Beta Reader, Proofreaders and Copy Editors

This post is the thirty-third in a series about writing a novel. You can check out the list of past topics at the end of this post.

In the process of editing your novel, you may want to turn it others to help you polish your story. Today I am going to discuss beta readers, proofreaders, and copy editors.

Beta Reader

Related imageWhat is a beta reader?

A beta reader is someone who reads a work of fiction with a critical eye before it is released to the public. They may catch spelling, grammar, characterization, and continuity errors. Unlike editors, these people are usually unpaid and often see your work in a rough state.

The term beta reader comes from the software industry where “beta” testers try out software before a major release to the public in order to identify problems.

Why use a beta reader?

Many authors like to use beta readers to improve the quality of their work before submitting it for professional editing and critique. Beta readers may question why a character does or does not do something. They may catch errors such as a change of location (the fight takes place in a bar but is later told to have taken place at the school), the way a character is dressed (a blue shirt all of a sudden is red) or which characters are in the room at the time (Charles may have left for work but then appears in a scene at home).

The fact is that as authors, we are so close to our own manuscripts that we cannot see them objectively. Things that are clear in our mind, may not come across the same way to others reading it. We may leave out vital steps in an explanation and not realize it since we know what we mean. Beta readers allow you to fine tune and polish your work before presenting it to the world.

How to find a beta reader?

There are websites that provide directories of beta readers broken down by genre. Or you can post on writing forums that you are looking for a beta reader or even post on your own blog.

Of course, you can also find a beta reader in your family or from your fan base but be warned their comments may not totally be objective.

Finding a good beta reader – one who reads your genre and is of your target market in terms of age, gender and interest – can be a lot of work but worth it. You need someone who will tell you the truth without worrying about hurting your feelings. Writers typically make good beta readers as they understand the writing/creative process.

To use a beta reader, you need a “thick skin” to be able to hear negative feedback, absorb it, learn from it and apply changes derived from it.

Proofreader

Image result for proofreaderA proofreader is someone who looks over your manuscript for grammar, punctuation and spelling mistakes. A proofreader should see your manuscript AFTER all the editing and after beta readers have made their suggestions (and you have made all your changes). Basically, they should see your manuscript when it is ready for publication. Their job is NOT to make revisions but to make corrections.

In the world of publishing paper books, a proofreader was one of the last to review the book. They would be looking at the final copy as it would print. If there were too many end-of-line hyphens in a row or a blank section break at the top of a page, they would correct those and other esthetic issues in addition to checking grammar and spelling.

Nowadays, as software improves, the need for someone to proofread for spelling and grammar errors diminishes and you may want to use grammar software such as Grammerly or WhiteSmoke. These are comprehensive grammar checking programs but of course no software can completely replace having someone proof your work. (I will discuss these programs in more detail in a future post.)

Many proofreaders charge by the hour while others charge by the word. Copy editors also usually offer proofreading as part of their services.

Copy Editor

Related imageWhile proofreading is done at the end, an editor may work over long periods of time with a writer until the manuscript is perfected. It is a much more involved process that can take months. And while some may argue editing also refers to finding typos and grammar errors, editing involves one major factor that proofreading does not: content.

A copy editor reads your work and makes corrections so it follows the conventions of good writing. They can find flaws in your story or help you flesh out a sub-plot.  They refine word choices and make sure the manuscript’s syntax is smooth. The copy editor may suggest reorganizing, recommend changes to chapter titles and call out lapses in logic or sequential slip-ups. They will ensure continuity through chapters and ensure dialog is believable.

If employing both, use an editor first and then the proofreader afterwards.  Editors may charge by the hour, by the page or even by the word.

Previous topics

#1 – Deciding to write a novel – Writing Myths

#2 – Three areas to develop before starting to write a novel

#3 – Finding a Story Idea and How to Know if it “good enough”

#4 – Developing Characters for your Novel

#5 – Major characters? Minor Characters? Where does everyone fit in?

