When beta readers come with an agenda

WHENI just read an article by Victoria Strauss for the Writer Beware blog which verified my own suspicions based on the following incident:

I recently published a favorable review of an author’s novel, and I was browsing other reviews it had received on Amazon when I saw one that really stood out: it was a mean-spirited, venom-spitting piece in total contrast with what other readers thought of the book in question. You’ll probably thing that the reviewer was a troll. No. This was an eponymous review that offered a valid link to the lady’s site. Of course, I gave her site a hit just to see what she was about. The lady, apart from reviewing also worked as a freelance editor.


I got in touch with the author and asked her if she had any idea why her book had been targeted by that person. She confirmed my suspicions. The lady reviewer had contacted her expressing her delight at the prospect of beta reading. The author gladly provided her with an advance copy. However, the feedback she received was dishearteningly negative: the beta reader had spotted all sorts of errors, the book was in dire need of serious editing, but, hey, the beta reader could help out for a fee! The author told her off, and next she heard of that person was through her book’s reviews page.

Apparently, that’s becoming a pattern. There’s a growing number of documented pitfalls a self-published author can fall into, but that “friendly” approach is squeezing through to stand in the front row. I find myself truly riled up at the thought that someone in the know will play up on every writer’s weak spot–the need for reviews–to get access to her work, aiming all along at either making a profit or trashing it. I had half the mind to out that person on Amazon, but I’m not confrontational by nature and wouldn’t be able to stomach the possible backlash.

How would you deal with a beta reader who suggested “improving” your book for a fee, knowing that a rejection might lead to a negative review?

To read the article on Writer Beware click here.


10 thoughts on “When beta readers come with an agenda

  1. Eek! There are sharks in the water!
    Thanks for the heads up, Maria.
    I am a trusting person { gullible goose } and a perfect target for such a scam.
    I will be on my guard!

    1. You do that, Icky! We’ll have to screen beta readers as well, I guess… Thanks for stopping by!

  2. There are unethical people in every profession. Bringing their attempts to sabatoge another’s’ work should be brought forward so others are aware of the “bully” behavior. Thankfully, some states are adding “bully behavior” to the list of forbidden and illegal behavior.

  3. So sorry for the late reply – how did I miss this? Mwah, love you, life is good, and shame on the mean-spirited that haunt every business known to man. But we are strong, and we refuse to let them see us cringe. SO there!

  4. From the little I know, strangers don’t just come up to you and ask to beta read your book. So if a professional editor/proofreader offered, I am sure I’d be suspicious they’re fishing for customers. Of course, I’d never go as far as suspect they’d wind up doing something as nasty as that, so I guess if I were in dire need of an editor, I might also take up the offer. Scary what can happen to you out there – thanks for the warning!!

  5. I’ve been reviewing books on my blog for years. I’ve been a freelance editor for two years. I am very careful to never blur the lines. I have approached an author after purchasing a book, and offered my services because the book was in bad shape. (Obviously, I’m nice about it.) I have also gotten work this way.

    One of my first clients was an author for whom I was reviewing, but I didn’t solicit her. We were acquainted, and she knew I was an editor. I asked her a couple of questions about continuity issues that were confusing me, and she ended up asking me to edit that book and several more.

    I only mention poor editing in an Amazon review if it’s really bad, simply because I don’t want to look like I’m soliciting business, and that’s even with books I’ve purchased. Editors who act like the reviewer mentioned above give all of us a bad name.

    1. Thank you so much for taking the time to comment, Amanda! Unfortunately, it looks like editors have to consider the aspect of (not) appearing that they are soliciting business when they review a book. I bet it wasn’t such an issue a couple years ago.

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