PDA

View Full Version : What if your Beta experience did not go as planned?



Ralph Pines
07-08-2009, 12:18 AM
I had my first Beta a few months back and only two people responded. Others begged off due to other responsibilities (life gets in the way) and one fell silent and never responded.

Does that mean my writing is so horrible people don't dare comment? Or did I do something wrong in the Beta process?

Share your not so great Beta experiences here.

bettielee
07-08-2009, 12:36 AM
I gave two people my first novel. These were friends, one of whom had read many short stories and like them.

Never heard from either of them. Not so much as a stiff fart in my direction. I work with one of these ladies and the other is a daughter of a friend.

Didn't write for 2 years after that.

wannawrite
07-08-2009, 12:50 AM
I have a pretty thick skin. I don't think I'm writing 'the next great thing' so I don't get too shook when people tell me that my writing didn't exactly move them to tears. *shrugs* Even so, I am careful about who I let beta me. You can put a lot of strain on a relationship if it does not go well.

caromora
07-08-2009, 12:55 AM
I think that's pretty par for the course. Every open call I've put out for beta readers has been similar--a couple people will come through, some will back out, and others will just never get back to you. It could be because your writing/story is something the person isn't interested in. It's hard to do a close reading of a story you're not enjoying. Or it could just be that something came up.

For me, I do a LOT of beta reading and critiquing, plus I edit professionally. The stuff I don't get paid for is pretty low on my list of priorities, and I have a tendency to put it off or even forget about it if the person doesn't email to remind me. It's nothing personal.

Parametric
07-08-2009, 12:57 AM
I've flaked out as a beta reader. I feel guilty about it, but it's no reflection on the author - in one case I didn't even open the document.

Real life piled up. It happens. It's not about you. :)

katiemac
07-08-2009, 01:33 AM
And this is one reason I suggest beta readers and authors are very clear about things up front - like an estimated time to get back to you, or the kind of feedback style - but sometimes it just plain doesn't work out.

Find another beta, and set up some loose ground rules before you send out the manuscript so you're not wasting each other's time.

Gray Rose
07-08-2009, 04:19 AM
Sometime in 2007, I posted an excerpt on SYW, people critiqued and three of them offered to beta. Two never finished the manuscript for various reasons, and one still reads everything I produce and offers great criticism. I found additional betas on AW. People can like you personally and not connect with your writing due to a variety of reasons such as life/busyness and lack of interest in the subject matter, that does not in any way reflect upon your work.

It is true that readers can also stop reading if your writing mechanics are not completely up to speed, and most will be too shy to tell you this directly. I think you can easily test this by posting an excerpt in SYW to see what people say.

I have been a slow beta before due to life a few times. In one case a manuscript with my notes was lost in an epic computer crash, and I was too discouraged to redo the critique (I have since critiqued another MS by this writer). Life happens.

Good luck!

Ralph Pines
07-08-2009, 04:54 AM
So don't take it personally, even if my mechanics and grammar suck. Set some rules down too.

Got it.

Erin
07-08-2009, 05:15 AM
I found a beta partner here and she's awesome, and we work well together. She went thru my entire MS very timely, we set ground rules of what we each wanted, we both write in the same genre, so it works for us. It just happened that we we're both looking for a beta/critique partner at the exact same time. So keep posting here and check other postings daily. You never know when you'll find that perfect reader.

Having said that, going thru a full MS takes a lot of time, at least for me. When I beta, I can't just read. I edit and suggest changes, even rewrite sentences, and it can be time consuming. I'm sure a lot of people just don't have the time to put into it, especially with full-time jobs and writing on the side, plain old life. Or maybe they aren't ready with their own work and don't want to spend the time on someone else without due consideration. Or maybe they read and write outside your genre, in which case, they probably shouldn't beta your work to begin with.

None of it's personal. Don't give up!

Skye Jules
07-08-2009, 05:30 AM
I've had the same experience. I've had a little over five people beta my novel, all who have flaked out. I know it's not my writing because I do trust these people and realize life can get busy. So, I'm going to re-do the entire thing myself and trust that my fiance can be a good beta reader, and I'll most likely have a beta reader do the first three chapters for me--that way, I'll know where I need to go with the rest of the novel depending on the feedback of the first three chapters.

But I did find a beta reader who did my entire short story for me, and she is incredible. She's a hero, and I will never know how to thank her. My old AP Lit teacher also edited Angels and Sparrows for me, and she did a fabulous job with that. It's sitting in the Purgatory of a magazine still, but I can comfortably say it's polished.

I'm beta reading a novel right now--more like full-blown editing--and I do understand that life does get in the way. I'm so busy with writing, I've only been able to do twelve pages for her in the four days I've had it. But I'm keeping her updated constantly, and I know I will get it done for her.

Vespertilion
07-08-2009, 07:25 AM
I seriously thought my manuscript was cursed. All the people I finally swallowed my fear to give it to never even opened it. To this day, the only ones' who've read it are agents, and 66% of them have passed so far. *knock wood*

Red-Green
07-08-2009, 08:18 AM
Beta experiences are always a mixed bag. On the receiving end, I've had readers who went above and beyond the call of duty. And I've had readers who just disappeared without a word. People who gushed madly about the first half of a book and filled up the margins with notes, but never responded to the second half.

On the giving end, I know I've been a mixed bag. I've turned in lackluster efforts and absolute mountains of comments and often received the same "Thanks" in response. I used to use the "life got in the way" excuse when the truth was harsher, but now I just tell the truth when a book loses my interest or fails to get it in the first place. Of course, I won't go past the first chapter if it's riddled with errors.

And that's always my advice: swap that first chapter before you go any further. Make sure your prospective beta isn't going to be put off by the premise or your grammar. It's easier to crit one chapter and say, "Nah, it's not for me," than it is to agree to a whole book and discover it's not for you in the first chapter. It's easier to take that than to wait weeks or months for that same answer. Or a lie that means the same thing.

KayJae
07-08-2009, 08:23 AM
I am terribly sorry that this post is so long. That being said, I had to add my experience. I put out a request for a beta reader. This is actually part of the request below. I received two responses at first and was excited but nervous. Lets face it, no one wants to be told they suck. I have absolutely no time during normal hours for writing, so I mainly write between 2:30 am - 4:00 am. I miss things, who wouldn’t!

What I got was this, from the beta reader who offered first. . [Text removed by moderator.]


I felt attacked. No lie. She didn’t love it? It wasn’t perfect? It couldn’t possibly be true. The truth hurt but I needed to know more. Something was missing for me from this beta read.

Then I got the reply from my second beta reader. This is what I was looking for, the help I needed. The funny thing is, the first beta reader said the same things. It was the instruction and suggestions that I needed along with the critique. She pointed out my errors just as asked, all my mess ups and gave me the much needed encouragement at the end.

[Text removed by moderator.]

If it wasn’t for the second beta reader I don’t think I would have returned to AW. At one point I had deleted AW from my favorites and told my sister I was thrashing my story.

When I sat down to rewrite, I was excited to make the changes. I knew I had the information I needed and a good idea of what needed done. Two beta reads, both say the same things, but one I could connect with personally. You just got to keep on trying.

Samantha's_Song
07-08-2009, 01:29 PM
I was going to make a posting of my own, but this one serves my purpose quite adequately, thank you. :)

Since I've been on AW I have spent more time beta-reading than I have doing my own writing, and I've just had to let my latest 'victim' know that I've stopped for a while. I feel absolutely frazzled - brain-drained. I do line by line crits and can usually do a whole novel within a few days, but this time it's taken me 4 days to do only 10 pages, so I'm giving beta-reading up for a while. I'll miss doing it because I really enjoy it, but I need something more leisurely to do for a while, like my own writing.

Samantha's_Song
07-08-2009, 01:38 PM
This is exactly what I do too.


Having said that, going thru a full MS takes a lot of time, at least for me. When I beta, I can't just read. I edit and suggest changes, even rewrite sentences, and it can be time consuming.

None of it's personal. Don't give up!

And KayJae, just be glad I wasn't your beta-reader, i've been known to make grown men tremble in their boots with my crits. :D

MsJudy
07-08-2009, 07:38 PM
KayJae, that was my experience exactly!

I went to a conference two years in a row and had the same person in my crit group both times. I really liked her writing, she said positive things about mine, and we decided to exchange MSS by email.

Well, I went first. Ouch.

Here's the thing: most of her points were valid, but the way she said it...

Basically, she told me I had to rewrite the entire plot, especially the beginning and the ending and oh, by the way, even the title won't work. If I'd followed her advice, I'd have ended up with a completely different book from the one I was trying to write. So it made me doubt everything I was trying to accomplish.

Then I worked with a writing coach, and somehow when he made suggestions it felt inspiring, not demoralizing. Like, where the first person said, This is really random, I think you have to make the character do this, the second person said, Tell me why the character is doing this, maybe there's a way to give him a stronger motivation for it.

After his crit, I did a HUGE rewrite, but I did it feeling like, YAY! I can make my story even better! Instead of s**t, I suck, I have to start over.

So now that I'm on the beta coaster again, I'm taking a big step back from all the crits and asking myself, Does that comment fit? Does it help me bring out my vision of this story? Do I agree?

And I try not to take any of it personally.

Ralph Pines, to answer your original question: If you want better response to beta requests, it really helps to build relationships ahead of time by working a lot on SYW and by offering to beta for people. I'm really active in the Children's and Query threads, and I've tried to give a lot of people as much help and feedback as I can. Now when I need betas, a lot of those same people are offering to step up in return. And meanwhile, the process of reading other people's work has taught me so much. It's always easier to see what needs to be fixed when it's someone else's writing and you're not so attached to it.

EFCollins
07-08-2009, 08:42 PM
I've beta-read for quite a few people and never had a complaint. Screenplays, novels, short stories. I've never left a beta read unfinished. Never. I might take a bit longer than anticipated, but I always finish reading and commenting. These people are trusting me with their hard work. Asking me, a chick with a tenth grade education, to read their book and give my opinions. The way I see it, they need my feedback and are depending on it. If I flake out, I might very well end a writing career because they think their stuff isn't worth it. I'm not going to do that.

That being said, I sent an ms out for beta reads last year. One person returned it. One guy, and he's the one I read a screenplay for in less than a week, I never heard from again. Another, whom I read a novel for and did a line by line critique on, never returned. This year, so far I've had one full return and two partial returns on my novel. (And another return on a different novel as well) But, my betas are keeping me informed and not cutting contact, so I'm pleased with every one of them.

mscelina
07-08-2009, 08:58 PM
Sometimes, when it comes to betas and critiques, it's best to have and maintain a small core of people for whom you beta and vice versa.

For me, I am very particular about both. I don't just shoot my manuscripts out to anybody and I very rarely beta for people outside my circle of normal crit-swappers. When I do agree to take a look at someone's work, it's because I (a) have time right then to look at it (b) have real respect for that individual as a person and (c) feel like I might be helpful. If I'm buried in work, I don't even agree. It wouldn't be fair to either one of us.

Namatu
07-09-2009, 04:40 AM
KayJae, that was my experience exactly.As you've noted, presentation of the crit can be important. If you're not familiar with someone's critique style, start out with a chapter or two before determining if you want someone to take the whole novel. I pretty much beta how I crit queries, but harder.

If you receive a critique with a presentation that demoralizes you but which contains some valuable feedback, go through and identify those points. Write them down in a new document in your own words, whether it's "watch out for passive voice" or "improve plot twist at point X" or "add more emotional response."

The way I see it, my writing isn't going to be for everyone, and I encourage people to tell me if my manuscript isn't their thing. No foul. If there's substantive feedback that I can use to make improvements, I don't care if it's presented in a stripped down manner. If I disagree with a point, I don't feel badly about ignoring it. And if you happen to disagree with my point, it won't upset me. You take what works for you and use it. Leave the rest behind.

If the critique is sound but hurts, well, growth can be painful. (My approach, not for everyone.) I have one unreliable but awesome beta who always makes comments that inspire in me a response of "damn you!" but it's a "damn you, you won't let me get away with it!" I shake my fist for awhile and, since I like it like that, relish the opportunity to fix it, though I may at times still drag my feet about it.

Matera the Mad
07-09-2009, 05:08 AM
I've had possible beta readers who never got around to reading. I've survived crits that seemed a bit off-balance too. On the other side of the page, I've read for various people. Some found my comments helpful. Some never replied again. There have been a few I wished I hadn't taken on, barely readable and hard to say anything about. That's when I should keep my mouth shut and delete. Right now I have an erratic but ongoing relationship with a nice little novel, and a couple of faithful betas are working on mine. It can take some trial and error to get the right people together.

Chasing the Horizon
07-09-2009, 06:29 AM
It's never a good idea to have this much character description at the beginning of a book. I've also heard that editors absolutely hate it when a character is described while looking in the mirror. I would try to condense the two above paragraphs into a single very short paragraph.
Because there was so much description in between, I've forgotten what question Suzanne is answering.

You slipped into present tense again.

You were in Alice's POV (point of view) and now you're in Suzanne's. For the best chance at getting published, you'd want to write each scene from only once POV. If you do decide to switch POVs in the middle of a scene there are some techniques that would help make it clearer too. There have been some good discussions of POV on the Absolute Write forums. You may want to use the 'search' feature there and take a look at some of them.

OK, I think you're making the same mistake I used to make with punctuating dialogue. Whenever dialogue is followed by a tag (like 'Name said') there's a comma instead of a period inside the quotes. Take a close look at the dialogue in any published novel to see examples of what I mean. I made this mistake over and over for the first year or so I was writing and was really mad that none of my beta readers ever pointed it out to me, lol.

You missed a couple of closing quotes here and on the last page.I think the biggest problem in this chapter is the tense-switching. I made corrections assuming that you want it to be in past tense, since that's the tense most publishers and readers prefer. I think slowing down and really listening to the flow of the sentences as you write and edit may help. You may want to post on Absolute Write and ask for some advice on keeping yourself in past tense as you write.

I do know that as you do more and more writing, things like tense and grammar begin to come naturally and eventually you don't even have to think about them anymore.

I think you can have a very good and potentially marketable story if you work on the grammar and technical issues.

This chapter was definitely better than your first, at least as far as the quality of the writing went. You were staying in past tense perfectly by the end. Particularly the last scene was really good, very hot! It definitely seems like erotica is a good genre for you.

I'm looking forward to reading some more of your chapters.
If it wasn’t for the second beta reader I don’t think I would have returned to AW. At one point I had deleted AW from my favorites and told my sister I was thrashing my story.

When I sat down to rewrite, I was excited to make the changes. I knew I had the information I needed and a good idea of what needed done. Two beta reads, both say the same things, but one I could connect with personally. You just got to keep on trying.
Hey, that's my critique! :D

I just try to give critique in the same way I would want to receive it--honest but as gentle as possible.

As a beta-reader I have to connect with the story, and feel like it's something I would pick up and read for entertainment once it's polished up. The voice needs to resonate with me. Otherwise I'm clearly not the target audience, and thus will not be very useful. When that's the case, I try to send a note to the person saying 'sorry, but this isn't for me', but sometimes I forget. :o

I also have to have feedback on my critiques, preferably a little more involved than just 'thank you', if you want me to keep reading and putting in the hours necessary to be thorough. It's extra-awesome if I get to see the revisions. Makes me feel all warm and fuzzy to see the story improve. :)

And yes, I have stopped reading stories and never responded to queries for beta-reading. I've also gone to a lot of trouble to read for people and never heard a word back from them. Such is life.

As for people reading my work, only my real-life betas have ever stuck around. I did have an exchange going with a girl I met on another forum, but we kind of mutually lost interest in each other's work. I need beta readers, but am shy because I had some really bad critique experiences in the past. You just never know if someone's going to be an asshole or really helpful. And, of course, the difference between the two is completely subjective, lol.

Synonym
07-09-2009, 07:39 AM
I have two people that have helped me immensely. The first is a stickler for punctuation, spelling and will jump right in when you do something that throws her "out of the story" as she puts it. She lives nearby and has to have it printed out to work with. That's just her preference. (Costs a fortune in ink!)

The second is someone I met here and we are trading stories. She's very good at pointing out style mistakes and helping me trim the fat. I lost nearly all of my first chapter when she pointed out that I was doing too much telling and not enough showing. After following her advice, I had to admit that the story was much more interesting.

Since I'm still weak with style, I'm helping her with words. I might suggest stronger terms, more active words and rewrite a few scenes to tighten them up. We use our strengths to help each other along.

I guess my point is that if you're lucky to find someone who's interested in your type of story, it may take a while to find them. Don't stop looking. When you get lucky and stumble onto the beta that can steer you in the right direction, do a happy dance!

dnic
07-09-2009, 10:08 AM
Oof. Ouch. I'm one of the betas that gives really harsh critiques. I try to include the positives, but I tend to limit those since my role is to point out the flaws of the novel. However, I've already tagged myself with a disclaimer. :D

I can't do just the beta-reading either. Some of the stuff I get are more polished than others, but if I see little errors here or there, I tend to correct them. So a full manuscript is very time consuming for me.

But from my AW pool of beta-ees, I think I've only received silence from one after I'd sent the work back to them. :) The rest of my beta-ees have been very professional in their responses (I mean, it's never easy to read: "Yup. You just lost me there." or "Yeah. Your character's just being too bratty to like right now.") Overall, I've got to say, my beta-ees are pretty awesome.

And I haven't have anyone beta for me just yet, simply because I'm tearing apart my own writing right now.

Samantha's_Song
07-09-2009, 12:43 PM
Out of all the critiques I've done for people on here, only three have not bothered to get back to me and thank me for my time. I would never do anything for them again. But if there was something particular that they were against, that I'd pointed out, then why didn't they talk it over rather than pretend it never happened. :Shrug:

Ralph Pines
07-09-2009, 03:47 PM
I have no problems with people who respond with "sorry I really haven't had the time". They are doing me a favor, after all.

The total silence gets to me. A few words would suffice.

Also I thank each person profusely, before, during and after. That is just the way I am.

:D

KayJae
07-10-2009, 08:00 AM
Since receiving my feedbacks I am rewriting to say the least. I am very much over myself and plan to take to heart what both beta's have said. Hey, they basically said the same thing and I asked for it.

My crushed heart is healing rather quickly.

I want to add that I've had several requests from other members willing to beta read. I always respond to each and every one of those. I've let them know that I am reworking the story so I really don't want to send it out until I've done some rewrites.

I think it is important to respond to everyone because, frankly, its just good manners.

Maryn
07-13-2009, 01:51 AM
I agree with HelloKiddo. While the second critique may have seemed gentler, the first one provided absolutely solid advice which, when followed, would have improved the writing. It takes either time or a thickened skin to get past the hurt, though.

I'm kind of a curmudgeon about critique, and a beta read is critique to the nth power, a serious investment of my time. I won't do it for someone who's a stranger to me. I won't do it for someone who's pretty new to AW. I won't do it for someone who needs a lot of work on writing mechanics, who hasn't yet mastered punctuation and run a spell check.

I'm aware that some people think that makes me snooty. That's cool. They don't need to know that I've invested hundreds of hours teaching beginners how to punctuate dialogue and other basics, and that's why I feel it's somebody else's turn.

I strongly, strongly recommend posting a first chapter for public critique, and seeking your beta readers from those whose critique style works for you. I also advise telling betas and other critics outright if you need gentle handling and much encouragement. If people know your needs, they'll often meet or exceed them.

Maryn, still easily stung by criticism when it's correct

Samantha's_Song
07-13-2009, 02:03 AM
I don't think that's snooty at all. Critiquing/beta-reading takes up a lot of time, time that could be spent on your own writing and/or other hobbies. Betas aren't paid for their time, they do it out of the goodness of their hearts to help others make the best out of their novels, so it's only right that betas have their own sets of rules in what works they will take on.


I'm aware that some people think that makes me snooty.

Sophia
07-13-2009, 02:23 AM
I'm looking for a reader who will tear it apart. I plan to seek publication.

...

I felt attacked. No lie. She didn’t love it? It wasn’t perfect? It couldn’t possibly be true. The truth hurt but I needed to know more. Something was missing for me from this beta read.

...

Then I got the reply from my second beta reader. This is what I was looking for, the help I needed. The funny thing is, the first beta reader said the same things. It was the instruction and suggestions that I needed along with the critique.

...

When I sat down to rewrite, I was excited to make the changes. I knew I had the information I needed and a good idea of what needed done. Two beta reads, both say the same things, but one I could connect with personally.


I wanted to quote these parts of your post as they are an example of something that worries me about doing crits. I know that your first quote wasn't all of your request, so this maybe doesn't apply exactly to you: I have seen people ask for feedback, but what they seem to actually want and expect is feedback plus a writing tutor to explain how to fix any perceived problems. When they get just the feedback as they asked for, as with your first critique, it feels to them like a poor critique. I think this is unfair on the critiquers. It's okay to want suggestions on how to fix things, but I think the author must state upfront that this is what they're looking for. I know that I like doing crits and giving feedback, but I rarely feel comfortable giving actual writing advice beyond referring the author to certain writing books. I'd be mortified to be the first critiquer you quoted, who gave you what you asked for, but had their crit posted as having something missing!

