The Difference Between Editors and Beta Readers

I’m not sure why, but lately it seems there is confusion in regard to editors and Beta Readers. I have been an editor for about two years now and have been a Beta Reader longer than that.

Therefore, I’ll talk about Beta Readers first. Whenever I’ve been asked to Beta Read a book, I have always been given a polished manuscript, meaning it has been through a thorough edit and has been revised by the writer and is now close to publication quality. What the writer wants to know from Beta Readers are the answers to questions like:

  • Did the first sentence/paragraph grab your attention/interest and make you want to keep reading?
  • Are the characters realistic? Can you relate to them?
  • Are the characters emotions and reactions believable?
  • Do the minor characters add to and/or support the story line?
  • Does the story have conflict and tension?
  • Does the story move at a consistent pace?
  • Is there anything that slows the story down?
  • Is there anything that seems too rushed?
  • Do you find anything that seems unnecessary or unrelated to the story?
  • Is there anything you find confusing?
  • Do setting descriptions give you a clear picture of the story’s world and is it realistic?
  • Is the dialogue natural?
  • Is each character’s voice distinct?
  • Is there a good mix of narrative and dialogue?
  • Does the writing “show” and not “tell”?
  • Are the changes of point of view clear and handled well, with page breaks or chapter changes, consistently?
  • Is the writing good quality, allowing you to focus on the story and not be distracted by writing errors?
  • Is the story unique and interesting?
  • Does the story deliver on its premise?
  • Does the story fit the genre?
  • Did you enjoy the story?
  • Are there any scenes you think should be shortened or cut?
  • Who is your favorite character and why?
  • Who is your least favorite character and why?

As you read over the above questions, you should get an understanding that a Beta Reader’s job is to focus on the story and the characters. It is not a Beta Reader’s job to find grammatical, spelling, or other technical writing errors and point them out. They should only be giving feedback on what they liked and didn’t like about the story and why — the types of things they would discuss with other readers when discussing books both have read or suggesting the book to a friend.

Now, the editor’s job is very different from the Beta Reader’s job. A good editor will be looking for and pointing out ALL of the writing errors — wrong word usage, spelling, grammatical, punctuation, passive vs. active voice, better and/or stronger word choices, etc. In addition to all of this, the editor will also be looking for weak spots in the story — areas that need to be shortened or lengthened, more intense or less intense, the pace of the story, how well the characters are developed, do setting descriptions appeal to the senses, is the time line accurate, is the order of the story correct; is the language in the dialogue appropriate for the ages of the characters, for the setting, and for the time period of the story, and so much more.

As you can see the editor’s job includes some of the same aspects of the Beta Reader’s job, but it’s very important that the editor’s job come first because the editor is the one to help the writer produce their best possible work.

The Beta Reader is like a “test reader”. Their job is to read the manuscript before it is published, as a reader, in order to offer feedback on what they think of the story, setting, and characters from a reader’s perspective without having to be bogged down by lots of writing mistakes.

When the writer gets the Beta Readers’ responses, they can run through the manuscript one more time to fine tune it and be sure it will now be published in the best possible quality it can be. It should be ready for a multitude of readers before it is published and released to the world.

My Editing Life

Today I want to share what’s been going on in my editing life. I have been editing for about eight months now and am really enjoying it because I enjoy helping and encouraging other writers, and English and writing have always been my favorite subjects. I am extremely to be an active part of the writing and publishing world.

I love all of the clients I have worked with thus far. They have a desire to put out their best possible work and are very open to my suggestions for improving their work. I began with one client, which then grew to two, and now I have worked with a third, and they all became clients as a result of direct contact with me in one critique group or another, or by word of mouth.

I will keep my editing information here on my blog and will continue to update it and add book covers of books I work on, as I would love to add a few more clients to my list of clients, but will be keeping a close watch on that, as I have recently been blessed to become editor on the team of a publishing company. I am excited to be part of this team and look forward to the work it may bring me, but as long as I have room in my schedule, I will be happy to receive clients through contact here on my blog as well.

Kelly Barr, Professional Freelance Editor

I am a Professional Freelance Editor. I have five years of experience editing fiction. If you have a fiction manuscript or short story you would like edited, check out my “Editing Services” page for more details–simply click on the “Editing Services” tab at the top of the page.

Here are some books I have worked on:

The Sorcerer's Bane (The Seven Words Book 1) by [Wachter, C. S. ]     Bride Tree (Secrets of Versailles Book 2) by [Robinson, JP]     Gods They Had Never Known by [Helms, J. S.]More Than A Second Chance: A Contemporary Christian Novel with clean romance by [Renee, Lisa]

For more books I’ve edited, click the “Editing Services” link at the top of the page.

Here is what some of my clients have to say about my work:

“Kelly is a pleasure to work with. She is well-versed enough to understand the nuances of my genre (Christian Speculative) even though she doesn’t write Speculative. She knows her craft and is sensitive and gentle when giving input about things that need to be corrected or rewritten. Her notes are thoughtful and her suggestions made my book a better read and a more polished final product. ‘The Sorcerer’s Bane‘, book one of my series The Seven Words, is slated to be released soon and I will continue to seek her professional help on future manuscripts.  — C. S. Wachter

Kelly Barr did a very thorough job, generating a final product that truly expresses what I had in mind. Also, they shortened it by about 1600 words and that’s always a plus! 🙂 There were some that I chose not to apply, but the vast majority of the edits proposed were golden. — J. P. Robinson
For more of my clients comments, click the “Editing Services” link at the top of the page.

Something New

As a Christian, I always pray about my writing and ask for God’s guidance in what I write and how I write it. God has been faithful and is blessing my writing.

Sometimes God opens a door you weren’t really thinking about and that’s what’s been happening in my life recently. I have been very active in three different critique groups; one I’ve been a part of for four years, and the other two I’ve been a part of for a little over a year. During that time, I have continued to learn more and more about the craft and rules or guidelines of writing, and I have found that I enjoy critiquing.

Recently, at one of my critique groups, several ladies were impressed with my critiques on their work and a couple of them asked if I am an editor. I paused to really think about how to answer that question. Then I responded with, “I believe I am qualified to be an editor, but I don’t have experience as an editor.”

When I returned home that afternoon, I looked up what exactly editors do and found that, yes indeed, I am qualified to be an editor. I have actually been editing instead of critiquing people’s work, and God has given me a heart to help others.

Suddenly, I’ve had quite a few people contact me and ask me to edit their work or help them with something they are writing (which essentially translates to editing), and I have readily agreed. I believe that God has sent these people to me and has opened a door for me to become, not just a writer, but an editor too.

I will soon have enough experience to confidently call myself an editor. So, keep your eye on my blog if you are interested in an editor or know someone who is, because I will be posting more about what I will be doing as an editor by September.