#6 – Developing the Setting for your Novel

#7 – The importance of developing conflict in your novel plot

#8 – To Outline or not to outline 

#9 – The importance of a story arc

#10 – The importance of tension and pace

#11 – Prologue and opening scenes

#12 – Beginning and ending scenes in a novel

#13 – The importance of dialogue…and a few tips on how to write it

#14 – Using Internal Dialogue in your novel

#15 – More dialogue tips and help with dialogue tags

#16 – Knowing and incorporating back story into your novel

#17 – Hinting at what is to come with foreshadowing

#18 – Tips for writing different scenes in your novel

#19 – Dealing with Writer’s Block

#20 – Killing a Character in your Novel

#21 – Keeping things realistic in your novel

#22 – Establishing Writing Goals and Developing Good Writing Habits

#23 – Using the five senses and passive voice in your novel

#24 – The benefit of research in fiction writing

#25 – Novella or Novel, Trilogy or Series – decisions for writers

#26 – Avoiding Plot and Character Clichés

#27 – Novel Writing – Endings and Epilogues

#28 – Fantasy Novel Writing – World Building, Dragons, Magic and More

#29 – Finishing your First Draft

#30 – Your Second Draft and Beyond

#31 – Picking Stronger Words and Watching out for Homonyms

#32 – Omitting unnecessary words in your novel

Publishing your novel recap – part 2

I usually like to have my week’s post done at least a week in advance but last week I struggled to write something for today. My dear friend passed away on Monday, August 25, 2014 after a long battle with cancer. You can read more about her (and my fundraising efforts for her family) here.

So I am taking the easy way out this week and posting a recap of some of the posts that I have written about publishing your book. You can check out my first recap done in June 2013 by clicking here.

Tips for choosing your novel’s title – Choosing the title for your book can be one of the hardest decisions. You want the title to be catchy enough to intrigue a reader and short so it doesn’t fill up the entire front cover. Your title is part of the overall impression about the book. It sets the tone and creates an expectation. (To continue reading, click here.)

proofEditor or proofreader – which do you need? Many people confuse copy proofreading and copy editing. So what is the difference and which do you need to hire? (To continue reading, click here.)

Selecting an Author Photo – Last May, I wrote a blog with tips for drafting your author bio. Because I feature authors on my blogs, I see all types of author bios – some good and some really bad ones. (Remember – short and relevant and above all don’t list every book or award you have ever published or won.) Now while not all authors supply me with an author photo, I get bad and good ones of those too. (To continue reading, click here.)

Choosing to self-publish an e-book over a print book –  When I first decided to self-publish, the obvious choice to me was to do an electronic book. E-books are inexpensive – no press costs, no worry about storage, inventory or shipping.

But I admit it would be nice to hold my own book, feel the smooth cover or the pages as you flip through it. And it would be awesome to see it on an actual bookstore shelf. (To continue reading, click here.)

Promoting within your novels within your (or someone else’s) book – As an independent author, promoting my books is always high on my list of things to do. One of the easiest ways – and sometimes the most overlooked – is promoting within your published book. (To continue reading, click here.)

Don’t be in a rush to self-publish – You’ve dreamed of the day when you can hold in your hands a copy of your own book. You imagine showing it off to friends and family as you proudly declare you ARE an author. But as you are preparing to self-publish your own book, I urge you to make sure you – or more importantly your book – are ready. (To continue reading, click here.)

Hopefully, you will find some useful information in these posts. And I promise a new post will be up next Thursday.

Editor or proofreader – which do you need?

Many people confuse copy proofreading and copy editing. So what is the difference and which do you need to hire?

Proofreader

proofA proofreader is someone who looks over your manuscript for grammar, punctuation and spelling mistakes. A proofreader should see your manuscript AFTER all the editing, and beta readers have made their suggestions (and you have made all your changes). Basically, they should see your manuscript when it is ready for publication. Their job is NOT to make revisions but to make corrections.

In the world of publishing paper books, a proofreader was one of the last to review the book. They would be looking at the final copy as it would print. If there were too many end-of-line hyphens in a row or a blank section break at the top of a page, they would correct those and other esthetic issues in addition to checking grammar and spelling.

Nowadays, as software improves, the need for someone to proofread for spelling and grammar errors diminishes. In fact, I have mentioned before that I don’t hire a proofreader but use the software Whitesmoke for my proofing needs. This is a comprehensive grammar checker that will blow away what Microsoft Word does. Of course no software can completely replace having someone proof your work.

Many proofreaders charge by the hour while others charge by the word. And many copy editors also offer proofreading as part of their services.

Copy Editor

While proofreading is done at the end, an editor may work over long periods of time with a writer until the manuscript is perfected. It is a much more involved process that can take months. And while some may argue editing also refers to finding typos and grammar errors, editing involves one major factor that proofreading does not: content.

A copy editor reads your work and makes corrections so it follows the conventions of good writing. They can find flaws in your story or help you flesh out a sub-plot.  They refine word choices and make sure the manuscript’s syntax is smooth. The copy editor may suggest reorganizing, recommend changes to chapter titles and call out lapses in logic or sequential slip-ups. They will ensure continuity through chapters and ensure dialog is believable.

If employing both, use an editor first and then the proofreader afterwards.  Editors may charge by the hour, by the page or even by the word.