Beta Reader Group discussion

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Writing Advice & Discussion > If you offer to beta read...

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message 1: by S. (new)

S. Sawyer (Sawyer1211) | 12 comments I'm not sure if this is the right place to put this, but I feel like it is an important issue that needs addressing. If a writer ask for a beta reader, you should only offer your services if you are serious. It is very exciting to a writer when someone offers to read and critique their work, but it is very discouraging when the beta disappears. I have been fortunate to have three great readers, but I have also sent out my manuscript to would be betas and never heard a word back. Just something to think about before offering to be a beta for someone.


message 2: by Isabelle (new)

Isabelle Connors | 13 comments I know the feeling and it's terrifying. This also happens with reviewers.


message 3: by Randall (new)

Randall S. Davis (randalls) Stephanie wrote: "I'm not sure if this is the right place to put this, but I feel like it is an important issue that needs addressing. If a writer ask for a beta reader, you should only offer your services if you ar..."
I would love to know why you found them such good readers. What was their experience and how did they help you.


message 4: by S. (new)

S. Sawyer (Sawyer1211) | 12 comments Randall,
My three readers are also writers, so they just genuinely wanted to help out in anyway. One read my manuscript in its entirety, and then offered feedback. My other two readers have been reading it a chapter at a time, going line by line, and then sending back their corrections.


message 5: by Randall (new)

Randall S. Davis (randalls) Stephanie wrote: "Randall,
My three readers are also writers, so they just genuinely wanted to help out in anyway. One read my manuscript in its entirety, and then offered feedback. My other two readers have been re..."
You are lucky to have found such amazing readers. The best of success with your book.


message 6: by Heather (new)

Heather Blair (lovelyshivers) Very true. So many people never follow thru. Good or bad, people need to do what they say. Sadly lacking these days...


message 7: by S. (new)

S. Sawyer (Sawyer1211) | 12 comments Hey y'all, I have been working on a blog to help address these kinds of issues or any questions a writer has about getting there work out there. It is also a space for book lovers and artists. Check it out. www.bubblingwhip.com


message 8: by Elizabeth (new)

Elizabeth | 5 comments Stephanie,

I know how you feel. I have a couple beta readers back out too. For me beta readers are mostly used to find plots holes for me. (Big issue in SF)

One thing that helps me is when someone says they'll read it and than disappear, I tell them: I don't care if they don't finish -- I care where it was that they gave up on the book and why. I've have even been able to get people who "just didn't want to hurt my feelings because they didn't like something" give me important feedback.

I hope this helps.


message 9: by S. (new)

S. Sawyer (Sawyer1211) | 12 comments Yes that's exactly my feelings, Elizabeth. Would you mind if I quoted you on my blog? I plan on hitting on this topic tomorrow.


message 10: by Gina (new)

Gina Karasek | 40 comments I've had the same issue in both directions. I am a writer who also beta reads.
I was doing a beta read for an author - because the writing was a bit raw on the editing side- I ended up spending a ton of time trying to help with sentence structure and editing issues as well as doing the beta reader comments and suggestions. I was a few chapters in (took much longer than I expected because of the above issues making it choppy reading) when I found out I had cancer.

I had a hard time feeling well enough to keep going, so I send the author what I had so far (maybe a quarter of the way through the book) and apologized for taking so long- explained that I was fighting cancer now and asked if she wanted me to continue, knowing that it would take a while for me to complete. No answer. no thanks for what I had done so far. Nothing.

I have also- as a writer- sent my manuscript to a beta reader and she acknowledged getting it then never heard from her again.

So- point being- 1) it goes both ways, and 2) don't just assume people make a commitment to beta read and intentionally fail to keep it- I had no idea I had cancer when I agreed to beta read, which kept me from a timely beta read.


message 11: by S. (new)

S. Sawyer (Sawyer1211) | 12 comments Very good comment on both sides Gina. I have never been a beta reader, but I'm sure it can be both time consuming and challenging. Right now I have two reader who are taking their time, reading a chapter or two at a time, and then sending me their suggestions. The regular communication, once a week or so, helps to keep me patient and gives them the time they need. But you make a very good point, that somethings happen beyond our control. You told your writer what was going on, and she should have thanked you for the work you had done. Also, I hope you are in better health!


message 12: by Randall (new)

Randall S. Davis (randalls) I agree, she should have thanked you. And ditto for better health. We are a community here, so let us know how you are doing.


message 13: by Gina (new)

Gina Karasek | 40 comments Thanks to you both. I am giving her the benefit of the doubt- it was quite a while before I contacted her and she may have given up on me, or changed her email, so I don't feel anything bad towards her, but it is frustrating not to hear back.

