After I finished my first manuscript I did a call for beta readers on a couple of online forums that I frequent and many was I surprised by the response. I think I had nearly forty people ask to read my work, and frankly I was very humbled by it. I sent it out to almost everyone that asked for a copy, and a whole lot of them came back with some really excellent and helpful feedback.
Some sent back feedback that wasn’t as helpful, but I was and am grateful they took the time to look at the manuscript nonetheless. They invested the time, and I owe them all a debt of gratitude.
Well… all except for one.
You see, I had one throw me a “quid pro quo.” This person essentially said that if I beta read his manuscript, then he’d beta read mine. Foolishly… I agreed. Because I was nice. And naïve… but mostly naïve.
So I read this person’s manuscript, and boy did I feel bad. It was over 110,000 words long, was formatted and ready to go, and he even sprung for a cover artist. I mean, this thing was all wrapped up in a bow. The problem?
The thing was awful.
I mean wretched.
There was no character arc. There was no inciting incident. There were NO STAKES. It was flat and boring. Boring with a capital “B.”
It was horribly tough to read too. None of the characters had dialogue tags and every single one of them sounded the same and blended together (it didn’t matter the gender… the characters were all the same and blended into one insipid lukewarm soup).
In short. It sucked.
So I politely wrote back to the author and informed him (diplomatically!) that it needed a lot of work, and stated all the reasons why. All the things I listed here and much, much more. Then I sent him links for tutorials on how to fix all the problems I found with the manuscript. Like half a dozen links to various writing tutorials, and self-help resources. Man, I was trying to help him develop his craft.
Then, the dude never go around to reciprocating that “quid pro quo.” I looked at his manuscript and sent feedback. He didn’t send me back shit.
Thanks a fucking lot dickhead.
Listen, if you want people to beta read your work, you should expect some constructive feedback. Which is what I definitely gave and wasn’t an asshole about it at all. But if you offer to beta read in exchange for the same courtesy, then you are duty… nay… HONOR bound to follow through and reciprocate. Unless you are a total douchebag.
Which this guy apparently is. Which is sad… because I honestly liked him.
Anyway, my key takeaway is that I’ll never beta read in exchange for someone beta reading my work again. I’ve been burned once. I’ll be damned if I’ll get burned again.
That is all.