Monday, January 26, 2015

Share and (Don't) Share Alike

Most authors have someone--usually a few someones--they share their work with pre-publication. Typically, they fill the need for beta readers, last minute editors, and the like.

For me, I tend to be a bit neurotic. I like having feedback, but I've always been adamant about one thing: I don't share my work with family. Now, there are a lot of reasons behind this. And in talking to other writers, I've found my reasoning is pretty sound. A lot of writers do share with their loved ones before they publish, but a lot don't.

Reasons not to do so are myriad, and depend entirely on the person, but they may include:
Photo by Sybren Stüvel
  • No one reads the genre you write.
  • Your family doesn't generally read period.
  • They're not familiar enough with grammar or story to be able to give good feedback.
  • They are too judgmental and would be too critical.
  • Fear of gossip.
  • A belief they're doing so only to be nice, and any feedback given would not be very helpful.
  • A belief that you yourself would be mad at the person if they said no.
Now, this is, of course, not going to be everyone. I know plenty of writers whose biggest cheerleaders are their own families. For me, my family doesn't typically read mystery/science fiction books, so it's just safer for me to not bother. My husband isn't a big reader to begin with, so him even reading one of my books would be a form of torture (for him), although with audio books, maybe he'll be able to read them one day.

Of course, then there's the other factor--after publication, your book is out there for anyone to buy. Including your family. That can be just as nerve-wracking, especially if you write darker stories or about bad situations, as I do. The day I wrote this post, my grandmother, who is 91, told me she wanted to read my book as soon as it's in print (still only have it in e-book form as of this writing). I inwardly grimaced, even as I found my mouth was telling her I'd get her a copy as soon as it was available. But, Grandma, I write about murder! And government conspiracies! And I sometimes use foul language! And I have no problem having some heavy sensuality in some of my scenes!

Yeah, I know she's been around the block. She was married for nearly 70 years before my grandfather died. And she knows I'm not a kid anymore (I hope. I really sincerely hope that.) But for the slightly neurotic author, sharing that utterly dark part of yourself with your loved ones can be scary.

At least after publication, they can't very easily convince you to change something that's in the book, now can they?

Question for you: Have you ever used a family member as a beta reader? If so, how did that go? Would you do it again?


Liberty Speidel has been a voracious reader since reading her first Nancy Drew book. But she was telling stories long before then with her figurines from Disney's Rescue Rangers. When she's not writing, you may find her gardening, baking, crocheting, or hiking. A lifelong Kansan, she now resides in the Kansas City metro area with her husband, children, and chocolate Labrador. She is the author of Emergence and Retaliation, novellas in her series featuring superhuman and police detective Darby Shaw.

She blogs sporadically at
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  1. The only family member that reads ALL my works while still rough drafts - is my grandmother who is in her 90s. She's been such a cheerleader of my writing career (when most other family pooh-pooh it) and I wanted her to see my writing because at her age, it's possible that she may not live long enough to read all those books by the time they come to print. I don't ask for feedback and she knows they are rough (she used to be a secretary so she knows grammar and punctuation better than most do nowdays). I don't ask her to read as a beta reader though. I just ask her to read and enjoy because I love her and she knows to overlook the flaws in those rough drafts. In a way I hope my more immediate family doesn't read my books. I don't want to hear the criticism I would likely get. Or the question "So are you making money yet?"

    1. :) That's nice about your grandmother!! And great that she wants to read period, and is such a cheerleader. I completely get the "Are you making money yet" question, because my husband has been asking that for a while. Finally, the last couple months, I can give him nearly daily updates that yes, it's not a ton, but I *AM* making something!

  2. My husband and my mom are my biggest cheerleaders. MSB *won't* read my work. He simply won't do it, and I've given up wishing he would. Mom *can't* read, thanks to macular degeneration, but I read my work to her. Sometimes her comments help, sometimes not, but it always helps when she reacts to things the way I hoped.

    1. That's nice about your mom! And, my husband is like yours. I keep hoping, but at least he doesn't discourage me. And he's taking an interest in it to a degree.

  3. Right now, my brother and sister are my biggest cheerleaders. I've read them my stories since we were little, and they're great when I need a pick me up. My parents are very supportive, too--I just need to write genres they like, like hard sci fi or cozy mystery. Which I like. :-)

    1. :) Cool. Cozy mystery and hard sci-fi are pretty divergent, though! I like blending my own, but I'm pretty light sci-fi.

  4. My mother refused to read my first draft, and gave conflicting comments on the effort involved to write it.

  5. That's nuts, Heidi! Sometimes, family are just not worth the trouble when we're writing, sadly...