Beta Readers

ariestess: Will our panelists for the beta panel please change your font to bold red like mine?

jazwriter: hiya!

ariestess: I’ll be your host again for this panel.

Xenavirgin: Jaaaaaaaaaaaazzzzyy 

ariestess: Panelists, please introduce yourselves.

jazwriter: I’m jazwriter, Jazzy to some

Xenavirgin: heheheh

jazwriter: *waves to XV*

ariestess: Or are we just at Jazzy and me today?  I’ve lost memos due to swiss cheese for email.

the_dhamphir: jazzzy!!!!!

jazwriter: hi D!!

jazwriter: I haven’t a clue, but I’m ready!!

Xenavirgin: hi

jazwriter: and I need a break from moving…

the_dhamphir: Jazzy is the only panelist, aj

jazwriter: woot! I cornered the market

the_dhamphir: when you got the best who needs the rest?

ariestess: Woohoo!

Xenavirgin: Nice one D. heheh

jazwriter: I do get to beta for some great writers

ariestess: @D: IKR?  I knew it was Jazzy for sure, but not sure if there was a last minute change up that I missed.  LOL

jazwriter: thanks, D

Xenavirgin: So are we all signing Jazzy up to be our beta?? olol

mandygirl78: Yeah… LOL!

jazwriter: lol

ariestess: All right, so we’ve not done this panel in a couple of years, so I’m going to just open this up to questions on what a beta does and why we need one.

jazwriter: bring it on, but I don’t pull punches

the_dhamphir: i didn’t see any other emails about it, aj

yurianimeotaku: How many writers are you currently beta reading for?

Xenavirgin: I think different beta’s do different things. As Punky says, I wield my Comma Club when I beta. heheh

jazwriter: I have several betas for my stories, too…it doesn’t matter how good you think you are, another set of eyes is always important

ariestess: Okay, let’s make sure to raise our hands for questions, so we don’t miss any by accident.

jazwriter: I think I am betaing for 5

ariestess: All right, persicaC has the first question.

yurianimeotaku: Thank you

jazwriter: Gin, Quietheated, duwinter, beachbum, and D on occasion

Xenavirgin: Hey and me…. along time ago Jazzy.

jazwriter: and XV (feel free to send more)

the_dhamphir: you get stuff when it gets finished, jazzy.

jazwriter: I have betaed for others, but they have dropped out for various reasons or I “fired” them

persicaC: how would one get beta readers? Friends? Fans? Forums where I ask for help with beta reading?

jazwriter: There are lists on the forums, but they tend to become outdated. I’ve had people PM me, asking for me to beta or to recommend someone

persicaC: is it proper to pay beta readers? Or can I get people to do it for free?

Xenavirgin: @Per, a lot of LJ groups and other forums and FFnet have a space for Beta reader requests.

jazwriter: Also, I have had betas offer their services to me, unsolicited

ariestess: That’s a really good question.  A lot of people start with friends or recs from friends and go from there.  I know ralst has the beta readers list on P&P, and I’m going to be starting up a similar list on the FemSlashDay site.

jazwriter: Betas are for free

ariestess: Or rather, Ralst and I are going to start up the similar list.

the_dhamphir: I got my first beta simply by posting a request on P&P LJ

Xenavirgin: Pay??? Do you get paid for fanfic? I don’t know anyone who pays their Beta…well except me as my Lady Wife is my Beta and I do pay inkind. hehehe

jazwriter: Many ask for help on the forums or on Facebook

persicaC: okay! Thanks for the answers!

ariestess: I have had a lot of people ask me for a beta in the past, but I also have something of a reputation as a “mean” beta because I’m exacting.

jazwriter: Oh, didn’t I beta for you AJ? *scratches head* I forget.

the_dhamphir: Jazzy’s got a rep too

ariestess: Yes, Jazzy, I think you did for one or two things, plus the original novel idea I think.

jazwriter: I do, but I also get to beta some great writers

ariestess: And michelle_2011 gets the next questeion.

ariestess: [as my typing/spelling goes to hell]

jazwriter: *stares avidly at the screen*

michelle_2011: When am beta asks of the author what do they want for the beta reading, what is the best way to say, “Check for the most obvious oversights?”

