Yeah, that's right. I have one. What is it, you ask? Let me explain...
Alpha Reader: A cool phrase designed to identify the initial reader of an unpublished novel/book that critiques and offers feedback to the author/writer of said novel/book.
In other words, my best friend reads my stuff first. From my book that is.
Now, honestly I can't take the credit for this idea. Kiersten White, author of the upcoming debut novel Paranormalcy, gave me the idea for an alpha reader on one of her blog posts. This one --> Back to the Beginning to be exact. And at first, I was thinking, "What? Let someone read my stuff before it's copyrighted? Are you insane, woman?!" But then, I thought about it some more and it made perfect sense. I find that I get writer's block QUITE often, you see. However, when I feel like I have a deadline or an audience I can make myself write better and not fret about editing it or just wondering if someone would like what I'm writing, because now I have someone to tell me what they think. I have an alpha reader that can give me feedback when I'm stuck, tell me what they think works and what they think doesn't work. I mean, you can't ALWAYS go with what your alpha reader suggests, but it doesn't hurt to have some help along the way. This is a journey, afterall, and there's nothing wrong with picking up a few stragglers for your own companions.
It works out, considering she's writing a book herself and I'm her alpha reader too. There's a lot of perks to having a critique partner. For one, you can honestly tell each other when you're not feeling a certain scene in the book, or when you're not getting enough out of a chapter. The only downside is getting a reply screaming for "I want MORE now!!!" And seeing this face -->
So, you see... That's not exactly a face you can turn down.
A few suggestions for choosing an alpha reader of your own would be:
1. Choose someone you trust.
2. Choose someone that has time to read your stuff.
3. And make sure you have time for them as well.
Pertaining to suggestion one, if you can't trust someone with your writing you shouldn't let them read it.
Pertaining to suggestion two, don't ask someone who doesn't have a lot of free time to read large quantities of your book. Odds are, their email will get backed up with unread messages by the annoying author.
Pertaining to suggestion three, if you're not willing to help them out in return or you don't have time to read their critique, then for one you probably shouldn't even be looking for an alpha reader, and two you need to save all of your free time for writing anyway.
Those are the big three suggestions when browsing for an alpha reader. And no, I don't think you can find one on Match.com. Luckily, I have one now and it's been working out pretty well for the past few weeks. If you can't find just one, then the only other thing I can suggest is a critique group. Cassandra Clare suggested this on her website when she gave advice on writing and I believe Holly Lisle has as well. I don't have the exact articles, so I'll just leave the links to their sites at the bottom of this post.
Alpha Readers can save lives... or at least unfinished books.
Cassandra Clare's Site
Holly Lisle's Site