1. Kallisto
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    Kallisto Active Member

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    When your readers just disappear

    Discussion in 'The Art of Critique' started by Kallisto, Nov 5, 2015.

    So I'm trying to figure out what the proper etiquette is in dealing with several situations I've run into when it comes to getting my book critiqued.

    Most of the time it's the people that drop off the face of the planet. They get my stuff. They say they will read my stuff, then they just disappear without a trace. How do you deal with that? Do you just let it go? Is this just something I deal with?

    I would say only about 5% of people who said they'd read my story and tell me what they think ever actually does. This includes those whose stories I have read in exchange.
     
  2. KhalieLa
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    KhalieLa It's not a lie, it's fiction. Contributor

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    Can't help; I have the opposite problem. My readers tell me exactly what they think, why they stopped reading, and why they refuse to read anymore. Maybe you're incredibly lucky that they just quietly go away.
     
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  3. Kallisto
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    Kallisto Active Member

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    Well, if you don't know what's wrong, then you can't improve. If someone just stops reading my story because, for whatever reason, that's still feedback. That's what I need.
     
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  4. Inks
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    Inks Contributing Member

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    Not sure if serious thread is serious. Both of you have 1 workshop thread, and I responded to KhalieLa in depth, but aside from an off-forum issue with a beta - is that a fair assessment still? Kallisto, I've looked at your entry, but where are these people just not responding or anything? I'm all for helping out, but I am a bit of an oddity so my help may not be needed depending on circumstances.
     
  5. GuardianWynn
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    GuardianWynn Contributing Member Contributor

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    My first question wuld be. "Is this a forum(this forum or somewhere else) a real life issue, or a other place on the internet issue?"

    Because the answer varies.

    1. Forum. I suppose speak to a mod. If someone is intentionally lying to you, that sounds like at the very least grounds for a formal compliant. If Forums work that way. Got to say I am not an expert.

    2. If it is real life. Not much to say. I would assume you know the person and should try to talk to them, or let it go.

    3. Kind of the same issue. I mean Beta Reading is a favor thing usually. So it not like you can really be too upset.

    I suppose in your case you were involved in a beta swap? If that is the case I would say you should work on methods to avoid being burned. Which a few ideas.

    1. Don't rush, as in take your time, get to know the person first. Someone that intends to use you is likely going to be impatient and move on if you go slow.

    2. If it is a beta swap you could try a chapter by chapter exhange. That way if you get burned it isn't by very much.

    3. Accept that some people are just jerks. Me personally? I would rather not have heard the opinon of a jerk that didn't want to give it anyhow.

    Hope it helps.
     
  6. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Assuming you're talking about a novel, beta reading is a big ask. I think you have to take the attitude that any feedback is a bonus and not to expect it. If I were you I'd start doing exchanges a chapter at a time (or x number of chapters at a time) so you both have an incentive to reply. If they stop, you stop, so you haven't wasted much time.

    It's impossible to say why it's happening to you but could be:
    • They were never interested in helping you and just wanted your feedback on their book.
    • They don't like the book but are embarrassed to say. Especially likely if these are people you know rather than virtual strangers.
    • They don't really know what you're after. If you haven't, try asking them specific questions so they can focus their feedback. Being asked to comment on an entire book without guidance is daunting.
    • Life got in the way. Rude of them not to drop you a line to explain, but you're probably not high on their priority list.
    • They're slow readers.
    I've been very lucky with beta readers and I'm touched that people are so generously giving me their time. But I have no expectations of them. If any of them went quiet I would probably send a message to see how they were, and something like "if you don't like the book please don't feel embarrassed about saying so and don't feel any obligation to finish". If I got no reply I'd take the hint and drop it. If I did get a reply that didn't mention the book I would assume they didn't like it.
     
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  7. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    I recently asked my wife and three friends (IRL, but not in the same city) to read my current novel. Except for my wife, they all took a long time (read: months) to get back to me, even the guy who volunteered without me even dropping hints that I wanted him to read it.

    The first thing that became apparent to me was that not all beta readers are cut from the same cloth. My wife was by far the quickest responder and gave me the most feedback with lots of detail (anyone who's married can back me up on this) and not all of it was easy to hear. Being in the same house and doing a lot of lurking, begging, hinting and pleading helped a lot.

    The guy who works at a bookstore (who was also the volunteer) found himself too busy to get to it right away. At least, that's what he told me at first. I found out later that he'd read the first chapter and put it aside because he thought it was written for a juvenile audience (not his cup of tea). That wasn't my intended audience and if he'd told me that at the time, this feedback would have sent me scurrying back to my word processor faster than a Disney lemming leaping off a cliff. When he finally did tell me, nearly three months after getting the material, I told him not to bother reading the rest because I was immediately going to dive into rewrites.

