Beta Readers Have My Manuscript! What to do?
Updated: Sep 28
What are beta readers?
Beta readers review finished manuscripts before those manuscripts are published, providing the author with feedback from the reader’s point of view. They can be friends or family members. Anyone who will approach the book as a casual reader, pointing out things they liked and disliked, and highlighting the elements writers no longer see after countless
My 7 beta readers agreed to return their comments to me within 3 weeks. Just so you know, my manuscript takes approximately 7 hours to read.
It's been two weeks and I got NOTHING!
So, let me tell you something. You might have had this experience:
You run into your author friend on the street and you ask her how her book is coming. She puffs out her chest and says, “It’s in the hands of my beta readers. Should get it back in a few days and it’ll go to my editor.”
Yeah, she’s proud, happy, eagerly waiting, expecting the good news: her book is brilliant!
She goes on. “In the meantime, I’m enjoying this time off and I’ve started another book. You’re gonna love it!”
Okay. I’ll admit, maybe that’s the truth… for her. But for me? I tell you what I’m doing while waiting for beta reader critiques.
First, I experience an exhilarating sense of accomplishment. But! It's short-lived and false, of course.
Then, I begin cleaning my apartment, which has barely been touched since… well, since I moved in a year ago. I stop cleaning at the bathrooms.
I jot notes on my white board about a new book idea. Suddenly, I realize I have a deep-seated psychological problem. Something like emotional self-harm. I erase the evidence.
I swim, bike, and walk until my entire body hurts. I deserve it.
I talk to my friend. Yeah, singular. Down to one friend now. Why? Because I don’t engage in conversations. No dyads. Just one-way communication. Monologues where I obsess and explain, in detail, how I regret wasting eighteen months of my life… so far… writing schlock.
I work constantly to avoid these 5 self-flagellations. I say to myself, DO NOT:
1. Worry my manuscript will reveal these utter truths:
a. I’m a fraud.
b. My book stinks.
c. I suck at writing.
d. I am not and never will be a writer.
2. Believe my beta readers are taking all this time because:
a. My book is so bad they can’t get through it and don’t know how to tell me; or
b. they hate the story and pity me for trying to write such idiocy; or
c. both of the above.
3. Eat Publix Premium Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge Moose Tracks Ice Cream. Stop eating it after lunch and dinner and as a before-bedtime mammoth snack.
4. Drink wine to excess. White wine, that it. Not red. I can drink red, specifically 19 Crimes Red Blend, because my book is a mystery thriller.
5. Take sleeping aids. They cause a recurring nightmare: My beta readers circle around me, too close, invading my space. I’m gasping for air. Even though they are wearing n95 face masks, their maniacal laughter assaults my ears. They turn their backs to me and skip to a bonfire with 10-foot high flames. Seven manuscripts serve as fuel. They remove their masks, and dance and sing Randy Newman’s “Short People”. Louder and louder, especially the part where he sings "got grubby little fingers" and "Don't want no short people...."
And I got twelve more days to go.