jazwriter: well, there are different focuses that can be requested…grammar, capitalization, punctuation, word choice

ariestess: Good question, Michelle!

jazwriter: then there is plot development, continuity, character development

Xenavirgin: Don’t forget continuity.

ariestess: lol @ jazzy re: my spelling/typos

jazwriter: so, we can do many things–we have many skills

ariestess: When I beta, I’ll do what the author requests, but usually do a full on “everythng” beta unless the author specifically requests I don’t.  It’s just habit to go for everything.

jazwriter: I have several betas for my stories so they can focus on different areas

jazwriter: it is rare to get a beta who can “do it all”

Xenavirgin: Snap AJ

the_dhamphir: if you get one of those, treat them good!

jazwriter: I usually do everything too

ariestess: And while I tend to “red pen” a lot for people, and they find it daunting, I always tell the author that they absolutely have the option to ignore my suggestions.

ariestess: @XV: It’s ingrained to just look at everything.  I can’t help myself. LOL

jazwriter: still waiting for cookies, but otherwise, sincere thanks and taking my edits and suggestions seriously are fine payments

Xenavirgin: @AJ, me too. and the same with the choice to change being down to the author…but um that actually leads into my question hehehe

ariestess: I am also very honest and upfront with potential authors about what I do because it can seem like I’m bashing them, but I’m not.

ariestess: Okay, mandygirl78, you’ve got the next question.

mandygirl78: Yeah, but there is the #1 rule for beta-readers, and that is to know the fandom. Which can be very difficult for small fandoms, and you can’t find a beta. So what do you do if you can’t find a beta?

mandygirl78: Especially for small fandoms.

Xenavirgin: Does a beta need to know the fandom? I mean for true to form characterisation yes, but for all the other things a beta does they don’t really need to know the fandom.

mandygirl78: I would think so.

ariestess: Good question!  I will actually beta for fandoms I don’t know BECAUSE it helps the author.  If I don’t understand something, I ask.  They can tell me that it’s a fandom-specific thing and I leave it, but sometimes it’s things that they don’t realize they didn’t explain properly.

jazwriter: If you can’t find a beta who knows the fandom, the person can still read for all those areas, but the beta may ask questions to understand what the history is. I believe a person should be able to read a story without knowing the fandom and still be able to follow it. Same with a beta.

jazwriter: (or what XV and aries said) lol

the_dhamphir: jazzy’s beta’d stuff in a fandom she didn’t know for me before

ariestess: lol

jazwriter: yes I did

ariestess: I’ve betaed for fandoms I don’t know and pairings I don’t like because a beta is a beta, period.

ariestess: Whedonist, you have the next question.

jazwriter: that’s my view, too, aj

Xenavirgin: One of the ways I would suggest finding a beta is look for the names of betas credited on fics a lot. Quite often they will be up for helping you if you ask.

jazwriter: I do have betas who will not read my HP stories though, and I respect that choice

mandygirl78: yeah, but like grammar and punctuation, an author will never get characterization 1005 correct.

Whedonist: You all have answered most of it, thank you, but one thing I’ve been wondering is how do you, as a beta, determine how deep you go when reading for someone, like how much you dig into content, word choice, characterization, etc…?

ariestess: Well, like I said before, I automatically do everything unless I’m specifically told not to.  Because I know that extra eyes are always good.

ariestess: And honestly, even when I’m told not to, I still see it and make mental notes to myself to add to a general email with the returned story.

Xenavirgin: @ Whedon,  I think it depends on the time you have available or what you agree to with the author.

jazwriter: It depends how much work needs to happen in the other areas…and what the writer wants…and whether the story makes sense…if there are any holes in the plot

ariestess: There have actually been a couple of writers where I had to go back to them and decline continuing as a beta, particularly if my beta notes are rewriting the whole story.

jazwriter: some writers I beta for are not very strict with the capitalization, grammar, and punctuation rules, and others are pretty good. So, if I’m going to spend a long time on those areas, I will comment on the other areas (plot, characterizations, etc) but let the writer rework it before I comment further. I am also a stickler for POV

ariestess: I don’t like doing that, but it has happened once or twice.

the_dhamphir: *grumble POV grumble*

jazwriter: lol

Xenavirgin: lolol poor D

jazwriter: Gin hates me for that

the_dhamphir: lol

ariestess: XV, you’ve got the next question.