    The second guy, who took almost two months to get back to me and only did so then after three gentle reminders, gave me generic feedback. It could have applied to any story ever written. In a nutshell, it was: good job, now send it off to some publishers to see if they're interested. Not a lot of help... Oh. And this guy is a writer with whom I'd made a pact to exchange material for feedback, so you can't always count on getting anything useful under those circumstances. My first reaction was to give back in kind, but I couldn't do that and still feel good about myself.

    The last guy, an old friend who read my very first attempt at a novel back in the early 1990s, gave me some nice compliments, but nothing that I could take to the rewrite stage.

    Once the current (sixth) draft is finished--in which I'm attempting to put back the voice I used in the original draft but without juvenile overtones--I have one more beta reader I'm intending to send it to, another old friend who's a university professor.

    Bottom line:
    I've come away from this experience with five axioms (which could be complete twaddle):

    1) Beta readers (excluding those on this forum, since I have yet to get brave enough to go that route) need extremely gripping material before they become un-busy enough to get back to you in a timely manner.

    2) You will always get the most/best feedback from your spouse, but to get there, it takes a lot of back-n-forth to get them to be 100% forthcoming.

    3) Even gentle reminders are probably too much.

    4) Pick carefully those writers you will exchange work with for feedback.

    5) Most of your friends will agree to read your stuff because they like you, but they may not like your writing... or they don't like you enough to be as honest as you need them to be.

    But despite all that, I managed to come away with a reasonably good idea of what needed to be done. At least, I think I did. Perhaps I'm still floundering in the dark, but I trust that one day I'll find the light switch.
     
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  8. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I can just imagine the feedback from my husband. It would mostly consist of "what does that word mean?" (non native English speaker who learned by hearing, not reading :D)
     
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  9. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I think one thing we need to do is make sure we're giving our betas what we believe is a finished AND POLISHED story. In other words, don't give betas something that's not been edited to within an inch of its life already. I think sometimes we mistake betas for writing tutors who will ferret out every mistake and offer clear and helpful advice about how to correct the mistakes. Unfortunately, unless your betas are in that category and are willing to do all this work for free, what you're looking for is feedback from honest readers. And yes, many of them will not like what they read, genuinely will not have the time, or simply will not know what to say.

    You will know when you get a good beta, but it can take some time. However, do the best you can to give them the best you've got.

    I find a lot of people on the forum get used to the workshop, where we put up unfinished 'stuck' work to be critiqued. That's fine in the workshop, but that's not what you should ever give a beta. Give them something YOU think is polished, works beautifully, says what you want it to say, etc etc. Get rid of SPAG errors, and do what you can to correct writing mistakes before you even think of handing it out. You'll get a better response if your work is not some dog's breakfast of ideas you've just cobbled together and are wondering if they're any good.

    Beta readers aren't there to help you learn to write. Betas are there to let you know if you've succeeded.
     
    Last edited: Nov 5, 2015
  10. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    @Kallisto, It sounds like your wife really loves you. That counts for something, doesn't it?

    Everybody else probably has good intentions at heart, but your good writing is your responsibility, not theirs. If people keep flaking out on you, it's a sign (not rock solid evidence) that maybe your writing still needs a lot of work, and that's what WE are here for.... :twisted:


    * also, I think a lot of people just don't give a shit. So it might not definitely be your writing.
     
  11. Catrin Lewis
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    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

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    Good points from all above. I will say that if someone promises to beta-read and doesn't, can't, or won't, it is rude not to contact the author and say so. Yes, they're doing us a favor, but a promise creates an obligation.

    But then, if I promise to beta-read for anyone, I do it, and I carry on to The End, even if the novel is, as @jannert says, a dog's breakfast. :supercheeky: And I'll give the author detailed feedback, which is part of why it can take me so long to get back to them.

    @Kallisto, how many betas has silence this happened with? With my novel, of the 8 people who volunteered to read it, only 6 so far have given me any feedback at all, and only 2 have actually finished the book. For the most part the feedback's been positive, but I'm starting to think that this low-percentage response is par for the course.
     
  12. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    This probably deserves its own thread, but my number one beta( eg S.O) told me I shouldn't even bother getting other beta readers. If she thinks it's good, I should just edit and submit to an agent. The logic is thus,

    A beta can't be expected to help your actual voice and writing. That's something you do yourself, maybe with the help of others in a place like the workshop.

    All a beta really does is tell you of they really liked it and maybe make some big picture suggestions and a few smaller picture suggestions, like," your depiction of NYC is inaccurate because..." Big picture suggestions will be subjective, and small picture suggestions(im assuming) won't piss off an agent if they've already become hooked by your story, eg, those small details are fixable. It's not like the book won't be edited before you publish anyway.


    In conclusion, I've begun to wonder how valuable beta readers really are anyway... Maybe it's just a waste of time.
     
  13. Catrin Lewis
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    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

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    I've found them to be extremely valuable. Betas can point out plot holes, confusions, and character inconsistencies you yourself can miss and miss and miss. Just knowing some stranger is out there reading your work can make you read it yourself with new eyes.
     
