Thursday, April 23, 2009

To be an author's friend or their beta reader?

So I was reading a nice, mushy post by Ebenstone and I was wondering, what would I rather be, an author's friend or their beta reader?

And that is the question I will pose to you, the reader. Would you rather be a friend or a beta? Each is not mutually exclusive, you could be both of course. But if you had to choose, which one would be best?

I have mixed emotions about both. My immediate thought is I would want to be an author's friend. I mean, you get all the benefits, right? You can brag to your friends that you know a famous author. You get free books to read. You get signed books. You get author swag. You might even get some invites to conventions or book signings.

But then I think to myself, that's not really a friend. That's a leech or hyena, someone living off the scraps of the big whale (the author in this case). So I then revert to wanting to be a beta reader. You still get to read the books before they come out and may even get a mention of thanks in the book.

After mulling this over for a day or so, I think I'd rather be an author's friend. But only if I can be a true friend. Not that hyena that looks for the droppings left behind, but a friend. And that's where John (aka Ebenstone) comes in. I consider him a friend. Granted, he may fall into that "internet friend" category as I've never seen him face to face or even heard his voice. But I still call him a friend. And when he gets published, I'd love to get all those goodies up above. But I won't expect them. With John, I'm lucky. I get to be both a friend and a beta.

Which brings me to another aspect of the question. John is unpublished but does write well. But would things be different if the author in question were published? Say, Carolyn Anderson. Or a New York Times Bestseller? Like, oh, Patrick Rothfuss. What if the author was working in a genre you didn't really like, but was still a bestseller? Like, Ann Brashares.

So, which would you rather be, an author's friend or their beta reader?


Tia Nevitt said...

It depends on the person, I guess, and whether you it it off as friends. I have a relationship with one author where I consider her my friend and a bit of a mentor. But I've never done a major critique of one of her novels.

Another author has sent me his work-in-progress for my feedback, but we really don't have enough in common to be "friends." We email back and forth about each other's writing, and that's it. I'm glad to have his input, and I hope I provide him with valuable input as well.

So, it depends on the person.

1979 semi-finalist said...

I go for friend. But maybe that's because I'm feeling more in the position of "author" (largely unpublished though I am) than as "friend". As a writer, I'll take a friend over a beta reader every day. I also have a lot of friends that are artists (few writers) but a lot of artists and I really love just knowing them.

Maybe the real question you're asking through is how do you know when you've advanced to the level of "real" friend instead of acquaintance or "reader". That's a tough one - perhaps we should devise some sort of clever test. :)

TK42ONE said...

Tia - Good point. I'm not sure I'd like to be friends with Stephen King. He just kind of creeps me out.

1979 - I think a friend, even just a "passing" friend would be better than a beta reader any day. Would a beta lend you a few bucks for a coffee? Doubtful. As to a clever test, who knows. Maybe a "true" friend is one you talk to on the phone? Would that take the relationship to the "next level."

John Zeleznik said...

For what it's worth, I've been told I sound a lot like Yankee's broadcaster Michael Kay...not sure why I'm sharing that now.