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I feel terrible for having to lay this out there, but I'm a little frustrated following use of a beta reader service.

I received a beta report on time this past weekend, but didn't receive my full manuscript with inline notes until today. The manuscript is pretty big, so I was given a pretty hefty price on a custom offer.

My concern began with the initial report. There were a few statements in it that made me think they skimmed or skipped parts. I get the feeling that they hit the deadline without finishing and hurried on their report, then scrambled to get the manuscript back to me.

My dilemma is that the person was extremely nice, and many of their criticisms were quite in depth and helpful. But almost just as many were very clearly a result of them skimming/skipping.

As for skimming, there were many instances where the beta claimed they couldn't understand certain lines or characters because they hadn't been shown/described. One specifically cited confusion over use of a character's first name being used because they hadn't been introduced yet. The character was introduced by their full name one paragraph before that. There were quite a few instances of similar notes, such as requesting to see more of the magic system's uses, specifically citing cooking. There was a long scene halfway through the novel of a mage cooking using magic.

As for skipping, two of the most notable examples: First, that they thought I should cut POVs back, because some of their arcs didn't relate to the others. Opinions on that aside, each of them pursued the same antagonist and all of them either came together with or clashed over that antagonist by the end. Second, the beta kept repeating that they thought the number of POVs was too high. But the beta got the number wrong over and over. There was an additional POV snuck in toward the end of the novel.

Then I got the inline edits today. The beta skipped comments on massive sections of the manuscript pertaining to the POV they missed (and the other they said didn't interest them early on), which further fed into my suspicion. I should also add that many of the criticisms this reader had about the big picture (world building, description, etc.) were praised by another reader for how much of it I included and fleshed out.

I understand this from a free beta, I would count that as DNF, which would tell me I have a lot of work ahead of me. But what do you do in the case of a paid beta? Especially one that was fairly expensive?

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  • So your question is whether to assume that this paid beta reader chose not to read parts of your manuscript because they didn't like it, or whether to respond and challenge them on the parts they didn't read?
    – F1Krazy
    Sep 5, 2023 at 17:14
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    More so how to go about this. It was over Fiverr, and this is something I don't know if I can actually prove definitively, so I'm not sure if pursuing the issue would be worth anything.
    – user60178
    Sep 5, 2023 at 17:27
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    I'm glad we were able to help you, but please don't deface your question after it's been answered. Leaving it in place will help anyone else who experiences this or a similar problem in the future. Please instead consider accepting the answer that helped you the most by selecting the green tick icon next to it.
    – F1Krazy
    Sep 6, 2023 at 10:21
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    Incidentally, it's very, very hard to get good editors for typical Fiverr rates. Good feedback takes incredibly long with sustained attention. Speaking as a former freelance editor and son of a professional editor. Sep 6, 2023 at 13:27

4 Answers 4

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You were cheated. On Fiverr, you only get a few days (3 I think) to complain, and get a refund or get a correction. Actually you just get a credit on your account you can use for another gig, not a refund to your card.

If you didn't do that when you were supposed to do it, it is too late. These workers are in other countries, you can't pursue them without Fiverr, and Fiverr gave you your chance to complain, or reject, and you didn't use it.

You gave up your right to protest. You had to act quickly.

Your money is gone. Don't use that vendor in the future. There are many on Fiverr that do substandard work, you should have tested them with the first chapter. Another approach is to set up a series of gigs; one per X pages for an agreed upon price, then one more for an overall assessment. Same amount of overall money -- If you are happy with each chapter's work.

I did that, with one vendor, for 18 illustrations I wanted for a business presentation. Her work was as good on my custom illustrations as were her samples. And she preferred it this way, because she wanted to be paid as she went, for so many illustrations, instead of doing a month's worth of work and then me saying I don't like them, or something.

Sorry you got bitten. You need to learn to use Fiverr better.

  1. Small gigs. Break the problem up into pieces less than $100, or whatever you can afford without cringing.

  2. Be very specific, lengthy if you must, to specify exactly what you expect. If you don't specify it, it isn't part of the contract. Don't say "as described in your gig explanation", if necessary copy their gig explanation into your statement of work.

  3. Review the work as soon as you get it, and reject the completion if it is bad work, and specify why it is bad work with reference to the job description you provided in #2.

  4. If it is good work, tip something, it builds worker loyalty. Plan from the beginning that you will tip 10% or something, as part of the price, but don't tell them you will tip, or they will expect it.

You can get good work from Fiverr, and cheap. I've done it dozens of times.

But like any workers, you need to manage them, and if they are sub-standard, let them go. And understand, just like regular employees, you probably aren't going to find out the employee you hired is sub-standard for free, either in time or in money. Always test the waters before you dive in.

Again, my sympathies. You are not alone; been there and done that. And I did, successfully, challenge one gig I contracted from a musician, and won (a credit on my account). Because I gave detailed instructions of what I wanted for background music, and they were not followed (at all). The guy wrote whatever he felt like writing. Given my specification and the delivered product, the Fiverr employee looking at my complaint canceled the gig and gave me the credit for the full amount. I would not have succeeded without the detailed specification, Fiverr tends to side with their gig workers.

Perhaps you can use your failed gig to better express what you want in future gigs. Live and learn.

