How to catch beta readers

I’m not gonna tell you anything universal or profound. Just sharing a little moment that happened a few months back.

😈 = Me, N.S.
😇 = Anonymous Stranger

😇 Hi! If you’re still available to beta read, I write short stories and novellas and I’d love to get your feedback on them. Let me know if you’re interested!

😈 Sure, you’ve got any summaries or blurbs of them?

😇 Unfortunately, most of my works are too short for me to really summarize or provide blurbs, I hope that’s not a deal-breaker.

😈 Give me your best then

😇 My best story? Or my best attempt at a blurb for one, lol?

😈 Story, with a blurb.

5 minutes later

😈 If you’re not able to pick what you want critiqued, nor able to give a blurb, then don’t waste people’s time with indecisiveness. My opinion.

😈 Like 5k words you don’t really need a blurb, but anything longer yes

😈 Anyway, if you want to go ahead, I need to know a word count, at least a sentence of what it’s about (“a collection of flash fiction stories,” etc) and what type of feedback you want.

30 minutes later

😈 Sorry I’m grouchy, it’s the end of my weekend.

😈 Basically, if you’re going to ask for critique, the first question you sent to me says, “hey I have a laundry list of short stories AND NOVELLAS so please tell me which ones are good!” No, I don’t want to read your laundry list and tell you which ones are good. I was under the impression I’d get to choose, so I asked for blurbs.

😈 Otherwise if I don’t get a word count and an inkling of what to expect, I can’t help you. I don’t like going in blind with these things nor is it my job to provide validation.

😇 Wow, really squeezing in a “sorry for being an asshole but I’m going to continue being an asshole” right into the middle of your messages there as if that means anything.

😇 Sorry, bud, I have nothing to prove to you and it’s really not my problem that you don’t know how to be up-front about what kind of information you’re expecting from the start instead of waiting to dump your snobby attitude on me. If you’re under some sort of an impression, try to make that clear from the start. Your comment said, “I can feedback on anything, would prefer to discuss in dm,” to imply that you were actually going to, y’know, SAY what you wanted to provide feedback on or what you believe your strengths are. Minus your freaking attitude, most of what you just told me would have gone GREAT in your “Other info” section, but honestly I don’t want to deal with you any further.

😇 I hope you have a good evening and the best of luck with whomever you beta read for in the future.

That’s the end of the conversation thread. Did I feel bad? I felt bad that they were ignorant, but it’s also unfair to let ignorance fester. If I was in this stranger’s position, I wish someone would tell me what I was doing wrong and explain why it’s wrong. So I went all “tough love” mode because other readers will be less than communicative. They will ghost you for failing to take norms into account and for, well, displaying insecurity.

The tone is aggressive because the whole thing makes me mad. There’s no point hiding my feelings. I really was angry for some reason. It makes me mad because I picture a lost duckling going around, asking for advice, and getting nothing useful.

Writers generally offer a word count and a blurb; that’s a basic courtesy to their readers. If you want to not waste someone’s time, say from the 1st line:

😇 Hi! If you’re still available to beta read, I wrote a novella called “My Life In Shambles” (20k words) and I’d love to get your feedback. It’s about a former spy trying to avoid his past that keeps wanting to catch up to him. Let me know if you’re interested!

You need marketing skills when telling anyone about your work. As a bonus, this helps when writing cover letters to magazines, too (although you don’t have to summarize the premise unless the work is longer than 5k words).