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Anne R. Allen's Blog

...WITH RUTH HARRIS

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Anne writes funny mysteries and how-to-books for writers. She also writes poetry and short stories on occasion. Oh, yes, and she blogs. She's a contributor to Writer's Digest and the Novel and Short Story Writer's Market for 2016. 

Her bestselling Camilla Randall Mystery Series features perennially down-on-her-luck former socialite Camilla Randall—who is a magnet for murder, mayhem and Mr. Wrong, but always solves the mystery in her quirky, but oh-so-polite way.

Anne lives on the Central Coast of California, near San Luis Obispo, the town Oprah called "The Happiest City in America."


Anne blogs at Anne R. Allen's Blog...with Ruth Harris 
and at Anne R. Allen's Books

Sunday, August 10, 2014

What is a Beta Reader? Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Getting and Giving Feedback on your WIP


This week we're proud to host author and editor Jami Gold, fresh from her role as a presenter at the RWA conference in San Antonio.

If you missed the conference, Jami's posts on the highlights of the annual Romance Writers Association event are fascinating. You'll find them on her blog at JamiGold, Paranormal Author.

Jami's blog is a must-read for new authors. She's formed a great community there. Comments are long and informative. Not only does she know more tech than my poor aging brain will ever comprehend, but her "beat sheets" for outlining and structuring your fiction are a fantastic resource.

Check out her Writing Resources page. It's a goldmine.

I discovered her blog a couple of years ago when I was looking for information on how to find beta readers, so when readers asked me for a post on the subject, Jami was my go-to expert. 

So What are "Beta Readers"?


...and how do they differ from editors or critique groups?

The term first came from fan fiction, and it means a person who reads your work-in-progress (or "WIP") when you, the writer or "alpha," are ready for feedbackbefore it goes into final draft to be sent to your fanfic page, editor, or agent. 

Lots of writers may have betas without knowing the term. Betas don't need professional-level editing skills and don't have to be members of a group. They only need to be willing to read your manuscript and give helpful feedback about what works and what doesn't.

They differ from editors since they usually comment as readers, not industry professionals. It's not necessary they have perfect grammar skills or knowledge of the genre (although they need to be aware of the conventions, so they don't try to turn your sweet romance into a gritty thriller, or vice versa.)

They differ from a critique group because they usually read a whole manuscript in a few sittings rather than hearing it over a period of months or years. This means a beta can offer better feedback on big-picture aspects: story arc, character development, pacing, etc.

Beta readers can be fellow writers who will exchange reads, or they can be friends or family who can read with a critical eye. They may become your moral support system and cheerleaders as well.

Like critiquers and editors, beta readers have to be able to leave their own egos out of their feedback and not try to change your story into their own.

When you've found someone who can do that, and still give honest, constructive, useful advice, you've struck gold...Anne


This is #3 in a series on GETTING FEEDBACK 

#1 Ruth Harris on EDITING 
#2 Anne R. Allen on  CRITIQUE GROUPS

UPDATE: I have just heard that some vicious bullies are posing as beta readers so they can play sadistic tricks on fledgling authors, putting the unpublished books on Goodreads so they can say cruel things about them. It sounds like the old Goodreads bullies gang or their meaner-girl little sisters. So be very, very careful about who you ask to beta-read. I suggest you always exchange a few chapters first, and only give the full manuscript to people you have carefully vetted. Jordan McCollum has a must-read post on her blog on The Ethics of Beta Reading.

And Jami is following up with some worksheets for beta readers you can offer your prospective betas.


Beta Reading: How to Find Readers and Become a Better Reader for Others

by Jami Gold


Ever struggle to make readers’ interpretations of your writing match your intentions? We probably all have.

Maybe readers come away with the wrong impression of a character. Maybe a plot twist is too obvious or from too far out of left field. Or maybe our subtext is too subtle or too “on the nose.”

As writers, we’re so close to our stories it’s impossible for us to know how readers will interpret our words. A good beta reader will go through our “the best we can make it by ourselves” draft and give feedback about what we can’t see. And that’s just one reason why we all need beta readers.
Sounds Great!

