First, a few excerpts from the many, many messages I’ve received recently.
- “Do you need another Beta Reader? I’d be happy to help….”
- “I read on one of your latest blogs something about beta readers. I had no clue there was such a thing, but now I know about it I want to be one.”
- “I think beta-reading sounds like the best job in the world–next to testing the softness of puppy-tummy-fur with one’s face all day.”
People have given many credentials and uttered many a plaintive plea. There have even been blatant attempts at bribery. People have offered me cash, computers, and promises of their undying love. About the only thing people didn’t offer is livestock and sexually explicit pictures of themselves.
I should have seen it coming, but honestly, I didn’t.
I know a lot of people would love to help me out by giving a beta read…
Wait, that’s not entirely true, is it?
What I meant to say is that a lot of people would love to read an early copy of the book, and, largely by coincidence, help me out with a beta read.
But I just can’t feel good about it. ** [See edit below.]
- “I’d like to volunteer. I know there is probably some precautions you have to take to make sure it’s not leaked, but I’ll do whatever you need, sign a contract, send in a testicle, mail in a kid for collateral, whatever… seriously though I can keep my mouth shut.”
Ultimately, this strikes at the heart of the issue.
Back when I was working on The Name of the Wind, I would give a copy of the book to anyone who even hinted they wanted to read it.
Getting other people’s feedback on the book is a key element of my revision process. You see, I’ve read this book so many times in so many versions, that I need an external view of it. A triangulation point, if you will…
But these days, I can’t just hand it out all higgledy piggledy. Things are more complicated. These days I have to worry about people leaking early, crappy versions of the book onto the net months before the pub date.
I know, deep in my heart of hearts, that most people would never dream of doing such a thing. But all it takes is one jackass….
And yeah, I have a non-disclosure form. Everyone signs it before they get the book. Even Sarah signed it.
It’s a vicious fucking thing that goes something like this:
You, by signing below, agree that you’ll do everything in your power to protect this manuscript and keep its contents secret. If you fail in this, and are a big chatty Cathy about it, I, Patrick Rothfuss, will fuck you up.
I will do this on all possible levels: financially, socially, physically, and spiritually.
If you lend it to your girlfriend who leaves it on the bus and then some jackhole finds it and it ends up on the internet, I will de-corn your cob. Seriously. Your entire cob. Every single kernel of corn. I am not even fucking kidding….
It goes on like that for some time. It is so terrifying that one of my friends said he didn’t feel comfortable leaving the house with his copy of the book.
But really, the non-disclosure form isn’t going to help. If the book gets leaked, I’ll be pissed forever, and suing some daft bastard into the ground won’t fix that.
- “Do i have to invade a small nation? Do I have to sing show tunes in Times Square? Or is it just one of those “inner sanctum of friends” kind of thing?”
Ultimately, yeah. At this point it is. I have to know you personally, so I can trust you. It’s also important for me to know you because that helps me put your comments in context.
The other problem is that for me to really get the most out of a beta reader, I like to be able to sit down with them over coffee and chat about the book. I like to be able to leaf through the manuscript, ask them questions about their comments, and pick their brains about certain key issues. And seeing how most of you don’t live here in Stevens Point, that’s kinda hard.
So this blog is to say thanks to everyone who offered to help. I’d love to be able to take you up on your offers, but I’m afraid I’ll have to pass.
** Edit – May 18th
When I looked at the comments today, I was surprised to see people offering hugs of consolation, and giving me support, and telling me not to let the messages get me down.
This was kind of a surprise to me, as the messages I got from people asking to be beta readers were, by and large, lovely, considerate, flattering things.
So I re-read the blog and found the problem. It’s the following line:
“But I just can’t feel good about it.”
What we have here is a classic case of unspecific pronoun. It seems like I’m saying that I can’t feel good about all the people asking to read book two. But that’s not the case. I’m cool with that. As I’ve said, it’s really rather flattering, and I wish I could take people up on their offers. Because, as I’ve said, I love feedback.
That sentence should read, “But I just can’t feel good about handing out copies of book two to strangers.”
This, my friends, is why I do a lot of revisions. One misused pronoun and the entire emphasis of a piece of writing gets fucked up.
Just wanted to clarify.