Namatu
07-13-2009, 08:02 PM
I have seen people ask for feedback, but what they seem to actually want and expect is feedback plus a writing tutor to explain how to fix any perceived problems. When they get just the feedback as they asked for, as with your first critique, it feels to them like a poor critique. I think this is unfair on the critiquers. It's okay to want suggestions on how to fix things, but I think the author must state upfront that this is what they're looking for.Exactly. I don't want to waste my time providing results that aren't what the author wants and/or will use. It's important for the author to discuss up front what his expectations are from a critique and, in my opinion, provide the critiquer with an "opt out" clause in the event she finds herself not up to or not interested in tackling those expectations once she has the project in hand. (Gender usage in this sentence selected at random.) My thinking on the latter point is that a critique that becomes a chore, reluctantly given, will have limited value.

katiemac
07-14-2009, 02:06 AM
I think, should KayJae return to this thread, she'll get the point you all are making.

I agree with all of you, which is why I edited KayJae's original post and removed both posted critiques. [Chasing the Horizon, who has acknowledged earlier in this thread one of the critiques was hers, did not have her quoted post edited.] For the record, remember that you can use the Report Post function when you have a problem with a post. I had a jam-packed last couple of days and wasn't checking the boards. The Report function sends notifications to the mods via e-mail so we can handle things faster.

katiemac
07-14-2009, 08:25 AM
Closing this up. Frankly I'm disappointed to see this disagreement may have progressed beyond AW for what I saw as an honest slip up.

For the record, I have sent KayJae a PM explaining, as everyone on the boards should be aware, that we discourage posting private communication - including PMs, rep points, e-mails, etc.

I may reopen it later, but it seems to have gone beyond the original topic anyhow.

katiemac
07-17-2009, 06:08 AM
Reopening this thread. I've removed the posts, aside from my own, that were not topical. If you choose to return to this conversation, please stay on task. I think this is a very useful discussion and I do not want to have to close it again.

mommyjo2
07-18-2009, 08:21 AM
I had the opposite experience - I WAS a beta, sent my feedback to the writer, and heard NOTHING. Sent her a PM to make sure she got my email - NOTHING.

Feeling very used...I was a one night stand!

Writers, don't abuse your betas. At least acknowledge that you saw their feedback and thank them for their time!

Ralph Pines
07-18-2009, 11:22 AM
Agreed. Anyone who is willing to go through one of my WIPs deserves a medal!

:D

Samantha's_Song
07-18-2009, 12:23 PM
Yep, been there, done that, three times so far. Everyone else I've beta-read for has been brilliant and made me feel like it was worthwhile.


I had the opposite experience - I WAS a beta, sent my feedback to the writer, and heard NOTHING. Sent her a PM to make sure she got my email - NOTHING.

Feeling very used...I was a one night stand!

Writers, don't abuse your betas. At least acknowledge that you saw their feedback and thank them for their time!

Straka
07-29-2009, 03:16 AM
I've had several friends express interest in reading my works, which I was very excited about. So I spent the 40 bucks to print it out at Staples, only to ever have them read the first 10 pages. Even if people like reading, that doesn't mean they had the determination to slug through an early draft.

I would suggest giving potential betas, maybe a dozen pages. See if they first of all have the willpower to read it, then you'll also get to see the quality off their comments. If all goes well, give them more.

Samantha's_Song
07-29-2009, 04:09 AM
But surely that's up to the beta to decide? For myself, I won't take anything less than the whole novel; I will not invest my time in something that I'm not allowed to see to the end, I would feel I have no reason to. I'm probably the only beta who feels this way, but I do and that's that. If I don't actually like the work after a few pages or so, I will contact the writer and tell them why I've stopped reading and commenting.


I would suggest giving potential betas, maybe a dozen pages. See if they first of all have the willpower to read it, then you'll also get to see the quality off their comments. If all goes well, give them more.

Bladespark
07-29-2009, 04:52 AM
I just wish that more people could be clear about what they want and when, and not be all... I don't know, all afraid I'll be offended if they say when they REALLY want. I had a friend give me a story to beta, and when I asked if there were any time constraints or could I take my time, she said to take as long as I liked.

Three days later she messages me asking if it's done yet, because actually the deadline for the contest she's entering it in is that day, and they require a beta read before it can be entered, so she really hopes it's done.

I could have had it finished the day she sent it to me, but because she basically lied and said I had all the time I needed when in fact I had three days, I had to rush through it that night.

I was more than a little annoyed about that, let me tell you. And I still don't understand exactly what happened there? Why could she not say "I need this in three days"?

Straka
07-29-2009, 05:52 AM
But surely that's up to the beta to decide? For myself, I won't take anything less than the whole novel; I will not invest my time in something that I'm not allowed to see to the end, I would feel I have no reason to. I'm probably the only beta who feels this way, but I do and that's that. If I don't actually like the work after a few pages or so, I will contact the writer and tell them why I've stopped reading and commenting.

Well whatever writer gets you as a beta is lucky. I've been disappointed a couple of times, so I'm generally a little more selective with betas. Plus it's expensive to print out a lot of copies.In terms of turn around times, I don't bother them. The occasional nudge maybe but I expect them to take about 2 months to finish a completed manuscript.

Karen Junker
07-29-2009, 09:53 AM
I read and critique manuscripts as an editor for a small publisher. When I agree to beta read someone's work, I expect to give it as much attention as I would one of my professional projects. I find I don't have the time to read something for someone who just wants an opinion about the work in general. I like to comment on grammar, punctuation, spelling, word usage, point of view, character growth arcs, plot holes and anything else I can come up with...

So, I recently had someone send me a bit of their work and it had some problems. Problems that will likely stop an agent or editor from reading very far in the work. I didn't read the whole manuscript because they only wanted a very general opinion and I'm afraid I couldn't give one that would be very encouraging.

I like it when my time and effort is respected. I've mostly had very good experiences with doing beta reading for folks on this forum and I plan to do much more of it!

Samantha's_Song
07-29-2009, 11:56 AM
Thank you very much Straka, and I can honestly say that I've had some brilliant stories to go through for people as a beta reader too.

I've also become very selective on what I take on to read, as I've always got lots of people who want my services. But I think I get the best of the crop.

I do all o my beta work via email and Word doc, it works for me and the writers I beta for.


Well whatever writer gets you as a beta is lucky. I've been disappointed a couple of times, so I'm generally a little more selective with betas. Plus it's expensive to print out a lot of copies.In terms of turn around times, I don't bother them. The occasional nudge maybe but I expect them to take about 2 months to finish a completed manuscript.

firedrake
07-29-2009, 05:34 PM
Well whatever writer gets you as a beta is lucky. I've been disappointed a couple of times, so I'm generally a little more selective with betas. Plus it's expensive to print out a lot of copies.In terms of turn around times, I don't bother them. The occasional nudge maybe but I expect them to take about 2 months to finish a completed manuscript.

Yup, Sam has beta'd a couple of my books and I consider myself very lucky.

Loveshorses
07-29-2009, 08:25 PM
I contacted a person who volunteered on the Willing Beta thread. I wanted someone to read my opener, and give me his or her general/overall thoughts. I offered to reciprocate for this particular person. He/she sent me an opener in exchange for mine. I read and commented on it. The person sent me additional chapters of their story, but never, ever gave me even a single word comment on even the opening paragraph of mine. And he/she had offered services on Willing Betas, not me.

Samantha's_Song
07-29-2009, 08:52 PM
You're most welcome, Firedrake. And I don't just leave it at that, do I, I still nibble at your arse about any changes you've made, even when I'm not actually beta reading for you. :D


Yup, Sam has beta'd a couple of my books and I consider myself very lucky.

Fallen
07-30-2009, 12:11 AM
I like it when my time and effort is respected. I've mostly had very good experiences with doing beta reading for folks on this forum and I plan to do much more of it!

Agreed. The authors I beta for are a good and talented bunch. We work to a specific turnaround time (between 1-3 chapters a week), sometimes it gets disrupted (my end), but notice is always given and new dates set up. So respect comes in to it a lot, both ways.

J. M. Hunter
08-21-2009, 12:25 AM
If I didn't set parameters for a specific timeframe, is it rude to follow up after, say, five or six weeks if you have heard nothing and ask how it's coming?

Here are the circumstances:

I posted a request for a beta reader - 2 people volunteered.

I sent my manuscript to the first person 5 weeks ago and he/she got back with me about two days later with a couple of pages of sample comments to see if they were helpful. I agreed that they were, and then never heard back again. I sent a follow up 2 weeks ago, but the person never responded.

I exchanged manuscripts with another person 5 weeks ago and sent 5 chapters of critiques on the person’s manuscript, but never received anything back on mine. 3 weeks ago the person let me know that he/she would have feedback on mine in a “few days” but I never heard anything back. I didn’t follow up on this one, but I also stopped sending my critiques on his/her manuscript.

So, what do you guys think? I really appreciate these two people volunteering, and was excited about getting feedback. Should I follow up again or write them off as “no-go”? Should I continue to critique the second person’s even though I haven’t received any critique in return?

This is my first experience with the beta process and I don't want to do something wrong or treat someone rudely, especially when these people volunteered their time to help me...

Hailey-Edwards
08-21-2009, 02:06 AM
I think I'll jump in here with a little encouragement. I found my first ever critique partner on AW. She was (and is) fabulous. I was impressed with her work and grateful for everything she taught me. I eventually asked her to apply to a press where I had a couple of books contracted.

She was hired, and now gets paid to put up with me. :)

Sadly, she doesn't have time for the CP gig anymore. I'm happy for her though it stinks for me. lol

nitaworm
08-21-2009, 05:54 AM
I've had lots of people offer to beta when I send out the call to friends and family - however only a few have come through.

So I decided to join a critique group that only met for 3 months, every Saturday to get feedback.

After going through this I wanted to help other writers and have beta for another writer here. I gave the stipulation that I would commit to 30 pages at a time. I actually finished the book and enjoyed it, and will definately do it again. I tend to want to beta stuff different than what I write, so it stays interesting to me and I don't make comparisons. It is a learning experience also, because I realize how to improve my writing and I get better at editing.

So I would suggest, if you are having problems getting and keeping betas -- do someone else a favor and beta for them, while they beta for you.

dlparker
08-22-2009, 07:27 PM
I have one great beta reader right now found on Absolute WRite.

The other--also found here--didn't bother to respond when sent the manuscript. I followed up after a time with a polite inquiry, and still no answer. Never got any answer at all.

It's very disconcerting to an author to have the reader drop out in silence THEN. Maybe she didn't like the work. That's fine with me; all she had to say was "decided not to do it after all" (or some white lie if she's too nervous to say it didn't suit).

But to drop out after a writer's sent his/her work without a word is unforgivable, to me. It leaves the writer hanging, thinking, was it that bad? Is he/she DOING SOMETHING with my work?

So please, if you're a beta, be responsible, and tell the author when you want to back out. If most authors are like me, I'll send a profuse and sincere thanks anyway.

I'd like to say who this beta was so other authors will know this person didn't respond... but I won't, of course. I'm left wondering: something happened in her life? Didn't like the story (fortunately I only sent first short chapter)? Copying my story for all she's worth? Did an email I sent get misinterpreted? Who knows.

But, lose one, win one. The other beta's just great.

- Danielle

Parametric
08-22-2009, 07:34 PM
So please, if you're a beta, be responsible, and tell the author when you want to back out. If most authors are like me, I'll send a profuse and sincere thanks anyway.

I've done this to someone. No malicious intent - I'm just an idiot. And I'm now way too embarrassed to contact that person and apologise.

Ralph Pines
08-22-2009, 08:33 PM
All great answers. So we learned a few things so far:

1. Author's-Set the ground rules before you send your WIP. Include what you want from your Beta and how much your willing to wait before a response. 30-90 seems to be a good time frame from receipt of document.

2. Betas- If you don't like what you got, please say so, in a polite manner as possible. Dropping off from the face of the Earth without a response is bad manners. If for some reason you can not follow through with the Beta, please inform the Author within 5-7 days. He/she will appreciate your candor.

3. Reminders- Authors should always be polite and PATIENT with their Betas. Their doing you a favor after all.

4. Time- This is a huge investment of time for both Author and Beta. Author's can only do so much while they wait for the Betas (and the future of their project may well hang on them) while Betas have, to put it bluntly, lives and this is just one of many things they have on their plate.

Now for a new question(s):

When is your WIP ready for the Beta phase?

and,

Can you/should you have more than one Beta run?

Thanks everybody for your input and for the mods for re-opening this thread.

Samantha's_Song
08-22-2009, 09:10 PM
Do you mean 30 to 90 days? I always have mine back to the author within the week, usually two or three days, depending on how good the story is. Something good is whipped through in no time.

1. Author's-Set the ground rules before you send your WIP. Include what you want from your Beta and how much your willing to wait before a response. 30-90 seems to be a good time frame from receipt of document.


Even when saying you don't want to go through with it, because it's not your cup of tea, some authors will try to cajole you into it. :D

2. Betas- If you don't like what you got, please say so, in a polite manner as possible. Dropping off from the face of the Earth without a response is bad manners. If for some reason you can not follow through with the Beta, please inform the Author within 5-7 days. He/she will appreciate your candor.


QFT.

3. Reminders- Authors should always be polite and PATIENT with their Betas. Their doing you a favor after all.


For myself, I will only take on something when it is ready to be queried. Works go through a lot of changes throughout drafts, so why should I waste my precious time on something that will be nothing like the finished project.

When is your WIP ready for the Beta phase?

Ralph Pines
08-22-2009, 09:39 PM
Yes, 30 to 90 days. Some people are slow readers while others can only manage to read snippets here or there between the rest of their lives. I prefer a solid Beta to a hurried one, not that yours are that. I can also see a quicker Beta if the work is hot enough for it.

lauraannwilliams
08-22-2009, 10:43 PM
My worst Beta was my mother, many years ago when I was in high school. I finished (finished!!) my first short story. She'd always been supportive of me writing, so I handed it over to her. Some time later, she handed me it back. "Fixed." She'd re-written the darn thing, missed the point completely, changed my characters. It was horrible. I stopped writing mostly after that.

Several years later when moving I found my short story again. I read it. It had enough sap to make a tree jealous. Obvious plot, cardboard characters. I asked my mom about it, and why she hadn't told me that straight out.

She'd wanted to save my feelings, and butchering the work (my words, not hers) was the kindest way she had to express it.

Now I'm writing again, and I AM going to finish this novel. She will not be beta reading it. I may not even tell her I'm writing again until I have an agent/publisher.

And when I do get to the stage where I want a beta, I'm going to try to find someone who'll be honest and direct. I can't improve with 'I fixed this for you' or 'This is great' at all. I can work on missing information, plot holes, boring characters or any of the other flaws that could be lurking in my story, if I know they're there.

On the other side of the coin, I've been a beta a couple of times. The first time, I didn't give much critique. I'd nitpick a few sentences, but on the whole it stood. However, I don't really know if I was much use. ( "I couldn't find any problems" is a compliment, not a critique ). The author was a friend, who I personally respected, the story was already very polished, and it made it hard to be critical.

I have trouble critiquing published works too - I can't turn my internal editor on once it reaches a certain level of quality. I tried to analyze Lois McMaster Bujold the other day, and all I got was.. I don't always know how, but golly does she know what she's doing! Couldn't find a thing to change in the first few pages and quit.

Recently I started another beta, and I critiqued up the wazoo. It lead to a lot of rewriting, which I get to beta again when done. It was a great experience, made me look for things in my own writing, and I felt/was told my comments were -useful-.

What made it work (for me, and hopefully the writer), is that I could see problems in this round - the writing was at a stage where I had enough knowledge to critique it, and I didn't know the author at all, so I wasn't worried about hurting a friendship. Even when I was horribly honest about things I didn't like I was thanked. Plus, there were other readers on the project, so I didn't worry that my personal opinion was the only one weighing in.

It's exactly the experience I hope to be on the other side of one day, though the thought of receiving the sort of comments I gave isn't something I look forward to.

watercayman
08-23-2009, 11:20 PM
I've learned a happy marriage is one that doesn't involve my wife critting my MS ;)

After several months of it sitting on her desk, I gently asked her to re-read it... She kindly obliged, but the genre is totally something she'd never read.

I think I'll live without that kind of stress in the future!

jeseymour
10-06-2009, 05:07 PM
I have one great beta reader right now found on Absolute WRite.

The other--also found here--didn't bother to respond when sent the manuscript. I followed up after a time with a polite inquiry, and still no answer. Never got any answer at all.

It's very disconcerting to an author to have the reader drop out in silence THEN. Maybe she didn't like the work. That's fine with me; all she had to say was "decided not to do it after all" (or some white lie if she's too nervous to say it didn't suit).

But to drop out after a writer's sent his/her work without a word is unforgivable, to me. It leaves the writer hanging, thinking, was it that bad? Is he/she DOING SOMETHING with my work?

So please, if you're a beta, be responsible, and tell the author when you want to back out. If most authors are like me, I'll send a profuse and sincere thanks anyway.

I'd like to say who this beta was so other authors will know this person didn't respond... but I won't, of course. I'm left wondering: something happened in her life? Didn't like the story (fortunately I only sent first short chapter)? Copying my story for all she's worth? Did an email I sent get misinterpreted? Who knows.

But, lose one, win one. The other beta's just great.

- Danielle

I just had a similar experience. Posted an offer to be a beta reader, got a response from another mystery writer, exchanged the first couple of chapters, thought it was going well, sent my next couple of chapters and he disappeared. I know he's still around because he's still posting here, but he hasn't responded to my emails. I don't know what I did. I thought it was a good fit, he said it was a good fit. I have no idea if my second couple of chapters were so horrible that he couldn't read them, or what. I'm disappointed, but also confused. Why not just say no thanks after the first chapter? Why ask for more and then drop out?

Sigh. :Shrug:

havefaith22
10-06-2009, 05:33 PM
Yes, I've had some tough beta experiences too. The worst is when they just drop off the face of the earth. It really makes you second guess your work...

Skye Jules
10-06-2009, 08:34 PM
I had a beta reader who did a fabulous job with Dead Poet's Pendulum. Witch Tourniquet had once had problems finding one. I sent it out to six people. Some got back to me, and life got in the way for them. Others never got back. I have several people wanting to read it, but I want to make sure it's "polished" because I know these people aren't experienced enough to pick out any flaws.

Witch Tourniquet, however, finally found a beta reader, but she does it chapter by chapter. It's going smooth so far--the process is a little slow, but I think the chapter-by-chapter feedback is better because it lets me know if a problem occurs, and it's not so overwhemling if I have to do a full re-write. Whereas, if I sent the entire novel off to her and got all this feeback (tons of comments that would require me to do severe re-writing), I'd be overwhelmed and less inclined to get back to WT right away.

jeseymour
10-09-2009, 09:57 PM
Happy to say my beta resurfaced. He had a major upheaval in his life, and he assures me that it had nothing to do with my writing. I feel better now.

LiNY
10-11-2009, 09:55 PM
Hi! I’m sorry if this isn’t the right place to write about this, but I really need some advices. I’m not familiar with the protocol of having several beta readers. I have a one beta reader who has done amazing job. I love her input and how quickly she reads my text.

But I don’t want to bother her all the time, so I thought that I could get another beta reader as well. I posted a ‘beta reader wanted’ note into another site. One person responded. We sent messages to each other as we seemed to share same interests, and I got the feeling that she was interested in reading my writing. We agreed some things, and I sent a chapter for her to read. I also sent the same chapter to my first beta reader.

My first beta reader sent the chapter back to me in a week, but I’m still waiting for the second beta reader’s respond. A week ago the second beta reader sent me a message where she told me that she was sorry for the delay and promised to read my text after last Monday. She also said that she had already read half of it. The chapter has 2000 words. I responded that it was okay as I didn't want to be rude and I thought that I could get that chapter back by 'soon'. Well, I didn’t. It has taken a week from her last message. I really want to wait for her respond but in other hand I have the chapter ready to be posted… and it’s so long time since my last update!

I really don’t know what to do.

Do I send a message to my second beta reader and say something like oh, you don’t have to read the chapter anymore because that piece of work is already read through.

Or…

Do I just update my story?

I don’t want to hurt my second beta reader’s feelings and ignore her work, but we agreed the time table and I said that a month is a bit long time for me to wait and she said that she can read my text in less time. It has taken almost three weeks now, so do I have to wait another week or what?

Hope my message makes some sense. (Sorry for the mistakes, English isn't my native language.)

What would you do in my situation? Please, some thoughts.

justinai
10-11-2009, 10:26 PM
I think you may be mistaking the term Beta Reader for a critter. Beta readers are used after an MS is "complete" to spot problems in the plot and writing. Critters or critique folks read chapter by chapter and give feedback.

Back to your original question...chances are that your first chapter will be changed by the time you get to the end of your book, so you should let the reader send back the information whenever she gets around to it. Feedback is invaluable, and since you aren't paying your critter you should just let her get through it at her own pace.

The only caveat to that is if you have read something for her and this was supposed to be an exchange of work, in which case you should feel free to drop her a line and tell her you're waiting for her review. But when betas are giving you feedback of their own free will, it's best not to attach any expectations and just take it as the free advice it is.

Hathor
10-21-2009, 06:39 PM
Just the thread I need right now ... I've been off Absolute Write because that is the only way I would actually get my draft done. You guys are much too addictive.

Anyway, in addition to relatives duty-bound to read my draft, I first asked four people to look at it. One friend say she was too busy; hey, that's fine. The other three evinced evident enthusiasm and should be interested in the subject. That was three months ago. First I was getting email responses like "I'm almost done" and "I should be able to finish it off soon." Now they aren't responding at all. Last Friday, in the nicest way I could think of, I told them that I am anxious to finish draft 3, so just give me whatever they have by the end of this week, at least for the first few chapters to accompany my book proposal. (If this sounds abrupt, I had emailed the previous week, asking them how it was going and asking what a realistic time frame for finishing was. None of them responded to me. So I came up with a deadline. Heck, they are all lawyers; maybe a deadline will do the trick?)

