Subscribers to the new Inner Circle Writers’ Magazine may have noticed that I am offering a special deal to them for various services. I thought I’d take a moment to clarify what the differences were between some of those services.
People don’t normally charge for ‘beta reading’. After all, it might seem odd to have to pay someone just to read your work, when you can probably get a friend or family member to do it for you.
That’s true, there are some people around in your circles who would probably read your latest piece free of charge. If they are a family member or friend, I’d ask you to beware of biases either towards not wanting to hurt your feelings, or using the opportunity to ‘get back at you’ for some reason. Those to whom we are closest are, by definition, most entangled with us emotionally, and that emotion can cloud the cold judgement that you usually need when asking for feedback about a piece of your fiction.
Then there are other people, usually friends on social media, who are a little more distanced from you and can probably therefore be more helpful because they will be a little more willing to give honest feedback. But reading someone’s fiction can take time, and you might feel obligated to them as a result.
None of the above are necessarily qualified to give you the kind of feedback you probably need, which is normally a) the viewpoint of an ordinary reader, coming across your work for the first time, in order to see ‘in the raw’ what is working and not working, and/or b) the more detailed and technical feedback from someone who is familiar with a range of stories and who can spot strengths and weaknesses as he or she reads.
The second type of person - the one who can spot the underlying skeleton of a tale as they read along, and who can offer a ‘diagnosis’ - is usually capable too of adopting the viewpoint of an ordinary reader. Years of familiarity with reading different kinds of fiction, from brand-new, never-before-read material to the finest works ever produced will have given such a person an eye for certain things which someone who just reads casually either won’t see or won’t have the vocabulary to explain.
A friend or relative or social media contact may come back to you with ‘Well, yes, it was enjoyable but I don’t really know if the ending works…’ or ‘I didn’t like such-and-such a character’ and so forth. When you, the author, attempt to probe them for further information, all they can do is shrug and say ‘It’s just a feeling’ or ‘I don’t know’. So you may have waited for weeks for them to ‘get around to reading’ your book, only to be left with feedback of the most nebulous and frustrating kind. You are no better off, really, than you were before. In some cases, knowing that ‘something just didn’t work’ about a piece of work, but not knowing what that something is, leaves you worse off.
Professional beta reading from me means that you can expect feedback within a decent time frame and that you will get a detailed aspect-by-aspect breakdown, covering Ideas, Character, Reader Appeal, Emotional Commitment, Plot, Style and Overall Effect. If possible, I will make suggestions about how to fix any flaws that I can see. I’ll do so without being clouded by any emotional connection with you, plus you won’t be left feeling guilty about having used up my time.
One author said, ‘You will not regret it - his feedback is thorough and educated and very instructional - it beats the pants off of anything I have ever received in the way of feedback from any other beta reader I've ever had.’
So yes, it will cost money - but the product will be a boosted confidence in your work in terms of what it is doing right and a stability about what to do next.
Highlighted and Non-highlighted Proofreading
What are these, you may ask?
Highlighted proofreading means correcting a manuscript while painstakingly showing each correction. This is as opposed to proofreading a work and simply fixing mistakes as you go along without highlighting them.
The main advantage to highlighted proofreading is that you will be able to spot patterns of errors in your work and thus be able to self-correct for the future. Because you will see each step of the proofreader’s work, you will also have confidence that due time has been spent on it. The main disadvantage is that it takes longer to do, as the proofreader has to stop and explain each change, which can be quite time-consuming.
Non-highlighted proofreading means that you get your work back totally corrected but you don’t know exactly where the corrections have taken place. The advantage is that non-highlighted proofreading is much quicker to do.
In both cases, you need some confidence that the person with whom you’re working is competent. I’ve been engaged in proofreading in one way or another for over twenty years, and have done it professionally for about nineteen of those.
To give you an idea of costs:
Professional beta reading for 5,000 words of any work or excerpt, any genre, with detailed feedback on Ideas, Characters, Reader Appeal, Emotional Commitment, Plot, Style and Overall Effect would normally cost £50.00.
Highlighted proofreading for 5,000 words of any work or excerpt, any genre, which means detailed corrections made and shown in your manuscript, would normally cost £50.00.
For more about how the Special Subscribers’ Package includes these services for a much reduced price, visit the Exclusive Services page.