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Thread: When You Really, Really Want a Beta Reader

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    Home Again--For Now AW Moderator Maryn's Avatar
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    Feb 2005
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    When You Really, Really Want a Beta Reader

    So you've recently finished your novel and think it's pretty good. You've heard beta readers can help you make it even better, and when you do an online search, you discover AbsoluteWrite has an entire board where writers can find beta readers.

    Woo-hoo! You join immediately, and your first post is on that board. You tell the members that you want a beta reader and a little about your books. You eagerly anticipate input, maybe even insight, from someone who can see every flaw and weakness and show you how to move from good to great.

    Usually you get one of these reactions:
    • Silence. Nobody replies at all. It's funny, how loud silence can be.
    • A reply, often days or weeks later, from someone who is as new as you are, and who also wants a beta reader, although you did not offer to exchange beta reads and don't even read their genre.
    • Some grouch, often one named Maryn, chides you with what she hopes passes for tolerant good humor, because you're so eager you didn't think this through.

    Some people here retain their basic trust in the goodness of humanity. Time permitting, they will beta read for anyone who asks. This is wonderful, of course, and I like to imagine fine beta-for-beta arrangements stemming from their generous spirits. But even those people have their limits.

    We understand that you're more concerned about your writing than about anyone else's--who isn't?--but when you ask for a beta read before you've given any of your own time and expertise, my first instinct is to balk. There are plenty of AWers like me, burned by authors seeking beta reads. We read people's novels, we wrote up comments or even did line-by-line on manuscripts that weren't really beta-ready, and the writers took off as soon as they had what they came for, never to be seen again.

    As a result, we've become stingy with our time and distrustful of people we've never seen around. We won't beta or even critique for people aren't familiar names at AW. Way too many of them are glad to take our help but never help anybody else.

    I'm not saying you'd do that. I don't know you. And I guess that's the essence of my reluctance. It's not just me, either. If you look at the requests for beta reads on this board from members with a very low post count, you'll see few volunteers and almost never a thank you that suggests a beta reading was completed.

    You can get us to beta read if you do things which make you a part of the AW community rather than someone who's here only to take, with no plans to give.
    • Become a regular presence at your genre's board. Ask questions, or answer without being a know-it-all. Get reading suggestions. Share a few titles you really enjoyed. They'll feel like they know and like you in a matter of weeks.
    • Critique other people's writing at your genre's Share Your Work (SYW) board. Those who are actively writing will feel like they owe you one. (Don't know how to critique? Sure you do. You know how to read, right? What parts work for you? What doesn't? Why not? There, you're critiquing. I knew you could.)
    • Get active in the 'overview' board of whatever you write, whether it's novels, short stories, memoirs, or scripts. A broader group will know you and like you.
    • Join in on the activity at any of the non-writing boards, from politics to cooking or movies. People will know and like you--but a different and far more diverse group than just your own genre's writers.

    I bet you're seeing a pattern here, huh? Being a person who's known and liked means people are happy to help you write your best. That includes me.

    After you've hit 50 posts, which will take no time if you get involved at multiple AW boards, post your first chapter at the appropriate SYW board. Make sure you read the sticky about how to format it, since AW doesn't support tabs and won't recognize your italics or font size. This lets people see what you've got and determine whether they'd enjoy reading more.

    Do that and you'll be somebody we know and like, who's a part of the AW community, who's contributed time and effort before asking for anyone else's, and who has a pretty good shot at getting exactly what you want, just not immediately.

    Maryn, knowing you can do it
    Last edited by Maryn; 06-22-2017 at 12:11 AM.
    Why does everyone want introverts to leave their comfort zone and be talkative, but no one expects the extroverts to be quiet to make that zone comfortable for introverts?

    Teacher's Pet, Volume Two, anthology with a professor and her grad student
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    Maryn Says, an irregular blog almost never about writing
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