How Do We Get Beta Readers?


Once we have fans and readers of our published work, we might be able to find volunteers who would love a sneak peek at our stories in exchange for feedback of issues they discover. Until we reach that point, however, volunteers might not be as abundant.

Most writers in that position exchange work with other authors in an “I’ll give you feedback if you give me feedback” beta-reading arrangement. I wrote a blog post earlier this year with a massive list of ideas for where and how to find beta readers.

Here are some samples:

  • Post a request for beta readers on Twitter, Facebook, WANATribe, your blog, etc.
  • Offer to beta read for someone else.
  • Post a request in writer groups on Google+, LinkedIn, Yahoo, Facebook, NaNoWriMo, etc.
  • Ask around in local writing organizations.
  • Ask at book clubs interested in your genre.
  • Ask at the library if they know of any local resources or clubs.
  • For younger readers, ask teachers, friends’ kids, or at school libraries.
  • Join critique-oriented writing organizations like Critique Circle, FictionPress, Scribophile, YouWriteOn, Authonomy, Ladies Who Critique CPseek, and Critters.org

Do Beta Readers Need to Be Familiar with Our Genre?


We probably want most of our beta readers to be familiar with our genre, but it’s possible for beta readers outside our genre to be valuable too. No matter what genre they read, good beta readers can provide valuable feedback like:

  • identifying confusing sections
  • evaluating the pacing from a big picture perspective
  • looking for too much telling versus showing
  • finding weak/missing character motivations, etc.

More importantly, beta readers who don’t love our genre can tell us what we don’t need to worry about:

  • Did they hate the main character, but love the voice? 
  • Did the pacing and story keep them reading despite their “meh” feeling toward the genre?
  • Did they connect to the main character so much they plowed through a plot they didn’t like?

Sometimes our harshest (i.e., best) critics are those who aren’t predisposed to love our story. They won’t gloss over issues just because “that’s how it’s always done.” We’re always trying to get distance from our work for editing purposes. What better way to gain that distance than by finding a reader who won’t have any predisposition to like what we write? 


How to Establish a Beta Reading Exchange


Step 1: Offer to Beta Read for Someone Else


Almost anyone can be a beta reader. The most important qualification is having a critical-enough eye to point out issues like:

  • confusing sentences or plot events,
  • where their attention wavers, and
  • whether they find our characters likable or sympathetic, etc. (Or if the characters are compelling. A character can be pleasant and sympathetic, but not interesting enough to the reader, I'll be talking about this subject next week...Anne)

For example, when I send out a manuscript for beta reading, I ask people to mark:

  • Anything that takes them out of the story (confusing wording, voice/characterization seems off, too repetitive, no conflict/tension, etc.)
  • Pacing issues (too slow, feels too “one note,” not enough of an arc, scene goes on too long, etc.)
  • Emotional feedback (stream-of-consciousness emotional reactions)

That’s it. Beta reading isn’t about the reader’s knowledge of the craft of writing, but about what works and doesn’t work for them as a reader.

Step 2: Provide Good Feedback


Not all feedback is created equal, and we know we’re not likely to reuse a beta reader whose suggestions are 90% useless for our goals. The same applies in the opposite direction. For great beta reading relationships, we have to find a good match and we have to be the best beta reader we can be.

Here are three tips for how to increase the helpfulness of our feedback and become a better beta reader:

Tip #1: Focus on Making Their Story Better


We must work toward making their story better. We shouldn’t focus our comments on how we’d do it.

How we’d do it is irrelevant. Our voice is not their voice, our goals are not their goals, our themes and worldviews are not their themes and worldviews.

The only exception to this rule is when something about their writing doesn’t work for us. Maybe the writing is passive or the characters lack motivations, etc. Then—and only then—can we provide an example and say, “This doesn’t work for me because of xyz. Maybe something like abc would be stronger.”

Tip #2: Suggest Changes Only When the Writing Doesn’t “Work” in Some Way


Just because the writing is different from how we’d do it doesn’t mean it’s wrong. For all we know, the impression we’re left with is the impression they wanted.

