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Do You Think Beta Readers are Self-Serving?


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Do you find that Beta readers are just echo chambers to give you, not good feedback, but writer reinforcement?  I'm not saying they are, but I keep get writers who tell me how fabulous their beta readers say their book is, or how their beta readers just couldn't put their book down.  Then I read it, and I wonder if we're talking about the same book.

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Well, my wife knows how much I'm going to have to spend to put a book into production.  Given how tight she is with the money, if she was self-serving, all of my writing would be awful.

 

The others have zero incentive to give me reinforcement.

 

There is also a flip side to this: the beta reader who sees themselves as "molding" your writing.

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What exactly is your definition of writer reinforcement? 😄

 

Personally, I think it depends on a.) who your beta readers are, b.) how well they know you, and c.) how honest they're willing to be with you. Aunt Gertrude won't tell you about how bad the climax was at the end, neither will your mother. 😄

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2 hours ago, suspensewriter said:

Do you find that Beta readers are just echo chambers to give you, not good feedback, but writer reinforcement?  I'm not saying they are, but I keep get writers who tell me how fabulous their beta readers say their book is, or how their beta readers just couldn't put their book down.  Then I read it, and I wonder if we're talking about the same book.

Honestly? I don't think any beta reader is self-serving, unless the only reason they're reading is to use that writer as their beta reader. Even then, I doubt it, because do you want a beta reader who is just sucking up to beta read his/her MS?

BUT, I know from experience that different beta readers bring different skillsets to the table. And I cannot imagine beta reading a book that you don't see as wonderful. I beta for two reasons only -- I like the story and I think the writer has talent. (I'm hoping to learn from their skills. And, yeah, I want to make sure the characters are settled by the end.) I could easily say someone's book is wonderful when it averages 20 SPAGs per page. I can because if I could see SPAG problems, I'd be a much better writer.

 

I'm there for the story itself, and I can pick up inconsistencies and get confused about things most other readers get first time. (Wait. There's a drought? 😳) That second one doesn't sound helpful, but it's good for a writer to gauge if it's getting through.

 

My one beta reader gave me SPAG only an editor, (or stubborn English teacher), could give, as well as straightening out vague spots. Another beta reader gave me overall arcing, (story and characters), as well as what he thought would happen next to see if I was unpredictable enough. And a third gave me the wonderful nitpicking needed. None did it as self-serving. They just liked the story... and me. I think that's why it can be both -- a loved story that doesn't measure up to publishable-yet.

Edited by Spaulding
typo...again
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1 hour ago, Ky_GirlatHeart said:

What exactly is your definition of writer reinforcement? 😄

 

Personally, I think it depends on a.) who your beta readers are, b.) how well they know you, and c.) how honest they're willing to be with you. Aunt Gertrude won't tell you about how bad the climax was at the end, neither will your mother. 😄

Depends on who your Aunt Gertrude or Mom is. My mom was that annoying English teacher who wouldn't let me get away with a preposition at the end of a sentence, a split infinitive or a summary paragraph unless the paper did prove all that. And Dad? Dad took a red pen to our letters to him, written as adults. Some families are blessed with too-honest relatives. 😆

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25 minutes ago, Spaulding said:

Honestly? I don't think any beta reader is self-serving, unless the only reason they're reading is to use that writer as their beta reader. Even then, I doubt it, because do you want a beta reader who is just sucking up to beta read his/her MS?

 

I would guess that they just want to please the author, and I really wonder about how they (the authors) pick them.

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I can see where you are coming form SW. 

Personally while, like many, I don't particularly want to my work to be trashed, I do appreciate constructive feed back. 

 

I think the thing some people may find as this hard to don as a BR   - it is easy to give criticism, but it is much harder to do constructively. You have to not only point out the flaw but explain why it is not working and how it might be fixed. That is time consuming and requires a certain amount of tactic. 

 

Personally I have found the BR's here incredible insightful, constructive and encouraging. My work always comes out better for the critique. I don't use any other website. The only other person I do sometimes ask for an opinion is my daughter - and believe me she shoots straight.

 

I suppose there is an argument to say some BRs many want to compare what someone write to their own work. In that sense it might be considered self serving it is only done to make yourself feel superior about your own writing. Alternatively as BR you can read some work that blows you away.

 

Edited by Shamrock
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2 hours ago, Spaulding said:

Depends on who your Aunt Gertrude or Mom is. My mom was that annoying English teacher who wouldn't let me get away with a preposition at the end of a sentence, a split infinitive or a summary paragraph unless the paper did prove all that. And Dad? Dad took a red pen to our letters to him, written as adults. Some families are blessed with too-honest relatives. 

Hey, but that's a good thing if you have honest relatives! My dad's good at giving honest critiques, and I think my mom would be good at that, too. 😆 😆 😆

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2 hours ago, suspensewriter said:

I would guess that they just want to please the author, and I really wonder about how they (the authors) pick them.

