July 20 — In the aftermath of a global pandemic, it is unsurprising that a variety of industries have seen a decrease in the eligible workforce. The literary industry is no different, but professionals cite a disturbing trend in their unemployment records. According to Schnookstr’s sources, there has been a 59% increase in unemployed beta readers over the past three years.
What’s a Beta Reader?
For those unfamiliar with the term, a beta reader is an individual who reads a secondary draft of an author’s manuscript and offers feedback prior to a professional edit. A beta reader must have knowledge of the manuscript’s genre or possess cultural and experiential knowledge to supplement the author’s own research and intellect. A successful beta reader and author interaction relies upon mutual respect and consideration of reasonable criticism.
Despite the position being traditionally unpaid, recently beta readers are reported to have endured periods of up to seven months without a manuscript. Many have been forced to find other sources of income or hobbies to compensate for the loss.
“It’s been really tough,” says Drake Winger, beta reader for fantasy novels and self-proclaimed dragon expert. “I’ve had to read — gag — published books just to get my fantasy fix. I can’t even tell the authors how their magic systems make no sense because their blasted books are beyond my services. If I had known business would dry up a few years after getting my degree in Dragon Studies, I would have taken that seminar on Sasquatch instead.”
A New Type Of Author
Conversely, this unfortunate trend might have something to do with the increase of a new type of writer: the alpha author. Populating an echo chamber of vanity presses known collectively as “the Wordsmithsphere,” alpha authors swear a creed of asserting dominance in prose, becoming “high-value wordsmiths,” and ignoring anyone who dislikes their ideas.
Since quarantine, these alpha authors have directed their ire and domineering attentions to beta readers, whom the authors perceive as “submissive little nobodies who wouldn’t know a good book if it hit them in the face.” Just last week, one alpha author by the name of Chad Stacy III proceeded to do just that to his beta reader, Erudite Femme, and is now facing imminent cancellation. Despite this, Mr. Stacy’s friends in the Wordsmithsphere are raising funds to publish his upcoming self-help book, Look At My Muscles And Tell Me I’m Smart.
Schnookstr was given the exclusive opportunity to interview both Ms. Femme and Mr. Stacy in the hopes of getting to the bottom of this beta-alpha disagreement.
SNKSTR: Mr. Stacy, what would you say is the biggest reason you dislike beta readers?
STACY: Call me Chad. I dunno, like, I just don’t think they’re important or needed. They’re not even writers, so they couldn’t possibly understand how hard it is to be one and have to come up with a whole book by yourself. A book is a lot of pages. You’ve gotta write a lot and put your nose to the grindstone if you wanna be a high-value wordsmith like me.
SNKSTR: Indeed, Chad. Ms. Femme, were you aware of Chad’s sentiments regarding beta readers when you agreed to read his manuscript? If so, what made you accept his offer?
FEMME: I was aware that Chad was a member of the Wordsmithsphere and therefore had antagonistic views toward my profession, but I was admittedly curious. The Wordsmithsphere isn’t open to non-writers like me, so I thought reading Chad’s manuscript would be my chance to see what the alpha authors were all about. I reached out to him, stroked his ego —
CHAD: I don’t have an ego! I take pride in being a writer —
FEMME: If you didn’t have an ego, then why did you chuck your brick of a narcissistic manifesto at my head when I suggested adding a cohesive narrative structure between the protein shake recipes and pretentious rants about Machiavelli?
CHAD: See? This is what I mean! You betas don’t have anything better to do than critique the work of high-value wordsmiths. You just want to ride on the coattails of my alpha genius, don’t you?
FEMME: It’s literally my job to critique your…nevermind. I’m not getting paid for this. I’m out.
SNKSTR: Wait, I had more questions — and she’s gone. Well, Chad, how do you think this experience will inform your future interactions with beta readers?
CHAD: Beta readers be crazy, am I right? Don’t need them, I’m building my alpha author empire without them. Did I mention I’m creating a podcast based on my book…
Edit — At the time of this writing, both Erudite Femme and Drake Winger have received a number of manuscript reading requests from prolific authors as a result of this article. Chad Stacy III will be self-publishing his book, Look At My Muscles And Tell Me I’m Smart, in October. Minimal sales are projected.
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FEATURED IMAGE VIA CANVA/BOOKSTR