If the writing works, suggested changes like word choice or sentence structure aren’t helpful. At most, we should share one comment along the lines of, “Words like a, b, and c create an impression of z, and I’m not sure that’s what you want.” Unless the writer asked us for line-by-line, copy-editing-level feedback, nitpicky suggestions are more likely to mess with their voice than provide useful information.

If the writing doesn’t work, we should focus on why it doesn’t work for us. Separating our thoughts on whether a section doesn’t work or if it’s just not how we’d word it can be tricky sometimes. So we should ask ourselves why we want to change the writing:


  • Does the current wording take us out of the story (confusing wording, voice/characterization seems off, etc.)?
  • Are the stakes, goals, motivations, etc. unclear or weak?
  • Do we not like or care about the characters?


If we can’t come up with a reason, we should leave it alone.

Tip #3: Always Give a Reason for Suggested Changes


The only time I make a change and don’t give a reason is when I find a missing word. Those are fairly self-explanatory. *smile*

Every other suggested change has my explanation of why. With that reason, the author can judge whether my suggestion comes from me not getting their voice, misinterpreting something, being confused, etc.

If we don’t give a reason, crossing out their writing and replacing it with our own is disrespectful. On the other hand, if we have a real reason, even nitpicky things like suggestions about word choices and sentence structures are helpful.

Leaving a comment like “I’d use x word instead of y word” isn’t a reason because it doesn’t respect their voice. In contrast, “I don’t think the character would use x word (would they even know that word?). Y seems more like their voice” is a real reason. The author now has enough information to decide whether or not to make the change.

Step 3: Be Gracious with the Feedback We Receive


First, no matter how much we disagree with (or are hurt by) the feedback from a beta reader, we should say thank you. They did spend time on our work, and for that, they deserve our thanks. If their feedback doesn’t work for us, consider it a lesson learned to not exchange work with them again.

Second, we need to evaluate our writing based on that feedback. Maybe we’ll slap our forehead and say “duh” to their comments. Maybe we’ll ignore their suggestion and instead just tweak our writing to fix a confusing plot point or character motivation. Maybe we’ll decide their misunderstanding is exactly what we wanted and not change a thing.

We don’t want to blindly implement changes until we decide what kind of story we want to tell. If a suggestion will help us tell that story better, we should make the change. If a suggestion would take us further from that story, we shouldn’t implement it.

Regardless, feedback is almost always a pointer that something is less than ideal for that reader. 99% of the time there’s a kernel of truth in a beta reader’s criticism, so our default should be to try to discover that truth and make the feedback work for us.

If we’re willing to provide good-quality feedback for others, we’ll usually be able to find other writers with whom we can exchange work. There are thousands of writers in the world, and we need to find just a handful to be beta buddies. Hopefully this post gives you some ideas on how to make that happen. *smile*

NOTE: Next Tuesday, August 12th, Jami will have some more info on beta readers on her blog. She's going to provide a worksheet with sample questions for beta readers.

What about you, scriveners? Do you use beta readers? Do you beta read for anybody else? Or do you prefer to send your stuff directly to professional editors? What advice would you give to authors looking for/working with betas? 


***

After genetically modifying sharks with lasers—er, after a decade of writing boring technical manuals and project plans—Jami Gold moved to Arizona and decided to become a writer, so she could put her talent for making stuff up to good use. Fortunately, her muse, an arrogant male who delights in causing her to sound as insane as possible, rewards her with unique and rich story ideas.

Fueled by chocolate, she writes paranormal romance and urban fantasy tales that range from dark to humorous, but one thing remains the same: Normal need not apply. Just ask her family—and zombie cat.

Find Jami at her blog, Twitter, Google+, Facebook, Pinterest, and Goodreads.



BOOK OF THE WEEK


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The Chanel Caper by Ruth Harris and The Gatsby Game by Anne R. Allen

It's CHANEL AND GATSBY, a comedy two-fer



Hollywood and Manhattan: it's Bi-Coastal Comedy! Perfect for summer beach reading
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The Chanel Caper
Nora Ephron meets James Bond. Or is it the other way around? 