Xenavirgin: Right give us a sec to type it out.

ariestess: lol

jazwriter: btw, if after I do all that work the author does not makes the changes, I am inclined to not beta for the person again (unless it is totally an author’s choice sort of thing) Also, I expect to be acknowledged in the author notes for my betaing services

Xenavirgin: As a beta reader how do you deal with severing a beta agreement when a writer doesn’t take on board ANY of your beta work, suggestions or even spelling and grammar corrections. On every occasion you work with them, and you really don’t want your name mentioned as a beta to the product they churn out that is just terrible?

jazwriter: because it can take hours to do it

jazwriter: oops–I read your mind XV

ariestess: Oh, that’s a great question, XV!

ariestess: I have serious issues with writers who don’t acknowledge their betas OR who acknowledge the beta, but don’t use any of the suggestions.

Xenavirgin: Thanks, but I hate to have to ask it, just that it’s happened to me.

jazwriter: I have asked a writer to remove my name as a beta before and told the person why

ariestess: I’ve had betas give me notes, but if I choose not to use them, I state that when I thank them in my A/N.

Xenavirgin: And several years later is still happening as the person keeps whining to me that they want me to beta for them.

jazwriter: because if my name is mentioned, the finishedstosi a reflecting of my editing skills

Gin Akasarahsmom: *whine.. whine*

ariestess: My standard beta caveat as a writer is “X betaed for me, but any remaining mistakes are entirely on me.”

ariestess: That’s exactly right, Jazzy.

jazwriter: *finished story– I swear I am typing the words correctly and my computer is playing a joke on me!

Xenavirgin: Not you Gin ppppffftt

jazwriter: *is a reflection

jazwriter: lol

jazwriter: Ginnnnnnn

ariestess: lol @ Jazzy

ariestess: Yuri, you’ve got the next question.

yurianimeotaku: A published author advised me the best combination is to have readers AND editors look at your work, because the two jobs should be separate. It also lessens the workload on each. What is your take as a reader?

ariestess: Another good question.

jazwriter: if you can find more than one beta, then yes

ariestess: Every set of eyes is potentially going to find something everyone else has missed.

jazwriter: I have some people read for plot, continuity and characterization, and others for the grammar, capitalization, and punctuation

Xenavirgin: What they said.

ariestess: Going back to XV’s question, when I was the continuity beta for the OVS, I had to request my name be removed as a beta on a handful of episodes because I never saw the eps before they went live and I wasn’t going to have my name attached in that capacity.

jazwriter: but the reality is that there are not many good betas around–or they have several writers already

ariestess: Jazzy’s right.  There are people out there who feel like being a beta just means they get first crack at reading the story.

ariestess: And that was supposed to be two different options.

Xenavirgin: Ahhhh good point ari.

jazwriter: @aj Well, I do feel that way too–haha

ariestess: LOL

ariestess: It’s definitely hard to find a good beta.  And sometimes having a longtime beta can be a detriment because they know your work well enough that they can miss some of the errors, too.

shaych03: worse is when a beta abandons you

jazwriter: good point!

shaych03: with no reason

mandygirl78: @shay – very, very, very, very true.

jazwriter: life happens, but I do appreciate a heads up if someone can no longer beta for me

ariestess: YES!

shaych03: i’ve had that happen too many times.  they just stop replying to emails and IMs

ariestess: All right, XV, you’ve got the next question.

jazwriter: *taps dances while XV types her question*

yurianimeotaku: @shay Fanfic betas are probably the least appreciated folks doing a BIG job for free and trying to make a living at the same time.

ariestess: lol

Xenavirgin: What do you feel about betaing for folk who have English as a second language.  I’ve done it twice and can’t do it any more because it was like I was re-writing the fic rather than betaing it.

