Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like
And speaking of editorial services …
To charge or not to charge? That is the question.
Talking about beta readers — those tireless laboratory rats we feed our literary cheese to in advance of trying to sell it to the public. Sometimes that cheese is stinky, and we need someone to be honest enough to tell us that.
Over the years, most beta readers have provided their services for free. Whether as generous souls who just want to help or as voracious readers who can’t get enough words into their noggins, they’ve performed a labor of love for apprehensive authors. Above all, they’ve acted as first-line readers and not as editors, so the idea of paying for their service has seemed a little taboo.
Hypothetical, though: Let’s say an editor, like me via Indie-Scribable, takes on an editing client on the basis of a brief writing sample. The author wants proofreading and/or minor copyediting. To the editor’s chagrin, the book reveals itself, a little after the sample section, to be lamentably unready for prime time. It has many more problems than proofreading and minor copyediting can repair, on top of which it’s bloody long! Now, the editor can go ahead and take the client’s money, providing kind of a Frankensteinian suture job on the thing and signing off with, “Best of luck with your book!” Or he can tell the author the truth. And give up the job.
This has happened to me a few times already in my new outing as an editor of fiction. One writer told me that a number of his friends had read his book and said it was awesome. It was unreadable. I had to let him down easy.
It always breaks my heart to have to tell an author I can’t do what she’s asking of me. I can’t take her money. I can’t pretend that, when I’m finished “editing,” she’ll nail down an agent or sell hundreds of copies on Amazon.
But what I’d like to be able to do is tell her, “I’ll beta read this instead,” and charge a small fee. Much smaller than the editing fee.
I could also offer beta reading up front to authors who think their work isn’t quite ready for editing but is far beyond the first draft. Again for a small fee. Like $.001/word. That would come to $80 for an 80,000 word novel.
What do you think? Are writers beginning to see this as “you get what you pay for”? Or is there still something of a Florence Nightingale air about beta readers? They do what they do out of the goodness of their hearts.
I, for one, would be more inclined to pay for a beta reader if I knew she would be totally objective. Having friends and acquaintances read your stuff is always fraught with tricky angles. “I loved it” can mean, “I loved getting through this *&$%#^ thing!”
Anyway. Thoughts? Experience? Advice? Would you pay for a beta reader?