Tag Archives: Beta Readers

Beta Readers: Part II

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.

More soon,


** 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.



Posted in book two, the business of writing, the craft of writing | By Pat116 Responses

Fanmail Q&A – Beta Readers

Dear Pat,

I read your post about book two, and I just wanted to say thanks for letting us know. It’s nice having a real date.

I noticed that you aren’t posting much on facebook or your blog these days, and I hope it’s not a result of people shitting in your cereal. (metaphorically speaking.) I don’t read any blogs other than yours, and I’d hate for you to quit writing stuff online just because of a few dickheads.

I’m actually writing because I was curious about a term you used in your previous blog. You said that you were wondering about who you could still use as beta readers. I hate to sound ignorant, but what’s a “beta reader”? Is it a different name for a copyeditor?

Hugs and kisses,


Heya Simon, thanks for being patient. I appreciate it.

I’ve been offline a little more these days partly because I’m focusing on revisions, but also because my main computer is in pieces in my closet right now. These days I’m getting my internet access the way our neolithic ancestors did, by hanging out in coffeeshops, using the public library, and viciously stealing unsecured wifi from my neighbors late at night.

To tell you the truth, I don’t remember when I began using the term beta reader. I might have picked it up from other writers, or I could have started using it on my own. If I had a better internet connection right now, I’d do a little research into it, but I’ve only got 35 minutes before I have to give up this computer (I’m in the library right now.)  

Wherever I found it, I’m pretty sure I’ve been using the term in one way or another for about 6-7 years .

When I say beta reader, I’m talking about someone who reads an early version of my book and gives me feedback on it. Sort of the same way a beta tester gives a software developer feedback on a nearly-finished game.

I also have people I call alpha readers. They read very early, very rough versions of the book and tell me what they think.

I have gamma readers too. They read my solid, almost-finished drafts.

I don’t go any lower than that, simply because I worry that some of my friends would be insulted if I referred to them as Epsilon readers. Plus, every time Kvothe climbs on top of a building, I know I’d have a slew of them writing “Roof! Oh Roof!” in the margins of my manuscript.

Alpha readers are hard to come by, and I only have a handful. These are people who know the book really well. They tend to be old friends who have been reading my stuff for years, if not decades. Many of them have read all three books. Many of them have role-played in my world, back when they lived closer to me and I had the spare time to run games. 

Brett, the guy who draws illustrations for the blog, is one of these. He read an early version of my book back in 1990’s when we were both students at UWSP.

Sarah is also an alpha, and she’s been helping me recruit another future reader:

This is Sarah reading a beta version of The Wise Man’s Fear a couple months back. She reads it out loud to Oot sometimes.

Click to embiggen

Oot:  “Is that a comma splice Momma?”

Sarah: “They’re all comma splices, sweetie.”

From what I’ve been able to gather, I work differently than a lot of other authors, in that I like to get a lot of feedback on my book while I’m revising. A lot.

Also, generally speaking, I prefer my test readers to be just regular readers, as opposed to other writers. 

Note that this isn’t a hard and fast rule. Brett, for example, is a great writer, and one of my favorite alphas. But generally speaking, I prefer getting feedback from, say, plumbers. Or chemical engineers. Or actors. Or historians.

I have several big reasons for this, but the biggest one is this: after my book is published, the vast majority of people who read it won’t be writers. They’ll be teachers, or fry cooks, or programmers, or soldiers. If I only gathered  feedback from other writers and slowly shaped my book according to what they said, I’d end up with a book designed to please writers. Personally, I find that thought vaguely terrifying.

Anyway, my time’s about up on this computer. Hope this answers your question, Simon.

Hugs and kisses to you too,


Posted in Fanmail Q + A, Oot, Sarah, the craft of writing | By Pat115 Responses
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