Xenavirgin: @ Jazzy. ppppppppppppppffffffffffffffffffffffffffttttttttttttttttt  

mandygirl78: @yuri – but that doesn’t give them a free pass not to be courteous.

ariestess: @XV: One of the people I mentioned earlier about having to drop was like that.  It was very difficult and the story was well over 50 pages long.  I had to tell her that I couldn’t do it after it took me two or three hours to get through ONE page.

shaych03: yuri: the point is, if they TELL me they have to stop, that’s fine.  it’s when they stop talking to me and never say another word to me – that is worrying and frustrating.

jazwriter: it’s really hard. I only agree if that writer is willing to work on her/his craft. For instance, I have seen improvement in the writing technique of several of “my” writers over the years

yurianimeotaku: @XV Those writers should add a translator to their crew.

jazwriter: @yuri…that would certainly be helpful, to have a translator make the first pass at it

yurianimeotaku: @shay Sometimes people just fall off the face of the planet without a word…especially in the lesbian community.

Xenavirgin: @Yuri, that’s an interesting idea, because I do know people with English as a second language who speak and write better English than native speakers.  I wonder if they would be willing to actually translate.

jazwriter: @XV, I was just thinking along the same lines. Some writers are English-born and do a horrible job.

Xenavirgin: @Yuri and also sometimes I’ve seen these writers list beta readers whose English is as bad or worse than their own.

ariestess: I agree with both Jazzy and XV here.  If there’s a translator first, that helps.  But there are also some ESL people who speak/write better English than people I know.

Alkmaion: @XV: into other languages?

jazwriter: lol…that is the problem with just having a friend beta. If that person isn’t disciplined with the language, it won’t help the story

yurianimeotaku: @XV That goes back to bad betas.

Xenavirgin: @Alkmaion Sorry, do you mean translating into other languages or am I into other languages?

Xenavirgin: Cause if it’s the latter, I majored in dead languages so people wouldn’t give me grief about my accent. heh

jazwriter: You can really tell about the progression of a writer by comparing early works to recent works. If there’s no real difference, then that person is not working at the craft.

ariestess: I want to make an offer for beta services like I had at the first two cons when we did this panel, but I had gotten slightly inundated with stories and didn’t get them all done. LOL!

ariestess: But I may open myself up again, if people are willing to work with my “bitchy” side.  LOL

jazwriter: *shudders*

jazwriter: lol

the_dhamphir: lol

Alkmaion: heh

Xenavirgin: Okies I hope I’ll get back before the end of this discussion. But if not. My hand is always waved to be a beta if you need one.

ariestess: And going back to the “bad betas” topic, may I also say that there are some “bad writers”.  By that, I mean the people who are only doing it for the praise.  They don’t care about bettering their craft and want a beta ONLY to be giving them adulation.

yurianimeotaku: @ariestess I know quite a few writers who would thoroughly ‘enjoy’ your “bitchy side.”

jazwriter: I have a reputation for tearing stories apart, but it is only to make the story better, not to make the writer cry (no matter what they say)

yurianimeotaku: @jazz I heard about your rep last night.

the_dhamphir: @jazzy, you never made me cry

jazwriter: @yuri….ummmm

jazwriter: @D…lol…good!!

the_dhamphir: but your rep did come up last night… lol

Gin Akasarahsmom: I’ve cried a few times… from beta comments…

jazwriter: lol…I hope someone defended me!

yurianimeotaku: @jazz The last night con rooms are very enlightening…and FUN.

jazwriter: I need to get a copy of that transcript!

mandygirl78: I didn’t cry, but I got bitchy and snarky right back at a beta.

ariestess: @yuri: I’ve actually been asked to leave groups because I’m such a beta bitch. LOL

Alkmaion: @yao: Nice

the_dhamphir: jazzy, you’re my primary beta and I adore you. I also said a good beta is worth their weight in gold!

jazwriter: oh, good, cause I weigh a lot!

the_dhamphir: pffft

yurianimeotaku: @mandy Makes me happy I was editor.

