Saturday, August 20, 2016

The Alpha Beta Conundrum

It was very difficult to find a good image for this post because Pinterest only came up with sororities and Teen Wolf (?). I kid you not. All the Greek letters always bring my Math-U-See curriculum to mind. BUT. This post is actually about alpha and beta readers and the difference between them.


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 chapter day, I could leave a big comment of complaints or ask for suggestions at a certain part. If I had no ideas for the next scene, I would ask what questions I hadn't answered and then answer them. That sort of thing. I highly recommend keeping this number to a minimum, but give yourself a variety. My lovely 5 helped me cover all my bases.

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!!!!

37 comments:

  1. Awesome post! Now I know the difference.. xD
    Oooh, you're having a sign up? I can't wait! :)

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    1. Yay! I have enlightened someone! . . . with my own perception :P

      YES!!! Now I have to figure out how to get a form, sign-up thing in a post before Tuesday XD

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  2. Lovely post, alphas and betas are usually lovely and nice people (and I'm totally not saying that because I've been one)

    I WOULD LOVE TO BE YOUR BETA NDJFHDFFF. can't wait for sign ups <3 :D

    ~Noor

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    1. Yes, I've had really awesome luck with alphas so far and I expect my betas to be awesome as well ;) It's so fun to read when you can interact with the author! :D

      YAAAYYAYAAYYAYAY!!! ^.^

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  3. OHH now I get it! This is really cool, thank you for explaining this!

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  4. YEEESSS! Thank you SO MUCH for clearing this up. I think I had a vague idea what the difference was, but this....THIS was a very good explanation. :) I use alpha/beta readers more now that I know what they're for, but I used them before...just without knowing what to call them. ;) Often, I ended up being my own alpha or beta reader, which wasn't as helpful to me as it might sound. >_<
    And if you ever have the need for an alpha or beta reader, know that I would LOVE to be one (or both)! It's the least I can do after you graciously offered to beta-read my story. :)

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    1. Why thank you!!! :D I'm glad it cleared the issue xD

      Yeah, I gave up on self-betaing or whatever preeeetty quick XD Definitely not as useful.

      I would love to have you! Trust me, I have plenty of novels to come, so I promise you'll get a chance at some point :)

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  5. Nice post! :D

    Um, if alphas read the first draft, then I am NEVER getting alphas. o.o *hides face* No... I couldn't handle that. xP

    But YES. Betas would be extremely helpful. *nods*

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    1. Thanks!!

      Haha, that's okay. I wrote a /fairly/ solid first draft this time around. That why it took me 9 months. There's no way I'm sharing my Camp NaNo first draft until I've read through it again D:

      YES! They're so helpful and it's amazing. ^.^

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  6. WAIT YOU'RE DOING A BETA SIGN UP ON TUESDAY ASDFGHJKLASFLHSDG

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    1. Jonathan, we basically commented at the exact same time. xD

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    2. YES!!! But people have to be able to read the entire thing in the month of September. That's the one tiny hang up XD Hehe. Hopefully I'll still have readers :D

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    3. @Emily lol we sure did! #greatmindsthinkalike XP
      Ha a month? Pshaw that should be plenty of time, right? :)

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  7. This makes so much more sense now, alpha and beta readers! I've worked with both groups before-- my one main problem would be that sometimes, the alphas I ask to read my novel would never get back to me, and it's pretty sad. Good luck with beta reads! I'd sign up, but there's a lot on my plate lately, that I know I wouldn't have time. :(

    xoxo Morning

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    1. I'm so glad it helped! Aw, that is sad :( I guess I got my alphas when I sent my work to one or two friends and then I got some local friends in on it, too. I'm trying to be more organized with my beta readers! That's okay. Thanks for being interested ^.^

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  8. I FINALLY figured this out for myself a few months ago, but before that I was all "wut's the difference?!?!?!?" Thanks for posting this. I may very well be referring my own prospective beta readers to this post. You'd be shocked at how many of them said "I don't know what a beta reader is, but I'd love to read your book!" -_-

    Haha--Alpha/Beta always makes me think of Math U See, too!!! Why can't there be an Epsilon reader? That was my favorite year of the curriculum!!! :)

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    1. Exactly!!! I would not mind at all if you referred people ^.^ It's so crazy to me how many people have no idea what a alpha/beta reader is :(

      FINALLY SOMEONE ELSE WHO DOES MATH-U-SEE!!! You have no idea how happy this makes me ^.^ Right?! Why stop at Beta? I remember liking Zeta. Maybe it was because it was purple? xD

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    2. *joins the people who do/did Math-U-See club* :D

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    3. Woohoo!! I've never met anyone else around my age who's done it, so this is VERY exciting! :D

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  9. I actually use and do both!
    I'll definitely sign up!
    (and I use Math-U-See too...:D)

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    1. Yay! I'm not the only one :)

      Sweet! That makes me so happy!!

