Author Topic: Early-Alpha Readers  (Read 879 times)  

Offline TromboneAl

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Early-Alpha Readers
« on: March 16, 2017, 05:08:57 PM »
With my WIP, I'm thinking of sending copies to alpha readers the second the e-ink is dry on my sloppy first draft.

Who's done that?

How did it go?

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Offline Al Stevens

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Re: Early-Alpha Readers
« Reply #1 on: March 16, 2017, 05:30:46 PM »
I've done it. It didn't work well. It used up some potentially valuable beta readers who were no longer available or willing to give it another read and who couldn't be objective anyway having already read it and commented.

I don't go to any readers until the work is the best I can do. Even then, I'm tweaking while they're still reading.

Offline G.L. Snodgrass

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Re: Early-Alpha Readers
« Reply #2 on: March 16, 2017, 06:06:19 PM »
I use Alpha readers to help develop the story. Often before the book is even complete. I use beta readers once I've finished everything.

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Offline Anma Natsu

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Re: Early-Alpha Readers
« Reply #3 on: March 16, 2017, 10:05:43 PM »
I do it for all of my books, in a sense, in that my sweetie gets to alpha read all of my stories (and gives good feedback).

For my current in hiatus WIP, Girl in the Forest, I decided to experiment with a one-pass revision, so instead of beta readers, I did alpha readers.  I got a lot of excellent feedback and I think I'll be able to do have it ready for my editor after the first pass, when I can get back to working on it.  Key thing is making sure every one reading knows its an alpha not beta, and that you primarily want story/character/pacing/etc type feedback, not grammar/spelling stuff.

In addition to their general feedback, I also asked them specific questions to inform the story issues I'd already noted, and that was very helpful as well.

Offline lincolnjcole

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Re: Early-Alpha Readers
« Reply #4 on: March 17, 2017, 05:27:21 AM »
I do it for all of my books, in a sense, in that my sweetie gets to alpha read all of my stories (and gives good feedback).

For my current in hiatus WIP, Girl in the Forest, I decided to experiment with a one-pass revision, so instead of beta readers, I did alpha readers.  I got a lot of excellent feedback and I think I'll be able to do have it ready for my editor after the first pass, when I can get back to working on it.  Key thing is making sure every one reading knows its an alpha not beta, and that you primarily want story/character/pacing/etc type feedback, not grammar/spelling stuff.

In addition to their general feedback, I also asked them specific questions to inform the story issues I'd already noted, and that was very helpful as well.

I do, too, though not as often as I would like.

Offline LilyBLily

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Re: Early-Alpha Readers
« Reply #5 on: March 17, 2017, 05:39:29 AM »
I call them beta readers, but I use paid alpha readers after I have a first draft. Then I revise from their impressions and my own. The Word merge feature has worked well for this, allowing me to collate all their in-line comments.

After that, the closest I get to a beta reader is an ARC reader, and they all have a "If you can't say something nice..." attitude. The ones who don't like what I've written won't tell me. This seems silly. If they don't like it, why worry that I won't send them any more free books? Why would they want them?

Offline MartaT

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Re: Early-Alpha Readers
« Reply #6 on: March 17, 2017, 09:04:14 AM »
I've done it. It didn't work well. It used up some potentially valuable beta readers who were no longer available or willing to give it another read and who couldn't be objective anyway having already read it and commented.

I don't go to any readers until the work is the best I can do. Even then, I'm tweaking while they're still reading.

Agree with Al. The readers will pick apart all kinds of problems you could have easily fixed yourself by a little more polishing. They'll be less likely to want to read something else you've written, whether drafts of new work or later drafts of the one they reviewed. They'll miss some important things you'd want feedback on because they'll tend to be focused, no matter what you say to dissuade them, on the most obvious errors and storytelling flaws.

Online Usedtoposthere

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Re: Early-Alpha Readers
« Reply #7 on: March 17, 2017, 11:48:45 AM »
I have three people who read chapter by chapter. Invaluable. Couldn't have done it earlier than about book 15 though because I didn't have enough confidence in my story or my abilities.

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Re: Early-Alpha Readers
« Reply #8 on: March 17, 2017, 12:50:37 PM »
I have a friend who always wanted to do this to me. He'd send chunks as he was writing, but then he'd want me to read the later draft all the way through again. I finally had to tell him I was only reading it once, and if he wanted me to read the polished version then I wasn't going to read the very first rough draft.
     

