In the post, Detecting Red Flags: Before Choosing A Beta/Writer, I talked about how to tell if a beta/writer was going to be a good fit for your writing process.
Sometimes, checking for red flags doesn’t work and you only realize later that the relationship isn’t going to work. It’s hard to break up or let someone down but sometimes — you need to.
There has been a time or two that I’ve continued to beta read a manuscript even though I wasn’t enjoying the relationship. Even though, I didn’t like the book. It’s a mistake.
It’s easy to break up with someone if they aren’t respecting you. It only takes you standing up for yourself and ending the relationship.
But what about those times when it’s really hard?
Evaluate the Situation
Hopefully, the writer/beta isn’t too far into the process but it has happened to me before.
- I’ve been reading a book and the left turn in it is too much for me to go with — suspended disbelief is shattered — and I hope that it will come back.
In this case, I read some more chapters. Sometimes, that left turn is awesome you just can’t see it yet. If that doesn’t work, let the writer know why you don’t want to keep reading it. That’s feedback too.
Work on things that you believe in. I’m not talking about a book that could be really great. Definitely work on that! I’m talking about a book that doesn’t interest you at all. This happens. Most of the time, in my case, it just hasn’t been my genre. I wasn’t the target audience.
It’s difficult but be honest.
- If you’re a writer and the feedback is bordering abusive because the reader doesn’t like your story anymore. Ask yourself if it’s really helping you. Constructive criticism answers the questions “why” and “how” a lot. People that just tell you over and over that it blows with no reasons behind it, probably aren’t helping you.
There are times when one of the parties also don’t communicate well or the process isn’t being respected.
- If the pace of submissions isn’t working for you because of a deadline
- The beta/writer isn’t getting back to you within a reasonable amount of time.
- The other party just has one excuse after another
Obviously, I can’t cover every circumstance but these are a few. In the end, you realize that you have to break up with them. This is some advice and only my opinion on the subject.
Before sending them an angry or upset email, take some time to think about what you want to say. Remember that you’re a professional and need to act as such.
Take time writing the message to them. Don’t send it without a reread or two.
Try to avoid rambling, excuse making, or placating. Nobody likes this in real life, I doubt they’ll like it through email.
Write down a list of reasons. Including how you feel.
Don’t write the list as the email. This actually pisses people off.
Save a draft of the email and leave it alone for awhile. Then come back, I usually do this the next day, and reread it. You might see it differently then when you were writing it.
The Last Proof Read
The first thing I recommend doing is thanking them. For letting you read their work. For taking the time to send you feedback. Being grateful is a way to convey that you don’t hate them, you just don’t think it’s working out.
Tell them that you want to end the relationship. Don’t be angry about it just tell them simply.
Let them know what made it difficult for you. Your feelings are valid. If it is an emotional issue with the other party, let them know how it made you feel from your perspective but don’t repeat it over and over. Don’t write a paragraph about it. A sentence will do.
Sometimes, people don’t realize or understand how they impact others. I do it. You probably have done it. All of us have. At times, issues like that get resolved just by stating it and the break up turns into a make up.
If the beta reader isn’t helping you, give them feedback on their feedback. There is no rule saying you can’t. Just be professional about it.
Example: ‘When you told me that you didn’t like the protagonist and I asked you why — telling me they’re dumb didn’t help. I noticed this trend in your feedback and I was hoping for examples.’
It opens the door for one more chance. They might still get upset, you are breaking up with them. It is important, though, for you to keep your cool. Don’t ruin your reputation or professionalism.
If a writer won’t follow your submission guidelines or a beta is difficult to get a hold of let them know that that’s the reason why you need to let them go. Again, keep it simple.
Last but definitely not least, wish them luck. This isn’t happening because they are bad people. This is only happening because the situation isn’t working out to be mutually beneficial. Remind them of that. Remind them that it isn’t anything against them as people. And if you have a few things that you like about them, include those things too.
There have been a couple times where I never hear from them again. I’m okay with that.
There have also been times it has strengthened my relationship with the writer and made the situation better.
Every once in awhile though, it goes badly. I’ve seen people get blasted on social media as the worst writer/beta ever. I got one email that was really emotional and mean. It sucked. And my day sucked when I saw that because I tried really hard not to hurt them.
The thing is, if it doesn’t look like it can be salvaged don’t engage. It may be tempting but don’t write a mean email back. Or blast them on social media too. It looks bad on you. And when I see that behavior I want nothing to do with either party. It’s alienating.
If you absolutely want to try and patch up the bad feelings — leave them alone for awhile. Give it a week. Give them time to cool down. They won’t hear you while they’re still upset.
I have a couple articles that will help minimize the chances that this awful situation will happen to you.