Again no response, at least not yet. My husband thinks I'll get something; I'm not so sure.

If they would just tell me they don't have the time, don't want the responsibility, whatever. I wouldn't care. I think what is bothering me right now is not that I need them for my book, but they are disrespecting me. Either that or they hate the book ... :rant:

Meanwhile two others have read my draft 2 and like it. One read my entire book and send me back comments in two days. The other proved to be an amazing proofreader, finding typos that multiple reads by multiple others had failed to disclose.

I don't think I'm experienced enough to offer advice or to explain what is common protocol. But my inclination is to ask multiple people, thinking that some will pan out and others won't. I'm finding that different people see different things. It is also useful to have my betas disagreeing with each other, because them I feel justified in doing what I want :D

Now I'm going to deal with the comments I got on draft 2 and put together draft 3 as soon as I can, because I have one (and perhaps more) folks willing to look at it.

It could be all this beta-ing would be extreme for a work of fiction, but my book is nonfiction. I cover a number of rather complicated issues, so I really needed people to tell me if they couldn't quite figure out what I was saying. I've lived with this project for so long, it seems that I can't tell if some of my sentences are English or not.

Oh well, enough of my venting. I have my (rather boring) polishing job to get to. Somehow, all this editing -- will I ever finish? -- is not as much fun as writing the first draft.

setchmo
02-26-2010, 11:27 PM
A good friend of mine (at least I thought he was) called me up after having my book for two days and told me: "Dude, your book sucks. There is absolutely no chance this will ever find an agent or a publisher."

I asked for him to elaborate (kindly) and he said (after hemming and hawing for several moments):

"First of all, your title sucks. Second, your spacing is all wrong. Third your using the wrong font."

Beyond that he vaguely mentioned something about my metaphors being all wrong and my autorial voice jumping around in certain chapters (my book is multiple POV). He swears he read the whole thing. He is an author himself (published an autobiography a year ago) so I was hoping for some good feedback. But he gave me absolutely nothing on the story or characters that I could use to improve the manuscript, which was what I asked for. I think he got it in his head he was an editor (which he really shouldn't try to be) and he was going to line by line dissect my prose. At one point he told me he spent two hours on my first page but wouldn't elaborate why or show me what he was doing.

Finally, I asked that he send back my manuscript (I sent him a hard copy) but he keeps making excuses why he can't do that. Totally bizarre.


Oh well...never going to ask him to read my stuff again.

semiferger
03-11-2010, 10:48 AM
I met my friend and we are trading stories. She's very good at pointing out style mistakes and helping me trim the fat. After her advice, I had to admit that the story was much more interesting.

BlueDimity
03-11-2010, 11:04 AM
I had my first Beta a few months back and only two people responded. Others begged off due to other responsibilities (life gets in the way) and one fell silent and never responded.

Does that mean my writing is so horrible people don't dare comment? Or did I do something wrong in the Beta process?

Share your not so great Beta experiences here.


I think having another set of eyes is very helpful when it comes to writing (unless you can somehow change your own outlook on your writing), but in my personal experiences, having a BETA reader did not work out.
The first woman I contacted agreed to read the first chapter and I, the idiot sent her the unedited version, so I sent an email explaining how I made a mistake and was sick, along with the "edited" first chapter. No reply.
My second offered to trade chapters and then after a short time (I think due to my semi-harsh critique of his first chapter) told me that we weren't a match. Then another person offered to read my MS but said that they didn't think theirs was ready to be read, so I didn't send them any of my work, thinking that best.

Resasi
03-18-2010, 11:11 PM
Was not aware of the term Beta reader but appear to have been fortunate. I have had the silences, I felt perhaps embarrassed, by friends who had actually asked to read what I was writing. I have to say reading this thread has made me feel much better about that now

Also had one finished manuscript read, then got back general feedback and helpful pointing out of mistakes by two friends who read it on holiday. They liked it and sent back page no's and details on errors or what had failed or confused them. The other by my elder sister who took ages but said she had simply read it as a book and had enjoyed it.

Most gratifying, two different ladies, one a journalist, the second an editor, who both made encouraging noises and indicated that these were worth pursuing.

I think it is to a degree a matter of taste, and of sometimes being so bad that the reader simply cannot go on. If they chose and paid for it, they will sometimes proceed. If was as a favor, easier just to put down and say nothing, despite the fact it isn't a particularly nice thing to do.

Filigree
10-06-2010, 07:58 PM
I made the mistake last year of offering to trade beta work with someone I know on a different online group. We were both aiming for the same anthology, and I wondered at the time if that would be a problem.

He sent me his story. I sent him mine. His was a capable story, but infused with the same persecution complex I'd seen in his online posts. I pointed out that his victimization themes were possibly dragging down what was a decent
'releasing the tormented ghost' story. Then he savaged my story with comments that had little to do with the actual plot.

So I backed off, politely, and sent my story in anyway. It didn't sell, but I got a personalized rejection from the editor saying essentially 'good story, but didn't fit the theme that the antho developed with the first acceptances.' I heard later that his story got a form reject.

I won't do beta work for this guy now, because our worldviews and writing
styles clash too much. I have higher hopes for the two beta readers who are looking at my fantasy mms right now, but it's complex enough that I don't mind giving them 60 to 90 days.

Filigree

AlishaS
10-07-2010, 01:02 AM
I've had both good and bad Beta experiences. The beta's that I have found who worked out have been nothing but gracious, we have formed tight friendships and still trade work.
I've had some say the will read, then after a few chapters drop off the face of the earth, never to be heard from again. Some who's comments and style don't jive with mine and we've parted ways. But all in all nothing terribly bad.

That goes for me too. I offer my time to beta read here and there. I've had some people who loved what I have commented on and say they really think my work has helped them. Other's who think I've actually done them a diservice and think I've torn their work or part. But I've also on the occasion had to walk away from a beta read. It's a bad feeling but some when you come across a story you just can't get into or has too many flaws you have to just let them know nicely and step aside. Though, I have mentioned to those, with a little bit more work on their part and the story would be ready to read in the future.
That's when I decided to no longer accept first drafts of work. If you can't put in the time to comb through the work yourself and edit, then why should I do it all for you?

Herman Munster
10-07-2010, 12:04 PM
"too many flaws you have to just let them know nicely and"

I think that is the key to beta's.
If you offer or accept being asked, then I think you OWE the writer an opinion, at the very least. Even just "not my cup o tea" "out of my genres" "found too many errors too quickly" "have you read this thru yet?" "did you run spell check b4 you gave it to me" or "Sorry, I can't do this for you.. [reason(s)].

I got into some family members for test reading simply asking for "does the story make sense, does it have a start, middle and end, what do you really think about it"
Noone of them to this date, 18 months later, have even admitted they finished it. So there is no "I didn't like it" "It is not like store bought books" nothing. I know these people are literate, all college grads, but it bothered me for a long time that they either didn't or couldn't finish it, or they couldn't say a nice word, so they chose to say nothing at all.
Now that is where you PUSH it on people. That is very different to beta reading.
I have done some beta reads, one comes to mind, out of my genre, but I thort it was excellent, best seller material, and I told him so. Even where it is tuff or a real struggle, I go as far as I cna and then try to explain that it may be "too young for me" "too way out" "too rude or crude" unpolished, or even unedited.

Now my work is difficult for people to work with. I know I can tell stories, but whether I can write them down legibly is a very different question. I will let anyone off, if only they would tell me what is wrong, or how bad it is.
I have very poor technical skills, but I am prepared to pay an editor to "fix it", but FIRST, I need to know if the story is valid and it is worth investing the cash getting a pro edit.

I am not looking to see my name in print, there are plenty of vanity publishers to give you that if it is your will and need. I truly want as many people to read and enjoy my stories.. if they don't meet minimum standards to achieve this, tell me now so I can quit and do something else. <GRIN>

A beta owes a comment, good, bad or indifferent, or the dog ate it, I really feel that is part of the "CONTRACT" that goes without saying when the agreement is struck.

My 1 cents worth, I am so undervalued!

Shadowflame
10-10-2010, 10:43 PM
Hello, I haven't been signed up long, but I did want to comment on this thread.

I've only been beta reading for a few months for people besides my comfort writing forums. I have 1/3 through a novel for another AW writer here and I can say it has been an eye-opening experience.

For one, I don't use personal friends for Beta reads often. I have one person that I bounce ideas off of and occasionally use her for BR. She has great insight on plot lines, but does not read much in my genre. Family members? Hell NO! I tried my mom once. Bad idea. She doesn't read my genre at all and our viewpoints differ tremendously. My other siblings are much like my mother and I don't think they would be very effective with BR for me anyway.

What I do know is that it is an honor to have someone come up and read their work. Sure you might come across a piece that really needs work, and I have a few times, but this allows you to learn how to handle this situation. You are going to be as polite as any editor or agent is going to be. If the plot is weak, give points on where to strengthen it. If the characters are flat, point out that they need some warts.

Not only are you doing them a favor but you are doing one for yourself.

By BR I have found that I can more easily find plot holes in my own work. I flesh out my characters more fully. I'm no grammar-natzi but I know when something isn't written right and can go look it up. Discussion on what works and what doesn't improves you and them.

Be upfront if you are a writer or a BR. If either has RL problems then let the other party know. I know that I tend to get myself overloaded at times. Bad habit yea, I know.

I love writing, I love learning about it, and I love helping other make better stories. Enough said. :)

Sydewinder
10-27-2010, 10:04 AM
"

A beta owes a comment, good, bad or indifferent, or the dog ate it, I really feel that is part of the "CONTRACT" that goes without saying when the agreement is struck.

My 1 cents worth, I am so undervalued!


Sorry, but I WHOLEHEARTEDLY disagree. A beta owes you nothing. If they agree to take a look at your mss. and then their life gets in the way, or they find they're not that into it, or whatever, they owe you shit all. It is a huge time commitment to undertake a beta read and you, the author, don't set the terms at all. You ask for the kind of beta you want, and if you get some takers, you can send them your work. Then you get to say "Thank you" if and when they send it back. If they fall off the face of the earth for any reason, or you never hear from them again, or they give you feedback that you're not happy with or different than what you asked for, fine, don't use them again. If they email you and say, sorry, I wasn't feeling it and can't finish, say "thank you" and move on.

I've beta read for 17 people, several of them more than one mss. I've had a few bad experiences but it wasn't until recently that I had a demanding writer email me 4 times a week asking when I'd be finished even though I said I had other commitments that came up. He said exactly what you said, "You owe me". Owe you??? needless to say, I told him exactly where he could shove his mss. and told him never to email me again.

I take beta-reading seriously, but my life comes first. If you pay for a service, you're owed something. If you do a beta swap, you're owed something. but if someone offers to read your work and they don't ask for anything in return, you're not owed anything!!!!!

Can you tell the bad experience was very, very recent. I'm still reeling.

Fruitbat
11-23-2010, 09:57 AM
I've found that the more beta reading/critiques I give and receive, the smoother it goes. I've gotten thicker skin on it both ways and also have learned from my own mistakes.


I offer to beta read because critically reading others' work helps me improve my own writing. So I always get something. And if I send mine and get nothing back or nothing useful (or even, once, something that seemed downright hateful) well, I don't have any less than before I sent it and I have also gotten plenty of good solid help that way.


So, whatevah, it's all good to Fruitbat.

Paladin
12-08-2010, 10:01 PM
On the flip side of this topic, what should we do about beta reading experiences where my experience as a beta reader didn't go as hoped or planned? I've had some very good discussions with authors after giving a crit, and some nice simple "Thanks, I'll give this a hard look" notes with some followup questions, but I've also had experiences where someone just disappeared when I gave a crit, with no response. If this is how these authors treat betas, I'd like other people to know about them before they agree to beta read their stuff in the future.

Rachel Udin
12-15-2010, 07:10 AM
I think the rule: "Don't take it personally" applies here.

As for the earlier question--when do you give it to a beta, I say after you've tried to get as many critiques as possible. I send out Betas to smooth over plot inconsistencies (Stairs are to the left here, right there), so huge grammar mistakes should be fixed. Bloody typewriter manuscript--if someone sends me that I bounce it back to them. Betas are not a cheerleading squad.

Ralph Pines
12-15-2010, 07:50 AM
I tried another round of Betas and had no takers. Maybe I'm doing something wrong. Or perhaps the story is beyond the Beta phase.

BrandiZ
12-16-2010, 08:35 AM
It took me months to find a Beta because I got no takers for a while. Then I settled with one awesome Beta who was honest and really pointed out the things needing fixin'. Everything was fine up till a few weeks ago - my Beta fell off the face of the earth. Haven't heard from her and it's driving me nuts! Makes me wonder if she started to hate my MS eight chapters in and vowed to never speak to me again.

profen4
12-16-2010, 11:53 AM
It took me months to find a Beta because I got no takers for a while. Then I settled with one awesome Beta who was honest and really pointed out the things needing fixin'. Everything was fine up till a few weeks ago - my Beta fell off the face of the earth. Haven't heard from her and it's driving me nuts! Makes me wonder if she started to hate my MS eight chapters in and vowed to never speak to me again.

Doubtful :) Most of the time when a beta falls off the face of the planet its because of "life-stuff" that has to take priority. Drop her a nudge after christmas and if she doesn't reply don't fret and don't push. Just find other betas and hopefully she re-enters the picture sometime down the road.

Paladin
12-18-2010, 04:49 AM
I think the rule: "Don't take it personally" applies here.

Oh, I didn't take it personally. It was a self-published author sending me something riddled with basic grammar and punctuation errors on top of a terrible plot. I just want to make sure nobody else ever wastes their time with her.

shadowwalker
12-18-2010, 07:14 PM
I've beta'd/crittered (interchangeable to me) for several writers, a few for years. The best experiences were when people were appreciative of the comments I made and were willing to ask about/discuss some of the content-related comments. The worst - authors who seemed to have skipped all grammar/spelling classes in school and ignored corrections not only in chapters I'd read but in subsequent ones.

Oh, and my group betas finished stories as well as WIPs, and always a chapter at a time (saves a lot of gray hair on both sides when changes are made ;))

Rhonda9080
03-21-2011, 07:14 AM
I gave two people my first novel. These were friends, one of whom had read many short stories and like them.

Never heard from either of them. Not so much as a stiff fart in my direction. I work with one of these ladies and the other is a daughter of a friend.

Didn't write for 2 years after that.

It happens. I know. We have to learn not to take it personally. I come from a family of writers and musicians, and we sometimes run when we see the other one coming with mss pages or guitar. Hey! Listen to this! You'll like the allegory! Will only take a minute..."
Yet we love and support one another.
Another thing too - even readers who aren't writers don't understand our angst and how important it can be for us to get feedback while slogging through 100k (or more!) words. Its a long, lonely journey, mostly.
I have one friend, who reads so fast she devours up to 10 books a week! She's well-read too, all genres. Think I can get her to read mine? No way! She takes mss home, smiles vaguely when I ask about it.
Guess that's why forums like this are so helpful!

c.m.n.
05-06-2011, 05:03 PM
This is the first time I've had a beta reader. She is awesome, pointing out grammar and helping me find better vocabulary to use, as well as helping me tie up plot holes.

But, she seems to have dropped off the face of the earth. I'm not taking it personally, just a little worried. I knew she was having some real-life issues before she started beta'ing so I'm sure that is what it is.

I decided to not stress, that is hard for me, and continue to send her nudge e-mails about once a week. Is that a good idea?

elindsen
05-10-2011, 04:24 AM
CMN-I know how you feel. I thought I was working with 2 betas, but both have had my MS for close to 2 months without a peep.

Both I've found on here, so I don't want to give too much. I would totally understand if life happened, but an email to me would have been nice. That way all ties could be cut and no one is hanging on to nothing.

And don't get me started on the guy on here who trashed my name over a 36hr wait...

Samantha's_Song
05-10-2011, 02:44 PM
Maybe he thought his work was so precious that once you picked it up you wouldn't be able to put it down again. :D


And don't get me started on the guy on here who trashed my name over a 36hr wait...

Ray H
05-14-2011, 06:04 AM
I haven't beta'd novels, but I have beta'd/critiqued plenty of short stories on other sites. My pet peeve when I did beta was that on many mss, I found a whole lot of obvious grammatical errors. This told me that the author finished his first draft and then sent it out for a critique.

To me, this is disrespectful of the beta readers time. An author should do at the very least a couple of revisions before sending it out for a beta (actually, the author should have gone over so many times, he can't see any mistakes, hence the need for a beta). The beta reader volunteers limited time to help, not to be a grammar teacher. I understand that a few grammar mistakes will always slip by, but when there are so many that it is obvious the author just wanted me to do the dirty work for him, then I just send it back with a note that I can't do it. I love to help others, but I can't help those too lazy to help themselves.

elindsen
05-14-2011, 11:24 AM
Maybe he thought his work was so precious that once you picked it up you wouldn't be able to put it down again. :D

I never read it :) After he did that, I sent it back with a lesson in human respect ;)

bluntforcetrauma
05-15-2011, 03:53 AM
I've had six people, who say they love to read, take my MS home. Two said they absolutely loved it and wanted more. The other four never finished and avoided discussing it (well one of the four commented on a scene, saying it was great).

I'm of the mind that my writing does not fully engage the reader due to those who cold-shouldered the subject. Thus I'm in the middle of massive editing/polishing.

Sometimes the best advice comes from those who wont talk.

Karen Junker
05-15-2011, 08:46 AM
You may have something there. I like to watch people read my first chapter and I try to get them to tell me where they were (what line or paragraph) when they put it down and started to tell me how great it is...because that's when they got bored, I'll bet.

Zodiark
06-10-2011, 08:21 AM
Hi, I'm not too sure if this is the proper place to post this, but I've been very nervous about my beta/editor, and I would like some advice on what I should do. We've been working together since last June (so a year) and I haven't heard from her since March (and we've only gone over the first half of the book a few times). I sent her a message via a different site last week and she never replied, so I sent her an e-mail yesterday, but still nothing. Can I assume she is uninterested in helping me anymore? She said in one of her first e-mails that she would stick with me until it was polished. She only has a little more than half the book left to look through anyway =/

blrude
06-11-2011, 02:53 AM
Zodiark, I'm sorry your partner is unresponsive... but if she isn't responding, there's not much you can do. It was possible she didn't log into the website to see her message, but an e-mail? Hmm. It's possible that real life really hit her hard, or that she made promises without understanding just how time-consuming it would be.

And maybe this is just a nit: you said beta/editor, but really, beta readers and editors are two entirely different set of folks doing different things. It's possible the two of you had different expectations. But anyways, your best bet is to look for someone new, be clear about what you're looking for (check out some of the other threads in this forum to decide whether you're looking for a critique partner, beta reader, or an editor), and you'll hopefully find a good match.

Good luck!

Zodiark
06-11-2011, 08:48 AM
Thanks for the response and encouragement, blrude. I wrote her a comment today, but I decided that if I do not hear from her tomorrow, I'm just going to move forward with my manuscript. By the way to add to your comment, I found her from Perfect Imagination as a beta reader, but she also does editing professionally (so I would suppose that makes her an editor as well, lol). Before her, I had someone on this forum beta my first 3 chapters, and then they never responded to me when I had e-mailed them again with the edits they suggested =/ It is rather difficult to have someone stay with your project =[ I suppose it's because they have their own life they're busy with and no one will really feel as passionate about your story as you do. I just wish my beta would have finished the last half of my book, or for that matter, if someone agrees to beta they should do their best to finish.

blrude
06-11-2011, 10:33 AM
I do agree, if someone agrees to do something they should be able to finish. Sometimes I wonder if it's a time management thing. Even a "quick" beta read can be upwards of ten hours invested and editing, well, a lot more. In a perfect world all people would be awesome all the time.

Most writers who find good betas tend to hang onto them tenaciously. I can't blame 'em. :)

amlptj
09-30-2011, 12:02 PM
ok... I'm starting to think its just me. I've been on this sight for a little over 2 years now and I've been endlessly looking for a beta. I've posted twice and only got one person who replied.... Through talking to others on here they became interested in my book and asked to beta, and through swaps i've managed to get people to read mine if i read there's. Thing is not one person has ever replied to me over for the whole book. Even when i read there's and responded back!!!

So far if were going back over this 2 year experience:

2- people stopped out because of life related things going on. Which i completely understood.

4- people have read half of it and then never responded again in several months.

10- have just never gotten back to me....

So i guess this means my book sucks? I'm really starting to lose any and all hope of ever getting published. I'm really about to start paying people to beta read for me at this point hoping the money will make them actually respond.

Jehhillenberg
09-30-2011, 06:06 PM
Oh almptj, I hope you don't lose the motivation to get published!

From reading this thread, it seems like everybody's beta experiences are different. I'm the type of person who likes to finish something to the end, even though I have a slight thing with commitment. I'd expect the same courtesy in return. Though I understand when life gets in the way, there's no harm dropping a message to part ways. It's all about communication and compatibility. I found a good betas on here and I'm appreciative of that. I'm always looking for more. My thing is people have different styles of beta reading and critiquing, which there's a slight difference.

