interested in finding people I trust (a couple outside my direct circle would be nice) who are willing to give that Beta feedback. When all is said and done, though, it's still my job to do right by this world... ;)

Anonymous said...

Yup I agree the temptation to throw our hands up and say "va la" and start querying is sinfully tempting.

Perhaps you can obtain additional test readers from the blogs you frequently comment on or interact with and has build the beginnings of a virtual bond? I know for me if I had to consider on recruiting additional readers, the bloggers I follow religiously will be the first ones I proposition. (... which somehow sounds a little dirty no?)

Anita said...

BTW, Carissa, I'm sooooo sorry I spelled your name wrong earlier, both in my comment here and on my award post. Feeling really chagrinned right now. ;-/ You were so gracious not to mention it at all. BUt I wanted you to know that the wrong has been righted on my post, so now you can go down in blogger history w/your name SPELLED CORRECTLY. Hee. Have a lovely Monday!

Carissa Elg said...

Anita~ LOL! No worries at all, Anita! It happens so often that I barely even notice it anymore! ;) Thank you again for your lovely comments and award!

Sophie ~I think you're right... I'm going to compile a list to erm... proposition! HA! ;)

lookingatutoo said...

I have not shared any part of my novel on the net yet, in fact no one has laid eyes on it but me. I write short stories for my grand daughters also and I sketch the art work in them and have yet to post them. I just started tweeting in Jan this yr. I am so busy working towards my P.hd in philosophy and find that I have limited time. I hope to continue to work on my book and the short stories, they are stories I told my daughters when they were little. The novel is based on actual facts.I think you are on the right track and I look forward to reading your completed novel!! :)

Lae said...

About being afraid of plagiarism, I think you should listen what Mr. Gaiman has to say about it:

Changed my whole view of it.

Carissa Elg said...

Christi - I look forward to hearing more about your books/short stories when you are ready to share them! In the meantime, good luck with that PHD! WOW!

Lae- I didn't watch the video (again, call me paranoid), but I looked up Neil Gaiman and plagiarism. I found his info on what he said about Harry Potter. Is this what you were referring to? I like his philosophy on that -- once my book is released. I really believe that all creative works are just a melting pot that continues to stew... But I'm really referring to taking what I'VE written and claiming it for their own. You know?

Thank you for pointing the direction to that, though! I appreciate it!

Anonymous said...

PS - Come swing by and pick up your 'Blog Award' :)

Lae said...

Carissa, ok, I do not understand what harm could watching a youtube video could do. I don't really see where you're coming from.

And no, it hasn't do anything with Harry Potter. The piece is exactly meant for writers, and he talks about how he reacted to being pirated. I'm sorry, I used the word plagiarism by mistake (sick, so my English sucks today).

So it's about Gaiman and his view to book piracy.

You do know who Gaiman is, right? :)

Carissa Elg said...

Hi Lae!

Sorry, I just meant that with links you can sometimes pick up viruses, that's all I meant. ;) No worries, I try to catch some time and watch it later. But he had comments regarding his series and how it was compared to Harry Potter. Some had claimed plagiarism- and took it a step further, as if HE'D claimed it. So he was giving his real stance of piracy. That's all.

Thanks for the link! :D

Lae said...

Um, ok. Sandman series started in the 80's so you can see which one of those two some people blamed for plagiarism, since the first HP book came out '97. :) Gaiman started his career way before Rowling.

Anyway, each for they own. I find being too cautios prevents finding neat things in the net. We got anti-virus for a reason. ;) But I can assure you, youtube doesn't carry viruses.

Love your blog btw. :)

Carissa Elg said...

Thanks for the compliment! I really appreciate it!

Gaiman has a lot out there... I've not read anything by him, however. Do you have any recommendations? The Sandman series?

Lae said...

The Sandman series is awesome. It's graphic novels though, so not for everyone.

Neverwhere is great, a bit lighter is Stardust. One that the mainstream values a lot is American God's.

Carissa Elg said...

Awesome! I will check these out! Thank you!