Your Guide to the Guide: Part 2

The second part of my new Guide to Products and Services from Clarendon House Publications covers the Initial Editing Services which are available.

These are for those writers who have a piece of work on which they either need some competent feedback or something that they want fixing up at a mechanical level, sometimes urgently. I find that a great many students use these proofreading services to complete dissertations or essays (or term papers, as I think they are called in America). But the beta-reading service is particularly designed for fiction writers, and even more specifically for those writers who need some kind of gauge as to how they are actually doing.

It’s common practice to get family members or friends to read one’s work in its early stages. Even best-selling authors like Stephen King have done it. And there’s nothing really wrong with it as a practice, but it does have some pitfalls. The first is the obvious one: because they are your family or friends, they are probably going to a little anxious about hurting your feelings with hard criticisms. This is even more the case if they have seen you working as a writer and know how much of your heart and soul (and time) you have put into a piece. Feedback obtained from this kind of beta reader is often softened by such considerations and much more positive than it might otherwise be.

Another drawback to using friends and family is that they often feel under no obligation to get back to you within any kind of reasonable time frame. You can wait for weeks before hearing anything, if at all — and then, if you check on their progress, you frequently find that they have put the work to one side and haven’t even started reading it yet. Their relationship with you has other dynamics, you see: reading your work is usually being done as a favour, not as a professional duty.