Someone mentioned how awful grammar issues, which includes spelling and punctuations, and sentence structures, takes them out of reading. That's me too. I don't send out my first draft. I try to make sure my MS is as polished as it can be before I send it out to be read because no ones getting paid for hardcore editing. I don't want to waste anyone's time and I don't want mine wasted taken for granted. I get distracted trying to fix obvious mistakes when reading for other stuff.

writermom
09-30-2011, 06:16 PM
ok... I'm starting to think its just me. I've been on this sight for a little over 2 years now and I've been endlessly looking for a beta. I've posted twice and only got one person who replied.... Through talking to others on here they became interested in my book and asked to beta, and through swaps i've managed to get people to read mine if i read there's. Thing is not one person has ever replied to me over for the whole book. Even when i read there's and responded back!!!

So far if were going back over this 2 year experience:

2- people stopped out because of life related things going on. Which i completely understood.

4- people have read half of it and then never responded again in several months.

10- have just never gotten back to me....

So i guess this means my book sucks? I'm really starting to lose any and all hope of ever getting published. I'm really about to start paying people to beta read for me at this point hoping the money will make them actually respond.


I debated responding. Ultimately, I answered because of this:


I'm really starting to lose any and all hope of ever getting published.

In your post you’ve misused “sight” and “there’s” (twice), as well as misusing proper punctuation and capitalization.

You’re not ready for a beta yet. It’s not a beta’s job to fix your grammar and syntax. It’s YOUR job. Take pride in your work and put in the time to polish it.

Read. Write. Study a grammar book. Take a writing class.

Take your craft seriously. You are capable of getting published, but you MUST do the work. You can despair, or you can fight.

Parametric
09-30-2011, 06:40 PM
amlptj is dyslexic, so it's not as simple as studying a grammar book.

writermom
09-30-2011, 06:48 PM
amlptj is dyslexic, so it's not as simple as studying a grammar book.

I didn't mean to imply that it is simple, even without dyslexia. I apologize if it came across that way. It's incredibly hard to get your writing to the level it needs to be.

My point stands, though. If amlptj wants a beta to respond, the manuscript has to be in good shape.

jaksen
09-30-2011, 07:35 PM
amlptj

Just running your writing through an ordinary spell-and-grammar check program (as is built into Word) would correct a lot of errors. It won't get them all, but punctuation and spelling would be tightened up. I see some of the same errors on your blog as in your writing.

I'd do this first if I were you.

amlptj
10-01-2011, 02:47 AM
Thanks everyone. Sorry my Ginger program isn't installed on my new computer yet, so there are always problems in my posts.

I've polished my MS over a dozen times. I put it through a extreme spelling and grammar checker called Ginger, which is aimed for people like me who have dyslexia. I've run it though normal word spell and grammar check even got something to increase the settings, so it would catch more. I've had this book written for 6 years now. Rewrote it over 5 times, and now with my final version i've read over all 400 pages 3 times to even try to catch things myself. Still i miss stuff, mostly commas, they are my weak point.

Comma's oh how i hate comma's, funny thing is I have read over 7 grammar and spelling books. If you saw my bookshelf at home you would think i was studying to be a proofreader. I've put more time and dedication into getting this book polished then anyone can ever imagine... but like Para said its not very easy for me and even though i'm well read on grammer rules i have problems putting them into practice.

point of this rant is yes, i have done to my fullest capabilities all i can to polish my MS. But even though it looks amazing and well polished to me i'm sure i still miss things like those God damn little commas. So I also warn every single beta of this problem and my disability up front so if that bothers them i have no problem if they turn down there previous offer. I'm also not looking for any of my beta to fix my grammar problems I just want to know what they think of the story, grammer aside!

I know that can be a tiring process for normal people who can comprehend grammar, when they read my book without commas, I've never expected a day or two turn around rate, but if it was too much for them i'd kind of just like a heads up.

As some people have mentioned why am i going to look after beta's if my MS is not 120% perfect, well... for me I kind of have to work backwards. I've done what is within my capability to proofread, now i really need a beta to tell me how the STORY is. Characters flaws, plot issues, all that stuff i want to know, so i can fix whatever needs to be fixed in the story and then send the whole MS to an editor or proofreader to spell and grammer check the hell out of it before i start sending it to agents. Thing is editors and proofreader are anything but cheap and if i pay for one now send it out to beta's and then find out that there is some huge problem with the plot of the book... I'd just have to waist more money to send it back to an editor or proofreader to go over the stuff i had to fix. See my problem here???

Anyway this is getting to become a really long post. I've thought about giving up my whole publishing dream but i've been working on my series and on polishing up my MS for a total of 9 almost 10 years now and 10 books later i know i cant just give up. Now i'm trying to resort to alternative methods of getting my book read and checked which unfortunately is going to cost me alot of money, so i'm working extra so i'll have enough some day. Although i'm still keeping my fingers crossed that one of my MIA beta will actually respond!

Mark Moore
02-21-2012, 05:03 AM
I asked for a beta for an Archie fanfic, and the person that responded did a much more thorough job on the second draft that my then-girlfriend had done on the first draft. S/he typed up pages upon pages of notes, mostly regarding grammar/punctuation. I went online to check on every "correction" before making it. Sometimes, s/he was wrong (such as telling me that a comma is used for pause).

I used to beta my then-girlfriend's Transformers fics. Eventually, there was a period where she wasn't getting new chapters done. After she'd broken up with me, followed by revealing she'd "discovered" she was a lesbian, followed by telling me that she was in a relationship with a female friend that she'd met a while ago, I decided to browse her DeviantArt journal and discovered that she'd secretly replaced me as her beta with her future-girlfriend prior to breaking up with me and had been sending her chapter after chapter that entire time.

Garriga
03-08-2012, 07:22 AM
I know I am a newb, but I would think a beta reader would critique short fiction or maybe a few chapters of a novel. That is asking a lot to critique a novel. I never even head of a beta reader until today.

I attend writers group at my local theaters, and book stores. Sometimes it is helpful. However I worry that I am not getting the criticism I need. I want my style to be criticized. Also If, a fellow writer only says,"it is okay." That doesn't help me improve.

Collaborative stories and live writing are a good way to sharpen skills. I don't know if AW has any collaborative groups, but if there is please let me know.

JustJas
05-20-2012, 01:03 PM
Unfortunately I have a negative experience to add to this thread. I requested betas for a novella swap and got two responses. The first one sent me her novella and told me what she wanted me to look for. I informed her I'd never been a beta before. When I hadn't heard anything for a few weeks, I emailed her again and let her know I was waiting for her feedback first because as an inexperienced beta I wanted to get some idea of what type of comments to make. I also wasn't sure what the timeline usually was for responses.

My email was met by complete silence. I even informed her in the email that if she didn't have time to look at my manuscript, or it wasn't her cup of tea I wouldn't be offended, and I'd happily send her the comments I'd already made on hers. Nothing. One line would have sufficed: Sorry I couldn't get to this after all.

Seriously, what is wrong with people? I don't care that she didn't beta my manuscript, it's the complete lack of basic courtesy which gets to me, and from what I've read here it seems this isn't an uncommon experience.

Writers, of all people should understand how hard it is to send your work to a total stranger, and to be met with this kind of response really feeds into your insecurities that your writing is no good. I'm sure there are many wonderful betas on this site, but this experience has really turned me off seeking another one for quite a while.

(The other person who responded publicly had the decency to write back to me and inform me it might take her a while to get to it, which I appreciated. I ended up self-publishing this novella recently with no beta feedback).

My purpose for posting about this is not just to vent but to remind people to be considerate and let someone know if you can't beta for them after all. Don't just drop off the face of the earth because that's very rude and insensitive.

JJLindsell
05-24-2012, 11:37 PM
JustJas, that really sucks - I completely agree with you vis. common courtesy. Just a note saying "Sorry, life's hectic at the moment" or "Will get back to you in x weeks" is better than an eternal not-knowing.

My beta experience has been largely positive. I've got several non-AW friends who write poetry or shorts, and a few others who are English Lit majors/very well read.
I sent my roughest draft to two, both of whom came back within a month with substantial crit.
Did some reworking, sent the next one out to like six people. Two never really came back but did say they were busy, the others came in dribs and drabs. I had actually given pretty clear instructions of 'things I'd especially like your views on' but also said 'just say anything you think/be brutal'. AND MY WORD were they brutal :) One was so worried that she'd ruin our friendship that she drank a bunch of gin before emailing it. Another was really precise, putting pages of notes into a .pdf and considering all kinds of things I hadn't thought of.
Receiving all of this at once was a blow, and I was kindof shocked for a while, not least because lots of the feedback was contradictory (i.e. one beta said 'more of this' whilst the other said 'scrap this entirely'). I took a week off and dabble in...aromatic inhalants... then came back and tried to look at the sum of all feedback without feeling it was an attack.
Then I started Really enjoying the process - weighing up which advice to go with, which crits I thought were valid, which were missing the point (forcing me to consider how I could make x point clearer) etc. It was like that initial-excited-just-got-an-idea-must-get-it-down stage all over again. Woop!

I beta quite a lot for those people, although they're not all as productive. I try to turnaround within a week for shorts or poems, unless I have a good reason not to. It can be so interesting to see them writing/thinking in alien ways.

aimeeduffyx
05-25-2012, 12:23 AM
Me and my crit partner joined a group once with two ladies who had an ad looking for others. It was awful, the girls said awful things about both our works and, in our opinion, the chapters they posted to the group weren't spectacular. Needless to say I promptly left, as did my CP.

Since then we've both been published with said 'awful' manuscripts, so my guess is, its a jealousy thing with some people.

I guess some just don't have the time - although why you'd agree to crit a story when you were busy is beyond me! :)

I think the most important thing in a Beta reader is someone who won't change your voice. Yes, point out grammar issues and sentence structure mishaps, I appreciate that as well as pointing out where my story loses tension, when the threads don't weave all the way through and anything else that doesn't sit right. But leave my voice alone! lol.

Anyway, rant over x

Katana
07-07-2012, 07:28 AM
Seriously, what is wrong with people? I don't care that she didn't beta my manuscript, it's the complete lack of basic courtesy which gets to me, and from what I've read here it seems this isn't an uncommon experience.

Writers, of all people should understand how hard it is to send your work to a total stranger, and to be met with this kind of response really feeds into your insecurities that your writing is no good. I'm sure there are many wonderful betas on this site, but this experience has really turned me off seeking another one for quite a while.

[snip]

My purpose for posting about this is not just to vent but to remind people to be considerate and let someone know if you can't beta for them after all. Don't just drop off the face of the earth because that's very rude and insensitive.
This ^! I've had this happen, and it leaves you with the feeling that your ms is crap, plot is crap, writing is crap, and wasn't even worth that person's time to respond to tell you it's crap. It really does a number on your confidence, makes you second guess yourself and change things that may not need to be changed. Even a "sorry, but it didn't hold my interest" is better than nothing. At least you'd know that they weren't lying dead in a ditch somewhere.

Unimportant
07-07-2012, 09:02 AM
If you get no response after several email attempts, I'd suggest pinging the person here via PM, or using some other method of contact. I've had times where my ISP decided to bin all the emails from certain email addresses for no apparent reason, without ever letting me know. (I've also had the very embarrassing experience of forgetting to tell an editor that I changed my ISP and consequently my email address, and contacting her to go WHERE ARE MY ROYALTY STATEMENTS? and her coming back with a polite version of SITTING HERE WAITING FOR YOU TO CONTACT ME WITH AN EMAIL ADDRESS THAT DOESN'T BOUNCE, YOU PRAT!).

RN Hill
07-07-2012, 09:43 PM
Wrote my "first" novel (that I dared show others) three years ago. Everyone in the "writing group" loved it. Maybe too much. After I realized it sucked, I extensively revised and they all said they were eager to read it. A year's worth of revision and rewriting. Asked them again: did they want it? YES! Gave the entire manuscript to them all almost two months ago.

Not. One. Bloody. Word.

I don't mind if they didn't want to read it. But we met a month later and I specifically asked if anyone had started it yet -- and they all sort of stared at each other, and then someone changed the subject really fast. So far as I know, they've stuffed it under the cushions of their sofas. If they'd told me up front they didn't want to read it, that would have been okay, but . . . the silence is as revealing as words.

On the other hand, I've found a new writing group that lives to critique, and they've seen the first three chapters and have asked for more. :)

katci13
07-07-2012, 10:43 PM
This ^! I've had this happen, and it leaves you with the feeling that your ms is crap, plot is crap, writing is crap, and wasn't even worth that person's time to respond to tell you it's crap. It really does a number on your confidence, makes you second guess yourself and change things that may not need to be changed. Even a "sorry, but it didn't hold my interest" is better than nothing. At least you'd know that they weren't lying dead in a ditch somewhere.

I had someone beg me to read my story once. No response in email, online, anywhere in over a year. If they changed their minds, all they had to do was say so. I was really starting to think something had happened to them when they finally resurfaced online. I sent them a message once just to say hi and check up on them. It took them another year to even response to that.

Another time I switched drafts with a girl who gave me feedback for half, but when she got her feedback from me, she stopped talking to me for three months. Then begged me to read her revision and then wanted to complain about how long it was taking (2 weeks later for an entire MS) when she still hadn't finished critiquing mine.

Another bad experience, English professor told me to send my story along after I asked him if he had the time and he said he did because winter break was coming up. Never heard anything from him about even though I've talked to him many times in general since then. Heard from my sister that he lost what he had printed out and had to reprint it. That was almost 4 years ago.

Another bad experience (aren't I lucky): a writing buddy of a few years sat on it for 8 months and then gave me horrible feedback. Not "this is bad" kind of stuff. She would go on and on about things like, I wrote, "Chloe walked into the room, sat down, and flipped her hair." She would say, "You should say 'Chloe walked into the room, flipped her hair, and sat down'" and then go on for a paragraph about why that was better. Then she would say things like, she didn't know guy x reminded my MC of guy z when it was something I had mentioned only 4 or 5 times because it was important. Then of course when it was her turn to get feedback she wanted it done ASAP and done well even though she clearly didn't half read mine. We broke up a year later.

I finally had a good experience last year. She read it in a timely fashion and then called me a few days after she emailed her feedback so we could talk about why the good things were great and the not so good things were not working. She even brainstormed with me on how I could go about fixing it.

Still worried about trying to get feedback now as she's going through some things and I will need to ask new people. Given my track record, I'm not feeling great about it even though I have 2 seemingly reliable critique partners on hand waiting for me to tell them I'm ready.

And now that live written a book, I'll shut up. ^_^

HLWampler
07-28-2012, 04:40 AM
I'll have to share my bad experience.

I belong to a writers group around here and one of the girls was SUPER eager to read my manuscript. I printed it out and made it all lovely for her. She swore up and down she'd get back to me within 3-4 weeks since classes were out and she had SO much free time.

Yeah, it's been 2 almost 3 months and NOT A SINGLE WORD! She hasn't responded to my emails. Just silence. It's so disappointing.

Luckily, I've found 2 more betas who have been awesome and are giving me GREAT feedback.

Some people are just...BAH!

haunted
03-18-2013, 09:50 PM
I haven't had good luck either to be honest-but people do get busy, and you really need to be aware of helping others in return as well.

Matti_KC
03-25-2013, 11:01 PM
Yikes...these bad experience stories aren't at all that encouraging...I just joined about a month or so ago looking beta advice/swaps, and haven't heard back from my first swapper in a few weeks, even after providing solid feedback on their work. I really hope I hear from them soon, if only to ensure they're still alive and breathing...

As a side note, has anyone tried to reach out to their betas over the forums post-trauma?

Hathor
03-28-2013, 07:59 PM
I'm not sure what you mean by "post-trauma." Would the trauma be reading my work :D

My last beta actually volunteered upon reading my query in SYW. She was so enthusiastic: read the entire book quickly in a couple days, then starting going back and giving me detailed comments, chapter by chapter. We had long email exchanges. It was ever so helpful. And she swore she'd never be one of those betas who suddenly go silent and never respond to emails.

Guess what happened? :Shrug:

ellewest
05-01-2013, 12:31 AM
Ugh, yes. I exchanged manuscripts with someone and gave them a hugely detailed line edit within a couple of days -- They, however, offered no response for over a month and after I wrote asking what happened, they finally got back to me with a paragraph. I was pretty bummed.

I think its a good idea to test people with just one chapter first to see if they're a good fit.

Also, some people write as a hobby and others do it for a living and it is important that you find someone who shares your commitment level to avoid conflict.

Crescendo2020
05-08-2013, 06:00 AM
These comments are so discouraging for a new writer. I'm starting to think that my Dad is my best bet. Clearly other writers do not follow the golden rule.

kkbe
05-08-2013, 06:25 AM
But Crescendo, I'd venture to say the majority of beta experiences are positive, especially if you enter into that relationship knowing what you want and what to expect, having done your homework--taking the time to find a good fit/test the waters--polishing your ms as good as you can. . . iow, if you are knowledgeable and prepared. . . chances are, you'll have a positive beta experience. If you do, it can be invaluable to you. I hope you don't give up on it.

Also, I see you just hit your 50 so you can post some of your work on SYW and get some valuable crits that way. And be sure you crit others' stuff, you learn so much doing that.

Whatever you decide, good luck.

shayla.mist
05-08-2013, 02:48 PM
These comments are so discouraging for a new writer. I'm starting to think that my Dad is my best bet. Clearly other writers do not follow the golden rule.
Crescendo, take a look at the other thread where people praise their betas and you'll see not all of it is bad. it just takes a lot of time until you find the perfect beta/writing buddy for you. A beta reader is like a soulmate. Most of the times, you go through a lot of failed relationships until you find the one.

JRehnay
05-15-2013, 11:40 PM
I have a sad beta experience to share.

I met a rather sardonic, yet friendly woman through a local writer's group. I appreciated her commentary during all the group-share events and she asked to be my Facebook friend after the group disbanded. I didn't really think she was the right fit for beta-ing my story, but my manuscript wasn't in that stage yet, anyway, and I was happy to make a "writer friend".

She sent me her entire manuscript several times over the course of the next year. I read each version promptly and provided her with detailed, constructive feedback. Each time I provided feedback, I was gentle. While her story wasn't my cup of tea, I praised her for the things she did well and suggested--in positive ways--how she could strengthen the things that either confused me or lost my interest.

All in all, I think I gave her more than decent feedback and it seemed as if she appreciated it, considering she kept sending me revisions throughout the year.

She kept thanking me for the attention I gave her work and continued to ask me when mine would be ready for her to return the favor. I was wary, as our genres are quite different, but I felt we had formed a sort of bond after a year of my beta reading for her. So, when I finally finished my second draft, I sent my manuscript her way.

I printed it out and bound it all nice and fancy-like at a FedEx/Kinkos place so she could mark up a physical copy. I gave it to her with a smile and a "thank you" and we spent a few hours together talking about movies and whatnot before I went home.

She sent me a message that night. She hated my novel already...so much so that she felt the need to message me about it ASAP. She wanted to warn me ahead of time that she wasn't sure she'd be able to finish it, as it was too horrible to maintain her attention and she really had better things to do.

I thanked her for...well...starting to read it? I guess? And told her I hoped she'd find that it would grow on her if she kept reading it. I asked her if she wanted me to come pick it up, though, to save her time, and she wrote back with, "No, I will try to finish reading it."

She told me she showed her husband (and who knows who else) and that he hated it as well. I was hurt that she would betray my trust and show another person my writing and asked her if she would try to ensure that didn't happen in the future. Her response? "You should be grateful I would show someone else. You shouldn't be ashamed of your writing. You should show it off." Well, I'm not ashamed of it...I just don't want anyone other than my beta reader to be reading it. Otherwise, I'd throw it up on a blog and let the whole world have at it.

About a week later (and I do credit her for giving me very prompt feedback, at least) I met her at her place to retrieve my manuscript. She had me sit down and then explained to me in gruesome detail how much she hated the way I write and how my story was both boring and stupid. She insisted that, had she rented my book at a library, she would have returned it immediately and after reading only half of the first chapter (out of 30).

I asked her what I could do to improve that first chapter, for example, and she just told me to make it less boring. I wasn't sure what to do with that feedback, as I didn't think my story was boring at all. I asked her to elaborate and she told me that she wasn't sure how I could make it less boring, but perhaps I could consider something more "wild and interesting" like "make it all take place in the 1800s!"

My manuscript is a fantasy, set in a fantasy world.

Over the next hour, she used unbelievably colorful metaphors to describe to me how much she hated my writing. "Your descriptions are like a broken box of Walmart cookies," she said, "All I want is to eat just one piece of Godiva chocolate! Have you ever had Godiva chocolate? It's so much better than a broken Walmart cookie."

I don't know why I stayed. I was trying so hard not to jump up and shout at her for being so rude that I think I started grinding my teeth. I guess maybe it was because my brain was clinging to the fact that this couldn't even be real life. Why on Earth would someone be so mean? She offered nothing constructive and nothing positive, save the single suggestion that I simply scrap it all and start over.

And turn everyone from my fantasy story into a saloon character from the wild west.

After she exhausted all of her insults, I managed to thank her for taking the time to read my manuscript, grabbed my purse, and left. I have always been of the belief that if someone critiques your work, you shouldn't argue with them. They are giving you their opinion and arguing simply shows you aren't willing to accept it...so why did you ask for it in the first place?

Still, I was stung and horrified. I was used to negative feedback. I went to an art school and work in advertising. Clients and students reject(ed) things with blunt dislike all the time. It's normal, and I feel I've gained a pretty thick skin from the experience. This was completely different. Nobody had ever torn into me quite like this before, and over something as subjective as a story! The way she delivered her feedback was, as I said before, nothing short of hateful. She was simply mean about it and wasted both my time and hers, hurting my feelings in the process.

