Post Publishing, Prepublishing

Alpha. Beta, Crit and Beyond

I see a couple dozen posts a week or more asking for readers. Even with all these hundreds of posts a year, the people asking either use the wrong terminology or think everyone is a mind reader.

I don’t know about you, but I’m not a mind reader.

Let’s break it down to the basics.

An Alpha

An alpha reader reads a work in progress/unpolished first draft. They can give feedback on an entire book or just the important scenes. Their experience in a field can make or break a project. They make sure that you don’t write yourself too far into a hole or base your entire premise on a wrong assumption.

An alpha reader may be someone who doesn’t have a specialty area, but they are great at seeing the blind spots that you have—you’re too attached to your works, they aren’t—but they are your first reader whose purpose is to give you feedback on the plot and key points before you spend hours fleshing out the story more.

**Do not send them a trashy first draft where even you don’t know where the story is going.**

A Beta

A beta reader reads a finished, slightly polished draft. They usually consist of your target audience. Some of the best betas I had came from my newsletter subscribers. They can point out things like weak character, plot holes, and might even provide insight into something you weren’t even expecting. They are the casual reader and will let you know the entertainment value of your story.

Make sure you know what you want from your beta readers. Do you want them to pick at every little thing or are they giving you broad stroke appeal? (

A Critiquer / Critique Partner

A critique partner takes everything a beta reader will tell you and then helps you expand the story even further. The process goes over several key elements of storytelling—characterization, conflict, dialogue, pacing, plot, point of view, world building, tension, and narrative voice—and offer in-depth suggestions for improvement if things need to be polished. A critique is far more labor intensive than a beta read.

Some people have a crit partner before an alpha reader and some prefer working with them once they have a draft as far as they can take it themselves.

You do Alpha, Beta, and Critique readers BEFORE you send it to the copy/line editor.

An ARCer

An ACR reader a reader who is given a copy for free and then they read and review a finished product—polished and ready to go. They are there waiting to leave reviews on their blogs, on their social media, Goodreads, Kobo, Amazon, etc. They cheer your success and rally for the next one.

All four preform different tasks, and there is a proper way to ask for them. Posting in a writing group “Looking for a reader” is vague. Are you going to get someone who adores Romantic Comedy or are you going to end up with someone with a jilted heart who prefers Horror while you’re writing about Fantasy? Do you need an alpha for your military recon or do you need a beta who loves Sci-fi? Do you have a finished product looking for a few readers to spread the word?

No matter at what stage you’re at, try this:

I’m looking for a/an (Alpha, Beta, Critiquer, ARCer) for my (word count), (genre), about (few sentence synopsis while noting anything that may need a trigger warning).

Finding the right set of eyes for your work is as important as finding the right editor and cover design. Taking a few more minutes to specify will save you a lot of headache and streamline your system. Don’t forget, when you find a good one, make sure you don’t let them go.

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This post was edited/proofed by Dennis Doty and ProWritingAid.

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