The Gatsby Game 
A Hollywood mystery with celebrities, murder and a smart-mouthed nanny.


OPPORTUNITY ALERTS



GLIMMER TRAIN VERY SHORT FICTION AWARD Maximum length: 3,000 words. 1st place wins $1,500, publication in Glimmer Train Stories, and 20 copies of that issue. 2nd place wins $500 (or, if accepted for publication, $700 and 10 copies). 3rd place wins $300 (or, if accepted for publication, $700 and 10 copies). Deadline October 31, 2014. 

RIVER TEETH'S BOOK PRIZE  for Literary Nonfiction. The $27 ENTRY FEE is a little steeper than we usually list, but this is for a full book-length manuscript.  River Teeth's editors and editorial board conduct a yearly national contest to identify the best book-length literary nonfiction. The winner will receive $1,000 and publication. Deadline October 15, 2014.

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Barthelme Prize for experimental flash fiction. $17 Entry Fee 500-word limit. $1000 first prize, $250 hon. mention prizes. Online submission form. Deadline August 31.

Short Romance stories with holiday themes: Crimson Romance Ebooks (A division of F & W, publisher of Writer's Digest Books) is looking for holiday themed shorts (10K-20K words) Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa 2014, New Year's Eve 2015, Deadline: August 15th

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38 Comments:

Blogger Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

It definitely helps to have a reason for the change. It might spark an idea of an even better direction to go.
I've used what I call test readers since the beginning - two people who read science fiction and know the genre. They look for those story and pacing issues. They get a rawer version of the manuscript because I'd rather fix any big issues before sending to critique partners to find the little ones.
Which is where my current manuscript resides at the moment!
Great guideline and tips, Jami.

August 10, 2014 at 10:08 AM  
Blogger Emerald O'Brien said...

This is great advice Jami. I just got my first beta reader for the sequel to my debut novel. She loved the first, and was excited to be one of the first to read the second. She also beta read for fan fic a while ago, so she's had some experience. I found it easier to get one after I put my first book out, but I bet my first would have benefited from it.
I think all the reasons for beta readers listed are so valuable. I will be using these steps to set up my next beta reader exchange. Thanks again!

August 10, 2014 at 10:24 AM  
Blogger CS Perryess said...

I've had some superb suggestions from beta readers over the years. I was surprised to hear that the term "beta reader" originated in fan fiction, as this term was part of my vocabulary long before I heard of fan fiction (probably due to living in a galaxy far, far away from popular culture). Thanks for another fine post.

August 10, 2014 at 10:44 AM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Jami—Thank you for clarifying the role of a beta reader—and for your excellent tips! Giving a reason for a suggested change can be extraordinarily valuable and even lead to a third way to resolve whatever issue is in question.

August 10, 2014 at 10:45 AM  
Blogger Jami Gold said...

Hi Alex,

Ooo, "test readers." I like that phrase too, and like you, I often send my most trusted beta readers a close-to-first-draft version of the story, just so I have someplace to start with my revisions. I know they won't judge me for the mess. LOL!

Thanks for sharing that insight! :)

August 10, 2014 at 10:58 AM  
Blogger Jami Gold said...

Hi Emerald,

Yes, I discovered that once my writing rose to a certain level, critique partners weren't as helpful for me. As Anne mentioned last week, some critique groups tend to focus more on line-by-line issues than big picture things, especially because critique groups/partners often see just a chapter or so at a time.

In contrast, beta readers often read the whole story at once. In my experience, that difference leads to more of the big picture feedback *I* want.

There's no right or wrong answer though. As Anne stated at the end of her last post, what's important is knowing our goals, so we know what kind of feedback we're looking for. Thanks for sharing your experience!

August 10, 2014 at 11:02 AM  
Blogger Jami Gold said...

Hi CS,

I'm not familiar enough with the history of the term to know the timeline of who used it when, but Anne's right that fanfic always used that term *rather* than anything like "critique partner/group." So at the very least, beta readers were always center stage in that arena, whereas I often come across original fiction authors who have never heard the term. Thanks for stopping by!

