Last Updated on July 20, 2022 by Dr Sharon Baisil MD
You know the drill. You’ve written a new manuscript, and now you need someone to read it over before you start querying agents. But which kind of reader should you use? Your mom? A friend? Why not both! Turns out there are some clear differences between these two types of readers that will help guide your decision, so let’s discuss the key points below.
A critique partner is an experienced writer who offers feedback on your work in exchange for feedback on theirs. This type of relationship can be super beneficial because they have experience giving constructive criticism and dealing with writers’ egos. However, this also means that they are used to reading manuscripts from other authors, so their feedback might not be useful.
Beta readers are usually friends or family members of the author with no experience in writing or publishing. They are great for catching spelling errors and typos because they are already familiar with your style. However, their lack of experience is a drawback for constructive criticism.
Beta-reader vs Critique Partners – 10 Key differences
A critique partner will give a greater variety of notes about the content, structure, and plot. There’s a lot to be learned from getting your work reviewed by someone else. A beta reader will primarily focus on the style and readability of your manuscript.
Critique partners usually have a long-term agreement with one another, and they will probably continue to read each other’s work even after the partnership has ended. A beta reader can be used for just one manuscript or many, but the relationship doesn’t carry over into anything else.
A critique partner will be able to offer in-depth notes about your work because they’ve read so much of it. A negative aspect of this is that they might be bringing their own biases to work, which means you’ll need to weigh their feedback before following it. Beta readers will read your manuscript as an average reader would, which can help you judge whether or not your writing style is accessible to newer readers.
#3 Time frame
Critique partners typically give notes when they have the manuscript, while beta readers are usually given a month or two after emailing them your manuscript. If you need fast feedback, choose a beta reader.
The price will vary based on the beta reader’s charges, but it’s usually between $5-$10 per manuscript page. Critique partners are usually free for small portions, but their work can be very time-consuming.
Beta readers are usually amateur writers with little experience in the industry. They don’t know what to look for, and they rely on you for their feedback. However, this means that they won’t bring any of their assumptions about publishing to your manuscript. Critique partners have at least one or two manuscripts under their belt, and this experience helps them understand what agents are looking for.
Beta readers will tell you if they think your manuscript is ready to send to an agent. Their goal is to make sure the book is good enough for publication. Critique partners will give you more in-depth feedback about improving the manuscript, but they won’t tell you if it’s ready to go out.
#7 Expanding your network
Critique partners will usually be more involved in the publishing process because they better understand what agents and editors are looking for. Beta readers can introduce you to new people in their networks, which can be helpful when you’re looking to form publishing connections.
#8 False advertising
Critique partners are more established in their field, so they have built a reputation for being honest about manuscripts. They will tell you the brutal truth even if it hurts your feelings, but that is why they’ve earned respect in the industry. Beta readers are often your friends or family members, so that they might sugar-coat their feedback. You’ll have to interpret it for yourself!
#9 Time investment
Critique partners will take more time with your work because you have a long-term business relationship. They also know what kinds of notes you will be looking for, so they will save them for the important stuff. Beta readers are better for fast feedback because of their inexperience with manuscripts.
Critique partners will produce higher-quality notes because they have more experience in the publishing process. They’ll keep your best interests at heart, but they won’t sugar-coat their words. Beta readers are less likely to understand your work, making them less effective for major improvements.
The Bottom Line
In conclusion, beta readers and critique partners have many differences in terms of time investment, price, experience level, feedback given. While beta readers are better for fast feedback and critique, partners are better for in-depth feedback and networking with publishing professionals.
4 Ways to Find the Ideal Beta Reader for Your Novel
So, you finally got the go-ahead from your critique partner and sent out that manuscript to a few beta readers. Now what? While you wait for feedback, it’s important to remember that every writer is different and works with different standards. The golden rule: Don’t get frustrated if one of them didn’t like something you wrote, and don’t be surprised if one of them loves something you can’t stand. What’s most important is knowing what to do with all those opinions.
