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FAQs for writers – beta reading, manuscript assessment and structural editing

FAQs about beta reading, manuscript assessments and structural editing

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

Self-edit your manuscript to what you believe is an acceptable level, or as good as you can self-edit it, prior to requesting beta reading, a manuscript appraisal (or manuscript assessment) or structural editing.

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

Beta reading costs far less than a manuscript appraisal, and a manuscript appraisal costs less than a structural edit. These costs reflect the qualifications of the person you are hiring. For example, a beta reader does not need to be qualified, whereas an editor who conducts either a manuscript appraisal or a structural edit should be a qualified and experienced editor. Beta reading also takes far less time than assessing or editing a manuscript. Quotes for a beta read or manuscript appraisal are usually based on the length of your manuscript. If a structural edit is required, editors are more likely to ask to view your manuscript prior to submitting a fixed quotation.

There is no (Australian) national guide for beta readers or editors’ rates. Arguably, the more experienced an editor, the more efficient they are at their work and the more they charge per hour because they work more efficiently and produce a better result than less experienced editors. Quotes for a beta read or manuscripts appraisal are usually be based on the length of your manuscript. In general, editors will need to view your manuscript before giving you a fixed quote for conducting a structural edit until they have viewed the manuscript to gauge the extent of work required.

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

A beta read… Beta reading can be helpful in assisting you to know how to improve or finalise your manuscript prior to the editing stage. However, beta readers are not qualified editors or experienced in structural or copy editing.

A manuscript assessment… The editor’s information will be more specific and professional, and their report will be more helpful in assisting you to improve/correct your manuscript. The editor conducting the  manuscript appraisal may also offer some suggestions to you about options for improving specific issues in the manuscript.

A structural edit… The editor’s information will not only highlight any problems or issues in your manuscript, but will also explain in detail how to correct those problems or, if it is within the scope (of your agreement with the editor), they will make corrections to your manuscript – always using Track Changes, of course.

4. How will I know my beta reader, manuscript assessor or structural 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. Beta readers are not usually qualified as either a beta reader or an editor, however you can usually gauge from the professionalism of the website offering beta reading services whether or not the beta readers offered have the skills required to beta read your manuscript. 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, so before you pay for a beta read, make sure the beta reader, or beta reading business, has been very clear about what you will get for your money.

If you hire an editor to conduct a manuscript assessment, or a structural edit, make sure they are a full member of Institute of Professional Editors (IPEd), and have experience in editing in the genre of your manuscript. This ensures they are a qualified, suitably experienced professional editor. Before you confirm your booking with the editor, make sure the agreed scope is very clear so the editor knows what is required and you know exactly what to expect.

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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