Offline TromboneAl

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Re: Early-Alpha Readers
« Reply #9 on: March 18, 2017, 12:52:13 PM »
I have three people who read chapter by chapter. Invaluable. Couldn't have done it earlier than about book 15 though because I didn't have enough confidence in my story or my abilities.

Yes, I run all my chapters through a critique partners web site. I have eight amazing partners (which is a few too many). The problem is, I can only submit about 3K words per week without wearing out my welcome. Therefore it takes 20 weeks to squeeze the whole book through.

I can easily get 200 beta readers from my mailing list (although only 20 will end up reading it), so I might burn through some to try to get general impressions of plot/setting/characterization.

I've also found that they can't resist listing the grammar problems they find ("I can't help it. I used to be an English teacher!").




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Offline Al Stevens

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Re: Early-Alpha Readers
« Reply #10 on: March 18, 2017, 04:23:10 PM »
I've also found that they can't resist listing the grammar problems they find ("I can't help it. I used to be an English teacher!").
Let them. It's that many fewer boners that you and your editor might miss.

Offline Jennifer Lewis

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Re: Early-Alpha Readers
« Reply #11 on: March 18, 2017, 04:36:47 PM »
I think it's okay as long as you're looking for big picture commentary. I had a critique partner who suddenly started sending me really sloppy first-draft stuff and I got annoyed as I didn't want to spend my time tightening up sentences she'd spent no time on. It was an amazing difference from the more polished stuff I was used to seeing from her and way too much work to ask of a critique partner. I wouldn't have minded if she just wanted comments on plot and character.
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Offline Colin Bundschu

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Re: Early-Alpha Readers
« Reply #12 on: March 18, 2017, 04:44:32 PM »
I find that each early reader has one good run in them. As a result, I treat each one as a precious resource.

This means that I only send my readers a draft after I have gotten it to the point where I simply cannot find any more issues myself, or I am so sick of looking at the MS that the thought of doing an n-tillionth pass is unbearable. Once I do send it, I usually try to get at least 2 people per round, and the common issues they bring up generally are objective flaws in the work.

I also like to split my readers based on what they enjoy and what they are good at. Some of them are great at spotting late-stage mistakes (e.g. finding awkward sentences, tense errors, and typos) while others are better at identifying bigger structural issues like unnecessary chapters and confusing plot arcs.

Knowing when to use an early reader is just as important as making sure that the work is maximally polished before passing it on.

Offline TromboneAl

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Re: Early-Alpha Readers
« Reply #13 on: March 20, 2017, 11:10:44 AM »
I think it's okay as long as you're looking for big picture commentary.

Yes, that's what I want. Things like "No, that was too deus ex machina!" or "That character is flat!"

Also, I've found that by the time I've given it to beta readers, and they respond, I'm too wedded to the story, and I don't want to make changes. I'm more open earlier on.

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Offline Al Stevens

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Re: Early-Alpha Readers
« Reply #14 on: March 20, 2017, 02:50:50 PM »
Also, I've found that by the time I've given it to beta readers, and they respond, I'm too wedded to the story, and I don't want to make changes. I'm more open earlier on.
Then you'll be really unhappy with a good content editor.

Offline Kyra Halland

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Re: Early-Alpha Readers
« Reply #15 on: March 20, 2017, 05:15:38 PM »
No one sees my unrevised first drafts (aside from short snippets I might post on my blog). And absolutely no one sees my work-in-progress. I don't want to let anyone else into my creative space while I'm writing the draft, and I value my beta readers too much to subject them to an unrevised first draft. That would count as cruel and unusual punishment.


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Offline daringnovelist

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Re: Early-Alpha Readers
« Reply #16 on: March 20, 2017, 06:14:00 PM »
Alpha readers are a special breed. You can't give a raw draft to just anybody.  It's also a matter of someone who is in sync with where you are going.  Basically you need someone who can trust you to go where you intend to go.  If they don't trust you, they'll be picking at every little thing. They'll be picking on your set up because they don't realize it's setting up a great twist, for instance. (And I don't mean in the same way a reader might get hung up on something they think is wrong -- people read differently when they critique.)

But that may be what you have to do to get yourself a good alpha reader.  You go back and forth with them, until they know what they can let go, and what you really need them to flag.  And, you learn what their strengths are and what to expect from them.  (Which is the other thing; every alpha reader is different. Some might be great cheerleaders who make sure you know where the gold is in your manuscript -- so you don't second guess yourself and cut it when you do your editing later -- even if they don't tell you well what is wrong. They can be as valuable as those who rip you to pieces.  You have to build a relationship and find out what this person can do for you.)

