View Full Version : Questions on Writer/Beta Etiquette

06-08-2009, 12:00 PM
Hi! Um, I'm new here, so firstly if this is in the wrong place please move it for me, mods! I wasn't exactly sure where a thread like this would go.

Secondly, this question requires a bit of backstory, so please bear with me.

Now, onward: I have been writing my novel since February of 2007. I only have three chapters done! A lot of this is because the original concept was terrible and I spent a lot of time reworking ideas and stuff, but some of it was because I lacked a critic - a single reader, even, who had real knowledge of the art of writing. I'm sure we all know how nice it is to hear from someone, "Hey, it's really good, and I want to read more." But if that's all we ever hear, how can we improve? I won't go on and on about how great it is to have a beta; I should think most of us know that already. My point is I've been looking for one who could really get involved with me for a long time; I've been aching to have someone to bounce ideas off of.

This brings me to my present problem. I got into a terrible rut one day and started Googling around for betas. What I got was this site: http://www.perfectimagination.co.uk/ It's a pretty good site, and you can search out beta-readers based on fandom, preferences, lots of things. One of those choices is wait time. I made sure to email a beta whose wait time was quick; I think the one I picked had like four days for a 4000 word document (excellent!). So I emailed him (we'll call him Bob) about my story, and the next day he emailed me back saying he thought it sounded good and he'd be happy to help - with just one catch. He was busy with lots of stuff, and the return time jumped from four days to two weeks...

I'm a pretty patient person (usually), and I've really been wanting an editor/beta person, so I told him that was okay and went ahead and sent the first part of my novel. I didn't hear back for awhile, but that was all right because I'd been expecting it. Later, before the end of two weeks, I got an email from Bob; he said he had been working on my stuff and the first bit would be ready by the end of the week, and offered a few points of advice, to just let me know he hadn't forgotten about me. He also said to write back with questions and concerns.

Well, I was thrilled! Maybe too thrilled. I feel like I might have gotten over-enthusiastic; I sent back a kind of lengthy reply with a few questions, and never got a response. Not only that, but it's a bit past the end of the week, and I haven't heard a word from poor Bob. Maybe he's still busy or maybe I overwhelmed him, but either way I'm all bummed out. I've tried getting betas before and something always seems to stop it from working out.

Now, that's not to say I'm all mad at Bob or something. No, no. God knows there's few things more time-consuming and involving; I beta myself for my friends (I'm not brave enough to take on just anyone I meet). I have great respect for beta-readers and editors, because they can't just sit back and enjoy the story, they have to look at everything critically and then they have to explain what they see to the writer. It's invaluable; it's something a writer just can't do for their own work. The reason I'm bummed out is because I can't seem to find the one for me...

So, sorry for talking your ears off. My questions:

Am I just being impatient? I mean, Bob did say he was working on other projects. Maybe I'm just overly-eager. Should I have started a little slower?

The site I linked to asks writers not to get more than one beta that's registered on their site. Does that mean it's in bad form to ask for a second beta (especially if the first seems to be busy or unresponsive)? I definitely don't want to be rude or anything! But if Bob's just really too busy to take me, should I start looking for someone else or should I wait?

I feel kinda bad, because of course beta-readers are going to be in high demand and not have a lot of time. Does anyone else know how long it usually takes a beta to respond?

Finally: Did I do something wrong/am I doing something wrong?

Advice or comments on this would be much appreciated!

06-08-2009, 05:55 PM
There really is no standard etiquette for finding or dealing with beta readers. I know some folks on this site who finally found good betas after years of searching for them. It's difficult to find a person whose time and style meshes well with yours, and with that your writing needs.

It does sound as though you're eager for feedback, which is understandable. The problem, though, is real life. Even if Bob already had other projects to work on, you just never know when a real life problem will arise and steal his time and attention. So no, I don't think you're doing anything wrong. You just need to be patient.

Have you checked out AW's Share Your Work forum? There are a dozen sub-forums that are genre specific, so if you'd like some feedback, you can post the first chapter in the appropriate forum. Our critters don't ego-stroke, though, and they will point out your weaknesses/errors.

AW also has a forum where you can post asking for beta readers. Post a little about your story and what you're looking for. You may just connect.

06-08-2009, 09:02 PM
Why only one beta reader? Start talking to 3 or 4, they'll all have different advice and it won't matter if one gets too busy to help.

06-09-2009, 12:23 AM
Thanks both of you for your advice! I didn't know if it was acceptable to look for another beta if I already had one, since the site I found Bob on discourages it. I'll post something here at AW and see if I can get some feedback!

06-09-2009, 12:44 AM
Looks like you already got the answer you're looking for, but just in case others with experience have anything else to say I'm moving this thread to Beta Readers forum, hope that's OK.


06-09-2009, 12:59 AM
Yes, of course, my apologies for putting it in the wrong place. ^^;