Talk:Beta reader

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Um... how on Earth would you cite references or sources on an internet slang term used everywhere, but mostly on non-permenent pages? I mean, if you read fiction on just about any modern internet archive, or join or read just about any blog, journal, group or site dedicated to writing online, you will run across the term. Usually frequent. I'm actually asking this not out of annoyance, but - how do people usually cite this kind of thing, anyway?

Although I did cite one print source that used it - Naomi Novik's first novel (as noted in my previous edits of the article) actually thanks her beta readers (and uses that very same term, as well) in the very first paragraph of the acknowledgements page. Some really big-name authors (Stephen King, Anne McCafferey, etc.) have read and endorsed that book (as seen in all the blurbs on the paperback copy I got from the public library), so the book is somewhat notable in and of itself - wouldn't the usage of the term in it under this same context provide a decent source?

I suppose that is the problem with the "This article does not cite its sources" tag. It's a bit gruff and doesn't really say much. :P

As such, it would be nice if people discussed why they added a tag when they do so. :\ I wish more people would. Runa27 18:57, 4 August 2006 (UTC)

Most people are dicks ;) . I've added references which should be suitable to remove the tag. Ironiridis 00:10, 12 April 2007 (UTC)

This term is new, formerly Pre-reader. --Srengel (talk) 17:43, 6 June 2008 (UTC)

"Pre-reader" is a new term too. At least for published novelists, the term for the person performing this service has traditionally been "editor". Pais (talk) 13:16, 21 October 2010 (UTC)

Call me hyper-critical, but I believe that the reference(s) should have more information on the matter than the article. This is not the case here. The current Fan-Fiction.Net page linked to is a category page with a brief, one-sentence explanation of what Beta-Reading is.

It makes it seem as if this is a term pertaining only to this one site. Could we get other (more reputable) sources on this? --68.84.151.18 (talk) 03:38, 30 May 2012 (UTC)

alpha vs. beta[edit]

(This comment is long enough and specific enough to warrant a section header of its own.)

Serious revision needed here.

  • [Edited to add: Revision done!]
  • [Edited again: I realize the revision quotes heavily from blog pages. While all those pages are public, I'm going to move the revised version to a provisional sandboxy page and undo most of the changes while asking those authors for permission to quote their pages in this way. Thnidu (talk) 04:20, 29 January 2013 (UTC)

I second the anonymous 68.84.151.18 (03:38, 30 May 2012). This definition does not correspond to the use of "alpha-" and "beta-tester" in the software industry (see alpha test (specifically the open-source type) and beta test) or in writing.

I just ran a Google search for "alpha readers", without quotes. Here are definitions from the top few hits (mostly or entirely writers' blogs, I think), excluding this WP page and two sites whose domain names include "alphareader". The link to each item is labeled with the name of the website; the title of the post follows the link after a colon.

To these writers and their communities, the alpha reader is not the author, but one of a small set of first readers other than the author, and the beta reader is a second-stage "other reader". These five authors' "job descriptions" for the two stages vary, but it's quite clear that they don't confirm the article's definition. In other words, the article is wrong – at the very least, in not even mentioning that there is a widely used meaning of the term that contradicts the one it gives.

