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FAQs for writers – beta reading, manuscript assessment, structural or developmental editing

FAQs about beta reading, manuscript assessment, and structural or developmental editing

1. At what stage should I look at having my manuscript beta read, appraised or edited?

Prior to requesting beta reading, a manuscript appraisal or structural or developmental editing: self-edit your manuscript as well as you can.

2. How do the costs of beta reading, manuscript assessment or a structural edit compare?

Beta reading costs far less than a manuscript assessment or a structural or developmental edit. The difference in these costs reflect the level of qualifications and editing experience of the person you are hiring to do the job.

For example, a beta reader does not need qualifications or experience in editing.

On the other hand, an editor who conducts a manuscript assessment,  structural edit or developmental edit needs to be a qualified and experienced structural or developmental editor.

Conducting a manuscript assessment or developmental or structural edit of, say, a novel, takes quite a long time.

Beta reading a novel , on the other hand, takes far less time than either assessing or editing the manuscript.

A quote for a beta read are usually based on the wordcount of your manuscript.

A quote for a manuscript assessment or structural or developmental edit may be based on the  wordcount, but it usually also depends on the extent of assessment or editing required. For example, a manuscript that is  complex and needs lots of improvements or major corrections will take the editor longer to assess, or edit, than a manuscript that is simpler or in a more polished state.  Note: the editor will usually need to view your manuscript prior to submitting a fixed quotation.

The more experienced the editor in the specific genre of your manuscript, the more they are likely to charge per hour. This is because they are likely to work more efficiently and produce a better result than less experienced editors.

3. What is the most helpful – a beta read, a manuscript assessment, or a developmental or structural edit?

A beta read…

Beta reading can be helpful in assisting you to know the flaws or areas for improvement in manuscript so that you can repair those flaws or make those improvements, prior to handing your manuscript over to an editor for the final editing stages. However, beta readers are not qualified editors and it is not their job to explain to you how to fix or improve your manuscript. So after you have applied what you have learned from the beta reading stage, you may then need to seek the services of an editor to help you work out how to address the remaining problems or improve the structure, of your manuscript.

A manuscript assessment, or a structural or developmental edit…

Compared to a beta reader’s report, an editor’s manuscript assessment, or structural or developmental edit, will be far more specific and more helpful in assisting you to understand any problems in your manuscript, and how to improve/correct your manuscript. The editor will offer you suggestions and options for improving specific issues in the manuscript.

When undertaking a manuscript assessment, or a structural or developmental edit, if there is a large number of major problems to address in the manuscript, the editor will focus on the main, or more major, problems and provide options and suggestions for you, guiding you in how you might fix those problems.; that is, they will not highlight every problem in the manuscript.

And remember, it is not the editor’s role at this stage to edit the manuscript for you: that is your job, as the writer.

Generally, conducting a  manuscript assessment, or structural or developmental edit of a fiction manuscript (e.g. a novel, short story) takes longer than assessing or editing a non-fiction manuscript (e.g. memoir, autobiography, article, academic text).

4. How will I know my beta reader, manuscript assessor, or structural or developmental editor has the skills to do the job?

If you hire a  beta reader, make sure you have verified they are experienced in the genre of your manuscript, and what you will be getting for your money. Whether the beta reader provides a verbal or written report, or both, about your manuscript, depends on what is offered by that particular beta reader or business.

If you hire an editor to conduct a manuscript assessment, or structural or developmental edit, make sure they are a full member of Institute of Professional Editors (IPEd), and have plenty of experience in editing the specific genre of your manuscript. That way, you will ensure they are a qualified, suitably experienced, professional editor.

Before you confirm your booking with the editor, make sure the brief (or ‘scope’) is very clear so the editor knows exactly what is required and you know exactly what to expect.

For beta reading services, we recommend: AJ Collins – Australian beta readers.

For editing (including structural or developmental editing) services, we recommend: On Time Typing, Editing, Proofreading and self-publishing services.

Image: thank you to Pixabay – Alexis Photos

This article has been proofread by Dee Sansom, On Time Typing, Editing and Proofreading


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