I am doing well- extreme sickness and pain notwithstanding. The cancer is shrinking from chemo and that's what matters. :) Thanks for asking.


message 14: by S. (new)

S. Sawyer (Sawyer1211) | 12 comments Well I would like to write a piece about beta readers on my blog, and your comment has given me more insight into it, so thank you for that. I would love for you to take a look at my page at www.bubblingwip.com
And Randall is right, this is a community. Keep up the fight. You are in my thoughts.


message 15: by Gina (new)

Gina Karasek | 40 comments I read your blog and pages- cool! I love the paintings, and the poem made me think of my cancer and my anxiety- the unwelcome guest.

I have a wordpress blog as well so I am following yours now. Thanks for sharing.


message 16: by Elizabeth (new)

Elizabeth | 5 comments Stephanie wrote: "Yes that's exactly my feelings, Elizabeth. Would you mind if I quoted you on my blog? I plan on hitting on this topic tomorrow."

Sorry if this is late. Yes you can quote me. I didn't see the message update till now.


message 17: by S. (new)

S. Sawyer (Sawyer1211) | 12 comments That's fine. I wasn't sure, so I quoted you without using your name. You can go to my page www.bubblingwip.com and make sure it's ok. I covered both sides of this in my article.


message 18: by Debbie (last edited Aug 21, 2015 09:26AM) (new)

Debbie Feltner | 44 comments Stephanie wrote: "I'm not sure if this is the right place to put this, but I feel like it is an important issue that needs addressing. If a writer ask for a beta reader, you should only offer your services if you ar..."

I've had this happen to me several times and it was the first time I'd ever asked for a beta reader. Actually until I started on goodreads I didn't even know what a beta reader was. I was a new writer and it was thrilling to know that someone would read my work and give me advice and then just as discouraging and scary when I sent it to them and never heard another word from them even after I tried to contact them through goodreads and their email. It's so not cool to do this to someone who has worked so hard with their MS.


message 19: by Barbara (new)

Barbara Tsipouras | 103 comments No it isn't cool at all. That's why I always try to give feedback as soon as possible, even if I haven't finished the MS.
But there's always the other side. I've read, commented and even proofread the MS, all this within one week for a whole novel, not a short story, and got no reaction at all, no "thank you for your time", not even "I don't like your comments and won't change a thing" (that'd be absolutely ok).


message 20: by Rebecca (new)

Rebecca Taverner-Coleman | 2 comments Thanks for bringing this up. It is a bit scary when you've allowed someone to peek into your world and you hear nothing back. I think most people who want to make a living as writers welcome criticism and aren't going to have their feelings hurt. Even if it's just a "this wasn't my cup of tea" that's fine. Just don't make people wait.


message 21: by Hock (new)

Hock Tjoa (hockgtjoa) | 10 comments Hear, hear.


message 22: by Debbie (last edited Aug 21, 2015 12:58PM) (new)

Debbie Feltner | 44 comments Barbara wrote: "No it isn't cool at all. That's why I always try to give feedback as soon as possible, even if I haven't finished the MS.
But there's always the other side. I've read, commented and even proofread ..."


Well Barbara not hearing back from the writer after you've spent time and effort for them is not cool either..I've never once done that and never will. I appreciate beta's even when I don't agree with some of what they suggest. I've never had one that I disagree with totally though. There's always something that makes me think...yeah that's a good point. I'm sure they appreciate knowing that.


message 23: by K.P. (new)

K.P. Merriweather (kp_merriweather) | 129 comments I've had that happen a few times when I ask for beta reads, but the few I had were really good and quite helpful. I write different things, so I never use the same beta readers.

However, when I do beta read, I ask if the person has a time frame so I can push it to the top of the list. I tend to have many computer/phone/tablet problems (yay cheap chinese stuff) so I suffer gremlins, data loss, and lost emails. If someone doesn't hear from me, usually because I lost their email and won't know until they email me saying 'where you at? where's my stuff??'. Most times they never email me back and I simply forget.
Also I'm sick quite often so I try to make sure I get things done in a timely fashion and if for some reason I can't finish, I will alert them. Common courtesy ya know?