  1. Gods, Witches, Space & Stars: writing thoughts of L.A.Christensen: Alpha-Reading
    Whether or not you can write or edit, everyone reading this–hopefully–can read. (I know, bad joke.)  Today I want to talk about what I have learned about the skills necessary for alpha- or beta-reading, and how to apply what you already know about reading, writing, and editing to being an alpha-reader.
    But first, a few definitions.
    A writer is one who writes. It is his job to tell a story the very best he can. An editor‘s job, then, is to turn that story into something acceptable to a wider audience. (These definitions are simplistic, but I’ve already covered the definitions of various roles here.)
    An alpha-reader, also called a “first reader,” exists to help the writer know what it is she has written. Sounds odd, right?  But actually they are incredibly useful. Since the story happens entirely in the writer’s head, it is hard for the writer to tell how much of that story has actually made it to the page and what impact the words she has chosen to paint the story with will have on a reader.
    The alpha-reader’s job, then, is to recreate their reading experience for the author.  They can do this in various ways, but the more detailed the description and summary of their various reactions (not just the negative ones and not just the positive ones), the more helpful they will be.
  2. Writing Excuses: Writing Excuses 5.33: Alpha Readers
    It’s time to talk about alpha readers, and we start with a caveat from Howard: “I don’t want to read your book.” Let’s face it, we here at Writing Excuses might be great alpha readers, but we’re not YOUR alpha readers. We can’t be your back-door to fame and fortune as a genre fiction writer. The good news? There are good alpha readers out there waiting for you. You just need to know how to find them.
    We talk about conventions a bit, those places that are full of genre-fiction lovers who might be able to help. We talk about Brandon’s writing group (his alpha readers) and how his agent and editor are actually beta readers. This contrast illustrates the sort of things you should be looking for in an alpha reader. We talk about Howard’s alpha reader (Sandra) and how she has to look at a script with no pictures, no blocking, and no dialog tags and figure out whether or not it’s going to work. This illustrates how she’s a genius and Howard’s just a hack.
  3. Mary Robinette Kowal: How and why I use online alpha-readers while writing novels.
    Password protection means that I don’t blow my 1st publication rights. I am able to tell an editor exactly how many people read the novel and also control how many people read it. For me, there are usually about fifty people who read all the way to the end. Ten of those will actually comment. Posting the first three chapters counts as a teaser and doesn’t hurt 1st publication rights. Note: I would not post the first three chapters, in the clear, of a book under contract without my editor’s okay.
  4. Taven Moore: Alpha Readers vs Beta Readers
    Alpha readers are the ones who go in first. Typically, you owe them favors the size of Texas, and they owe you the same ones. Alpha readers are the folks who will read your stuff multiple times and who give you crits … and in almost every case, you do the exact same for them.
    Alpha readers get your SECOND draft. The one that turns the glorious, creative mess of your first draft into a recognizable story and that fixes all the things you already know are wrong. [...]
    Beta readers get your “polished” draft.
    You may go multiple rounds with your alphas, making changes, tweaking things, deciding what needs to go and what needs to stay, and does the phrasing here really work, and is “taxidermied” really a word or not?
    Your beta readers get the book you’re pretty sure is ready for you to hand off to an agent or publisher. You know there will be further edits down the line, but THIS book is good. It’s not perfect, but it’s good, and you need some FRESH eyes on it — people who never read version 2, where you killed off the main character’s best friend in scene 32, or version 3, where space aliens landed and kidnapped the main character’s pet beagle as part of a sub-plot.
    Beta readers come in when you and your alphas can’t find anything else wrong. Beta readers are READERS more than they are critiquers (though if you’re lucky, your beta readers know enough to point out flaws you couldn’t see). They’re your test group.
  5. Through the Looking Glass: ALPHA AND BETA...
    If you're writing novels, especially, you might want two widely different levels of feedback: the alpha and the beta.
    In many workshops, the rules ask you to submit only polished works for critique. If you're writing a novel, however, you might want feedback during the initial writing itself. The alpha reader offers that first and valuable feedback, keeping you on track throughout the weeks or months of writing that first draft. [...]
    The Alpha Reader. [...] Alpha readers have two important characteristics: they give quick feedback, and (for the most part) they address the larger elements of the story —the pacing, the tension, plot arcs, characterization, backstory, and theme. A good alpha reader will tell you if that high-pitched confrontation scene works, or if you need more motivation for the characters. She will point out that the pacing sagged here, or the plot took a bad left turn, or that chapter 10 confused her dreadfully. She will also comment that the bit with Character X works better than you thought, but that your thread about Character Y got lost somewhere in the middle. [...]
    Beta Readers. These are your second (or third or fourth) draft friends. Once you've wrestled the plot into shape, and you've rewritten the first chapters to match the final ones, you need the skills of the beta readers. Now you truly need the line comments to point out the grammar mistakes, the typos, and the poor word choices. You also need feedback on the structural elements, only in much more detail than before. Pacing, characterization, tension, and prose have all changed since draft one, most likely. You need confirmation that everything works together, or if not, where it failed and why.
    Beta readers work much slower because the level of detail is that much greater. After you finish that second draft, find three or six people who will spend the next month or two reading your work and picking it to pieces. Thank them profusely for the effort involved, even if the feedback hurts, even if you disagree wildly with their opinions and suggestions. Most important, offer to return the favor with your most constructive criticism.