A post from Book Riot: THE NOT SO FUN SIDE OF BEING A BOOK’S FIRST READER
I assume the downside is the extremely obvious thing that instantly leaped into everyone’s mind: What if you don’t like the book?
Having beta read various books for BVC readers, and having dealt (often) with editorial feedback from early readers myself, I see various possibilities here:
A) You hate the book.
If you really dislike the book, you have two options, it seems to me. The first: pretend you are a suitable reader for the book in question and provide appropriate feedback. You don’t have to love the protagonist to say, “I think when she does thus-and-so, that’s out of character.” You can say that even if you thoroughly dislike the protagonist. Ditto for “I’m confused here,” or “I’m skimming here,” or “I know commas are kind of a matter of taste, but imo the meaning of this sentence is wrong and you really, honestly need a comma here.”
The second option is to say, “I’m sorry, but as it turns out, I’m not really a good fit for this book. I don’t feel I can be a good first reader for it.” Sometimes that’s probably the best choice.
B) You don’t hate the book, but you think it has a lot of weaknesses. The same two basic options: Carefully point out the weaknesses as helpfully as possible or decide you haven’t got the patience, the time, or the skill to deal with it and back out of early reading.
Other than discovering you hate the book / think the book has a lot of problems, I’m not seeing a downside. Let’s see if Book Riot has something else in mind … Oh! No, totally different take on the question!
1) I can’t talk to anybody about the book. The book I read, and loved, way too early is a mystery book so I can only discuss it with someone who has already read it, or I’d just be handing out spoilers like they were going out of style.
That’s not a problem that occurred to me! But you know what, that could be painful! Is that an early-reader thing? That’s kind of a thing whenever you read a book, love it, and whomever you usually rave to about books hasn’t read it. Of course, they can read it right away and then you can talk about it, so that solves the problem.
2. Can’t review it because the review would be kinda negative and I don’t want to drag down the star rating with an early negative review. I don’t mind posting a negative review later, after the book has accumulated some positive reviews, but it’s a pain to remember to review it later. Not even sure I want to post a mediocre review if it’s going to be the first review.
You know, that’s really a nice thought. Thank you, Book Riot post author, for being reluctant to post a negative review early. This is someone named Jamie Canaves, and I now think Jamie is a nice person. It’s quite true that an early negative review is no fun, especially if it pushes potential readers away from the book. After the star rating has settled at a decent level, it’s much less of a concern.
Those are the basic reasons given in the post, so this is not at all “early reading as feedback for the author.” It’s “early reading because I got a review copy,” a different topic. This isn’t a concern for me because I don’t have time to read stuff early; I don’t even have time to read stuff late.
Speaking of reading stuff late, what did you think of The Witch King by Martha Wells? I see it has 1800 or so ratings and a star average of 4.4. That’s lower than I would have expected. Is it low because a lot of readers wanted Murderbot and this is something else? Or is it low because it’s not one of her best? I think her best are, let me see …
- Murderbot, okay, I’m just another sheep following this herd
- Cloud Roads and fine, okay, the whole Raksura first trilogy
- Fall of Ile-Rien
- The Fall of the Necromancer, and I know that is arguably better than the Fall trilogy, but I didn’t like it as well, so here it is
- Wheel of the Infinite, where I was not super happy by certain things about how the plot worked out, but loved the book overall
- The other two Raksura books
Those are my favorites, and honestly I could flip (1) and (2), because I just love the first Raksura trilogy. I’m hoping I’ll put The Witch King up in this set of novels, and series, but who knows?
By the way, does anybody know what the heck is going on with Martha Wells’ books? If you search on Amazon, Wheel of the Infinite does not appear to be available in any format. If you go to Google and search, then you can find it on Amazon that way, where the hardcover is pricey and the mass market paperback is INSANELY EXPENSIVE. It’s not available in ebook form, so good thing I already have it as an ebook and I hope it’s still there. This is where I suddenly realize I should back up all my Kindle books via Calibre.
My guess is, it’s going to be republished. The Fall of the Necromancer has been reissued in a collection with Element of Fire and I believe that’s quite new, so that’s what I think may be happening. But not sure.
Meanwhile, honestly, no major spoilers please, but what did you think of The Witch King?