I'd had eight other readers before her and all of them had given me glowing, positive feedback, yet now, because of her one review, I felt like somehow the integrity of every positive review had been called into question.

I didn't write anything for months. I just took a break, I guess, and collected my thoughts. I eventually wrote her a lengthy Facebook message, thanking her again for reading my work but also mentioning how her feedback could have been phrased in a more friendly way. She responded with something rather dismissive, and basically told me it was amusing to her that her feedback had hurt my feelings.

...Then she asked me when I'd be able to provide her with feedback on the latest revision of her manuscript.

Unfortunately, we're no longer in touch. Lol.

kkbe
05-15-2013, 11:52 PM
I have a sad beta experience to share. . .

Oh my. I am so sorry. I want to bitch slap. . .

That beta's response was wrong on multiple levels. You know that. I trust you also know that she is not typical. I hope you found another beta, someone whose critiques are helpful, not hurtful. If nothing else, that person serves as the poster child for how NOT to beta for someone.

You handled yourself with uncommon grace, Rehnay.

railroad
05-16-2013, 12:28 AM
The cruelty bespeaks something else, I'm afraid. Perhaps she is jealous of your work?

JRehnay
05-16-2013, 12:35 AM
Oh my. I am so sorry. I want to bitch slap. . .

That beta's response was wrong on multiple levels. You know that. I trust you also know that she is not typical. I hope you found another beta, someone whose critiques are helpful, not hurtful. If nothing else, that person serves as the poster child for how NOT to beta for someone.

You handled yourself with uncommon grace, Rehnay.

Ah, thanks very much :) It took a while for me to get over it as she was the first "non-family" sort of person I trusted with my work. I wanted to share the story so others knew that while this sort of thing happens, it doesn't have to be the end of the world...and it certainly doesn't mean you should stop writing. I regret that I allowed it to hurt me badly enough that I took a few months off of writing.


The cruelty bespeaks something else I'm afraid. Perhaps she is jealous of your work?

I'd like to (selfishly) think so! :P That is something my husband tried to convince me of after showering me with vodka and threatening to "go over there! I'MMA DO SOMETHING. I DUNNO WHAT, BUT IT'LL BE SOMETHING."

quicklime
05-16-2013, 12:42 AM
The cruelty bespeaks something else, I'm afraid. Perhaps she is jealous of your work?


or just a twat, or someone convinced pretentious cutting of others is the best way to establish their own credibility....

it doesn't matter; I'm nobody's idea of nice, and I've never considered going anywhere even within the same zipcode as that crit.

It can be hard, but in addition to weighing the relative merit of variosu crits, you also have to learn who's just plain full of shit.

JRehnay
05-16-2013, 01:02 AM
...you also have to learn who's just plain full of shit.

I have certainly learned a lot from the experience ;)! Negative crits are fine, great even, but when you present them in such a way that the recipient can only imagine you are trying to outdo yourself with each comment, it might be time to review one's reason for beta reading in the first place.

G. Applejack
05-16-2013, 02:27 AM
Your story made me feel for you. What a terrible experience to have to go through. Sometimes...people without a lot self-esteem bring other people low to make themselves feel better. This isn't necessarily a conscious decision. She may not realize how cruel and unfair she has been. Still, you are the one suffering.

Tell you what, I'm not writing fantasy right now but I'm a big fan of the genre. If you're still in need of a reader, I'd be happy to take a look at the first 3 chapters. (Then we could go from there depending on time and if you like my beta-style, ect.)

PM me if you're up for it, but no pressure. I understand if you need to take some time to recover after that crit.

Oldbrasscat
05-16-2013, 03:54 AM
I can tell you that the lady above is an excellent beta reader. You've done three now for me, I think? Four if you count the first half of Knight. You can trust her.

Kevin Nelson
05-16-2013, 03:51 PM
She told me she showed her husband (and who knows who else) and that he hated it as well. I was hurt that she would betray my trust and show another person my writing and asked her if she would try to ensure that didn't happen in the future. Her response? "You should be grateful I would show someone else. You shouldn't be ashamed of your writing. You should show it off." Well, I'm not ashamed of it...I just don't want anyone other than my beta reader to be reading it. Otherwise, I'd throw it up on a blog and let the whole world have at it.

I agree that her behavior was way out of line, but I have to wonder about the above point. Of course, it's implicit in beta reading that your reader shouldn't share your manuscript with the whole world--that goes without saying. Does it also go without saying that even her own spouse shouldn't see it?

If someone specifically requested that I show their manuscript to no one else, I would certainly respect their wishes. But otherwise, one other person might get to see at least a few pages.

Am I thinking about this the wrong way? What's the etiquette here?

JRehnay
05-16-2013, 08:20 PM
PM me if you're up for it, but no pressure. I understand if you need to take some time to recover after that crit.

That is amazingly sweet of you. Thank you very much for the offer. I would be thrilled to take you up on that sometime in the future. I was lucky enough to receive some more helpful feedback from some other readers a few months after that incident with the "Bad Beta" and that particular piece is set to be (self) published quite soon.


I can tell you that the lady above is an excellent beta reader. You've done three now for me, I think? Four if you count the first half of Knight. You can trust her.

Thank you :) That is quite an endorsement!


I agree that her behavior was way out of line, but I have to wonder about the above point. Of course, it's implicit in beta reading that your reader shouldn't share your manuscript with the whole world--that goes without saying. Does it also go without saying that even her own spouse shouldn't see it?

If someone specifically requested that I show their manuscript to no one else, I would certainly respect their wishes. But otherwise, one other person might get to see at least a few pages.

Am I thinking about this the wrong way? What's the etiquette here?

You know, that's really a good question. Maybe I was too sensitive about that. I feel like maybe this is a case-by-case issue? For me it might not be okay, but for others it might be perfectly fine. I probably should have told her that stipulation beforehand instead of simply assuming she'd never tell anyone.

DancingMaenid
05-17-2013, 04:49 AM
I've been pretty lucky with betas, though I've had a couple who didn't really give me any feedback beside correcting a couple typos I'd missed, which was a bit disappointing.

But not too long ago, someone agreed to beta for me once and then never followed through. It was a long-ish short story. I sent it to her and she promised to give me some feedback soon. Then a few weeks went by. I finally asked for an update, and I tried to give her an out in case she couldn't do it anymore. She promised she'd get to it within a few days.

Then about a month went by. I'd pretty much assumed that the betaing wasn't going to happen. Eventually, she apologized for not getting back to me and said she was going to send me some notes that weekend. She sounded genuinely apologetic, and I downplayed the situation a lot, telling her it was no big deal. I'm not sure if that was a mistake on my part or not, but I wanted to be nice. Throughout all of this, I really tried to stress that I understood if she didn't have the time. But she swore she wanted to do it, and I didn't want to tell her no.

She never did the beta job and never brought it up again, even though we occasionally interact on another website. The story is long-finished now. It's kind of awkward for me, because it's been so long now that saying "Oh, by the way, don't worry about that story I sent you six months ago" doesn't seem quite appropriate. But it's a weird thing to not have resolved, especially since this is someone I "see" occasionally online.

I don't blame her for not doing it--I assume real life got the best of her, and I wouldn't have minded if she'd told me that there'd been a change in her availability. But I would have preferred that over having her keep promising to get to it "this weekend." I didn't want to be pushy, but I wanted some resolution.

If it happens to me in the future, maybe I'll be firmer about cutting off the beta relationship if it reaches a certain point. I didn't want to do that because I didn't want to be confrontational or make her feel bad, but maybe it would have been best.

I've been pretty lucky when it comes to people I've betaed for, too. Everyone I've worked with has been pretty gracious.

Velcro
05-18-2013, 01:50 AM
I think I can safely say I had a pretty bad beta experience from two different beta readers. Basically, we had agreed to beta swap. After testing out a couple chapters each, we made the swap. I read and sent back notes for both writers. Didn't hear a peep from either for a couple weeks. Reached out again to see if they had any questions or comments regarding my notes on their stories, and I haven't heard anything for almost two months. I'm assuming I will never hear back from them (or that my story was so awful that they couldn't read it past the first couple chapters).

I also had a similar experience a year ago, but at least we only swapped a couple chapters before I never heard anything back.

Regardless, I keep writing and I've since found a way to get my stuff read and get valuable feedback (and return the favor too). So, my story has a happy ending! Just wanted to share my tale.

railroad
05-28-2013, 07:26 PM
As bad as a beta experience can be online, its much worse in real life. There's a couple people I know in writing circles who have offered to read my book and I gave it to them and never heard a peep from them, yet I continue to see them. I can only assume they didn't like it and couldn't finish it. Pretty awkward, I would say :D

jeracoo
06-23-2013, 04:46 AM
Beta online is great, you get feedback and usually it's free, then you can delete and rewrite your work before submitting for publishing. I've given my work out to quite a few irl people and they rarely seem to comment on anything, pretty useless.

Tromboli
07-28-2013, 06:26 PM
I've had a few no responding Betas, no big deal. But I just had an interesting experience and I'm curious if anyone has had a similar one.

I suggested a MS swap with someone I met in an online contest. I liked the sound of their novel and seemed like our styles matched.

We swapped and I just got a response back. He won't read further until I "clean it up". Now, this is a novel that is in the hands of agents. I've had requests so clearly it's not a mess. The kind of "clean up" he means is losing ly and filter words. He doesn't want to have to suggest the same changes throughout the MS (he did two chapters).

My opinion on this is-- when you beta a MS it's NEVER going to be perfect (that's kind of the point) Some of his comments are helpful and very well may up my request rate. But do you think it's as ridiculous as I do that he doesn't want to read further because of it? (He likes the story and the voice and suggested I sent a chapter at a time with edits.)

I still feel the need to read his novel because I initiated the swap but I'm not planning on sending him any more of my work. (While some of his comments are good, a lot of them take away from the voice and I completely disagree. I use his comments he sent and edit the rest, looking for those words, but I'm not sending chapter by chapter like he said.)

It's like a beta reader rejection!

Would you/have you ever done this to someone? If so what were the reasons?

railroad
07-28-2013, 06:37 PM
Wow. I think that's kind of arrogant on his part. I'm not sure if I'd continue with that at all.

Tromboli
07-28-2013, 07:42 PM
Wow. I think that's kind of arrogant on his part.

I kinda feel that way too. I mean, I'm sure he means well, and I can understand someone doing this if the novel was really rough (and I've sent out some rough MSs, though in that case the reader knew it was an early draft. She just ignored line by line stuff and gave me over all feedback, no big deal) but I really can't imagine saying "I won't read this until you lose those adverbs".

M.T.Logue
07-28-2013, 09:23 PM
Whenever I come across a recurring mistake or problem when I'm beta-reading, like how this guy sees filtering and ly words I just leave it with a note saying "I'm not going to point this out every time it happens, but it happens pretty much throughout the text and it's up to you to find it, figure out what you can edit and what deserves to stay." It would take me too much time to harp on about every single minor issue.

Tromboli
07-28-2013, 10:54 PM
Whenever I come across a recurring mistake or problem when I'm beta-reading, like how this guy sees filtering and ly words I just leave it with a note saying "I'm not going to point this out every time it happens, but it happens pretty much throughout the text and it's up to you to find it, figure out what you can edit and what deserves to stay." It would take me too much time to harp on about every single minor issue.

And that would be fine with me.

Chase
07-29-2013, 02:50 AM
Would you/have you ever done this to someone? If so what were the reasons?

Changing the question slightly to have you ever experienced this?

Yep, because beta readers, like readers outside our target audiences aren't always a fit. Because some beta readers want us to write their way or the highway.:flamethrower

All responses are helpful, but -- just me -- I find the most effective helps from exchange partners more in my target audience. :)

frankiebrown
07-29-2013, 05:07 AM
Would you/have you ever done this to someone? If so what were the reasons?

I've done this before. I wasn't mean or rude about it; I just didn't want to dedicate a lot of time to a manuscript that I felt wasn't ready to be beta read.

mccardey
07-29-2013, 05:57 AM
I kinda feel that way too. I mean, I'm sure he means well, and I can understand someone doing this if the novel was really rough (and I've sent out some rough MSs, though in that case the reader knew it was an early draft. She just ignored line by line stuff and gave me over all feedback, no big deal) but I really can't imagine saying "I won't read this until you lose those adverbs".

Honestly, I'd get back to him about it. It's quite likely he didn't mean it to be as harsh as it sounded, and if his notes on balance are good, then you're kind of throwing the baby out with the bathwater. How about you just send a note saying that you've found his comments really good except for <whatever it was>, and that you'd love him to continue on, but want him to know that you won't be changing <whatever it was> just yet, if at all. And will he continue reading anyway, because you value his other input?

The beta relationship isn't supposed to be "Do it like this or I'm dumping you." If he's a good beta (as you say) he'll know this. Likely he just missed the right tone in his email.

If he was letting you down gently, and relly thinks it's not beta-ready, he'll use this moment to tell you so. If he wasn't, he'll probably be happy to read and comment further.

J.S. Clark
08-02-2013, 10:23 PM
We swapped and I just got a response back. He won't read further until I "clean it up". Now, this is a novel that is in the hands of agents. I've had requests so clearly it's not a mess. The kind of "clean up" he means is losing ly and filter words. He doesn't want to have to suggest the same changes throughout the MS (he did two chapters)...(He likes the story and the voice and suggested I sent a chapter at a time with edits.) ...
Would you/have you ever done this to someone? If so what were the reasons?

I can't speak for this particular beta, but depending on the mistake I do think it can be reasonable.

If it's an issue that you both agree is a mistake, then leaving it just forces the beta to keep ignoring something that they think is a problem. It's like telling a mechanic to ignore that annoying thunking sound coming from the engine and telling him to find other problems.

For myself (having been there) it got annoying seeing the same thing and it started to color everything else. One clunky word showing up repetitively feels repetitive so the story feels repetitive, so it could be exciting but that little noise keeps telling him its boring. It simply takes more effort and any effort spent on ignoring a problem, is effort not spend finding a new improvement.

Second is for your benefit. When I correct a mistake (that I agree about) in what they critiqued and then repeat, the exercise embeds it.

So my current Betas and I, share a couple chapters at a time and it seems to work well that way. They get to see the improvements from their suggestions in the future batches and we aren't telling each other the same things over and over.

Karen Junker
08-03-2013, 04:25 AM
I don't mean to be a jerk, but...what is the reason for having a beta read a mss if *it's already in the hands of agents*?

Nothing irritates me more than finding out I'm reading a mss that has already been sold, is under consideration by the writer's top tier agents or in some other way is already beyond my ability to help.

limichelle31
08-03-2013, 06:08 AM
That's great you have it in the agents hand. I think at this point you should disregard his comment. I mean you have the Manuscript already in consideration.
Has he been a beta reader for long before the agents? I agree he was putting boundaries up. I would just talk with him like others suggested. At the end of the day, it always comes down to you. :)
Lisa

Cranky1
08-03-2013, 06:48 AM
I don't mean to be a jerk, but...what is the reason for having a beta read a mss if *it's already in the hands of agents*?

Nothing irritates me more than finding out I'm reading a mss that has already been sold, is under consideration by the writer's top tier agents or in some other way is already beyond my ability to help.

I hadn't thought of this until you mentioned it.

eqb
08-03-2013, 05:15 PM
I don't mean to be a jerk, but...what is the reason for having a beta read a mss if *it's already in the hands of agents*?

Nothing irritates me more than finding out I'm reading a mss that has already been sold, is under consideration by the writer's top tier agents or in some other way is already beyond my ability to help.

I see your point about mss. that are already under submission to agents or editors, but I have asked for a beta read on manuscripts that are already sold and going through editorial comments. I know other writers who do the same thing. Of course I let my readers know what the situation is.

Tromboli
08-05-2013, 12:08 AM
I don't mean to be a jerk, but...what is the reason for having a beta read a mss if *it's already in the hands of agents*?

Nothing irritates me more than finding out I'm reading a mss that has already been sold, is under consideration by the writer's top tier agents or in some other way is already beyond my ability to help.


My thoughts:

1. Any MS can be improved, even if the author already has an agent. Another set of eyes is always helpful.
2. An agent reading the full doesn't mean the agent will accept it. And if they don't they very well could need more edits.
3. I asked if he needed a beta because I thought his story sounded interesting. He offered to read mine in return.

I've had three betas who, during or just after, I read their MS they signed with either an agent or an editor. I don't mind. Some of the times I feel like "I helped them get an agent!" One of them, I did feel a little pointless (because I know she had it submitted before I read it) but really I just wanted to read their novel so I didn't mind. I was named in their announcement blog post and that was plenty enough for me.


As for my predicament mentioned- I read about the same as he did and realized we weren't a good fit. Sent him notes with a message saying I think we're better off parting ways.

mccardey
08-05-2013, 02:52 AM
My thoughts:

1. Any MS can be improved, even if the author already has an agent. Another set of eyes is always helpful.
2. An agent reading the full doesn't mean the agent will accept it. And if they don't they very well could need more edits.

If I'm reading this correctly and you mean that it's a good idea to keep working on the ms while you're subbing, I'm going to disagree. I would think it's irritating beyond belief for an agent to be reading (and so investing their time) in one ms, and then be given the good news that "Hey, I changed it!".

The other thing is that the temptation will be to send updates to the considering agent. I'm not an agent, but I've done some script assessing and there is nothing that puts me off more than a series of emails that say "<TITLE> UPDATE!" Really - nothing. It's such an insult.

Get the work as finished as you think it can ever be, beta (if betas work for you) make the changes you want and polish again and then send it out would be my advice.

Tromboli
08-06-2013, 08:22 PM
You send manuscript out when you think its ready. But that doesn't mean its perfect. There are a lot of ways to find out something needs improving while querying. Ideally? Sure its perfect, but realistically?

I'm not saying I was still revising while my novel was out, I'm saying I found someone with a similar enough work that I thought we could help each other, now or in the future. He wanted to read my current ms and pointed out a few things I hadn't noticed before. I'm not sending anything back out to agents saying its revised or updated (unless it was a big revsion that I knew would completely change some things) but even if I did, I've heard a lot of agents say they don't mind sending them a revision because they want to see your best work. If you found a way to make it better? Great. I'm sure sometimes it's an inconvience depending on when the "update" is sent but if they haven't read it yet, in my (second hand) experience they're fine with it.

(This was from my phone so my apologies for any typos)

Karen Junker
08-06-2013, 09:00 PM
When do you quit futzing with the manuscript? Do you keep making changes throughout the editing process and then even after you get your final draft? That doesn't work for some publishers.

>compass<
09-03-2013, 01:29 AM
I just today had a bit of a setback with a Beta: I emailed him the first half of my MS earlier this summer (I only recently finished a major overhaul, doing a significant amount of pruning) and hadn't heard back in a while. I emailed him asking if he was ready for the second half since it's now done and he sheepishly told me he hadn't really started what I'd already given him because he's been too busy.

I'm frustrated but not angry. I know it's summer and people have things going on, and he's a busy guy so it was a bit of a risk going in. Still, though, I'm a little disheartened by it.

Karen Junker
09-11-2013, 11:17 PM
I find there is nothing quite so forlorn as a beta who keeps checking her email inbox for the Thank You email that never comes.

Especially since the writer approached ME in the first place and was so eager to have me beta her work since I am so thorough. Sigh.

railroad
09-12-2013, 12:57 AM
Sorry Karen. Are you looking for a new beta relationship?:)

Karen Junker
09-12-2013, 01:05 AM
Hi, Railroad --

I have a few great writing buddies right now and would be willing to work with more.

I'm looking for more of a writing buddy for me, though I am willing to critique or beta for others. PM me your email address if you are interested in talking more -- though I'll be out of town for the next two weeks, so I may not answer you right away.

Renée A. Price
09-14-2013, 06:55 AM
Sad to read about the things that happened to people here. Some of them made me question people's intention when they offer to beta.

I had luck with most of my betas, except for one that seems to think profesionalism isn't something to consider. Just saw this person talk about problems she thought my MS had. And here I was thiking those should be kept between us. Nice! It makes me insecure about sharing my work again.

mamiller512
11-16-2013, 08:35 AM
I have had several wonderful Beta experiences. Wonderful ladies that I swapped chapters with who offered advice/critiques for me and were thankful for my help/comments on their work. My writing has improved by working with them.

I had a bad experience I want to share but it was as a Beta. I had a writer that I found through another site that traded with me a chapter at a time. She continually assured me that she would implement the grammatical and other simple changes when she could so I continually had to note the same type of mistakes, hoping against hope that I would reach a chapter where she had stopped making that same error. I know. I should have kicked back the first chapter where I saw the errors continuing but again it was on trade and she was editing my work.

About half the way through, I noticed all the conflict in her story happened to the buddy and not the MC. I explained my point and encouraged her to add more conflict. She thanked me and went to do a re-write. Months later, she then forwarded her MS and asked for my thoughts. Again, I took the time to read the whole thing (250+ pages), only to find that other than some (not all) of the grammatical errors, she implemented only one very minor change and left everything else as is. Now I don't expect a CP to take every suggestion, every writer has their own vision but I felt I had pointed out a bit of a misstep, and that it was something that would improve her story. So, maybe she disagreed but what about all the comments where I couldn't tell who was talking because of a lack of action tags and dialogue tags? These things were the same, too!

My point is that my time is precious, and if I'm doing Beta reading, I'm not writing. If you aren't interested in my perspective, then send me on my way. I can read for someone else. Why would you ask me to continue to read your stuff, not implement any real suggestions, and then expect me to read it again and comment? If you are not interested in a different set of eyes to review your MS, don't keep asking, hoping for a different result. Isn't that the definition of insanity?