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  • 3
    This. This is excellent advice. Especially re. breaking down the task into smaller tasks - folk on outsourced platforms are taking on side gigs, sometimes in high volume. This is in addition to having a (often complicated) life and/or a full time job. So even if the quality of their output is high, it can smetimes go down for sometimes long periods of time. You (and your helpers) can get a lot more value out of the process if you do a bit more hands-on micro-management for the project Sep 6, 2023 at 12:35
  • it may not be too late for a chargeback, especially if a credit card was used to pay for the service.
    – tuskiomi
    Sep 8, 2023 at 19:53
  • @tuskiomi Perhaps, but I would worry that if I reversed a charge on my credit card to Fiverr, they would ban me. I know Fiverr does things like that, and there is no appeal. And besides, I have tried to get charges reversed on card payments for fraudulent items before, that were delivered. That took hoops and months before I got my money back. The credit card companies are very reluctant to reverse charges on delivered items, and Fiverr can prove the OP approved the gig and voluntarily did not complain when they could. So you might NOT get your money back, AND may get banned by Fiverr.
    – Amadeus
    Sep 9, 2023 at 20:27
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I think this is a very difficult question.

On the one hand, if you paid by the word and the contract was for your beta reader to read the whole text and give you feedback on all of it, then that is what they must do.

On the other hand, reading the whole text and giving detailed feedback on all of it can mean very little work if the text is engaging and well written versus a staggering amount of work if the text is boring and badly written.

I have beta read texts where I had to comment every single sentence for linguistic reasons, every paragraph for logical reasons, and every scene for narrative reasons. It was quite exhausting work, the sum of my comments was many times longer than the (part of the) text I was commenting on, and after one chapter of that I invariably gave up. Luckily I didn't get paid.


When you send out a text to test readers (as a beginning writer), you should commonly do it in different steps or waves:

  1. First wave: Get feedback on your language.

Do not make the mistake common to aspiring writers and assume that you can write. Instead get feedback on whether or not your writing is grammatically correct, stylistically elegant, and unobtrusive (or poetically exciting, if that is what you aim for). And be open to having to work on that.*

Once you have extablished that you have the necessary linguistic skill to write literature, you can leave out this step, but that is what you should do when you have written your first book or short story or whatever. It really doesn't make much sense to request detailed story-level feedback, if your writing is bad.

  1. Second wave: Get feedback on story, plot, characters, worldbuilding etc.

Are your characters interesting? Is their development plausible? Are their goals shared by the readers? Is the world described in enough detail and easily imaginable? Is the worldbuilding too extensive and does the backstory bore the reader? etc.

You still don't want detailed feedback, because you might have to completely rewrite your narrative. It doesn't make sense for a beta reader to waste their time and energy on a passage that needs to be cut (in their opinion).

  1. Third wave: Once you have established that you can write well and that your story is finalized, get feedback on the details of your text.

Does your direct speech fit the personality of your characters? Does the way you describe a place or a fight scene make it possible for the reader to visualize it? Did you foreshadow future turns of events to make them appear credible? Are you redundant enough that the reader does not overlook important details?

This type of feedback is what you requested and paid for, while the feedback you got to me sounds as if your text was at stage 2. And that is where your beta reader began to get conflicted because (a) beta reading your text turned out to be more work than they had expected and based their price calculation on and (b) because your request (detailed feedback) didn't fit what your text needed (general feedback).

I may be wrong, but that is the impression I get from what you describe, without having read either your text nor the feedback.

  1. Fourth wave: Copyediting / proofreading.

Do not even begin to attempt to correct typos, spelling mistakes, punctuation, design and layout before your text is finalized.

Most of all, never ask a beta reader to do all of these steps at once!


* This, I believe, is one reason why most first novels aren't published by teenagers or young adults but by middle aged men and women: working as lawyers, journalists or in other jobs where writing texts is part of their day-to-day tasks they have honed their linguistic skills to the point where it begins to make sense to consider writing literature.

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There is a huge difference between a developmental editor and a beta-reader.

A beta reader's primary role is to share how readable and how engaging your story is. If the story has problems with readability, and that is what the feedback sounds like to me, then that weights heavily on engagement which strong impacts the reader's ability to remember the details in a story.

Just because some facts are shared on the page, doesn't mean that the reader will absorb and retain them. When the reader gets bored it is very hard to remember information that feels like minutia.

To me, based on the feedback you shared, it sounds like the story wasn't ready for a beta-reader. The feedback sounds like the kinds of conversations that happen during a developmental edit. If you trust your editor, and they believe the story was ready for a beta-reader, then you've got a deliberate complaint with the quality of the service you were provided. It doesn't matter if they were nice, bring your concerns to them and find a mutually satisfying resolution. It's not personal, it's business. Treat it like that and it will work out fine, in the end, regardless of how it works out.

If you are your own editor, then complain to them. They may not have been the right editor for your genre. For instance, ask your editor what parts of the story didn't hold their interest, as in where did their eyes start skimming and jumping ahead. If you editor skipped over sections because of blah, blah blah, then as the author you really want to know that so you can decide what to do about it.

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I wouldn't say this is specifically a writing question - it's the same as any other substandard service you buy, and feel like you didn't get your money's worth.

First, contact the beta and let them know that you're unhappy, why, and what you'd like them to do about it. (Whether this is "go back and do it properly" or "give me a refund")

Failing an adequate response take it up with their company or intermediary (if they have one). Failing that, you're pretty much reduced to leaving them bad reviews.

Best of luck.

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  • The question is specifically a writing question in that answering it requires experience with beta reading. For example, does a paid beta reader have to read the whole manuscript to fulfill their contract, even if they think the passages they didn't read should be cut (from the question: "didn't interest them")? I mean, if I'm asked for my detailed feedback on a text and in my mind a whole viewpoint shouldn't be in the narrative at all, must I still read it? I would argue, no.
    – Ben
    Sep 5, 2023 at 18:27

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