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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » Finding Alpha Readers

   
Author Topic: Finding Alpha Readers
Owasm
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I went to a book signing today. There were five local published authors. They mentioned having Alpha Readers. I really haven't heard that term before and they all used Alpha Readers. I was wondering two things...

What is your expectation out of an Alpha Reader?

How does one find an Alpha Reader if your circle of friends and relatives don't have the time or interest?


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arriki
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I suspect if you're published enough to have a book signing, there are enough people who WANT the privilege of reading your works in process.

For unknowns and unpublisheds -- I guess we (the folks hanging out here on Hatrack) are your alpha readers or as close as you get.

Am I wrong?


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extrinsic
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Alpha, first, first readers. Omega readers are the final readers, the public. My expectations from alpha readers is to comment on empathetic engagement with salient MICE features of a story. Beginning. Middle, increasing engagement. End satisfactory resolution. And comment on what disengages empathy. Much else is minutia that I'll likely edit out in rewrites based on alpha comments.
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KayTi
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I've cultivated a few. You have to find them in your circles of friends. It's not always the case that a writer friend makes a good First Reader (OSC's term, the one that I use.) What you want from a first reader, in my opinion, is to get a feel for whether your story is any good. They should be identifying places where they were bored, disinterested, where they weren't empathizing with the MC, etc. This person should be able and willing to give you bad news "I just couldn't care about the MC" - you NEED to hear that sometimes, and it's better to hear that from a first reader than to have someone who is doing line edits for you/with you say "and by the way, now that you've corrected those poorly worded phrases, I don't think your MC is likable and never felt like I cared about him." That's a painful place to be.

Some writer friends can let go of their inner editor and read for this kind of point, but many can't...and many read and impose their own style on your work as they give you suggested edits. You really need to see how people's feedback is/how helpful it is and figure out if that's someone you want to use as a First Reader.

My main first reader is a good friend (close enough to tell me my work stinks) who is a voracious reader, but doesn't write at all. She doesn't have any opinions about writer-type concepts around POV and use of passive voice, instead she focuses on whether the story works, and if not, she often has really good suggestions for how to make it work.

My sisters are decent first readers for me, but they are mostly complimentary (I find it hard to believe that my work is that good, I think they just are not in the habit of looking at it with a critical eye and want me to feel good.)

I have about 3-4 Hatrackers who I know the quality and type of feedback that I would ask to be first readers if I can't get my main First Reader's time. I have had them crit my work before, and I know the quality of their own work, and know that they can let go of personal writing style points and detailed edits if I ask for it (or give me that if I ask for it.)


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MartinV
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When I'm writing a piece I am unable to see it from an unbiased perspective. Yet as soon as I prepare to give it to someone for a reading, my view changes and I see it from a non-author's perspective. Doesn't help with everything that should be corrected but it's a decent way to improve the text.

[This message has been edited by MartinV (edited October 11, 2009).]


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snapper
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I have three. I trust their judgement.

The key to a good alpha reader is excepting their harsh comments. You have to hear something is awful even when you believe it isn't. They don't even need to share a similiar style (in fact it's best if they don't).

Unlike a loved one, they shouldn't be afraid to give you their honest opinion, so when they like something you wrote you know it must be good.


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dee_boncci
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I'm not familiar with the term alpha readers, but presuming it is the same as "first readers", what snapper said is more-or-less what I've consistently heard.

I think what you want is someone with good judgement who sees the "big picture", and is able and willing to communicate what they perceive as the strengths and weaknesses in a useful manner.


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Rhaythe
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I have my wife, my best friend, and my editor as my alpha/beta/gamma readers. Of course, I have yet to publish anything, so I don't have any omega readers yet.

Never submitted anything for anyone here to read yet.


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extrinsic
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I like alpha readers who get insightful aesthetic hunches but can't express them as succintly as critquers attempt. They don't even try, don't even care to. I've a stable of several dozen readers who aren't writers. Their instinctive reponses are golden. No need for hurt feelings, just simply, this story didn't engage me. This is where I put it down. I didn't like the characters. This isn't my reading preference. Etc. Audience testing, pure and simple. Huzzah! for the salt of the Earth! They're who I'm writing for anyway, the public.
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tchernabyelo
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quote:
I have my wife, my best friend, and my editor as my alpha/beta/gamma readers. Of course, I have yet to publish anything, so I don't have any omega readers yet.

Pardon my puzzlement, but how do you have an editor when you haven't published anything?


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extrinsic
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Editors wear many different hats and come in a variety of species. Copyeditor, for one. Light copyediting, nondiscretionary style editing. Medium, fact and logic checking plus style. Heavy copyediting, a combination of all the above plus developmental editing.
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Corky
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I thought OSC called them "wise readers."
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Rhaythe
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Potato, Potatoe.
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Robert Nowall
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A stray comment...when I first heard a similar phrase, it wasn't "alpha readers," it was "beta readers," in that you finish a draft, find somebody (or multiple somebodies) to read it, take their comments and criticism in hand, then revise and polish the draft. As in "beta testing."

I can't figure out what an "alpha reader" is on the face of it.


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Owasm
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Hey, I didn't make up the term. They came out of the mouths of a few published authors.

One of them even graduated from OSC's Boot Camp.


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extrinsic
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Take any given writing term, there's bound to be umpteen other terms that mean the same thing. Just the terms for naming the set of writing terms have a seemingly endless variety.

[This message has been edited by extrinsic (edited October 12, 2009).]


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Robert Nowall
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"Alpha reader" might mean first reader, on the face of it...

I suppose that "Omega reader" would mean the last reader, i. e. the guy who picks up the book in the store and buys it (or gets the magazine in the mail and reads it).


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KStar
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So it's safe to assume that "alpha" and "beta" readers are the same thing?
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extrinsic
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Beta testers of technology applications are external testers, often public, advanced softwared users trying out an application before full public release, per se, testers external to a software company. Alpha testers then are internal company testers. I suppose as far as a writer's readers are concerned, an alpha tester might be one who reads before a larger sphere of testing readers does, per se, workshop readers as beta readers.

[This message has been edited by extrinsic (edited October 13, 2009).]


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Robert Nowall
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Up till I saw the phrase "beta readers," I thought of the matter as "passing a less-than-final draft around for critiquing."
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Rhaythe
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quote:
Alpha testers then are internal company testers.

Where I work, an alpha is a build of the product that's not even off a developer's workstation yet. Most of the time we run alphas of a product as proof-of-concepts or to formulate Level-of-Effort (LOE) estimates.

Probably doesn't relate one bit to alpha readers, but... =o/


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Bent Tree
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I think KayTi touched on an important fact. I feel that an Alpha reader should not include those in your writers group. Although a good percentage of short fiction readers are writers also, those who read novels are less likely to be writers themselves. I feel that an Alpha reader is someone close to you that can serve as a sampling of your target market and therefore should be someone who simply reads from enjoyment. Afterall, we can get all the writing critique we want, but I think it is also equally as important to get a feel for whether or not readers actually enjoy you story.
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