 

I think some do! I pick mine very carefully. They are people who I trust to be honest even if that means giving a critique. I also ask very specific questions once they're done, about things I struggled with writing or are unsure about. This can further open a door to honest conversation.

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6 hours ago, suspensewriter said:

Do you find that Beta readers are just echo chambers to give you, not good feedback, but writer reinforcement?  I'm not saying they are, but I keep get writers who tell me how fabulous their beta readers say their book is, or how their beta readers just couldn't put their book down.  Then I read it, and I wonder if we're talking about the same book.

I'd say personal preference comes into play here. If someone likes the story/genre, they're more apt to give glowing reviews...or the exact opposite.

 

Maybe inexperience is a factor too. I found with drawing that's it's easy to find people around who like my art; the same people who say they "can't draw", meaning they actually can't or can't be bothered to try. Their pool of reference is shallow.

 

However, during my college days, I submitted a work of mine to a contest on campus thinking I had a decent shot.

 

Then I saw the other entries...and boy did my work pale in comparison! Needless to say, I did not win, nor should I have.

 

The judges had experience weeding good from "meh" art. Could be that the Betas we choose don't have the experience needed to help take a MS from "meh" to great.

 

That said, being a novice writer/BR myself, I appreciate opportunities to critique. It's helped me develop a better critical eye. I try to give what I hope to receive: honesty.

 

 

 

 

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9 hours ago, Ky_GirlatHeart said:

What exactly is your definition of writer reinforcement? 😄

 

Personally, I think it depends on a.) who your beta readers are, b.) how well they know you, and c.) how honest they're willing to be with you. Aunt Gertrude won't tell you about how bad the climax was at the end, neither will your mother. 😄

Then there's my father's reaction to the one cozy mystery I wrote. I warned him he wasn't in my target audience, but bless his heart, he read it anyway. His comment: "We'll it was entertaining." I'm still laughing. 

 

I don't really have Beta Readers, I have several sweet souls, fellow authors, willing to read and give me a critique. I love their sweet honesty. One gave me this tip on my first book: "It reads more like a travel brochure than a novel." The minute she said it, I knew she was right. It was the parts about Africa, and since I'd been there, it was hard to dial back some of the information I had personal experience with. I did however, thank goodness! 

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Just now, Cecilia Marie said:

Then there's my father's reaction to the one cozy mystery I wrote. I warned him he wasn't in my target audience, but bless his heart, he read it anyway. His comment: "We'll it was entertaining." I'm still laughing. 

 

I don't really have Beta Readers, I have several sweet souls, fellow authors, willing to read and give me a critique. I love their sweet honesty. One gave me this tip on my first book: "It reads more like a travel brochure than a novel." The minute she said it, I knew she was right. It was the parts about Africa, and since I'd been there, it was hard to dial back some of the information I had personal experience with. I did however, thank goodness! 

LOL, that "Well, it was entertaining"...That's hilarious!

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14 hours ago, suspensewriter said:

I think that was very entertaining, @Cecilia Marie!

That reminds me of the come back from a reviewer to the first book in my series, And Then Came a Lion. He titled his review with: And Then Came a Reviewer. I'm still laughing. He gave me a good review. Not stellar, but good. 🙂 

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image.thumb.png.c771c063fcb42816041bbf34d61d939e.png@suspensewriterThis could go on and on like my dad's bad jokes about Likely, CA. "It's likely we'll pass through Likely." "It's likely we'll need to stop at the general store in Likely because we'll likely be hungry." And it went on and on between the two of us until Mother said she'd slap the next one to say the word, likely, in any form. Giggle. Of course we dared her and she did slap Daddy on the arm. 😄 

Edited by Cecilia Marie
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On 7/28/2021 at 12:15 PM, carolinamtne said:

That seems a strange name for a town. Wonder why they picked it.

According to Wikipedia: 

Residents were unable to agree what to name their town until a local rancher observed that they would most likely never agree upon a name, at which point someone nominated the name, "Likely", and the name was voted in. The South Fork post office operated from 1878 to 1882. The Likely post office opened in 1886.

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On 7/28/2021 at 8:58 PM, suspensewriter said:

Your family had a good sense of humor, @Cecilia Marie!

They certainly did and do. Last night my sister had me in stiches over relating her bad fall in leaving her office. They had redone the floors with some kind of polish that was still sticky. She was rushing as usual and stopped rather abruptly when she hit the sticky floor. She collided with a cement post. The result was a dent in her skull, a concussion, and a damaged knee. As in the tradition of our family jokes were made. First, my sis teaches Biology, Human Development and other science college classes. She explained to her class that our skulls are like helmets for our brains. Her lovely daughter added. "Yeah, if her skull was for sale on Amazon, it'd get a one star." We are born comedians and story tellers. I promise to not add anymore jokes to this thread. I've punished you all enough. 😉 

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