Lately, I’ve been offering my critique and BETA services to any author who wishes to accept my services. Being an author myself, I understand how it feels to open yourself up and send your hard work to someone you’ve never met before. But on the good word of a fellow author, friend, or editor, you do it! However, most of the time it’s through a group you’ve joined, which can send your stress level straight to the top. How bad can they be if they belong to the same group you do? I’ve heard a few horror stories and I’ve had an instance or two where someone has signed on to edit or help only to disappear. And on top of that, no matter how many times you try to find out why, you begin to wonder if you dreamed the entire thing! Do they ever respond? Do they, heck. In other words, NO. Unprofessional, rude, and downright cowardly.
But…that’s beside the point and isn’t why I’m writing.
My reason is to clarify when to engage a BETA reader. There is a difference between a critique and a BETA read.
BETA readers are not your critique partners. They are not your pre-edit readers. Those are called ALPHAs. Makes sense, don’t you think? ALPHAs come first (just like in the alphabet). BETAs come next – after the work has been critiqued, ALPHAed and edited. BETAs can help with clean up on the editing process, but that is not their purpose. Their job is to watch for story flow, character development, story structure and other such important things. At this stage, your story should be ready for publishing. BETAs make sure of it.
So, next time you ask for BETA readers, please make sure that’s really what you’re looking for. It’ll give those people offering their services the opportunity to do the best job for you and your work.