August 10, 2014 at 11:05 AM  
Blogger Jami Gold said...

Hi Ruth,

Exactly! About 75% of the time, I won't make the exact change a beta reader suggested, but I *will* make *A* change to address the issue they brought up. :)

They're giving feedback as readers, so their suggestions aren't the point. Their suggestions might just attack the symptoms. The point is a) knowing there's an issue, and b) understanding WHY they had an issue so we can attack the cause of the symptom. :) Thanks for the comment!

August 10, 2014 at 11:09 AM  
Blogger Jami Gold said...

Thanks for inviting me to play in your sandbox! :) I'm happy for the chance to hang out with your readers!

August 10, 2014 at 11:10 AM  
Blogger Linda Maye Adams said...

Hmm. Google seems to have eaten my comment. Experience tells me to be very wary of betas who don't read the genre. One of the genres I write in is fantasy, and it can tend to have larger casts and obviously has a lot of setting description for the world. The latter is a genre requirement and what most readers come to the genre for. But in my travels, I've seen non-fantasy writers declare that description is boring and to get rid of it -- in fact, in a blog by a professional writer, an author said that editors don't like a lot of description, so keep it short. This is really dangerous if the writer doesn't understand components of the genre and believes the other person is correct. I've also had other writers actively sneer at my larger casts and declare they would never read my books because of that.

An example of this is that I tended to leave out of a lot of the setting description and didn't do a lot of world building. Unlike most fantasy readers, I didn't come to the stories for the worlds; I came to them for the characters and the stories. I thought I was doing enough, and non-fantasy readers didn't notice any problems. It wasn't until I joined up with speculative fiction writers that I found out I was leaving an awful lot out. So make sure readers in your genre see your story.

August 10, 2014 at 11:27 AM  
Blogger Jami Gold said...

Hi Linda,

Absolutely! Feedback that's unhelpful to us is a possibility no matter what, just as Anne pointed out last week with critique groups. I would NEVER say that any reader or critiquer was "always" right.

With any kind of feedback, even from trained, professional editors, we have to take what works for us and the story we're trying to tell and ignore the rest. That's simply the junk that comes with the nuggets no matter HOW we approach feedback. :)

Now, if that non-genre beta reader points out that they were confused at some point *because* of that large cast, we can take a closer look to see if we missed reminding the reader of who a character is that they haven't seen in a while or something. In other words, their comments are indicators of WHERE to look closer, not WHAT, specifically, to change. And I've found that to be the case with genre and non-genre readers alike. :)

Thanks for bringing up that point so I could emphasize that "ignoring" is okay. ;)

August 10, 2014 at 11:42 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Jami--Thank YOU for all this great information! We're so happy you agreed to guest for us.

August 10, 2014 at 11:48 AM  
Blogger Julie Musil said...

*waves to Jami*

I absolutely swear by beta readers. I used a critique group early on, but that wasn't working out so well. With beta readers, I've already been through a few drafts and worked out a lot of the kinks on my own. By the time they have the story, it's definitely the best I can make it.

I value every single comment. Even if I don't agree with the comment, I appreciate the fact that the reader took the time to flag that area. If they flagged it, something usually isn't right and I need to fix it. I love how my beta readers will throw out suggestions. Sometimes I use them, sometimes I don't, but I love that they're there.

August 10, 2014 at 12:12 PM  
OpenID mmjustus said...

"Thanks for bringing up that point so I could emphasize that "ignoring" is okay. ;)"

And thanks for saying that. I'm beginning to think my current beta reader is not who I need to have be reading my books, because I'm not getting the kind of feedback I need from her, and trying to "fix" the book in response to her comments has brought me to a grinding halt.

August 10, 2014 at 12:17 PM  
OpenID paulfahey said...

I learned a lot, Jami. I always knew I needed to find a beta reader. Many of my writer friends have them. You've given me some great ideas. Thank you. Also provided some wonderful suggestions for editing other's work: I've done quite a lot of that in the past and always tried to steer clear of anything that might change a writer's voice or style. Making comments, that are meant to be only suggestions in the margins, has always been helpful to me and I hope to the writer's I worked with. Great post. Now I'm off to find a beta reader.