The oddest part was she thanked me in her acknowledgments but not as a Beta (apparently she had others) but as someone who helped her along this journey? When she asked me to comment, I tried to beg off and say a generic "I like the changes you made and congrats on finishing" but she came back and asked if I had any further comments. Any suggestions?

buz
11-16-2013, 05:52 PM
The oddest part was she thanked me in her acknowledgments but not as a Beta (apparently she had others) but as someone who helped her along this journey? When she asked me to comment, I tried to beg off and say a generic "I like the changes you made and congrats on finishing" but she came back and asked if I had any further comments. Any suggestions?

Perhaps you could say something like "I think my usefulness as a beta has run its course for this work. I don't have much to say about this that I didn't say the first time around, and we can certainly discuss those things further if you want to, but otherwise it may be time to find fresh eyes for the manuscript--I don't feel that I have anything new to contribute." ...something sorta like that. ;)

mamiller512
11-16-2013, 06:11 PM
Thank you! That is very helpful. :D

lise8
11-27-2013, 01:23 AM
I have had several wonderful Beta experiences. Wonderful ladies that I swapped chapters with who offered advice/critiques for me and were thankful for my help/comments on their work. My writing has improved by working with them.

I had a bad experience I want to share but it was as a Beta. I had a writer that I found through another site that traded with me a chapter at a time. She continually assured me that she would implement the grammatical and other simple changes when she could so I continually had to note the same type of mistakes, hoping against hope that I would reach a chapter where she had stopped making that same error. I know. I should have kicked back the first chapter where I saw the errors continuing but again it was on trade and she was editing my work.

About half the way through, I noticed all the conflict in her story happened to the buddy and not the MC. I explained my point and encouraged her to add more conflict. She thanked me and went to do a re-write. Months later, she then forwarded her MS and asked for my thoughts. Again, I took the time to read the whole thing (250+ pages), only to find that other than some (not all) of the grammatical errors, she implemented only one very minor change and left everything else as is. Now I don't expect a CP to take every suggestion, every writer has their own vision but I felt I had pointed out a bit of a misstep, and that it was something that would improve her story. So, maybe she disagreed but what about all the comments where I couldn't tell who was talking because of a lack of action tags and dialogue tags? These things were the same, too!

My point is that my time is precious, and if I'm doing Beta reading, I'm not writing. If you aren't interested in my perspective, then send me on my way. I can read for someone else. Why would you ask me to continue to read your stuff, not implement any real suggestions, and then expect me to read it again and comment? If you are not interested in a different set of eyes to review your MS, don't keep asking, hoping for a different result. Isn't that the definition of insanity?

The oddest part was she thanked me in her acknowledgments but not as a Beta (apparently she had others) but as someone who helped her along this journey? When she asked me to comment, I tried to beg off and say a generic "I like the changes you made and congrats on finishing" but she came back and asked if I had any further comments. Any suggestions?

you sound like an amazing and caring beta reader... Do not let this hinder you from beta reading again! In the end, it is up to the author to take on your advice or not, but I find it hard to understand how this particular author can have the guts to ask you to beta read a second time when she has not applied any of your advice! I agree with the other person's comment, it might be time to severe the link with that author! Good luck on your next beta work...

DAMac
01-19-2014, 07:51 AM
Does it work best to swap beta reads?

mamiller512
01-19-2014, 08:32 AM
Does it work best to swap beta reads?

I find that the process is more advantageous for both parties if it's a swap. The expectations and timelines are clearer when there is an exchange. There is also less resentment, IMO, them with a single sided agreement.

Viridian
07-24-2014, 10:10 PM
I had a beta'ing experience I still feel bad about.

I had a first page posted on Dear Author a while back... three people offered to reader further and give me some advice. Which was really exciting, but I was shy and didn't have much to show at the moment, so I kept quiet.

Then a while later, a different first page of mine was posted. Two more offers! I was flattered, but still quite shy. Ended up giving my e-mail address, and those two wonderful people helped me figure out where exactly to start my story and how to continue.

Both were helpful, and I was grateful. One didn't seem interested in continuing (busy with her own work, I think). The other agreed to read on, but around the same time I went through a job change and a big move and ended up just... not checking my e-mail for a few weeks. By then, I was too embarrassed to ask for her help again.

Sigh! I could be a good writer. Alas, I am a flake who squanders her opportunities. :/

CathleenT
08-10-2014, 03:03 AM
These are my thoughts on beta readers/critique partners.

I've worked so far with six who aren't also family members, and we reciprocated. It's a bit of a mixed bag.

I always try to give encouragement in the email I send back with the reviewed Word document, since most of what happens while I'm critiquing is essentially negative. I notice when I'm knocked out of the story.

It hurts to get criticism, because we all want to think everyone is going to love our work and think it's their new very favorite story. But that's not realistic.

If I send you my work, and it has obvious flaws and you don't tell me, you have just wasted time for both of us. You have raised my expectations when I should have been working hard to improve my manuscript. It's not kind; it just looks that way.

When I have a story in front of me, it's completely dispassionate. I make remarks with the sole idea of improving the story. That's all. And it's just as a reader; I make no pretense of being involved with agencies or publishers. Feel free to agree or disagree, because it's your story. But if I reach a point that if I were reading this as a book I'd picked up, and you (for instance) ruin my respect for the main character so much that I would put the book down and never pick it up again, you should know this. I simply might not be your intended audience, and that's fine. But I feel I owe it to anyone I'm beta reading for to let them know things like this. And I want to know them, too, even though hearing it isn't pleasant.

I used to spend a lot of time explaining, but I've found that many people don't really want to process anything beyond the fact that I don't think their book is ready to be the next bestseller. One post on this thread had a gal mention that she would like to be told why. So I would encourage you to ask your beta reader. They're probably willing to explain themselves at some length; I know I am. But there's no point in putting in the extra effort unless you know it will be appreciated.

Hope you're all having decent beta experiences to go with your less-than-wonderful ones. I figure if I get enough honest feedback, even I can get this right.

Dennis E. Taylor
08-10-2014, 10:40 AM
I recently went through the thread of people offering to be beta readers. What surprised me a little was that most of the ones I PM'd didn't reply at all (but hadn't removed themselves from the list). Of the two that responded, one was willing to do a couple of chapters at a time, and the feedback was kind of general. The other took the whole novel, and gave me back a crit that just blew me away. I did not expect that level of effort, and frankly I'm feeling a little intimidated about ever doing a beta myself.

The beta crit itself didn't have any huge surprises -- I kind of suspected my issues -- but there were enough specific examples provided to allow me to get my teeth into it.

I guess my advice would be, if you don't get a good beta, try again. There are good people out there.

Eris0303
08-13-2014, 04:58 PM
I gave my manuscript to five people - only three have finished it. One begged off because it was too much work and another has had the manuscript since May and is only on page 20.

khosszu
08-20-2014, 07:27 PM
I recently went through the thread of people offering to be beta readers. What surprised me a little was that most of the ones I PM'd didn't reply at all (but hadn't removed themselves from the list). Of the two that responded, one was willing to do a couple of chapters at a time, and the feedback was kind of general. The other took the whole novel, and gave me back a crit that just blew me away. I did not expect that level of effort, and frankly I'm feeling a little intimidated about ever doing a beta myself.

The beta crit itself didn't have any huge surprises -- I kind of suspected my issues -- but there were enough specific examples provided to allow me to get my teeth into it.

I guess my advice would be, if you don't get a good beta, try again. There are good people out there.
I had a similar experience - contacted a few betas that just RECENTLY posted on the thread, and not one of them got back to me. Frustrating!

Your experience with the beta that gave you the in-depth critique sounds great though, and I'll keep searching in the hopes of finding someone willing AND able :)

Moonchild
09-16-2014, 12:06 AM
I just today had a bit of a setback with a Beta: I emailed him the first half of my MS earlier this summer (I only recently finished a major overhaul, doing a significant amount of pruning) and hadn't heard back in a while. I emailed him asking if he was ready for the second half since it's now done and he sheepishly told me he hadn't really started what I'd already given him because he's been too busy.

I'm frustrated but not angry. I know it's summer and people have things going on, and he's a busy guy so it was a bit of a risk going in. Still, though, I'm a little disheartened by it.

I wouldn't take it personally, compass. :Hug2: At least he replied and told you he hadn't had a chance to start, right? I'm having a similar experience right now--and it's with someone I already had an established relationship with! They agreed to beta, but I haven't even heard a peep from them since I sent the MS a few weeks ago. However, I happen to know this person is going through a tough time in life right now, so I'm not taking anything personally and I'm giving them all the time/space they need. :) Heck, if they just emailed me and told me they'd have to regretfully bow out because of all the crap going on in their life right now, I'd totally get it. (I am a little sad that they haven't even checked in, because I was kinda looking forward to their particular critique. :Shrug: But sh*t happens.)

Mind you, my opinion/attitude is probably informed by the fact that I myself am a ridiculously slow beta! :D I like to be thorough and I type out an actual document with my comments, so this can take up a lot of time. Plus, life is busy and I've got my own writing to work on. So I try to think my own betas are likely to be the same way: Busy, multitasking creative types with lots of stuff going on in their lives.

rsrdiall
10-03-2014, 08:12 AM
I don't know how I found this thread but this has been really helpful and is validating my decision to come here. I had an awful beta experience. One read one chapter and never got back. The other read a couple of chapters and went the other extreme. I really wish they would just come out and say, "This is crap." I spent three months trying to get people to read something that was garbage and frankly a waste of all of our time. It pushed me to get to re-writing and I'm much happier with what I've produced. That old story makes me cringe now and I feel bad about it but I honestly didn't know any better.

This time around I'm going to tell a beta to just state it up front. I hope to improve because of it. Thanks to everyone for sharing their experiences. It's encouraging.

haunted
10-03-2014, 08:31 AM
I submitted a dark horror story to an anthology and the story upset a beta reader so bad, she quit. Ha Ha, I think I like that? I hope she had nightmares. Unless a story gives me nightmares, it's not scary enough.

WriteMinded
10-03-2014, 06:35 PM
I submitted a dark horror story to an anthology and the story upset a beta reader so bad, she quit. Ha Ha, I think I like that? I hope she had nightmares. Unless a story gives me nightmares, it's not scary enough.Haha. Ya musta done good!:D

haunted
10-03-2014, 08:58 PM
Apparently! I like my horror scary...I mean, what scares me the most is what I write about. Guess it's just a little too much for some.

M.S. Wiggins
10-18-2014, 02:29 AM
"Mind the gap."

...that's all.;)

Thomas Vail
11-03-2014, 02:28 AM
I guess my advice would be, if you don't get a good beta, try again. There are good people out there.
Given the topic, I'm a little surprised that more people haven't weight in about their experiences flaking out as beta readers (maybe I just have an unusual lack of shame :tongue). There have been times when, I must regretfully admit, that I've gone silent after getting a work. Even ones I'm really looking forward to reading, there have been times where I've gotten to the end of the day and realized, 'crap! Haven't started to read X's ms. Okay, I'll do it tomorrow.' And then two weeks go by and I realize I haven't thought about reading it at all. Then X sends me an e-mail to ask about how it's going, and I promise myself that I'll start to read it right away so I can send back a positive answer, and the cycle repeats itself.

So when a beta reader goes silent and takes forever to get back to you, it's not that they don't like, or have any issues with your writing, it's just that they're kind of a putz. :D

chompers
11-03-2014, 03:06 AM
I had a terrible critique partner, who is actually from this site. He just suddenly stopped responding at all, but I know he was alive because I kept seeing him posting elsewhere. I told him if he didn't want to continue, just let me know, but he was still too cowardly to say anything. Tried following up with him numerous times. It wasn't until I straight up called him out on it that he came back with excuses on how busy he was. Seriously, not even to have the decency to at least respond that he couldn't make it? It was three weeks and multiple messages. What a liar. Completely burned his bridges, and I don't get mad easily.

chompers
11-03-2014, 03:20 AM
I guess my advice would be, if you don't get a good beta, try again. There are good people out there. Yes, there are.

Despite my terrible experience with the critique partner I mentioned above, I did find a good critique partner (also from this site), although it's for a different genre. She's honest and open with me. And there's been times where she's forgotten about a meeting (so have I), but she apologizes for it and doesn't try to hide the fact.

And for my writing, she's reliable in that if she says she'll do it, it'll get done. Unless it turns out to be something she normally wouldn't read, then she'll tell me. But at least she gave it a try and let me know it's not her cup of tea.

chompers
11-03-2014, 03:25 AM
I had a beta'ing experience I still feel bad about.

I had a first page posted on Dear Author a while back... three people offered to reader further and give me some advice. Which was really exciting, but I was shy and didn't have much to show at the moment, so I kept quiet.

Then a while later, a different first page of mine was posted. Two more offers! I was flattered, but still quite shy. Ended up giving my e-mail address, and those two wonderful people helped me figure out where exactly to start my story and how to continue.

Both were helpful, and I was grateful. One didn't seem interested in continuing (busy with her own work, I think). The other agreed to read on, but around the same time I went through a job change and a big move and ended up just... not checking my e-mail for a few weeks. By then, I was too embarrassed to ask for her help again.

Sigh! I could be a good writer. Alas, I am a flake who squanders her opportunities. :/You could still try to contact them, even after a long period of time. I once had someone beta something for me, and she did a GREAT job and had it back to me I think the next day. I know it was a really fast turnaround. And then holidays came around and I didn't have time to work on that story anymore. Something like half a year passed by before I had a chance to get back to it. I emailed her again, telling her that it'd been a while since I'd worked on it and that I was ready to work on it again and would she be interested in looking at the rest of what I had (I'd only given her the first chapter the first time around)? And she was enthusiastic about helping again and provided yet again some great feedback. And it was another fast turnaround again - less than 24 hours for 30k words of my still-in-progress story.

So you never know... :)

Tepelus
11-03-2014, 04:59 AM
I had a terrible critique partner, who is actually from this site. He just suddenly stopped responding at all, but I know he was alive because I kept seeing him posting elsewhere. I told him if he didn't want to continue, just let me know, but he was still too cowardly to say anything. Tried following up with him numerous times. It wasn't until I straight up called him out on it that he came back with excuses on how busy he was. Seriously, not even to have the decency to at least respond that he couldn't make it? It was three weeks and multiple messages. What a liar. Completely burned his bridges, and I don't get mad easily.

Had one from here just as you described. After a while I decided he wasn't worth the effort to contact with. Never got a thank you for the crit I did on the partial he sent me of his piece, though he did crit the partial I sent him. But after that, he stopped responding to my messages and like you, I saw that he was posting on the forum.

mccardey
11-03-2014, 05:08 AM
I know the OP is about beta reads that didn't go as planned, but just to balance things out, I've really enjoyed the process. I've done a few reads and loved them, and I had someone very kindly offer to look at my first few chapters when I was moaning about them recently, and received valuable and very insightful feedback.

So, there's that.

Guess I just don't want people to be put off by only focussing on the negative.


ETA: Oh - I did have one negative beta-experience in an early read I did, where I got smacked for being critical. No idea what that was about - miscommunication, I expect. Anyway, I survived and lived to beta another day :)

JackieS
11-06-2014, 02:49 AM
Oh, man, I am going through the same thing. I sent out my book to a bunch of people and not one of them has given me any feedback. I would welcome anything, even just an "I'm sorry I didn't get to this and I don't think I ever will." If it's bad, tell me so I can fix it. I am going through such a self loathing writer phase right now.

Punk28
02-20-2015, 08:39 AM
I started out with having my former teachers (as in English and Creative Writing teachers) as my beta readers. They helped me along from The Unknown Sibling to The Door in the Mist then they all decided to drop out right after I had completed the first four chapters of The Shadowed One. I struggled in getting The Shadowed One completed, I went through 2 friends who said that they'd love to beta read what I was writing (both said that they couldn't because either a) they had no time to read what I was sending them or b) my chapters were too long). The Shadowed One was a hard story to write, I did most of the beta reading myself (it was a hairy job, to tell you the truth. I did and still do like what I wrote in that story, just didn't like having to put further chapters on hold to self-beta what I had previously written).

I have no beta reader for my current WIP, I'm honestly looking for one

WriteMinded
02-20-2015, 06:05 PM
I started out with having my former teachers (as in English and Creative Writing teachers) as my beta readers. They helped me along from The Unknown Sibling to The Door in the Mist then they all decided to drop out right after I had completed the first four chapters of The Shadowed One. I struggled in getting The Shadowed One completed, I went through 2 friends who said that they'd love to beta read what I was writing (both said that they couldn't because either a) they had no time to read what I was sending them or b) my chapters were too long). The Shadowed One was a hard story to write, I did most of the beta reading myself (it was a hairy job, to tell you the truth. I did and still do like what I wrote in that story, just didn't like having to put further chapters on hold to self-beta what I had previously written).

I have no beta reader for my current WIP, I'm honestly looking for one

Yes, beta reading is a hairy job. That is why most critters do not want to dig through one raw chapter at a time. I am not sure of the terminology, but maybe you are looking for an alpha reader, or a couple of writing buddies, or a mentor? Most people here — someone correct me if I am wrong — consider beta reading as reading and critiquing a completed manuscript, one that has been edited, polished, and spit-shined by the author.

If I stopped after every chapter to await a critique before moving on, I'd never finish anything. I have a hard enough time getting to The End as it is.

Maggie Maxwell
02-20-2015, 07:24 PM
Had one from here just as you described. After a while I decided he wasn't worth the effort to contact with. Never got a thank you for the crit I did on the partial he sent me of his piece, though he did crit the partial I sent him. But after that, he stopped responding to my messages and like you, I saw that he was posting on the forum.

Sounds kinda like my experience. He asked me to beta his work because he thought I'd like it, and I agreed even though we'd never talked before. Someone wanted my opinion and I was flattered. A few "have you started?" emails later, I finally had the free time to work. It ended up being a very rough draft. I did what I could and sent my notes on the first chapter back saying "It needs more work before I can continue, but I do want to continue. We can even do a chapter at a time if you want to clean and send it to me as you go."

Never heard another thing. No "thank you," no "could you do more now?" Not even a "Shut up, you're wrong, never contact me again." Meanwhile, he was still posting around here. Really soured the betaing experience for people I don't know well.

Dennis E. Taylor
02-20-2015, 07:44 PM
I agree with your definition of beta reading. A beta reader shouldn't have to do a LBL, fixing basic grammar mistakes, punctuation, etc. Some will do it, but if there's too much of it, it becomes exhausting.

Regarding chapter critting, I'm on Critique Corner, and I swear by that site. Some people swear at the site :) . YMMV. I didn't put my full MS through the site (some people do), but I posted enough of it to get a feel for the mistakes that I frequently make. Then I went through the whole MS and killed those.

Getting beta readers from AW can also be hit and miss. I had one beta who did a so-so beta read; I've had two who've done such a fantastic job that my jaw dropped and I've got a bad case of inadequacy now about doing betas myself; and I had one beta reader who I never heard from again, and who in fact disappeared from this site. I still don't know if it was something I did that contributed to that :Shrug:.

My point (I ramble, but I usually have a point) is that it's hit and miss unless you are willing to pay for editing. If you do that, make sure you get testimonials from people on the site (whichever site the would-be editor hangs out on). I've gotten quotes as little as $640 for an 80K MS up to $1400 for same. Up to you if it's worth it. You could also do the first 1/4 of your MS, to learn where you make mistakes.

Ashleythewriter77
03-02-2015, 09:01 PM
I sent out my first manuscript to a handful of people. 8 or so, I'd say. Of those 8, two got back to me very quickly, the next two took about a month or so, and four people never got back to me. Two basically said they wouldn't have time and apologized. The other two, when nudged, said they were going to get to it. That was six months ago by now I think.

I personally find it rude to take someone's work and sit on it, but I know that I have done it before. However, now that I know what it's like to be on this side of things, I've vowed never to make another writer wait and read into my silence. It's hard not to assume that no response is personal when really the volunteer probably just got caught up in his/her life.

heanev
05-11-2015, 09:12 PM
Just started having others beta read my work and out of 10 people I only had one person reply with feedback even though I gave them a month, no one has asked for an extension either... I also did a swap with someone and sent back my feedback for hers but she responded that she was busy and couldn't do mine until May which she still has yet to respond if she'd be able to finish by then. I also sent my MS to someone on the forum interested in a swap so I sent her mine but never got hers.

I've also sent my MS to a few others who seem to have gotten started on my MS so I'm excited that is moving along because I hadn't heard from them for awhile.

It's tough to find those dedicated beta readers. I definitely appreciate all those who read my work, it's just difficult to keep tabs on where they are without being a nag or bothersome.

Katana
06-19-2015, 10:03 AM
What I find frustrating is receiving advice from a beta, but then you have nagging doubts about whether what that advice is correct.

One beta recently told me "do not EVER change POV in a chapter". Please correct me if I'm wrong and he's right, but I always thought a scene break (#) was all that's required for a POV change unless it's omni. Another recent piece of advice was that agents and publishers want works under 100K--and closer to 90K--from new writers. Doesn't it all depend on the manuscript, genre and the agent?

Blanket statements like these, if they're incorrect, can be harmful. I wish there was a comprehensive site out there that could shoot down or confirm this kind of "advice"...oh, wait! I'm on it right now! :D

What say you? Are this advice sound or should it be ignored?

railroad
06-19-2015, 05:16 PM
The problem is there are no hard and fast rules about these things. I have heard the first bit of advice about POV, but I've seen this rule broken many times. As far as the word count, that depends on the agent. My story is 126,000 words. I've met agents at conferences and have had some balk at the length and others say the book should be as long as it takes to tell the story.

