Readers wanted: Beta testing art makes me twitchy but…

I’m reasonably certain that Ernest Hemingway didn’t seek out a lot of advice on his manuscripts before he sold them for publication. He would be appalled at modern strategies of writers seeking out reader reaction before publication.

Steve Jobs would mock the idea of beta testing a book. Don’t ask buyers what they want, he said. Tell them what they want. Beta test? Please.

Yet, it’s a thing. It happens all the time. Blogging books have become popular. Serialized chapters on digital platforms allow readers to interact with the author during the writer process.

Crowdsourcing books? Why not? In this modern age of writing, anything goes. And lord knows I’m no Hemingway or Jobs.

Still, it makes me nervous. The idea of sharing my work before it is published makes me downright twitchy.

But… I’m going to do it. I’m putting out a “help wanted” sign in my window. “Readers Wanted.”

I just finished my new novel. I can’t tell if it’s brilliant or awful. I honestly have no idea. That’s where the readers come in. They get to tell me which it is. Thumbs up or down.

I doubt it’s in between.

The job sucks. There is no pay. The better you do the job, the more likely I’ll not want to hear it. It’s safe to say I lack both objectivity and openness to ideas, even when I am in desperate need of both. It’s a no-win situation. If a reader tells me it’s brilliant, I know I’ll think they are blowing smoke up my ass. If they tell me it’s awful, I’ll snicker and mock their inability to grasp the art. Those that have great ideas for changes will likely be dismissed. Those that offer few changes will be chided for their lack of commitment to the project.

Great job, right?

Hey, I’m being honest. I’m in full-fledged diva mode. I love these characters. I have spent all my waking hours with them for a long time now. I teared up reading my own ending. And now that I’ve finished, I’m wallowing in depression.

Also, I already know everything that’s wrong with the book. It’s too long. It’s too ambitious. It’s too similar to others and too different to be published. It’s a lame attempt at literary and a poor attempt at suspense. It defies categories and preaches too much and reeks of sentimentality and gets way too fucking deep on matters people don’t care about. It’s everything and nothing and…

But I fucking love it.

So yeah, I want to make it great. I want to get feedback. I need to know how readers experience it. I need a beta test, so I better understand how real people react to these real people I created on a page.  Hemingway would hate it, and I think I will too, but I’ll admit it. I need the help. Who would do such a thankless job?

I have no idea. Nevertheless,

“Readers wanted. Inquire within.”


One thought on “Readers wanted: Beta testing art makes me twitchy but…”

  1. Oy!! Tough one. And I think I am a crappy beta reader – two recent examples of books that I did not think were very good that then turned around and won awards (one of them the Pulitzer) indicate that I’m a tough one to please. So you’ll need many readers to get a sense of the “general” population’s potential reaction to your work. How do you manage something like that? But count me in if you want the kind of criticism that has proven itself to go against popular opinion. 🙂

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