But I no longer proofread or editing for free. It is my job... I can't write off all those hours as volunteer work. Beta Read is enough.


message 24: by [deleted user] (new)

There have been some good points on this, but I've found it most helpful to have both parties lay out their expectations at the start. Establishing your update schedule, fee, timeline, and availability up front can save everyone a great deal of time and avoid situations where one party suddenly disappears. Sometimes it's a good idea to have both parties sign a contract, even for a volunteer reading, just to have a document that you can both refer to in case problems arise. Of course things will happen in life that are beyond your control, but it's important to have a contingency plan and update your author/reader as soon as possible.

I only offer volunteer betas once a month now because my primary job is as an editor and reader, so my main duty is to the clients who pay. I know that it's not exactly fun to have to pay for feedback but it also establishes an obligation. I should note that you should never pay your beta up front (aside from a small deposit if asked), as much as I'd love to take money before beginning a job it's a big risk for an author if the beta just takes off.


message 25: by Jeanie (new)

Jeanie (jeanielong) | 62 comments Elizabeth wrote: "Stephanie,

I know how you feel. I have a couple beta readers back out too. For me beta readers are mostly used to find plots holes for me. (Big issue in SF)

One thing that helps me is when someo..."


Amen to Elizabeth! This is the true purpose for Betas. If we writers are serious about our craft, we will first and foremost want to know what is making a reader close our bookcover before finishing, or worse, before even getting to the second chapter.
We can take it Betas! Let us know why you were not interested, even if it is just to let us know that you didnt like the genre after all, or if you found the writing style boring. If I have ten Betas say the same thing about style, then I, as a serious writer, am inclined to consider changing my stylistic approach to the story.
You, Betas, are my target audience, so if I havent captured and maintained your attention, then I have not delivered what I promised. We want to improve and that's why we ask for your help.
Dont be chicken and dont be rude, but be honest, provide examples, and maybe offer suggestions that might make a difference.
Jeeanie


message 26: by John (new)

John Matsui (johnmatsui) | 4 comments Willing to be a free beta reader.
I pretty well gave up on beta readers because I found the comments (when I got them which wasn't often) were weak - I'd liked it; didn't like it, found parts interesting. Yikes! How does that help. On the other hand, I found that as a beta reader, perhaps I was giving too much detail. Some of the writers were incredibly sensitive when I critiqued the writing. Maybe it's because of my years as a journalist when my editors (and me as an editor) would brutally slash the prose if it didn't work.
The other issue is time. I can do 5,000 to 10,000 words at a gulp. I can't honestly say that I can read a 100,000 word novel within a reasonable timeframe and provide insightful comments.
So if there is someone out there who wants me to be an unpaid beta reader I'm available for the following genres: horror, thrillers, detective mysteries, humour, sci-fi, paranormal/supernatural.
I will read 5,000 to 8,000 words (complete chapters) normally within a week of when I agree to receive it and provide my thoughts. I will not do spelling or grammar checks unless the copy is extremely clean. I will point out the odd error that editing has missed.
If I get work that hasn't been spell checked, I won't go any further.
For grammar and writing improvements I use prowritingaid.com. It's free for 1,000 word bits. You can get it to do your full manuscript for a very low annual or multi-year fee.
If I can't finish reading your work because it doesn't appeal to me or I have a really hard time with it, I'll tell you that and why but that's pretty well all the comments I'll make.
As for copyright, before sending me anything, please use the following free service to register your work. http://www.copyrighted.com/
I am an author myself and would be greatly interested in finding others to beta read my stuff but that's not a condition of my beta reading your work.
If you're interested in me being a beta reader, friend me on goodreads and make a request. I'll send you my email address and ask you to allow me to add you to my email list and request you subscribe to my blog.


message 27: by Lara (new)

Lara | 29 comments Elizabeth wrote: "Stephanie,

I know how you feel. I have a couple beta readers back out too. For me beta readers are mostly used to find plots holes for me. (Big issue in SF)

One thing that helps me is when someo..."


