When your beta reader bails...


You and I are sitting at a table at Starbucks, sipping our Cappuccinos—mine's a decaf, yours is full-leaded with one sugar, I'm setting the mood—when our mutual girlfriend bursts through the door, slides crying into a vacant chair at our table. "He" just broke up with her, with the classic line, "It's not you. It's me." You and I turn to each other, roll our eyes in disgust, and tell her he's lying. Totally lying!

We hug her and tell her how sorry we are she's hurting—like good girlfriends do—then we remind her of all the tell-tale signs we'd been seeing all along... his lack of attention, his snide comments about what she was wearing, or her looks, or her attitude. In his not-so-subtle way, he had been critiquing her. She just failed to notice.

Now let's look at you and your beta reader.

I'm assuming you have full vetted your reader... they read books, lots of books, they read your genre, they've read many books that are about the same length as yours, and they're not your mother. You give your beta reader your prized manuscript and begin your wait for their love and approval.

But... they've bailed on you. They "It's not you" on you! Their life has gotten so busy. They have to finish the "other" novel before they start on yours. They... they... they whatever, yet they haven't read your novel!

Did your beta reader fail you? Well, yes. BUT!!! You failed your beta reader. Your novel didn't grab their attention, or hold their attention enough for them to finish it... aka your novel sucked. Okay, maybe that's harsh. But you said you'd properly vetted your reader, right? And when you handed them your manuscript, you explained you needed them to read it—all of it—and give you feedback, right? Well, there's your feedback!

I have met writer after writer who complained about their beta readers.

"They don't finish the book."

"They said it was fine."

"They haven't started reading it."

 If I was whining about my beta readers and said any of the above statements, your first thought would be that they didn't want to read it or that writing was bad! So why are you not thinking this about your own book?

Girlfriend, (read this with your best Valley Girl accent in your head) your book totally sucked! Maybe it semi-sucked...


So fix it!

 Go back and re-read your own story. Get yourself a new editor—or your flipping first editor. Ask a fellow writer whom you respect and like their writing, to read the first 20 pages. Trust me, I can tell if I'm going to like a story in about 20 pages. Better yet, I can tell if the writing is good by reading 20 pages. AND... most of all... listen to what these people tell you!

Now, get out there and write like the world loves you.

With a good story coach and excellent editing, they will!

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