I'm of the belief that beta or developmental edits are so subjective that they must be taken with a huge grain of salt (not sure that metaphor works, but whatever.). If someone gives you a piece of advice and a lightbulb goes off in your head and you say "Oh, of course!" then by all means heed the advice given. But if they suggest something that doesn't seem right, disregard. Ask yourself, if I make that change, am I going to be happier with my book or less happy? I think of betas as a way to open you to new ideas, not to reengineer your whole story or write the book the way they would have written it.

Dennis E. Taylor
06-19-2015, 06:31 PM
What railroad said. Plus, I think most beta readers are just offering their opinons and know that they are just opinions. That's certainly true for me. I know what I like and what doesn't work for me; if something confuses me I'll say so. But when I offer my opinion about it, I know very well that it's just one data point. If you choose to ignore, that's fine.

WriteMinded
06-20-2015, 05:05 PM
What I find frustrating is receiving advice from a beta, but then you have nagging doubts about whether what that advice is correct.

One beta recently told me "do not EVER change POV in a chapter". Please correct me if I'm wrong and he's right, but I always thought a scene break (#) was all that's required for a POV change unless it's omni. Another recent piece of advice was that agents and publishers want works under 100K--and closer to 90K--from new writers. Doesn't it all depend on the manuscript, genre and the agent?

Blanket statements like these, if they're incorrect, can be harmful. I wish there was a comprehensive site out there that could shoot down or confirm this kind of "advice"...oh, wait! I'm on it right now! :D

What say you? Are this advice sound or should it be ignored?I think you did exactly the right thing with the advice you received. You questioned it, and you asked for other opinions.

Katana
06-21-2015, 07:46 AM
Thanks, everyone. I think I'm just going to go with my gut and write the story I'm confortable with. Otherwise, a lot of stories out there would be awfully cookie-cutter.

becphish
07-19-2015, 05:23 AM
I'm so glad I found this thread. I had five betas. One read the whole thing, answered my questions, and offered more help. She's also a writer and one of my best friends (for over twenty years.) I've done the same for her. Another beta read a portion of the book and quit after offering advice on that portion. Another got swamped with work. Two others just never got back to me.
My folks are reading it, but not as true beta readers. (You can't always trust your parents to tell you the truth. Well, sometimes, but you never know.)
I just sent it to another friend and her husband since I was their beta when they wrote a joint memoir.
I've already written three drafts. Based on my one beta's advice, I fixed some things and started querying. I'd still take good advice--if I could get people to actually read the book. This process is frustrating enough without people committing and then never letting you know that they have to break their commitment. I know that these betas are doing this as a favor and I'm definitely grateful but as a writer, I need to know if they can't do it so I can find others in a timely manner.
(Apologies if this has already been said in the past 8 pages, and more apologies because my frustration level with this part is pretty high.)

mikeofmany
07-20-2015, 09:10 PM
Sorry if I missed this earlier in the thread.

What genre is your work in? Are you looking for a general beta reader? Anything specific you feel you need in the feedback?

I might have some time coming up and if it's a genre I could read, you have an offer.

Mike


I'm so glad I found this thread. I had five betas. One read the whole thing, answered my questions, and offered more help. She's also a writer and one of my best friends (for over twenty years.) I've done the same for her. Another beta read a portion of the book and quit after offering advice on that portion. Another got swamped with work. Two others just never got back to me.
My folks are reading it, but not as true beta readers. (You can't always trust your parents to tell you the truth. Well, sometimes, but you never know.)
I just sent it to another friend and her husband since I was their beta when they wrote a joint memoir.
I've already written three drafts. Based on my one beta's advice, I fixed some things and started querying. I'd still take good advice--if I could get people to actually read the book. This process is frustrating enough without people committing and then never letting you know that they have to break their commitment. I know that these betas are doing this as a favor and I'm definitely grateful but as a writer, I need to know if they can't do it so I can find others in a timely manner.
(Apologies if this has already been said in the past 8 pages, and more apologies because my frustration level with this part is pretty high.)

UnbearableLight
07-28-2015, 09:22 PM
I've had pretty similar experience to most of you, I think. Most of it seems to result from a mis-match in expectations (which can happen no matter how clearly you communicate, I think) or from taking on more work than you have time for.

Two of my beta readers gave nice high-level reviews on my 3rd draft; alas, I'd asked for a more line-by-line approach. I'm still grateful, and the feedback was useful, but it just wasn't what I needed at that time. Another beta just said he liked the manuscript and that was basically the whole of the feedback.

I exchanged samples with another writer and found that we were way too far apart in our process; this person gave me what looked like an extremely rough first draft with mechanical errors in every paragraph. I wished them the best, but I already had a handful of people I was swapping with and unfortunately just couldn't devote that kind of time to copy-editing when what I wanted to do was trade crits on narrative structure and other story-level concerns. Maybe we'll be able to have a meeting of the minds in the future.

One beta reader said they didn't find my work interesting but would continue. I think that's because we are exchanging critiques, and they liked what I did with their sample and want me to finish the whole manuscript. Part of me is afraid that I will finish reading and reviewing this person's work and then they will vanish. I've got two others whose early sections I've critiqued and am still waiting almost three weeks for one and three months for the second later for any kind of feedback on my parts. I'm pretty sure that I won't see any critique from them.

Then I have two readers who I'm actively exchanging with, whose works are interesting and who seem to be interested in what I'm doing, and things are going pretty smoothly! The stars aligned. I feel incredibly lucky to have found them.

becphish
08-06-2015, 06:43 PM
Sorry if I missed this earlier in the thread.

What genre is your work in? Are you looking for a general beta reader? Anything specific you feel you need in the feedback?

I might have some time coming up and if it's a genre I could read, you have an offer.

Mike

Thanks for your offer. Sure enough, I ended up missing your reply. Right now waiting on two readers, and still revising despite having submitted this thing around a bit already. Once I finish the latest read through, I may post for betas for humor/satire.

Mikaelra
09-05-2015, 09:30 AM
It's been very reassuring reading through this thread. I have had people flake, gotten bad advice and everything. But every now and then you find someone who is just great at giving feedback and is happy to help or do a trade. So I would not necessarily give up...

What I have now learned for sure is this: If I am in a vulnerable place with my writing, it is NOT a good idea to have a Beta reader who is not also a writer. I recently had someone read a few pages of mine and she had nothing much to say. She did not like it, but also had no useful advice on how to improve it. I only knew her from social media and so I asked her if she was a writer and she said no.

It's not universal... but people who write or who have seriously written in the past are usually much better beta readers...

mccardey
09-05-2015, 10:02 AM
It's not universal...but people who write or who have seriously written in the past are usually much better beta readers...

I'm not sure that's always true. I think I'd prefer a reader to a writer, all else being equal.

(I know you said it's not universal ;) )

shadowwalker
09-05-2015, 07:00 PM
I'm not sure that's always true. I think I'd prefer a reader to a writer, all else being equal.

Agree. Readers don't get into how they would do it, but with the right questions, can give valuable insight from the POV of the person who's going to buy your book.

Squashee
09-07-2015, 06:58 AM
I think Beta readers are good up to a point whether they are fellow writers or not. And that point is where you're willing to take advice about what you're writing. If you have a Beta reader actually finish your book and send feedback, and then actually give a flip how it's working for you, hang on to them even if you don't agree with everything they said. You may never find anyone else willing.

MonsterTamer
01-25-2016, 02:36 AM
I agree with your definition of beta reading. A beta reader shouldn't have to do a LBL, fixing basic grammar mistakes, punctuation, etc. Some will do it, but if there's too much of it, it becomes exhausting.

I am reading chapter by chapter right now for a friend - very new author who has no clue what he's doing. Which is fine, we all start there. But it is exhausting. I have to force myself to read through chapters riddled with grammar errors, and while I try to fix as many as possible, my contribution is minimal. I often can't find the meaning of an entire paragraph through the poor phrasing and lack of any kind of polish. I would not consider what I'm doing beta reading - I'm a pre-alpha reader!

I recently sent the first few chapters of a completed MS I wrote almost a year ago, dredged up recently, and heavily revised. It's been a terrifying experience. I'm sure they hate it. I don't trust them to tell me the truth. I'm paranoid about it. But I don't have any other way at this point to fix this MS without some fresh eyes and alternate POV's.

Lauram6123
01-25-2016, 05:25 AM
I am reading chapter by chapter right now for a friend - very new author who has no clue what he's doing. Which is fine, we all start there. But it is exhausting. I have to force myself to read through chapters riddled with grammar errors, and while I try to fix as many as possible, my contribution is minimal. I often can't find the meaning of an entire paragraph through the poor phrasing and lack of any kind of polish. I would not consider what I'm doing beta reading - I'm a pre-alpha reader!



You know, I think it is more than fair of you to gently tell this person that you would be glad to continue to help them as long as they go through the corrections you have made in earlier chapters and then use that information to work on polishing the rest of their manuscript. There is no reason it should be a beta's job to fix things that the writer can fix on their own. You can simply say that because you are so bogged down by insubstantial errors, you are unable to focus on the bigger picture of the story, characters, etc.

TereLiz
02-09-2016, 01:55 AM
You know, I think it is more than fair of you to gently tell this person that you would be glad to continue to help them as long as they go through the corrections you have made in earlier chapters and then use that information to work on polishing the rest of their manuscript. There is no reason it should be a beta's job to fix things that the writer can fix on their own. You can simply say that because you are so bogged down by insubstantial errors, you are unable to focus on the bigger picture of the story, characters, etc.

Yeah, I've done this before, too. Compliment sandwich-style, of course. I always try to find something good to open with, and end on a positive, reassuring note. Writers at that stage get frustrated easily and want some kind of reason to go on. (They're obviously not at the point yet where you can't stop writing or you'll die.)

I'm always looking for the opposite; someone to tell me everything they hate about my ms, down to details like the color of the drapes in a room. I have a bad habit of trolling the one star reviews in amazon or goodreads to check out the quirky little things—sometimes super subjective, sometimes insightful—that people hate to read. Or maybe it's a good habit since it's made me take criticism less personally. My experiences with betas have been mostly positive, and even when it didn't go as planned, there was usually some feedback that made it worthwhile.

Earthling
05-16-2016, 09:04 PM
How much line editing (in terms of SPAG, word choice--the technical side of writing) do you give when beta-ing and expect from betas?

With my first novel, I had some betas that got so caught up in line edits that they didn't give me any feedback on characters, plot, etc. I kept prompting them but it was like pulling teeth. This time around I've specified that I don't want line-by-line feedback, just big picture stuff. I had my first feedback this morning. One email was a list of sentences the reader didn't like (a couple of typos, mostly just differences of style) and one was the document with word-choice edits in track changes. Neither of them said anything about the story.

I know it must sound like the MS is full of technical problems but it really isn't. The things they're pointing out are in the vein of "If I was writing this in my style, this is how I'd write this sentence..."

I'm wondering if *I'm* the one with the wrong expectations. Is line-editing something you expect from betas?

lianna williamson
05-16-2016, 09:44 PM
I think different betas are good at different types of feedback (and some probably aren't good at any of them!). Who are these betas? If you want "big picture" feedback, you'll probably need a beta who is either a writer or the kind of reader who thinks deeply about what s/he reads.

It might also help to send prompting questions about the kinds of things you're wondering about (although I recommend sending the questions after the betas are done reading, to avoid poisoning the well). It's easier to answer a question like, "Did you understand why Marlene decided to let the car roll into the lake?" than "What did you think of the book, overall?"

FWIW, my betas for my last book were:

-3 writers (all found through AW)
-1 voracious reader who also writes a review blog
-1 professional copy-editor

juniper
05-16-2016, 10:13 PM
How much line editing (in terms of SPAG, word choice--the technical side of writing) do you give when beta-ing and expect from betas?

Do you mean copy editing? (and what's the a? I'm assuming s=spelling, p=punctuation, a=?, g=grammar)

People often use "edit" in different ways - here's the way one editors group differentiates between line and copy editing.

http://nybookeditors.com/2015/01/copyediting-vs-line-editing/

And here's a sticky thread at AW in the publishing forum that talks more about editing and how people use the terms.

http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?228028-Different-Levels-of-Editing


I'm wondering if *I'm* the one with the wrong expectations. Is line-editing something you expect from betas?

You can tell betas what you want - "I'm hoping you can concentrate on whether the characters work for you as a reader, if the action scenes seem real, and if the plot holds together well. Please don't worry about the typos or other small copy changes - and thank you!"

I think copy editing is quicker and easier for most people, so that may be what they go for. Looking at the story as a whole and deciding whether it works is harder and more time consuming.

Dennis E. Taylor
05-16-2016, 10:15 PM
I'm wondering if *I'm* the one with the wrong expectations. Is line-editing something you expect from betas?

No. You're on the right track, and the beta readers just haven't clued in. On scribophile, before we start a beta-swap, the mods send out a PM to each swapper, entitled "A beta read is not a crit!" where they explain what's expected. It's big picture stuff. Plot holes. Inconsistencies. Characters that act out of character. Things that make you say WTF? Poor description, exposition, extraneous verbiage, confusing passages. Etc.

Not line edits. Not word choices. Not "how I'd write this."

Fruitbat
05-16-2016, 10:25 PM
There are no rules of what you can and can't be told or what is the "correct" way to do it.

When you request help, it's a favor, so you take what you get and just say thanks.

Of course you can always specify that you're only looking for specific things and that's all you can be told if you want to. But keep in mind that some beta readers will pass you by and instead grant their considerable favor to someone who wants to hear whatever they actually notice and whatever they actually have to add.

I tend to pass those who tell me they only want to hear whatever thing they want to hear. Why on earth would my input not be wanted and appreciated if I see something, anything, that I think the writer missed. So it's up to each player of course but I'd wonder why they're asking me for any help at all if they think they already know exactly what they need help with and that that is all they need help with. If I see it, I'm going to point it out and would not bother with anyone who didn't welcome my input on whatever I saw.

Now stating that they're especially looking for one thing or another but that all input is appreciated would be different and wouldn't put me off. Those who put in that often considerable time to help a stranger out for free want to help improve the book. Making nonsensical rules just because someone who runs a forum says so or for any other reason should be disregarded because it gets in the way of the one and only goal, which is to polish the manuscript as much as possible.

Earthling
05-16-2016, 10:27 PM
lianna - They ones doing this are other writers, not from AW. I'll put some specific questions together to ask at the end. Good idea!

juniper - Spelling Punctuation And Grammar. Looking at your thread, I guess they're doing a mixture of copy and line editing, but mostly line. It's not errors they're pointing out, it's word choice and style things. Most of it I don't agree with because I write in my style! I did tell them all at the outset that I want feedback on characters and plot, not line-by-line feedback.

Angry Guy - Do you have a copy of that PM? It might give me an idea of how to word my "Hi. This is the MS..." emails in the future. I think people are going into critique mode, but when they're doing me a favour I find it really hard to say, "Hey, this isn't useful. Could you focus on X, Y, Z?"

Fruitbat - Thanks for the input.

Fruitbat
05-16-2016, 10:56 PM
Ah, I'd be careful with the words "style" and "voice." I've seen that used so very many times where it really meant, "Don't correct me even though I asked for it - and seriously need it. It's my style or my voice and therefore sacred and unreproachable." (No, it's not).

Not meaning to pick on you, Earthling, since I haven't even seen your writing but just a general note there for anyone who may need it lol. :)

Earthling
05-16-2016, 11:07 PM
I've come across that kind of thing too, Fruitbat!

Critiquer: "You have so many clauses in these sentences that it doesn't make sense."
Writer: "That's my style. People who appreciate true literature will get it."

Extreme example, but yeah.

I do have people in the process who do the line/copy edits, not to mention my agent. It is specific things I look for from betas, and I understand that may be a turn-off to them. I've found some wonderful betas where our feedback styles are perfect for each other. It's all trial and error.

M.S. Wiggins
05-16-2016, 11:51 PM
Earthling-

I look at it this way: I’d rather have it than not. Ya’ never know . . . not all gems are easily recognizable.

The feedback that you’re getting, that which you view as undesirable, is still feedback. And what you desire today may change any given tomorrow.

Mind your bridges. Burn ‘em, you’ll have to rebuild ‘em—usually elsewhere. And yes, I speak from the experience of a reformed bridge arsonist. The later regret isn’t worth it, I promise. See and recognize the gems for what they are and be thankful for any glint they give.

Dennis E. Taylor
05-17-2016, 12:19 AM
When you request help, it's a favor, so you take what you get and just say thanks.


We're talking about two different situations. In my case, it's a swap, and it's a swap in a group that has rules about beta reading. Everyone goes in, eyes open, knowing what's expected of them, and what they can expect. There's even a time limit, and a group discussion of each novel on the last day of that novel's turn.

This is very different from the situation where you post asking for beta readers and people volunteer. Very different.

It's completely up to individual personal preference regarding which path you take, but it sounds like Earthling would be better served by mine. YMMV, as always.

shadowwalker
05-17-2016, 08:05 AM
The most important thing one can do when looking for a beta (or betas) is to make sure you're all on the same page before sending anything to anyone. The second thing is to accept that a good beta simply cannot ignore the things that bother them about a story. So even if they agree to do "A" and that's what they focus on, if they see "B" they're going to include it in their comments. That's what makes a good beta. You don't have to agree with them, you don't have to do what they suggest - but you do need to appreciate their effort. :)

Earthling
05-17-2016, 11:07 AM
I think I worded my posts wrong. I'm not saying I don't want *any* detailed feedback, just that if it's *exclusively* "I would write this sentence this way..." and tells me nothing about the characters or story, I'm no better off than before the beta read. I had a couple of readers who did that and I kept saying thank you, how do you feel about the characters? and just getting more line edits. Besides a very occasional typo, it didn't improve the manuscript.

I'd never tell the reader their feedback isn't useful (as for burning bridges--six of the people who read my first one are reading this one, so I don't think I come across as an ungrateful author!) but I don't want to waste anybody's time. Maybe it benefits them to line edit someone else's work? I don't know. I'd feel like I took hours of their time for no benefit.

WriteMinded
05-17-2016, 06:01 PM
I once beta'd for someone who wanted only "overall" feedback on their very long book. You'd think that would have made it easy for me, but it didn't. I found it impossible not to comment on certain aspects of the author's writing. Now when I'm about to spend my very precious time beta reading, I make it clear that I can only do what I've learned to do.

I've never specified what a beta reader should and should not comment on, and I've never been on the receiving end of bad betaing. I love line edits, but don't ask for them because I know how much work it is. I take what I can get, and I'm grateful to get it.

Wow. You have six betas? Lucky, lucky you.

Fruitbat
05-17-2016, 08:33 PM
@Earthling- I don't know about anyone else but what I've said is my standard feelings about doing beta reads, after skimming the thread but not answering any one particular poster. Just don't want you to feel ganged up on!

As an aside, I think some of the other writer forums that I've been on are muddying the whole critique and beta issue, too. When they operate on a tit-for-tat token system, they often add things like expecting the one receiving the help to rate the help they were given and so on. Sometimes the one receiving the help is even allowed to determine how many points the helper gets based on if they liked what they were told or not! So then you have experienced writers getting stiffed (on points they need to get critiques themselves) just because a newbie got a real grown-up critique rather than the praise they wanted and other amateurish nonsense. Etc.

Newer writers participate in their systems and get the idea that those things are standard protocol when in the larger writing scene, they're actually quite entitled and rude and not how it goes at all. Then it all breaks down further because after people put in considerable time to help a stranger and get their face slapped for it a few times, either being treated like an unpaid servant or told off when the newbie doesn't hear that they're great (when they're not great), they quit helping. Especially when others chime in on their side rather than knowing enough to shut that nonsense down. So that's my soapbox rant for the day lol. Carry on! :)

ETA: For anyone who doesn't know, the standard protocol for critiques and beta reads is that you can say what you're especially looking for but not tell your helpers what you can and can't be told.

Then you always say thank-you unless they flat out called you a name or something. You don't argue or point out where you think they were wrong, nor start a thinly veiled thread about something they said to try to get others on the forum to agree that you are right and they are wrong. You asked to be corrected, they did not. You just take what you need from each beta read or critique and leave the rest.

You pay back by being sure to pay it forward, giving critiques and beta reads to either them or to others, not just receiving and making excuses about how you aren't confident enough in your skills to even try to help others as well or how you are too busy to pay back or whatever.

Fruitbat
05-17-2016, 09:12 PM
Also, I have had many beta reads where the person just made a comment or two and I got the idea that they didn't even read it. That is especially annoying when you gave them a thorough beta read. But I just go on. I take all the offers I can get, then count myself lucky to end up with one or two that are solid help. And if possible, keep track of those people and try to form ongoing recriprocal relationships with them.

TillysMom
06-16-2016, 06:26 PM
I have gone through the same problem. When I tell folks I make money from content writing and sell a few short stories here and there, they say "hey, that's cool!" but if I work on a project and ask them to review it, it's impossible. It's not like I'm asking them to read War and Peace, it's just a short story anthology. Even one friend who fancies herself a great writer (I have edited her stories and gave her suggestions) has no interest in my work. It's a one way street. She seemed more miffed than pleased that I actually get paid to write content and have sold those few stories. She never asked to read anything of mine, and her story, which is still truly awful, still sits in a drawer as she hasn't done the revisions (not even fixed spelling mistakes). She does, however, brag that when her story is made into a movie, she wants Julia Roberts to play the lead character, which is based on herself. Seriously! LOL You never know what your friends and family's reaction will be.
Perhaps it's that I'm not young and don't have a Tumbler presence, or Facebook fans.
So, I put some of my short stories on Amazon, not that I think it will sell, but folks enrolled in the Kindle match program and lending services will have access to the book, and someone, somewhere might enjoy it.

