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Beta reader etiquette


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#1 Thrash

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Posted 01 February 2016 - 01:07 PM

So, back in September I traded some work with a new beta reader--someone I hadn't worked with before but had met in person at some local writers' events. We were both working on second drafts of novels and needed new eyes, so we traded emails and decided to trade the first "big chunk" of the work--I sent her about 100 pages, she sent me about 35. I felt a bit bad about the discrepancy at the time but she didn't seem to mind. It took me an embarrassingly long time to crit those pages, but I sent her thorough comments in October--about a month later. She responded with gratitude, and said she'd get back to me in a week or two with comments and we would get together--but I haven't heard from her. I know she's very busy--she's active in a campaign, community programs, starting a new job, and a mother of two boys in grade school. Is there any polite way to nudge her? I'm getting to the point where I'm nearly done with revisions and it's time to go back to the beginning again--so her thoughts may become obsolete soon. What would you say/do?

#2 Michael Steven

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Posted 01 February 2016 - 02:04 PM

Did you consider sending this to Dear Abby?

 

Just kidding! :wink:  In my opinion a beta reading should be for the entire novel, not just a section.  The critiquing, from what I understand, is high level flow and content.  The detailed nuts and bolts critiquing should already be finished.  The rest is about professionalism -- when you agree to do something for someone, you do it.  If you are "busy" and likely not to have the time then you have to say "no" from the beginning.

 

I gave a section to two folks for beta reading.  One I never heard from again.  The other sent me a message that said "your writing is too flowery for my tastes."  Swell.  Brow-beat with the term "flowery", but that's another rant I would put up on a blog if I had a blog.  But neither gave feedback that would be part of beta reading.  Personal tastes aside, did the writing put a picture in your head?  Did you get a feel for the characters?  Did you get a feel for the setting?  Did the flow of the story feel stilted or glossed over or over done?  In other words the sort of things that stand out when you read a finished book that convince you to read more, or to drop it.  Most importantly ... why you feel that way.

 

What I did was simply let them decide to do what is right.  That I never heard from one and got an off target comment from the other tells me a great deal about those people.  I let sleeping dogs lie and moved on.

 

Now, as a segue, if you need a beta reader for your novel, send me a private message.  Maybe we can work something out.  I will read it and I will comment.


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#3 dogsbody

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Posted 01 February 2016 - 04:59 PM

This is an informal relationship, there's no set etiquette. I'd send her an email with your concerns, but also detailing that you understand her schedule. If it garners good results, good. If not, write it off as sunk costs and find a different partnership. It's in the nature of these relationships for people to disconnect and drift off without the potential being realized. 



#4 Litgal

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Posted 01 February 2016 - 10:02 PM

Personally I'd just write her off. Besides a critical eye and the ability to offer insightful comments without trying to turn your work into their personal style, dependability is key in a critique partner. If he/she can't turn things around with some urgency (which becomes critical later when you have contractual deadlines to meet) he/she is useless. Move on (and consider the 35 pages you critqued for her as the cost of finding out if she was for you).


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#5 Darke

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Posted 02 February 2016 - 07:06 AM

I'm with LitGal on this one. I was in the exact same situation a few years back with both a beta and cover artist. I sent them both a nice email thanking them for their time, but considering how much time had elapsed and I hadn't heard word one from either of them, I no longer needed their services. What really irked me was that both wanted to get into the business and do freelance work.   


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#6 mwsinclair

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Posted 04 February 2016 - 01:12 PM

Yeah, this person sounds like she self-deleted herself from your writing life.



#7 authorjanebnight

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Posted 04 February 2016 - 11:18 PM

Beta readers can be tricky beasts.

It is also possible that she didn't flake but instead just wasn't sure what to say. It is really hard when a beta isn't a good match for a manuscript. 

I would send her a very polite follow up email and just ask if she had gotten around to reading what you sent yet. Her response should give you an idea of what is happening. 



#8 Andrea Lambert

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Posted 06 February 2016 - 06:56 AM

I've been ghosted by two beta readers too. One of whom I'm still friends with but we've both acknowledged the loss of interest on her partwas because I sent her a 706 page manuscript. My bad, srsly.

 

I think we just have to accept that people have busy lives and editing someone else's lengthy novel just might not be something they have time for. Sometimes it takes a lot of tries before you find a beta reader who will actually read your manuscript. Those people are jewels.

 

Sometimes it helps to join an established critique group where they already have a circle of writers set up that you can take part in. Sometimes you have to pay for the privilege but it's usually pretty much worth it.


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#9 Niambi

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Posted 19 March 2016 - 12:38 AM

That kinda stinks.  My first foray into hiring Beta Readers was wonderful, and I won't shy away from suggesting that you should probably pay for a good reader in addition to getting some friends and family.  

 

I think I paid about $.0005/word and ended up paying about $100 for one of my larger projects.  

 

I stink at NOT writing like a journalist so she tore it to shreds, sent me back a critique report that was about half the size of my book, and broke down a few things she had issues with in detail.  Finished the reading and the critique in about two weeks.  The best damn $100 I've ever spent.  



#10 hjvagar

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Posted 17 January 2017 - 01:08 AM

I know I'm pretty late to the game with this one but the first thing that came to me is was she upset about your critique of her work and that is why she didn't respond?



#11 Thrash

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Posted 11 February 2017 - 02:35 AM

I'd actually forgotten about this because it's been a minute, but two notes--it wasn't a paid beta reader, and though I don't think it's a total scam to pay readers for their advice, I'd certainly handle it differently if I had been hiring her for a service!  And secondly, I don't think it was my feedback, but I have let it go entirely---since then I found out about that time that she took a new job, was highly involved in politics, and her son was diagnosed with diabetes. I found other readers and tomorrow will be sending an R & R back to an agent. 

 

My hind-sight advice is to invest in betas by being good readers, but not set heart and process on it. Always have a way to make a step forward that doesn't rely on someone else. Even if your book's on submission, work on the next one!  



#12 bookandsword

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Posted 25 May 2017 - 02:00 PM

That kinda stinks.  My first foray into hiring Beta Readers was wonderful, and I won't shy away from suggesting that you should probably pay for a good reader in addition to getting some friends and family.  

 

I think I paid about $.0005/word and ended up paying about $100 for one of my larger projects.  

 

I stink at NOT writing like a journalist so she tore it to shreds, sent me back a critique report that was about half the size of my book, and broke down a few things she had issues with in detail.  Finished the reading and the critique in about two weeks.  The best damn $100 I've ever spent.  

 

I am probably going to sound very biased, as I am a paid beta reader myself, BUT I think paying for beta reads pays off. People who offer paid services tend to take their work very seriously (at least I do). They are compelled to spend more time and energy on a project, if they are being rewarded (I guess that is just the human nature?)

There are many great free beta readers, who do it for the sheer love of reading. And there are a lot of great paid beta readers. It's just a game of finding a perfect match. 



#13 Thrash

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Posted 26 May 2017 - 12:01 PM

I've thought about doing some paid beta reading over the summers. Do you use a site?






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