Alpha and beta readers are a common sight among us writers. Something I've noticed lately is that the terms are often used interchangeably. So people ask me how I differentiate between the two, because in my mind they're two separate things. Have no fear, I shall solve this conundrum for mankind today.
First, alphas. These invaluable volunteers are really the braver of the two (I think that's why they're called alphas). Why? Because they agree to read your work before it's gone through virtually any editing. In essence, they read the first draft. By first draft, I mean the first solid draft that is actually taking the story where you want it to go. I work in very few drafts, so this was my literal first draft. But in essence, alphas are the first eyes that read your work since your own and they provide feedback. Maybe much feedback.
You may all be wondering why on earth would you give your first(ish) draft to someone?!?! I've done it, and it's really not as bad as you'd think. I had 5 alphas (you know who you are) who got to read the words moments after they were penned and usually without a reread. I found this helpful because if I was having a really bad
Also, motivation! I would not have finished my first draft (probably ever) without the 5 awesome ladies who actually wanted to know what would happen next. People can enjoy even the early stages of your work! Did I have plot holes they had to deal with? Yes. Did they have questions I had to answer because they weren't answered in the draft? Of course. But they all seemed to enjoy themselves and get into it and so did I.
Then come betas. These people come into play once aaaaaall the alpha awesomeness has been applied. I also give the work a solid reread here (what I'm currently doing) so that it's in the best condition I can imagine before I give it to another group of people. So when the betas give me feedback, it lowers my ego and helps me find things that I truly wouldn't have ever seen. After all, I've already given it my best shot. Me, fallible? What?
Again, motivation comes into play here, too. Because, tell me, what is more exciting than a group of friends adoring your precious brain-child right before it becomes a published book?! Nothing. This is as good as it gets. It's the final boost so that you hire a professional editor who fills in the remaining gaps and then boom! hit the printer. I suppose you could limit the number here, too, but I'm going to take as many as can read within my deadline. Who doesn't love advanced copies?!
Alphas tell you the first draft isn't trash and betas tell you the third draft isn't perfect.
I understand that not all of you will use both alphas and betas and that's fine. Judge which one you're utilizing by looking at how far along your book is before you're handing it off. Since I work in only three drafts, I can distinguish pretty well. For those of you who are superhuman and rewrite 14 times before sharing a word, I can understand where the lines blur. ;)
Anyway. Hopefully you now understand how I distinguish these two gems. If you haven't made use of alphas or betas, they're a must!
Do you use alpha or beta readers? Am I the only one who uses both? If you're interested in giving beta reading a shot, hang around, because I'll have a sign up on Tuesday!!!!