Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Beta Reader Response Times

 By Steve Weddle

So you've written that novel. Dang, ain't that great? Remember how much you had to slog through some of those sessions, when nothing worked? Remember when everything fell into place? Remember when you woke at two in the morning with that idea that wouldn't go away? You and this book have been through it.

OK. Now, you want to send it to a friend to see what they think. You've clicked "Send" on the email. You've checked Twitter, Instagram, even watched a few TikToks. Now is the time to check the email again to see if they've responded. Well, they said they've got the manuscript and are looking forward to reading it. Cool. Cool.

Now it's the next morning. You check your email. They haven't even responded. Well, OK. You check Twitter. Instagram. Oh, that's weird. You see the person posting about going to see a movie last night. Well, OK. Sure. They can see a movie, but what about your book? The thing you've worked so hard on, that you've entrusted to them. 

Honestly, though. They're allowed to see a movie, right? I mean, you're being ridiculous. OK. Now it's the afternoon, and you're looking at Twitter again. Oh. They're live Tweeting a re-watch of the series premier for Big Bang Theory. Hunh. Well, how about that? Maybe you should mute them on Twitter and Instagram for a while. You're turning into a weird stalker. They're allowed to do other things than read your book, right? 

OK. It's been two days. You haven't gone looking for them on social media. You've only just kinda noticed that they haven't emailed about your book. You've hardly thought about it at all. No, really. Maybe they didn't like it. Maybe they read the book and are now thinking about how to find nice things to say, while sprinkling in some critical points. OK. You can take it. This is part of the job.

Come on. How long has it been now? Three days? Four? You check your sent emails to see when you emailed them. It's been five days? Good god. And nothing? Should you email them about something else, just as kind of a nudge? Should you find one of their Tweets and click the Like button so they'll see your name pop up in their Mentions and remember to read your book?

You're not sure what's taking so long. It's been a week now. Is that a long time? It seems like a long time. How long does it take you to read a book? Well, longer than that. Still, though. I mean, they could email to say they've read the first few chapters, at least. Right? What's reasonable?

I've been in the position and, while your mileage may vary, here's what I've come up with:

Praise in Under Two Days: The reader is a treasure. They really get you and your book. They're going in the Acknowledgements section of the book.

Critical Notes in Under Two Days: It's clear the reader didn't take any time with this. How can they complain about gaps in the narrative or action points that need to be amped up? And claiming that your main character has no agency? Please. Maybe next time they shouldn't race through the book. Maybe next time they should pay more attention, take their time. Ugh. You're starting to understand the reasons for their divorce.

Praise in a Week: OK. They took their time. They're careful and deliberative. What a great reader and friend. You should probably keep them handy and email them each chapter as you revise this novel. This is the sort of person you want to work with. They should make statues to this person.

Critical Notes in a Week: Oh, for Pete's sake. This is what they made you wait a week for? They plodded through this, this novel that you've worked at all hours of day and night on for so long, and this is what they've come up with? Two paragraphs of quote-unquote THOUGHTS? Great. Here's a thought. They're going into your next book. No, this book. You're adding a chapter, making this person a small-dicked goat-humper who gets arrested trying to burn down an orphanage. Congratulations, jackass.

Response Takes More Than a Week: Clearly this person is evil and wants you to suffer. You don't need people like this in your life. Block them on social media. Send their emails to Junk. Focus on the positive. If someone doesn't care enough to respond in a week, let them live their life going to movies and watching Big Bang Theory. How did you ever think a person like that could be helpful?

Again, your mileage may vary.

Good luck.

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