Here are four tips for using beta reader feedback to take your novel from good to great:
1) Listen Before You Lead– Remember, every writer has different standards and a unique style. Keep that in mind while listening to the beta reader feedback you receive. Don’t take criticism too personally, and always weigh their feedback carefully before making any changes.
2) Be Ready to Receive– While some beta readers will be very logical and thorough about giving their notes, others might say they enjoyed or didn’t enjoy a section of your novel. While you shouldn’t necessarily ignore the latter type of feedback, don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t feel like enough. Remember that each beta reader comes at your work from a different place and has a unique voice.
3) Remember, It’s Only Opinions– Unless you’re paying a professional editor, chances are whoever is reading your manuscript and giving their opinions doesn’t get paid for it (and neither do you). Keep in mind that everything — from the feedback they give to the way they write — is coming from their personal opinion. Don’t take anything personally, and remember you’re doing this for fun.
4) Think About How You’ll Use It- With a final draft of your manuscript in hand, ask yourself how the feedback will affect the next draft of your work. For example, if beta reader A says that your protagonist’s outfit is completely unrealistic, but beta reader B thinks it sounds great, then maybe you should go with reader B’s interpretation. Or perhaps someone thinks your ending is too obvious while another believes it would be silly to leave the ending out. There are many options for user feedback, but remember that even if one hates something you love, it doesn’t necessarily mean you need to change it.
9 Tips For Enhancing Feedback From A Critique Partner
A critique partner lays out the foundation of a manuscript. A good critique partner will help build the foundation of your work with you and have your best interest at heart. Here are the top 9 ways to enhance your partnership and have a successful manuscript in hand.
Tip #1 Remember the Foundation
A critique partner might view your work inconsistently. It’s important to remember that they are coming at it from their perspective, just like beta readers. Be patient with them and keep in mind that everyone has different standards for how they like things to be written and explained.
Tip #2 Keep it Professional
It’s important to keep your personal and professional lives separate. This way, you’ll get the most out of each other and can avoid any bad blood that may arise from a critique partner relationship souring. Remember, the goal is to get the best manuscript possible in the end.
Tip #3 Try to Avoid Disagreements and Compromises
Some of the most beautiful manuscripts come from a mixture of different viewpoints and opinions. However, it’s important to avoid clashing with your critique partner too often if you’re looking for peace of mind. If there are two things you disagree on, pick one and see if a compromise can be reached. If not, it’s alright to agree to disagree and move on.
Tip #4 Sometimes There are No Answers
There won’t be anything that will satisfy either of you in some cases. When this happens, remember that your manuscript is getting better from experience and try to find something else you can agree on.
Tip #5 Remember the Art is in the Eye of the Beholder
It’s important to remember that your manuscript is an art form, and everyone views it differently. Some people enjoy dark stories, while others prefer happy endings. Although you will probably have a general idea of what someone might like, each opinion is worth considering when you’re working on your manuscript.
Tip #6 View it Holistically- It’s All in the Details
It’s easy to get caught up in the big picture when you’re an author and neglect some smaller details. When you work with a critique partner, try to view every aspect of your manuscript as important since it contributes to the full picture.
Tip #7 Let Them Get to Know You- It Helps
When you’re sharing your work with someone, they must get to know you on some level first. This will help them understand why you wrote something in a certain way and help build trust between you. You’ll have a stronger relationship and feel more comfortable with their feedback when this happens.
Tip #8 Be Honest About Your Timeline
It’s important, to be honest about your timeline when working on a manuscript. You don’t want to make an empty promise, only to find out later that you can’t keep it. Tell them as soon as you can if something comes up, so they aren’t waiting around for your manuscript.
Tip #9 Be Ready to Walk Away
Sometimes a partnership isn’t going to work out no matter how hard the two of you try. You might know right away that it’s not going to go anywhere, or it may take a few tries before you realize it’s not the right fit. Either way, be willing to walk away when it feels like the partnership will not work out for either of you.
Tip #10 Trust Your Gut
Trust your gut instinct and move on if there’s something off about your relationship with your critique partner. It’s better to end things early than continue with a toxic relationship.
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