No BS Stories--Real Romance for the Rest of Us
https://www.amazon.com/No-BS-Stories-Real-Romance-ebook/dp/B01GXYNWQK/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1466087152&sr=8-1&keywords=chester+kahuna

StephLondon
06-29-2016, 07:01 PM
I'm glad to have found this thread. With my latest novel, I had five beta readers. Two I asked for them to read it, and the other three asked me if they could beta read. Only two ended up getting back to me with notes or general thoughts, and my best friend, a "writer" herself who offered, never got back to me.
When I shared that a publisher had gotten back to me with some good news, she acted so surprised. And then made statements like "if you had let me, I could've added so much to this scene or that scene." It made me so angry because I had asked her to do so four months ago after she volunteered.
I'm so burned by beta readers now. I need to find new ones for my next project because it's caused me a ridiculous amount of stress and headaches. Yeesh.

chompers
06-29-2016, 07:43 PM
I have gone through the same problem. When I tell folks I make money from content writing and sell a few short stories here and there, they say "hey, that's cool!" but if I work on a project and ask them to review it, it's impossible. It's not like I'm asking them to read War and Peace, it's just a short story anthology. Even one friend who fancies herself a great writer (I have edited her stories and gave her suggestions) has no interest in my work. It's a one way street. She seemed more miffed than pleased that I actually get paid to write content and have sold those few stories. She never asked to read anything of mine, and her story, which is still truly awful, still sits in a drawer as she hasn't done the revisions (not even fixed spelling mistakes). She does, however, brag that when her story is made into a movie, she wants Julia Roberts to play the lead character, which is based on herself. Seriously! LOL You never know what your friends and family's reaction will be.
Perhaps it's that I'm not young and don't have a Tumbler presence, or Facebook fans.
So, I put some of my short stories on Amazon, not that I think it will sell, but folks enrolled in the Kindle match program and lending services will have access to the book, and someone, somewhere might enjoy it.

No BS Stories--Real Romance for the Rest of Us
https://www.amazon.com/No-BS-Stories-Real-Romance-ebook/dp/B01GXYNWQK/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1466087152&sr=8-1&keywords=chester+kahuna This is different. They weren't betas. You're just expecting them to be, due to them being your friends and that you get paid. You can't force people to be betas, even other writers.

This thread is about people who said they'd be a beta and it didn't work out well.

chompers
06-29-2016, 07:51 PM
Can we put stories about critique partners in here too?

I had a critique partner who told me off because I told her she didn't have a plot. Her response? "Well, I've got lots of people who love my stories." And she complained that I didn't like her character, so it made her doubt herself as a writer. And then she also went on to say it didn't seem like I enjoyed her stories and that she thought critique partners should like each other's work. Um, no. We are not EXPECTED to like every story you send to each other just because we're critique partners.

Oh, yeah, she also said it upset her because this story meant so much to her. I'm surprised she didn't go on to say it was her baby (which actually, I found out later she DID say that to someone else). Just everything she said put up red flags for me. All her responses were the standard stuff people with thin skin say. And this was after she originally told me she had a thick skin. I ended that relationship pretty quick after that.

InsomniaShark
08-01-2016, 03:18 AM
I had a traumatic experience with a "writing buddy."

Before my current original novel, I was writing a fanfic for another writer-y person I'd befriended online. For three years, I sent them a polished chapter almost every other week. They'd respond with a long review and sometimes a sketch of a scene, and we'd discuss the story and characters. Knowing that someone was waiting to find out what happened next, and knowing I'd get feedback, was really good motivation to keep pumping out more chapters. Near the end, I found out they'd been sending my story to at least one other person after I had told them not to share it with others. (They didn't "forget" they weren't supposed to share it. They'd always been making comments about how cool it was that they were the only person allowed to read it.) Immediately friend-dumped them and never finished the last several chapters of the story.

I really miss the chapter-by-chapter feedback, and wish I still had it to keep me motivated on my WIP. I don't think I could trust someone I met online with any substantial part of my writing now though.

(ETA: I realize fanfics aren't taken as seriously as original works. It started out as just a fun thing, but I ended up creating a whole new/complicated plot and new characters and put a lot of time and effort into it. It really hurt to find out someone I thought was my friend had done that, so it's like, how can I trust strangers?)

Vermilion
08-01-2016, 08:49 PM
I like to think I have a pretty solid crit relationship with a French lady. She's older and wiser, but is always open to changes/suggestions I made and never fails to thank me for my feedback even if they're negative. In return, she does the same for me, and I love her for it. I believe it's not what you say, but how you say it that matters. You need to be tactful, especially when the feedback isn't favorable. She's a very kind yet honest critique partner.

Sometimes, we send each other chapter by chapter on a daily basis – she's that fast! But on days she gets busy, I feel slightly unmotivated to continue with my work. I do have another critique buddy originating from the UK. He's a wonderful man too, but I can never get enough of fantastic critique buddies and always on the lookout for one or two more critique buddies, and hopefully, we can click easily.

Lori822
08-22-2016, 10:52 PM
It is so hard to find good critique partners and beta readers. I have been working on my novel for three years and had several critiques in that time. I listened and made changes that made sense or that I heard more than once. Then I pasted it on to five beta readers. Only two actually finished and one half finished. I took what I could from them and then sent it to an editor. What did I find out? That not one person who had critiqued or beta found any of the problems my editor did. My novel is now in major rewrite mode. The sad things is that some of the people who read my manuscript are published authors and they never said a word about the problems my novel had. I was really disappointed. I would rather people tell me my novel sucks so I can fix it, then say oh it's great and I waste my time and money with an editor.

MaeZe
08-23-2016, 12:30 AM
My two beta read experiences have me wary of sending my story off to anyone without knowing the person well.

First one, a forum friend requested I beta read his book. Rule number one, ask for volunteers, don't put someone on the spot. I liked the first chapter, but by the second one it was clear, the book was not ready for a beta read and that was my feedback. He ignored my feedback and said others liked it. That may be but I'm not new to critique and it simply wasn't. I begged off and could tell he was and is still angry about it. Sigh.

Second one was really good. Well written, interesting story, clearly publishable and in fact the writer has an agent for an earlier piece. But I was not familiar with 'deep third person' and I told her it felt like she was changing from first to third person. She was miffed and said I accused her of making a rookie mistake. This after I told her the story was very good and ready to be submitted to a publisher.

I don't want to beta read if someone is going to treat my comments like some personal affront to their ego. A simple discussion of 'deep third' could have easily come from the beta read without the accusations of insulting the author. I readily admitted I hadn't heard of deep third and went off to educate myself about it. A related forum discussion turned into belittling me for not knowing about deep third as I must be ignorant about person.

For the record, now that I know about deep third, my opinion is the same. Just because you leave the pronoun out doesn't change the fact it reads like slipping in and out of 1st/3rd person. I'm not a fan. But, I can certainly overlook a style choice and still say the book was good and ready for submission.

Now I'm doubly soured on offering to beta read someone's work. I liked Sage's thread here on the beta read project. There was one story I was interested in but hesitated to take the plunge. My son has offered to beta read my book when it's finished. It's not his genre of choice but he gives excellent critique so I trust he can tell me if it's ready or not ready to start sending the queries out.

Thesala
11-10-2016, 02:25 AM
I've also been fairly burnt by beta readers.

I found a critiquing partner on another writers community forum. She wanted someone to critique her work as she wrote the book and would return the favor. Her first chapter was okay, though it raised a number of flags. The second was not too good but by the third, I was asking myself how the heck I was going to survive that train wreck. I'm pretty thorough when I beta read. I don't just comment on the usual, I also do track changes for typos, grammar, English, give suggestions on awkward wording, repetitions, etc. By the end of chapter 3, it became obvious English wasn't her first language. Except with each new chapter, she stopped making efforts with sentence structure, grammar and spelling. She expected me to do it for her. Meanwhile, getting any feedback from her on my own work was like pulling teeth. She always had an excuse.

I've also had the classic case of beta readers you never hear back from. It sucks when someone volunteers then disappears. It sucks worse when you do a swap, bust your chops doing a thorough review for them, and have them say 'thanks sucker!' then disappear without returning the favor.

I've paid a couple of "professional" beta readers. One was absolutely amazing and worth every penny. She demolished my manuscript like an editor would. She did track changes wall to wall, line edits, comments galore, suggestions, constructive criticism, you name it! The other beta reader, who received the same version, essentially told me my work was awesome. She loved the book so much she really didn't have much feedback to give. Thanks? I think...

It's really hard finding good beta readers. I don't expect them to do an editor's job, or any track changes for that matter, but I expect way more than a pat on the back and a cookie. I have my mom for that :tongue. I'd like the same kind of brutal, but respectful, honesty I will when I beta read for someone. I don't want to coddle people, nor do I want to be. What's the point? I just wish people would stick to their commitment or have the courtesy to withdraw their offer to beta read if something comes up.

Oh well, I guess it comes with the turf :Shrug:

Fiender
11-23-2016, 12:42 PM
I've had the betas where I'd give dozens of comments per chapter, only to receive "oh, it was good" as the only comment for mine. And I've had the betas who needed to write essays to defend their novel from my critical comments. It's never fun.

I'm also in a situation with a Beta right now who has made some comments that seem bigoted to me. I have a female character who is sexually active with multiple partners and this reader has called her a "slut". In a scene where it comes up that she is not interested in drugs, the reader basically commented "she's already a slut, why wouldn't she do drugs? Morality is an all or nothing thing." I also have two brothers in this story, one a gentleman/sweetheart, the other a selfish troublemaker, and when it's revealed the gentleman is actually gay, the reader said "Oh, the other brother should be gay, it'd make more sense."

I'm wondering if I should try to bring up my concerns with them at all, or try to take it in as a "different perspective." Curious to hear what other people would do in this situation.

Thesala
11-23-2016, 10:50 PM
I'm also in a situation with a Beta right now who has made some comments that seem bigoted to me. (...)

I'm wondering if I should try to bring up my concerns with them at all, or try to take it in as a "different perspective." Curious to hear what other people would do in this situation.

I wouldn't bother trying to "educate" a beta reader that's bigoted. That is, unless you have a lot of time to waste on someone you probably won't convince anyway and that you likely don't intend to become friends with. It's always good to know what "other" perspective there are. In some cases, you might decide to tone certain things down to appeal to a broader audience. But I would only do if I feel their concerns have merit.

As a beta reader though, I will point out to the writer that some blanket statements or comments in their book seem bigoted or discriminatory. Their personal opinion about some ethnic group or religion should stay out of the book unless that's what the book is specifically about. One such writer gave me lip about how he's entitled to speak his mind in his own damn book. I told him to knock himself out; his readers, not mine. But why piss where you eat?

mccardey
11-23-2016, 11:46 PM
I'm wondering if I should try to bring up my concerns with them at all, or try to take it in as a "different perspective." Curious to hear what other people would do in this situation.

I wouldn't. You've asked them to beta-read and they've beta-read. I'd say thanks very much, and move on.

WriteMinded
11-25-2016, 08:17 PM
I've had the betas where I'd give dozens of comments per chapter, only to receive "oh, it was good" as the only comment for mine. And I've had the betas who needed to write essays to defend their novel from my critical comments. It's never fun.

I'm also in a situation with a Beta right now who has made some comments that seem bigoted to me. I have a female character who is sexually active with multiple partners and this reader has called her a "slut". In a scene where it comes up that she is not interested in drugs, the reader basically commented "she's already a slut, why wouldn't she do drugs? Morality is an all or nothing thing." I also have two brothers in this story, one a gentleman/sweetheart, the other a selfish troublemaker, and when it's revealed the gentleman is actually gay, the reader said "Oh, the other brother should be gay, it'd make more sense."

I'm wondering if I should try to bring up my concerns with them at all, or try to take it in as a "different perspective." Curious to hear what other people would do in this situation.I suggest you let it go. You wanted a critique, and you got one. You don't have to like the critter's attitudes or biases, but they are also free to mislike your characters. Surely you don't want to fall into the category of betas you describe in the sentence I've bolded above. Readers will be viewing your novel through the eyes of their own prejudices and preferences. You will have no opportunity to express your "concerns" to them. That's just a writer's cross to bear. :)

Willink29
12-03-2016, 09:53 AM
I remember the first time I bete-read for one of my best friends. She'd talked to me with such passion about her story, as well as beta-read many chapters of my manuscript, so I was more than willing to do it. Sadly it did not go as great as I'd expected.

Her manuscript wasn't that good. But as she had praised my characters and scenes, I almost felt morally obliged to do the same, so it was particularly hard to tell her what I actually thought about it. I'll always remember being awkwardly silent, thinking of the best way to tell her how I felt, as she stared at me with expectant eyes. I thought I was being mean. I even thought she would hate me, because I understood how vulnerable you can feel when you tell someone to critique your writing. I mean, it's something you created out of thin air, a piece of your soul. And then you just sit there, close your eyes, and wait for the slap.

But just how necessary that slap is! Art is so subjective you'll often find someone who'll have something to say about what you've written. It is our job to gather what is going to make us grow as better writers, and toss out of the window what would only drag us down.

As for my friend, she took it really well (since I had plenty of tact) and improved her writing a lot after that.

Cascada
02-24-2017, 02:13 AM
I've had the betas where I'd give dozens of comments per chapter, only to receive "oh, it was good" as the only comment for mine. And I've had the betas who needed to write essays to defend their novel from my critical comments. It's never fun.

I'm also in a situation with a Beta right now who has made some comments that seem bigoted to me. I have a female character who is sexually active with multiple partners and this reader has called her a "slut". In a scene where it comes up that she is not interested in drugs, the reader basically commented "she's already a slut, why wouldn't she do drugs? Morality is an all or nothing thing." I also have two brothers in this story, one a gentleman/sweetheart, the other a selfish troublemaker, and when it's revealed the gentleman is actually gay, the reader said "Oh, the other brother should be gay, it'd make more sense."

I'm wondering if I should try to bring up my concerns with them at all, or try to take it in as a "different perspective." Curious to hear what other people would do in this situation.

The beta reader expressed a personal opinion. Perhaps the beta-reader lacks empathy, or through her own upbringing has a more 'old fashioned' approach to relationships. For some people, morality is all or nothing, for others it's complex and multi-faceted. There is a wide world of people out there, who are going to view stories in a different way. We don't have to think alike, and we don't have to view the world in the same way.

Personally, I wouldn't give feedback in the way she did. I wouldn't call the character a slut, or make assumptions about what she would or wouldn't do, but I wouldn't applaud her either. I'm fairly new at beta-reading, but thus far for me it's not even about my personal feelings. It's about being objective, seeing errors, seeing strong points, correcting mistakes, offering an opinion on what could be improved.

Nerdilydone
07-28-2017, 11:00 PM
Ugh.

Okay, so be careful out there when accepting betas. Look at someone's profile before you accept them, so that you have an idea of who they are. Because you just might have someone respond to your suggestion for a swap, and then put all of ten short comments on your work. It's really hard for me to work on a manuscript when the other person is basically using me.

Basically, watch out for people who offer to beta just to get their own work looked over.

Comanche
07-29-2017, 12:22 AM
I just got an email from my very first beta reader - -

Hmmmm - not exactly happy about it - and not because she was critical. I have a thick skin, and long ago learned not to fall in love with my words.

I asked a grad student at a nearby university to look over my MS. As she seemed to be a typical starving grad student, I offered to add a little to her PayPal account.

What I got was this -

* she only read to page 21, then put the book down. That meant she read 15% of my work.

* her advice was for me to read a novel she liked and read two textbooks (one of which I had read awhile back.) She said she didn't think the story was going anyplace.

But, I also did a beta read for an AW member - and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. That person has offered to read mine. I think it will be interesting to compare the feedback.

Now - to find someone on AW to beta read mine while I make myself available again.

audibob1
07-29-2017, 12:29 AM
I haven't paged through this whole thread yet, so maybe someone's already said this, but I find it helps if you ask your beta readers to answer specific questions that warrant more than a yes or no answer. ("At what point, if any, did the story lose your interest?" "What was your least favorite character and why?") This way, they can't say, "It was good" as their feedback. For the beta readers that are never heard from again, it helps to set a deadline. If some readers don't respond after the deadline, then they probably weren't going to take it seriously in the first place.

I've had my same novel-betas read some of my short stories before, and often got the "it was good" answer, and I found that I was able to draw a lot more opinions out of them asking specific questions.

rusoluchka
04-03-2018, 01:26 AM
I've been offering first chapter beta reads and did an entire ms beta read earlier. So far, I've had pretty decent experiences; however, a recent one actually made me lose sleep. We were discussing over email an issue I'd highlighted that no one had brought to their attention before and it quickly escalated to us misunderstanding each other. I don't believe they understood the feedback I was providing, and emailing back and forth wasn't helping. Needless to say, I feel awful that we couldn't communicate, but wish them the best of luck.

Just a word of caution that you can be passionate about your story and your idea, but don't let that passion prevent you from listening.

D_Shalayek
05-09-2018, 03:27 AM
So I'm going through the beta process right now with a short story. After my second round of betas, everyone seemed to love it. They all said it was really fun to read, but a few of my readers had some very minor understandable grievances. I fixed the grievances, and submitted the material for a third round of beta reading.

And now it's universally panned. :Headbang:

I think the lesson learned is, if everyone seems to like it, don't touch it. At all.

Nerdilydone
07-25-2018, 01:27 AM
Ugh. So be careful who you swap with. I just had a person drop off the face of the earth after I commented on their work. They not only didn't beta mine, but they aren't responding to emails or messages on here.

I'm also having a phobia-driven panic about them stealing my work, but I'm pretty sure that's just paranoia. Worst case scenario I have plenty of evidence of copyright, but I hope I'm just panicking.

rhiannon_writes
07-26-2018, 05:52 AM
Just had one of my only beta readers finally get back to me with her full comments and I'm torn between excitement and sheer disappointment. She adored my book. She had basically no critiques to speak of. I tried ferreting out some more concrete answers, but she just really liked it. I know she read it and isn't just pretending to, because she gushed for quite awhile about her favorite parts and characters and details she would've had to pay attention to notice. I'll take the self-esteem boost and move on at this point because I don't think I'm going to wring many more useful comments from her. But finding anyone to beta (especially a 103,000+ k novel) is a challenge. She's one of only two beta readers I could find. While I'm flattered she liked it so much, it's a very early draft and I know it needs a lot more work. It's just disappointing that now I'm basically down to one beta reader, and I don't know how I'm going to find more. I wanted her critiques. I pleaded with her to find negative (for lack of a better word) things to say, and she did, but it wasn't really stuff that helped. She said things like "double-check how to use emdashes I'm not sure myself if you used them right." Which I probably should, but I wanted her to rip apart my plot and writing and characters and all, but she couldn't think of any issues.

It's frustrating because I know I should be excited. I am! Someone liked my book! Hooray! But it's not really even a second draft yet. It's draft 1.5 at best, and written in a frantic coffee-fueled two week haze. It NEEDS work, and as much as I appreciate her being a fan, I want that criticism so everyone can enjoy it like she did. Aaaand now I'm back to square one. Sigh.

CJSimone
07-28-2018, 06:50 PM
Just had one of my only beta readers finally get back to me with her full comments and I'm torn between excitement and sheer disappointment. She adored my book. She had basically no critiques to speak of. I tried ferreting out some more concrete answers, but she just really liked it. I know she read it and isn't just pretending to, because she gushed for quite awhile about her favorite parts and characters and details she would've had to pay attention to notice. I'll take the self-esteem boost and move on at this point because I don't think I'm going to wring many more useful comments from her. But finding anyone to beta (especially a 103,000+ k novel) is a challenge. She's one of only two beta readers I could find. While I'm flattered she liked it so much, it's a very early draft and I know it needs a lot more work. It's just disappointing that now I'm basically down to one beta reader, and I don't know how I'm going to find more. I wanted her critiques. I pleaded with her to find negative (for lack of a better word) things to say, and she did, but it wasn't really stuff that helped. She said things like "double-check how to use emdashes I'm not sure myself if you used them right." Which I probably should, but I wanted her to rip apart my plot and writing and characters and all, but she couldn't think of any issues.

It's frustrating because I know I should be excited. I am! Someone liked my book! Hooray! But it's not really even a second draft yet. It's draft 1.5 at best, and written in a frantic coffee-fueled two week haze. It NEEDS work, and as much as I appreciate her being a fan, I want that criticism so everyone can enjoy it like she did. Aaaand now I'm back to square one. Sigh.

Hi rhiannon_writes. Have you gotten feedback from the other beta reader yet and did they find a lot needing work? You say you know it needs work, but do you think maybe it's just at the line level? Beta readers have different approaches and some will look only at the bigger picture things (line level critiques can be overwhelming and won't be a strength for some), and maybe you actually are good with the bigger areas of plot, characters, pacing and such.

I don't think an all positive beta read is useless. It tells you that it already worked for a reader. I'm inclined to say she's not just trying to be nice if you were making a point of seeking more critique. You can even let yourself feel good about it.

But I'd definitely still seek out other betas and continue with your own line edits.

Good luck!

CJ