PDA

View Full Version : A problem a friend has encountered...



Katana
09-05-2012, 05:15 AM
This seemed the most appropriate place to post this. I have a friend who presented me with a problem for which I can't safely advise. He's an older gentleman who isn't on AW, and doesn't go online much, so I told him I would present his problem here to see what AW's many learned people might think.

Over the last few months he emailed the first few chapters of his ms to several anonymous--but experienced--beta readers around the world, all of whom seemed initially enthused when they received his sample query. Out of the ten he sent chapters to, only three ever contacted him again.

Those three presented extremely helpful constructive criticisms, and were eager each time for new chapters to be sent. When they finished reading his ms, they all came back with positive comments, telling him how good his story and writing is, that it was a fascinating and enjoyable read (one even using the word 'excellent'). Two of them thanked *him* for the privilege of letting them read it, with the same two saying how they would love to beta the sequel when he gets it done.

The problem is, because so few followed through with reading his first few chapters, he now has doubts about how good it might be, in spite of the glowing comments he received from the ones who did finish. Because we're friends who read and write in very different genres, we don't exchange mss for betaing (leaving that to impartial strangers), so I don't know if there is a issue with it, though what I've seen of his writing tells me that he's certainly capable.

Could this just be a case of not being able to please everyone? For example, a beta's personal preference interfering, like someone not liking the POV, or even someone's life getting in the way of betaing, etc., and then not being courteous enough to tell him (with little of this reflecting on the quality of his ms)? He's eager to start querying, yet hesitant until he's more certain of its quality. What he'd like to know is if he should disregard the non-responders, and go with the opinions of those who made it to the end and enjoyed it?

Have any of you experienced similar circumstances? And did it still have the positive outcome of you acquiring an agent? Thank you for reading this far, and I told him I would print off all your responses for him to study. :)

Mr. Anonymous
09-05-2012, 05:55 AM
Frankly, I think he's reading too much into the situation, and letting his insecurity (plague of artists everywhere) get the better of him.

Whenever you arrange for people you don't know/don't have any relationship with to do you the MASSIVE favor of reading your manuscript, there's a chance they won't follow through, for one reason or another.

He has no idea why the 7/10 didn't respond. He has no idea if they even read a page.

What he does know, is that 3/10 people read the whole manuscript, and enjoyed it.

Does that mean that his writing is publishable? Impossible to say. But he pleased three readers. That's a good indication. The only way he'll know if his writing can go further is if he gets over his insecurity, and sends his stuff out there. He has absolutely nothing to lose, and, potentially, everything to gain.

L.C. Blackwell
09-05-2012, 09:44 AM
I would be curious as to how he selected his beta readers originally, especially since he's not online much. Were they all volunteers, or did he pay for reads?

Depending on the kind of feedback provided, three positives might be good--or they might not. I honestly couldn't tell you without knowing the issues with the manuscript and specific feedback comments. Ditto without knowing the qualifications of the beta readers.

My concern would be that he not fall in with one of the questionable "services" offered to writers by companies looking for a quick profit. Some of these may offer positive feedback, but will then attempt to steer the writer into publishing with the company they represent.

Katana
09-05-2012, 10:09 AM
My concern would be that he not fall in with one of the questionable "services" offered to writers by companies looking for a quick profit. Some of these may offer positive feedback, but will then attempt to steer the writer into publishing with the company they represent.
This was my concern, as well. If I remember correctly, he said he spent a few afternoons at FictionPress, sending out requests in the beta readers section, probably just sending to the ones who are willing to read the genre that he writes. Having looked myself, all of the beta readers there are volunteers.

Bufty
09-05-2012, 01:18 PM
The issue is a non-issue.

Do whatever he would do if he had only sent his manuscript to three beta readers.

PorterStarrByrd
09-05-2012, 01:49 PM
If you sell your book to 1% of the population you will have sold over 3,000,000 copies .. a best seller?


I realize that there all kinds of things that will cut down on realizing this dream, but the one with the most impact is whether or not you try to publish it.