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Offline LilyBLily

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Re: Early-Alpha Readers
« Reply #17 on: March 20, 2017, 09:24:51 PM »
I wouldn't expect anyone to read something that was totally rough--not even for money. It would be too painful for them and not very useful for me. Why pay someone (or presume on someone's goodwill who will read it for free) to read a sloppy mess that I know I can clean up? I want the alpha/betas to see a draft that is more finished and tell me what they think is weak in the story, not the technical details.

I do have one old friend who has beta read some specialized material for me and who is never analytical, but he does always catch twenty or thirty typos. Bless him. 

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Re: Early-Alpha Readers
« Reply #18 on: March 20, 2017, 10:43:32 PM »
I suppose it depends how you write. I edit a lot as i go, so my alpha readers are reading pretty polished chapters. I want their response to the characters and how the story is developing, in the same way any reader would be reading the book. Mainly I want their questions. I want to know what they wonder. I want to know what they think of what the hero just said.

I'm fortunate that they'll read it over again if I revise it, and will read again at the end. They're really working with me, and I think it's gratifying to know they're helping me create the story. I hope so.

Offline Daniel A. Roberts

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Re: Early-Alpha Readers
« Reply #19 on: March 20, 2017, 11:05:36 PM »
I do it a bit differently than most.  I set up the Beta when I write and develop the best first draft I can.  In other words, I take the time to do about 4,000 words per week, carefully written and refined as well as I can, then the update is posted for beta reading.  I utilize my blog, and give a permanent dropbox link to download the updated copy.  Here's a link to my current project:  https://danielaroberts.wordpress.com/beta-reading/beta-page-for-deagens-promise/

My current Beta Reader is from the Netherlands, and English is her second language.  For me, that's invaluable to a major degree.  If it's not clear and understandable for her, then it won't be clear and understandable for anybody else either.  Since the UK is where most of my readers reside, I do know they appreciate the time and efforts. 

Also, if you hover over the Beta Reading tab on the top, the links to the previous closed betas are still there.  That way you can see how it happens for those novels too.  The biggest benefit I've seen from this, besides having a much better copy before it goes to an editor, is that folks who research me see that I really make a strong effort to produce something worth reading.  ^_^
           

Offline lincolnjcole

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Re: Early-Alpha Readers
« Reply #20 on: March 21, 2017, 05:51:26 AM »
I suppose it depends how you write. I edit a lot as i go, so my alpha readers are reading pretty polished chapters. I want their response to the characters and how the story is developing, in the same way any reader would be reading the book. Mainly I want their questions. I want to know what they wonder. I want to know what they think of what the hero just said.

I'm fortunate that they'll read it over again if I revise it, and will read again at the end. They're really working with me, and I think it's gratifying to know they're helping me create the story. I hope so.

I do the same thing (though it's funny how often it is recommended to NOT write this way) because it helps me keep the story fresh and not lose the thread of what I am writing. Plus, I like to give out early reading parts that feel complete, not something that is haphazard.

Offline TromboneAl

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Re: Early-Alpha Readers
« Reply #21 on: April 13, 2017, 08:07:50 AM »
A quick update:

Here's what I did.
  • I randomly chose 400 of my subscribers and added another 100 who had requested to be beta readers in the past.
  • I sent them an email asking if they wanted to alpha read, warning them that the manuscript was an early draft
  • Those who clicked subscribed to a new MailChimp list of alpha readers and automatically got a bookfunnel link for downloading the draft
As a result I now have fifty-three people reading the early draft. After only three days, I've already had ten people finish the book and give me feedback.  Several people found a "bug" in which I mentioned a character by name before the other characters had discovered the name. I've gotten a few "it is ready to go as is, don't change a thing!"

Today I will send the subscribers a link to a SurveyMonkey questionnaire.

Bottom line, this has worked out great, and I will be doing this for all books from now on.

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Offline ginwilli

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Re: Early-Alpha Readers
« Reply #22 on: April 13, 2017, 03:52:29 PM »
Quote: "I've also found that they can't resist listing the grammar problems they find ("I can't help it. I used to be an English teacher!")."


I've done beta reads myself and while I've not been an English teacher can't resist marking obvious edit misses. Typos seems to jump out at me.

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