What’s the difference between beta reading and a manuscript assessment?

The differences between beta reading and manuscript assessment are…

Beta reading

Beta readers come from all walks of life and industries. They need to be well-read but are not usually editors. The level of detail in their assessment of your manuscript (MS), and whether they provide a written report or only verbal feedback, will depend on the beta reading business or individual.

Manuscript assessment

A manuscript assessment needs to be conducted by a suitably qualified editor. A manuscript assessment should be quite detailed, and  address all the structural issues and issues of style (e.g. if fiction: point of view, character arcs, plot and other aspects; if non-fiction: voice, pace, consistency, structure).

The difference between a beta reading report and a manuscript assessment report

A beta reading report (written or verbal) is provided by a beta reader. It reflects the beta reader’s views about the MS, based on their experience and the types of books they have read. Different beta readers are likely to have different views because they have different experiences and levels of comprehension. But getting a beta read is a good way to be given some basic  feedback about what works and what doesn’t work.

A manuscript assessment report is provided by a qualified editor. It is a thorough and detailed assessment of all aspects of the MS. A manuscript assessment report is a professional assessment of the MS and should provide  valuable information about what works, what doesn’t work and suggestions about how to make it work (in terms of style, point of view, character development, plot etc). The editor who conducts the  manuscript assessment will be able to clearly articulate all the main issues that need to be addressed.

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Image:  Ceiling of the State Reference Library, Melbourne. Copyright: SW Kane

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