Undercover
09-05-2012, 03:39 PM
If he doesn't have confidence now because 7 out of 10 betas didn't respond, how is he going to react when he sends it out to agents and publishers and some don't respond?

Not everyone is going to like it. He should try to get used to that fact now or it won't go any further than it has.

Parametric
09-05-2012, 03:49 PM
Sounds like a good return to me. It's normal for some, even most, of your beta readers not to respond. I've been the non-responder on several occasions and it's nothing personal - just life getting in the way. If the three people who responded all liked it, that's a good sign.

L.C. Blackwell
09-06-2012, 05:36 AM
It's normal for some, even most, of your beta readers not to respond.

Not in my experience, but I suspect it depends on how well you get to know your potential betas before requesting. Throw spaghetti at the wall, so to speak, and it's more likely that only part of it will stick.

My feeling is that if you promise someone a read, it's a matter of professionalism to follow through--or at least send a note explaining that you can't keep your promise.

In the case brought up by the OP: if the feedback helped improve the novel on more levels than a line-by-line or a spell-check, then I would be fairly comfortable with the response.

thebloodfiend
09-06-2012, 06:35 AM
It's happened to me. Even two or three nudges will often simply not prompt someone to email you back.

And I've done it to others. If that happens, I simply send an email telling the person that, while I wish I could, I don't have the time to beta anymore. Or I forget and feel terribly guilty.

I find that betas are more reliable when they know your writing style and you've "known" them for a while online. That way, if you guys are talking in public on a forum, you can shame them (really, don't do that) into replying to your last nudge email :evil

LAgrunion
09-06-2012, 06:15 PM
Over the last few months he emailed the first few chapters of his ms to several anonymous--but experienced--beta readers around the world, all of whom seemed initially enthused when they received his sample query. Out of the ten he sent chapters to, only three ever contacted him again.

Those three presented extremely helpful constructive criticisms, and were eager each time for new chapters to be sent. When they finished reading his ms, they all came back with positive comments, telling him how good his story and writing is, that it was a fascinating and enjoyable read (one even using the word 'excellent').

I'm hardly learned, especially amongst the many knowledgeable folks here at AW, but I'll give you my two cents.

I think 3/10 is a pretty good response rate.

Of the seven non-responders, I don't think you should read too much into their non-response. It's just too hard to guess their motivation.

Possibilities:

1. They flaked.

2. They got busy.

3. They didn't like it, but didn't want to say it. Many people are simply not comfortable being critical. They don't like to say negative things or hurt feelings. In this case, since the betas are anonymous and experienced, discomfort is probably not a likely reason. But still a possibility. (Note that, even if someone doesn't like a book, it doesn't mean it's bad or unpublishable. Liking a book is pretty subjective.)

I'm sure there are other explanations I can't think of right now.

The fact that the three responders unanimously liked the book is very encouraging. If they were family and friends, then I'd discount their reaction. But here their anonymity makes their feedback more credible.

My experience: 1.5 month ago I sent out a request to mostly family and friends to see if anyone wanted to beta the first 25 pages of my novel. Close to 40 people responded yes. As of today, about 20% gave me feedback on the 25 pages.

Bushrat
09-06-2012, 06:57 PM
Oh, I really hate it when betas don't have the decency to just drop a short note, saying "Sorry, I don't feel like reading it after all" or "I can't stand the darn thing and couldn't get past the opening sentence". That lack of common courtesy bothers me, especially when you're not writing for fun but trying to get an agent or send the ms out to your agent by a certain date. It means you're sitting there, waiting with your revisions, and waiting and wondering and waiting .... aarrrgh!

Happened to me only once, luckily, and yes, despite it I found an agent with the ms.

As far as your friend goes - three betas is a good number, I find. He should be good to go :)

Katana
09-08-2012, 03:01 AM
Thank you, everyone, for taking the time to respond. I'm meeting my friend for coffee on Sunday, and I'll print off all of your advice. It sounds like it might be okay for him to start querying, which, I'm sure, will be an enormous relief to him. :)