the_dhamphir: no you don’t

the_dhamphir: I’ve seen you in person, remember

jazwriter: *winks*

ariestess: The funny thing for me is trying to find betas because most of the people I’ve approached think I don’t need one or that they’re not good enough to beta for me.

mandygirl78: it wasn’t you yuri

yurianimeotaku: @mandy I know, because I wasn’t your beta reader.

jazwriter: @aj I’ll beta for you any time

ariestess: I need to remember that, Jazzy, but I always worry you’re too busy.

jazwriter: just ask

jazwriter: BB is patiently waiting, since I am in the middle of moving, but most times I can turn around a story relatively quickly

yurianimeotaku: @ariestess Speaking as a former beta reader and editor, there are some writers we fangirl to the point we couldn’t work for them.

jazwriter: @yuri I can understand that…

jazwriter: but that won’t stop me…lol

ariestess: @yuri: Okay, point taken.  If someone I fangirled over asked me to beta, I’d fangirl, then I’d do the beta work.  Beta work is beta work.

the_dhamphir: @yuri: I understand. I actually get REALLY nervous when Jazzy has asked me to look at something she’s written on occasion.

jazwriter: besides, if you admire the writer, don’t you feel honored to be asked?

jazwriter: lol, D!!!

the_dhamphir: it’s true!

the_dhamphir: I feel inadequate

the_dhamphir: but I give it a go anyway

yurianimeotaku: @jazz I would die if someone like Quiethearted asked me. I wouldn’t feel worthy.

jazwriter: you can’t fangirl over someone you’ve met–it’s a rule!

ariestess: LOL

Gin Akasarahsmom: Ha!

the_dhamphir: and I chuckle at that one yuri, but I dated qh for a couple years.. lol

ariestess: e_m_praetorian, yu’ve got the next question.

e_m_praetorian: How do you as a beta deal with the moment that you find that someone is writing a story similar to your own works?

jazwriter: I have actually had that happen a few times…I take it as a compliment (and hope my storyline was better written–haha)

jazwriter: best form of flattery and all that, as long as they didn’t lift any verbatim passages

yurianimeotaku: @D Oh wow.

e_m_praetorian: So no worries of story confusion?

ariestess: I think I’ve had that happen actually, but don’t honestly remember what happened.

ariestess: lol

mandygirl78: I would be more flattered than upset if someone did that.

jazwriter: naw, it doesn’t bother me since my story was written first

the_dhamphir: @yuri: it’s funny how small fandom can be sometimes

jazwriter: and sometimes a person just liked the idea of the story and so tries to run with it…that’s fine

the_dhamphir: qh is still kinda flabbergasted that DiNovia and I are friends. lol

shaych03: it’s also something to do with how many original plots there really are – it’s the execution that matters

yurianimeotaku: @D Sorry, still staring at my monitor in awe.

jazwriter: @shay I agree

mandygirl78: yeah, and sometimes they come to you with advice.

ariestess: LOL! I know that I’ve met at least one person in this room IRL, not including Shatterpath because we live together.

jazwriter: @D  You are friends with DiNovia?! Why didn’t I know this?

the_dhamphir: it’s funny how some people fangirl over other authors

jazwriter: BAMMM Just hit my computer so it will behave *you

ariestess: lol

the_dhamphir: it still blows my mind that someone fangirled over me yesterday. LMAO

jazwriter: @D no one does that to me…lol

Gin Akasarahsmom: Jazzy forgets the lunch we had with Heather.. the poor girl was busting trying not to squee from meeting Jazwriter!

mandygirl78: I don’t think so.

ariestess: All right, we’ll be putting up a page on the website for betas in the next week, so be on the lookout for that.

e_m_praetorian: I think the writer should do their own research in order to be properly prepared

ariestess: I’d like to thank Jazzy for being an awesome panelist & all of our attendees for a great panel!  I’ve missed doing the beta panel.

mandygirl78: Yeah, but so should the beta.


jazwriter: thanks aj!

Xenavirgin: Thanks kidlets.

yurianimeotaku: Thank you Jazz

Alkmaion: thanks for the talk, it gave me something to think about…cookies!

jazwriter: you’re welcome, yuri!


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