Friday, January 7, 2011

I Really Don't Care About Your "Beta-Readers"

It is almost a certainty that I will receive at least one submission each week with a reference to the "beta-readers" for that writer's new story. This ranges everything from random quotations, to quotes from people with supposed "professional ties" to the industry. I know this may sound cold and heartless, but frankly, I don't care who read your stories. Those comments mean nothing to me. O.K. let me back that off a bit. If someone tells me an established author that I know said they loved the book, and that author sent me a private email telling me it is amazing, I might do something.

The point is simple. Those reader comments mean nothing when it comes down to the business of writing and submitting to an agent. When we see a project, we look at:
  1. Do we personally feel attached to the project?
  2. Is this something that we market?
  3. Is there some marketablity to the project?
  4. Is this something we feel we could sell?
  5. The professionalism of the writer.

One of the biggest reasons for ignoring those comments stems from something I have said here on the blog in the past when we deal with "critics." In a book that I love called THE POCKET MUSE the author mentions that every author needs to have two critics. Someone who thinks everything you do is amazing and someone who will tell you the truth. Too often, the people we have read our stories early on are the people from that first group. Family members, friends, critique partners and the like will often tell you only good things. Even those authors that use those online writing groups where you can post your stories to get feedback fall into this group. The people reading those stories are folliowing you because there is something they like about you.

As far as we are concerned on this end, seeing those additional comments really doesn't sway us one way or another. Just write a dang good story and sell it to me!



  1. Nothing wrong w/ a little brutal honesty.
    I think I got lucky. Out of my three friends I asked to read my story over and critique it, only one went nuts with a red pen and when I say nuts I mean NUTS. I rewrote the whole ending because she said she thought it wasn't that good, that it was too quick. Still, I wonder if I need to find someone that's not a friend, maybe get a little more brutal with honesty.

  2. Patricia Lynne, about wanting to find a not-friend to beta your work, I'd say it depends on your friends. I know mine are actually more brutal—and more accurate, for that matter—than most of the online critique I receive. (By "accurate", I mean that they actually know what they're talking about, not trying to correct a misspelling that's consistent throughout the story and is actually an archaic spelling of the word being used.)

    I'm fortunate in that, I guess. My friends know that if they don't like something I write, they can stop reading and tell me. (They do, too.)

    All that said, I understand that my experience is the exception and not the norm. I as a reader cringe when a writer boasts that "all" his/her beta-readers love the novel. That "all" tells me that the writer is catering to a specific reader base, and I'm probably not in it.

  3. Not actually about today's topic, but MJ Davidson talked about Kate Duffy, whom I first heard of here and I thought you might like to hear the nice words. Between the two of you, I really wish I could have known her.

  4. HA! Thanks! I love how you always cut to the chase.

    ~ that rebel, Olivia