I'm going through this exact same thing. I was so excited when four very different people offered to beta read for me, as I was looking forward to their advice - which I desperately need - and comparing their feedback and opinions.

A month later and I've heard nothing. I started to do a second edit myself and discovered a number of problems. I emailed the betas to a) apologise (!) and b) to suggest that if they're struggling to finish (due to my poor writing) could they just send me what they've done so far - I've not had a single acknowledgement.

It's very disheartening because you constantly question what you've done wrong.


message 28: by Randall (new)

Randall S. Davis (randalls) First of all, you have done nothing wrong--you have written a book. And that is an amazing accomplishment.

I found an excellent beta reader in Silvia at:
drumgenie@yahoo.com She charges a nominal fee, but her chapter by chapter analysis is amazing.

Another amazing beta reader is Helen Kelley...
hkelleyb@aol.com
She also charges a nominal fee

Give them three weeks at least. They won't disappoint.
And they are probably booked, but wait for a spot.


message 29: by Richard (new)

Richard Nixon (richardnixon) | 13 comments I beta read for free, and I take it very seriously. I am tired of buying books that turned out to be crap, and if there is something I can contribute to a writer before he/she hits submit then I am honored to do that, especially on the chance that someone else's work might help my own.

I see comments where people never heard back from the beta reader, and that sucks. But imagine doing the beta read and then never hearing back from the author, not even so much as to say they received your comments. Not even a reply to a followup asking if they'd received your input. That's a bummer, but I'm not going to take it personally. ;)


message 30: by A.M. (new)

A.M. Leibowitz (amleibowitz) | 20 comments I've been the author who gave up on a beta reader with a thanks-but-no-thanks. I did so because I was clear about what I wanted, and the beta reader decided my novel wasn't their preferred thing and so everything became a criticism. I didn't need to rewrite my novel to their specifications. I needed someone to tell me how to make *the thing I wrote* better. I found a different beta who gave me clear, direct feedback about the things I asked them to look at.

I have never given up as a beta, however. I have asked for more time because of health or family things, and I've had to limit my free services because of time. But once I start, it's my responsibility to continue. Honestly, I don't care if an author gives up on me--it's their story, and I feel they have the right to stop sending me things if I'm not helping them or for any other reason. I don't really need an explanation. But that's just me, and I completely understand why it bothers other folks.


message 31: by Brit (new)

Brit (shewouldread) | 18 comments Jeanie wrote: "Elizabeth wrote: "Stephanie,

I know how you feel. I have a couple beta readers back out too. For me beta readers are mostly used to find plots holes for me. (Big issue in SF)

One thing that help..."


Hey Jeanie,
I absolutely love the way you articulated this. As a beta-reader, this is exactly the kind of feedback I want to hear from aspiring authors or even experienced authors who are looking to grow. These are the kind of authors I want to work with. I would love to quote this on my blog, shewouldread.com. Could I have your permission to do so? I think it's important to set healthy expectations, whether the beta read is a paid service or not and I really love how you framed this. This is that attitude I want to see from future authors that I work with!!

Brittney


message 32: by Lena (new)

Lena | 172 comments Mod
I think we've all (or most of us) had this happen. All I can say is, it sucks! I've come to the conclusion that you just make the best of it and hope you find good readers. If you do, make sure to thank them! And ask if you can keep their email on file for the next time you need a reader.

On the other side: I've also swapped with several authors who didn't return anything helpful while I combed theirs for errors and gave big picture issues. I've also had books that were riddled with typos and almost impossible to read. So it goes both ways.


message 33: by Sam (new)

Sam | 10 comments I write but have not got anything that's ready for beta reading yet, but I beta read for free. I do it because I enjoy reading, but also as a writer I get a lot out of the practice of analyzing work. It makes me question my own work as well as the one I am reading.

So I don't generally expect much back from an author, but I have read in the past and gotten back a very generic email (one that is obviously sent out en masse) with a thank you. While I appreciate the thank you, it felt a little cheapened by the generic nature. Especially when you've taken a lot of time with a novel, it's a bit insensitive to not send a personal thanks.

In saying that, I think us writers can be a sensitive bunch! Someone not replying doesn't mean they didn't like your stuff, just that their lives are busy. As a beta reader I would have no problem with a follow up email to see how things are going. Its a nice reminder for me too.


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