Alpha Readers, Beta Readers, Critiquers, Editors, and Proofreaders

From August 3rd to August 16th, I’ll be participating in Story Embers’ Support the Writing Community Challenge. (Use the link to visit their website to learn more and join in.) #SupportTheWritingCommunityChallenge

Two-for-one day! I didn’t finish this post yesterday, so it’s going out a day late (and a bit rushed). But we had a lovely Sunday with worship, family time, and much needed fresh air and sunshine. A day to treasure.

How many people does it take to write a story?

Writing does not begin or end in solitude. Somewhere in the middle a writer may seek a quiet place to pour out their thoughts, but first they must discover words and learn to write. And as they move forward from there, more people will influence and inform their work through their relationships and shared experiences. Countless people will have touched a writer’s story by the time they pen their first lines

And that doesn’t include all those who help mold it into a story for readers later.

Alpha Readers

Alpha readers are the first readers for a story. It’s helpful if your alpha reader is also a writer, or at least an avid reader. Their experience and skill set informs their feedback. But really, an alpha reader can be anyone. It’s more important that you’re comfortable showing them your raw work. Because first drafts are messy.

Beta Readers & Critiquers

Beta readers and critiquers fill similar roles that often overlap. Both read a self-edited version of your story. Both comment on high-level issues (plot, pacing, characterization, etc.). And both may also draw attention to minor grammatical issues, although not all do.

The key difference between a beta reader and a critiquer is the level of depth and the amount they review. The lines may blur a bit here too, but often beta readers will review your entire story and provide a high-level assessment. Whereas a critiquer often reviews only a portion of your work at a time, more closely examining the text.


At first, it can seem confusing trying to understand what an editor does. They don’t all offer the same services or describe them the same way. But think of editors as writing specialists. They are well-versed in grammar, style, and writing conventions for their area of expertise: journalism, academic, fiction, etc. For this post, let’s focus on fiction editors.

Services commonly offered by fiction editors include: developmental edits, copy edits, and proofreading.

Developmental edits, also known as structural edits, focus on the core elements of your story’s structure. Editors provide in-depth feedback about your story’s strengths and weaknesses. They offer helpful suggestions for addressing the issues they uncover. And some will even assess the marketability of your story to it’s intended audience. (A good beta reader may perform the task for you, but, again, this is one of those areas where the experience and skill set makes a difference.)

Style, grammar, and writing conventions fall under copy edits. Editors sometimes list copy edits as two separate items: line edits and copy edits. When it’s broken up this way, the distinction between the two is the area of focus. For line edits, the editor will focus on style (writing conventions, phrasing, flow, etc.). For copy edits, the editor will focus on grammar.

Since not all editors proofread, and not all proofreaders edit, I’ve listed proofreading separately.


Proofreaders are the last to review your work for errors. They look for typos, misspelled words, grammar mistakes, and formatting issues. Their job is usually done alongside a typesetter’s. (Although some proofreaders may leave the formatting review to the typesetter.)

So how many people does it take to write a story? If you want to do it well, then it takes a village.

Shout-out to all the people who helped me shape Snow Globe Travelers: My husband, my son, my family, and friends; my teachers; the authors of all the books and blogs I read; the creators of Google and Google Earth; everyone who critiqued the story over the years; everyone who cheered me on or encouraged me; my editors, Patrice Doten and Janeen Ippolito; and my proofreader, Kara Grant. THANK YOU ALL! Snow Globe Travelers would not be in the world without all of you.

Published by K.A. Cummins

K.A. Cummins is an award-winning author and artist. Her publications include Havok Publishing, Rattle, Blue Mesa Review, and her middle-grade series, Snow Globe Travelers.

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