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  14. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    So it's a question of how much an agent/editor tolerates. Too me, the sort of things you mentioned are generally very easily fixable. Plus, if you have one beta reader, you can assume that probably nothing too terrible has been overlooked. Maybe the agent editor can just help with the rest?

    Also, I know Stephen King first gives his work to his wife then to his betas, but once you're in King's shoes, you probably have betas that are worth using!
     
  15. Kallisto
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    Kallisto Active Member

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    This is more of an etiquette question and what could be reasonably expected from beta readers. So I think it is worth mentioning that asking someone to read but also comment is a huge commitment.

    Of all the beta readers I got (not counting critique boards), only one ever actually got back to me and offered any kind of feedback. (They're from this board, and they know who they are. :) ) And what's really funny is the ones that I read their work, are the ones that flake out the most.

    I understand it could be an indication that my story is unreadable. I don't believe it is. That might sound arrogant of me to say, but I am not a terrible writer. At least no one has said otherwise. This includes individuals on critique boards, teachers in school, and a no nonsense college professor. Sure, they could be saying that to say that, but you would think at some point someone would say so. The only ones who ever said my writing was rubbish, were people who either admitted they didn't actually read it, and a guy who later said he was akin to Shakespeare with his own writing. So naturally I heavily questioned their feedback.
     
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  16. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    It sounds like you got beta readers who are too concerned with their own work to care about yours. Worse, it's possible you got those of the 50% of WF membership, who don't actually read, and are just here because they were inspired by Transformers or Twilight (or Game of Thrones), but don't have access to Hollywood.
     
  17. Inks
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    Inks Contributing Member

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    @Kallisto - I can beta for you. I like fantasy and have few other commitments at this point. Just be open about it, not expecting any quid pro quo or anything. I find it really disheartening when people say they will do something and simply disappear, but such is life. I won't let you down though.:D
     
  18. Ippo
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    Ippo Member

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    That feeling when you generously give feedback to a writer and they just disappear when it's their turn for it. :mad::mad:
    I had people destroy my works before, really tearing it down in every aspect of it - and it was extremely helpful (not that it has to be that negative but sometimes it just turns out to be). I think most people don't think badly about a text as much as they are just lazy and kinda egoistic.
    These few encounters have been made by sifting through omegle. I don't know about people on here yet but since there's no absolute anonymity I am quite confident that things do look different over here.
     
  19. Lifeline
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    Lifeline The Dark - not in Wonderland Supporter Contributor

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    This is just a basic question about curtesy. If you give generously it should be understood that equal value comes back. It is not a case of eye-for-eye, but people should be aware that it is required not to be a sole "taker". And this board has a policy of give-and-take, so I would expect people to understand that.
    Of course one can't force people to do that in beta-reading/critiques but nevertheless!

    I had to just post that because I had similar encounters quite often (not related to writing but simply in everyday life) and they make me so mad!
     
  20. Burnistine
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    Burnistine Active Member

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    That's hilarious. I think you've made a valid point. Some people you just don't want to hear from. But then again, you won't know that until you get your belly filled with all the negativity. Kallisto, then, and only then, will you be able to appreciate what's been said here.
     
  21. Burnistine
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    Burnistine Active Member

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    Try soliciting your novel by sending a short synopsis along with the genre. I'd also include a paragraph or two, nothing more, as an example of your writing style. I've found that people don't always know how to tell you that they do not read in your genre. If pitching your book this way doesn't work, try other ways. Another way would be to find someone on this forum whose writing style you either like and would like to mimic. Invest in their story by following it, reading it, requesting more of it. As you critique their story, implement samples of paragraphs where you've either made the same mistake or have found wonderful ways to solve a problem the two of you have in common. Dialogue should ensue between the two or three of you, and hopefully a bond of trust. Then politely ask them if you could send a "chapter." Don't send the entire book. Serious writers on this forum are more than likely in the middle of rewrites and don't or can't spare that much time. Most have day jobs. So keep all this in mind. Don't be discouraged. We have all been through this.

    I'm looking for a partner myself. Might be a while. My novel is huge. It's a family saga. On a good day, if I can get someone to read a chapter, I'm doing good. So, hang in there.

    Just a suggestion.
     
  22. Chinspinner
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    Chinspinner Contributing Member Contributor

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    I gotta say, that just a few sentences saying- I stopped reading at this point for these reasons- is more useful than silence. I sometimes think people are just worried about causing offence. If I had offered to beta read and could not finish it I would at least give a reason. But then I would probably not offer to people who I knew would take offence to negative criticism.

    That said @Tenderiser gave some good alternative reasons why they might not be doing it.
     
  23. DefinitelyMaybe
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    DefinitelyMaybe Contributing Member Contributor

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    They do say that critique benefits the person doing it as much as the author being critiqued. Perhaps you can seed your prose with the words that you think he would be benefitted by knowing, and then remove them in a later edit :)
     

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