Writers often have people who serve as front line readers whenever they are workshopping a new piece of work. Whether you want to call this “alpha-readers,” “test audience,” or something else, these readers help a writer refine and improve their first draft. They’re invaluable and often a great resource for writers.
Alpha-readers are generally people who love books, love to read, are great at critiquing, and want to help an author create the very best second draft for beta-readers. They’re enthusiastic and fully on board with the process, ready to assist an author in any way that is appropriate. Alpha-readers can be paid, unpaid, volunteer, recruits, or anything in between. Often, these readers are friends or family of an author, or peers in the writing world. More often than not, they are peers.
Many authors try to recruit lifelong friends and family members to read their first draft. Many are met with disappointment.
Something that I see discussed frequently in the writing community is whether or not writers let their family and/or friends read their work. Some writers insist that they want friends and/or family to read their work, others (usually erotica writers working under a nom de plume) do not ever want their work read by people they are close to, and others are indifferent.
Like most things writing related, the preference varies from writer to writer. What a writer would like from their friends and/or family in regards to support is something you can only find out by asking each writer individually. For example, I’m fine with my nearest and dearest asking for advanced copies of my books–or even requesting/buying copies after release–to check out my work. It’s fine. I rarely ask anyone I know to read a specific work of mine, but I’m pleased when they decide they want to do it.
Many writers get very upset, even offended, if their friends and family do not read their work. Or worst yet–DON’T WANT TO READ IT.
I’ve seen many posts from well-meaning individuals claiming that a husband’s refusal to read his spouse’s work (or vice versa), is problematic. They’re not being supportive of your dream! They don’t love you as much as they should!
Look, my partner reads my work. I don’t ask him to do it, and he’s not required to do it. Yet, he does, and it makes me happy. But I’d be fine if he didn’t want to read anything I wrote.
Support comes in many forms–not just in the consumption of something a person has created. Support can be encouraging words, kisses and hugs on hard days, proclamations that the writer should never give up on their dream, doing extra housework and kid(s) duties so the writer has more time to write, extra financial support in the household, and just being there to listen on bad days or celebrate on good days.
Some people are just not readers. Some people don’t like reading certain genres or only enjoy one genre. Some people are just nervous to read the work of someone they are close to–because it comes with the unspoken assumption that feedback will be given at the end. That is nerve-wracking. Giving less than enthusiastic feedback to a stranger can be anxiety-inducing. If it’s someone you love and know well? You may as well just induce a heart attack.
Reading and giving critique is not in everyone’s wheelhouse.
As writers, we know how difficult it is to put ourselves out there creatively. We should respect how difficult it is for our loved ones to critique us. They don’t want to hurt our feelings or keep us from chasing our dreams. So, sometimes they would rather just offer other forms of support.
We have to be okay with this.
It doesn’t mean they don’t love you and support you–they’re either just simply not interested in reading (which is fine), or they’re protecting their mental health as well. Learn boundaries and be respectful of them.
Sure, if someone you love is actively undermining your hustle, you should not tolerate it. However, simply not reading your work is not abusive, rude, or even unkind.
Let people support you in the way that is most comfortable for them. Save your books for the readers you don’t know.
But, if a friend or family member (who isn’t problematic) asks to read your work, let them. Even if it makes you nervous. Having someone you love give you harsh critique will help build self-esteem and a backbone for when the real critiques come after publishing.
Tremendous Love & Thanks,