What’s the Difference Between a Beta Read and a Manuscript Critique

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What’s the Difference Between a Beta Read and a Manuscript Critique

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After hanging out in writer, editor, and reader spaces, I’ve begun to notice that quite a few people seem to be confused about what the difference is between a beta read and a manuscript critique. Some even seem to think that they’re the same service, even though they definitely aren’t.

For starters, a beta read is something anyone can do for you.

You might’ve heard people in the writing corner of the world mention that once you consider your manuscript to be completed you should find yourself some beta readers. This isn’t an essential part of the editing process, but it is valuable and useful if you decide to use it. Beta readers mainly provide reader feedback on your story. They help you understand how your intended audience will receive your story

A manuscript critique is a professional editing service that a professional editor executes.

This isn’t the same as a beta read because the editor isn’t reading your book for pleasure, or to see if they enjoyed it. An editor executes a beta read to help you with structural changes that will benefit the story’s pacing and overall plot.

While a beta reader might go out of their way to give you notes on plot, pacing, and character development, this isn’t always the case.

Their notes could end up being vague and unclear, not using the proper terminology or perhaps not even being able to quite specify what the issues lingering throughout the manuscript are. Their main purpose is to tell you whether your story worked for them, what parts they liked best, and what sections felt weak. Their feedback may sound like, “The middle part felt slow.” This can be a helpful note that the author can bring over to the editor when they’re ready for an in-depth edit but, realistically, not very helpful on its own.

In a manuscript critique, it’s the editor’s responsibility to provide clear and comprehensive feedback.

Editors have to be specific, detailed, and they have to be able to back up their claims. They’ve been trained for this. They will discuss the tone and voice of your story, as well as thematic elements. It’s part of your editor’s job to give you suggestions on how to improve the issues that have come up during their analysis of your manuscript.

While your beta reader may as well give you suggestions, their ideas may not be based on the understanding of structural editing that comes when you’re trained as an editor. You could be taking a risk following their advice or be left even more confused about how to move forward.

A beta read is great for getting reader feedback and feeling out what’s working and isn’t working with readers.

It can help you gauge if there’s anything you’d like to change in your story. Especially in terms of audience, a beta read can help you see if the story you’ve written is being well-received. If it’s not, the information you collect during the beta reading phase can help you compile notes that you can discuss with your editor, and your editor can help you figure out how to improve your story for better reception with your intended audience.

A manuscript critique is best for when you’re getting ready to publish.

A manuscript critique will usually suffice as an edit, especially with manuscripts that have been heavily self-edited. Your editor get back to you with an editorial letter that addresses the most pressing issues in your story’s narrative. If a more in-depth edit is needed, an editor could recommend a developmental edit which is the most extensive form of manuscript editing. However, a manuscript critique can also be the less costly option for some authors.

A manuscript critique is more detailed and more in-depth than a manuscript critique and cannot in any way be compared to a beta read.

A beta read only scratches the surface of what you may need to implement to improve your manuscript. A manuscript critique delves deeply into the main issues of a manuscript. Understanding the difference between these services is important because getting the correct editing service can make or break a manuscript. While some authors may think that a beta read will suffice and that they don’t need a professional edit, very rarely is this the case. More often than not, a good manuscript that does well with just a beta read and no further editing is the exception and not the rule.


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