August 10, 2014 at 12:43 PM  
Blogger Wm. L. Hahn said...

Jami, great contribution. I was completely ignorant that there was such a clear line between beta readers and a critique group. The gang I hang with tends to post fairly polished material, and the feedback when it started was typically a line-reading, but now less often.
I come back to a point about format, same as I mentioned last week- can't say enough how good it is to have the group be an online one. We post a chapter at a time for each other, read when we can (usually a few days) and respond with feedback that's of course neatly threaded. I guess it covers some of beta and come of critique and is ultra-convenient.

August 10, 2014 at 1:58 PM  
Blogger Christine Ahern said...

My very own brother is one of my best beta readers. He is an avid reader, reads all genres and sees things that I just don't see. And he's honest with me. I would say I am very lucky.

August 10, 2014 at 2:39 PM  
Blogger Angela said...

Great advice on beta readers. However, there's always a challenge with betas: getting a response in a timely manner. They're doing you an immense favor in reading, so you can't nag. :-)

I've found that for a speedy response, it's useful to post a project on one of the outsourcing marketplaces. You can get three or four beta readings done quickly, and from people who are experienced in giving feedback.

Works when you want fast opinions, and don't mind paying for speed.

August 10, 2014 at 3:41 PM  
Blogger G. B. Miller said...

I've used a couple over the years, but one who I respect (gave phenomenal feedback on my commercial debut) has issues reading the type of stuff that I write (sex, violence and/or a combination thereof).


Father Nature's Corner

August 10, 2014 at 4:25 PM  
Blogger BooksAndPals said...

Excellent post, Jami.

August 10, 2014 at 6:53 PM  
Blogger Jami Gold said...

Hi Julie,

Good point! Depending on how the critique group is run, the feedback process can be slow. And I agree that even when we disagree with the suggestion, the flag itself can be helpful. :) Thanks for stopping by!

August 10, 2014 at 8:14 PM  
Blogger Jami Gold said...

Hi MM,

I "exchange" a read for a read with my beta readers, so I want to make sure the time I spend reading my partner's work is worth it for the quality of feedback *I* need in return. Some of my readers are definitely more helpful for what I need, and those are the ones I use again.

That doesn't mean the beta readers I *don't* reuse are bad in any way. :) It's all about finding a good match for US and what we need. It's okay to be selfish enough to want what we need. :D Good luck and thanks for the comment!

August 10, 2014 at 8:26 PM  
Blogger Jami Gold said...

Hi Paul,

I tend to give feedback in the style that's most helpful for me as well. That means I leave a lot of stream-of-consciousness emotional reactions like LOLs and "No!"s in the margins in addition to my big picture analysis. :) Good luck in your search!

August 10, 2014 at 8:46 PM  
Blogger Jami Gold said...

Hi William,

I'm sure some use different definitions, but these can help us agree on expectations and goals and feedback styles, so they're useful as a starting point. :)

Like you, my feedback partners have always been online. We use MS Word comments. Then I combine comments from all my readers into one document (http://jamigold.com/2012/04/ms-word-trick-combining-changes-and-comments/), which helps me see if they agree on certain problem areas.

I've heard of some groups using Google Docs, so there's no right or wrong way--only what works for us. :) Thanks for sharing your experiences!

August 10, 2014 at 9:09 PM  
Blogger Jami Gold said...

Hi Christine,

Most of my family wants to read my work out of curiosity, but they're no good with that critical eye part. I'm glad you have that built-in reader of your work. :) Thanks for sharing!

August 10, 2014 at 10:26 PM  
Blogger Jami Gold said...

Hi Angela,

VERY true! If we're dealing with a reader-only, it's a huge favor, as you said, as there's not much offered in return.

Even when we exchange with other writers, we're not always in the same place, professionalism-wise, so our expectations might not match up with theirs. Thanks for sharing your experiences and insights! :)

August 10, 2014 at 10:28 PM  
Blogger Jami Gold said...