      Math-U-See for the win!! *high five*

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  10. Haha, every time I hear Alpha/Beta, Math-U-See comes to my mind, too. xD
    We actually didn't use Math-U-See till my sophomore year, when mom decided to switch math curriculum. Since I was in highschool I opted to stick with the curriculum I had grown up with, so I've never actually done Math-U-See.
    But I help my younger siblings with school, so I've had fun teaching with Math-U-See. ;)

    I've used Beta-readers for both my other books/stories, but I'm using both for my current WIP. Which you probably already knew. ;)
    But I did go through and "edit" my work three times before any alpha readers saw it. Because I wrote it during NaNo. *hides* It was horrid!
    But Alpha and Beta readers are awesome. They're invaluable!
    I really enjoyed the post. It's sometimes hard to understand the difference between the two! :)

    Oh, oh, OH! I will definitely sign up to Beta! I'm looking forward to reading some of your work!! :D

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    1. Yay!! It's the one curriculum that I started with and we never changed! :)

      I will definitely be editing my Camp NaNo story before I give it to alphas because it's completely incoherent at the moment XD I had the benefit of a very slow and methodical first draft with "Martin Hospitality" :)

      I'm glad you enjoyed it. Thanks for signing up, I look forward to you reading it! :D

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  11. *shudder* You are so brave. I can't believe you were able to just give it to me. xD

    I can't exactly remember what draft I gave to you... Pretty sure it was the third or fourth? I think it was the third. Regardless, I have to go over several times before I give it to someone and you are so brave. xD

    EEK. I am so excited for betas! I won't be signing up, but I hope to hear about your experience. :D Good luck!

    // katie grace
    a writer's faith

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    1. Haha, thanks. I wrote coherent enough first drafts when I could take as much time as I wanted that I didn't really mind sharing it that early. I think writing it in chapters from the very beginning helped. ;)

      THANK YOU!! You've already been an outstanding alpha, so that's understandable ;) I'm so excited! :D

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  12. You are like ... so brave. I give my first draft to my cousin, but only because she's read everything I've ever written and I know I'm only getting better so I have no reputation to lose. Anything I send her, I know she's read worse. XP

    But sometimes it's even hard for me to send to her. I sent her the whole first draft after I wrote it, but ended up asking her not to read it and only sending her certain bits that I needed help with. The first draft is mine and mine alone, and I usually have a good idea on my own of what I need to fix. I do like to ask someone who knows a lot about it (which she always does) for advice on certain tings. But I definitely consider her an alpha reader, and she is priceless.

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    1. Haha, that makes sense. It's great to have one person you can count on and give things to time and time again. I totally understand your hesitation with first drafts. I'm pretty sure I write first drafts pretty differently than most people, so I'm a little more confidant at the end of them. But I would never share the word pile that is my Camp NaNo draft until I gave it a major face lift!

      I ping lots of ideas of my sister and Katie Grace, because sometimes you just need that extra voice to reassure you or burst your bubble, haha ;) (Not that they've ever done that.)

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  13. This is so informative, thank you! I never knew what alphas were (though I've done plenty of beta reading myself), and now I'm contemplating using them on my own book (which is... well... still in the very very very early stages).

    Serena
    poetree {blog} | editing services

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    1. You're so welcome, Serena! Lots of people don't seem to make a distinction, but this is how I've always kept them separate :) It's really very different for everyone, but I will now always use alphas. It's great to have a small group or even just a single person that you can send the first draft you're semi-comfortable with ;) I'd love to hear what you decided :)

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  14. I've not seen alpha's used much, though I'm currently sending some of my work to a friend a chapter at a time, she's not a beta reader. I have editing it quite a bit though as I'm a perfectionist and don't want people seeing my mistakes.

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    1. It's true, alphas are a rare breed :) I am fairly self-conscious too of mistakes, so sometimes I would give the chapters another read-through and other times I'd just hand it over. I think it really helped me that the people who were pointing out my mistakes were making some of the same ones in their books that I was pointing out. So we were all in the same boat together :)

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  15. Oh goodness, THANK YOU SO MUCH. I have been having THE hardest time trying to figure out the difference between alpha and beta readers. I kept seeing them in the blogosphere and everyone else seemed to know what they were, so I was just like "Okkkkk.....Google?" :P (which actually didn't end up working since their definitions were basically the same xD)

    Just wondering though, can the job of a beta vary depending on the author? Like, for some, betas are needed to point out things that they notice, but then for others, they're just reading it through and posting reviews?

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    1. YOU'RE SO WELCOME. Yeah, I tried Google, too, and it was uncommonly unhelpful xD

      Yes, I believe so. For me as a writer, I like to know everything people notice along the way. It's not a perfect copy yet, so I only provide an electronic format that I still think could use some help. Others are on their very last draft and want an actual review out before the book is published. I have nothing against a review, but I don't know how much I'd want one from people who hadn't read the completely final product! :) But in the review instance, betas are reading even later drafts, so their purpose still holds true: read a late draft and provide feedback :)

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  16. Woah, I've never heard of Alphas when it came to editing o.O

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    1. Really? Well now you have ^.^ They are pretty rarely used, I must say. I just dislike editing my own work enough that I'm not going to struggle through the early drafts alone xD

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