Hi G.B.,

Great point that there are *many* reasons people might not be a good match for us. I write steamier stuff, so I've run into that problem as well. (Although those who read for me despite their misgivings always say they were impressed at how I made the sexy stuff important to the story and not just gratuitous. ;) Yay! That's great feedback right there. LOL!)

Good luck and thanks for stopping by!

August 10, 2014 at 10:31 PM  
Blogger Jami Gold said...

Hi Al,

Great to see you here--thanks! :)

August 10, 2014 at 10:32 PM  
Blogger Tam Francis said...

Thank you for all this wonderful advice. I'm finally starting to get into the groove of finding beta readers that give me enough feedback! I just got feedback on my Ghost Story collection and am thrilled. Self-publishing soon! I love how you break it down. I'm sharing with my writer's group and already google+ you!

~ Tam Francis ~
www.girlinthejitterbugdress.com

August 11, 2014 at 8:01 AM  
Blogger Jami Gold said...

Hi Tam,

Yes, it can take a while to find good matches, and I'm always on the lookout for new ones because people's ability to commit to exchanging work fluctuates. I hope your experiences continue to go well--thanks for stopping by! :)

August 11, 2014 at 8:59 AM  
Blogger sue mcginty said...

You nailed it Jami. The important thing is to find a beta reader who "gets" what you write.

August 11, 2014 at 9:29 AM  
Blogger Jami Gold said...

Hi Sue,

Exactly! And sometimes we'll get lucky and click with people, and sometimes that's harder than it sounds. :) Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

August 11, 2014 at 10:25 AM  
Blogger Christina Hawthorne said...

I'm grateful that I found you here, Jami. I've long been convinced that I wouldn't make a good beta reader because my writing methods were wrong for the task. Well, I was wrong, and that's great to learn because I find I'm nearing the edge of the cliff and am desperate for a beta bridge and all there is at my feet is open air. Thank you!

August 11, 2014 at 10:39 AM  
Blogger Jami Gold said...

Hi Christina,

The main group I've found who *can't* beta read are those who aren't conscious of when they like or don't like something in a story (and thus can't provide any feedback about what's working or not working). Very few writers will fall into that category. :) Good luck finding that bridge and thanks for stopping by!

August 11, 2014 at 11:51 AM  
Blogger Lisa Hall-Wilson said...

My comment disappeared. It took me a good while to find reliable beta readers. Too often I've found people who weren't looking for a beta reader but simply someone to pat them on the back (whether the work deserved the praise or not) or those who flaked out and never reciprocated as agreed.
I try very hard not to suggest a change without a reason - but you said it best. I want to return the kind of beta read I'm looking for from someone else.

August 11, 2014 at 12:38 PM  
Blogger Jami Gold said...

Hi Lisa,

Very true. If we just want a pat on the back, we could probably find a best friend or family member to do that. ;) If we're not going to listen to what they have to say, we should make our expectations clear up front--and NOT call what we want beta reading.

As far as flakes, yes, that unfortunately happens too. There's definitely a balance between recognizing that we're asking for a favor and finding those with a similar level of professionalism. (That said, I never mind a reminder or nudge because my to-do *is* chaotic, and I'd rather have the reminder than inadvertently be a flake. LOL!) And if we're using the exchange method with another writer, it becomes less of a favor and a reminder is absolutely appropriate. Thanks for sharing your insights!

August 11, 2014 at 2:26 PM  
Blogger Janet Greger said...

You "codified" common sense, but your comments were helpful.

Finding beta readers is hard. I've found one helpful tip. Read the prose of a potential beta readers. If you don''t like their style or characters, you aren't apt to find their advice helpful.

August 11, 2014 at 3:34 PM  
Blogger Jami Gold said...

Hi Janet,

Unfortunately, as we all know, common sense isn't always that common. :-/

Interesting point about how voices that appeal to each other might indicate a better match. I've often suspected that, but I don't know for sure if that's the case. I usually recommend starting with an exchange of 1-3 chapters to start, just as a "test case" of compatibility. :) Thanks for sharing your insights!

August 11, 2014 at 5:19 PM  

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