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The Free Trial Was Ok...

· Writing

So, I recently tried the free version of this beta-reading secure service. The idea is that many budding authors are afraid someone will "steal" their work, their unpublished manuscripts and publish them.

On this platform, authors upload their manuscripts, then invite readers to read them, via a secure link. The author can "see" when and how much time each reader spends on each chapter.


The free trial includes one MS, three readers you (the author) invite to read, and you can choose whether to list your name to read others' manuscripts / books.


This is what it looked like, on my end:

Chapter View of Manuscript:

Reader Engagement Statistics:

The top, first, reader is a trusted CP, critique partner. He got the MS right around Christmas and paused reading, and once he could resume, I informed him I was making revisions and there was no point in reading this "version." (I cut 8,000 words from this version.) The other two were engaged well in the beginning. One tapered off after Chapter 8 or so.

Mind, I didn't need these "stats" to tell me any of this -- I could tell where the one reader left off from the comments I received outside the platform, via email. This reader also didn't leave any inline comments, emojis, etc. Not a very engaged reader, in general.

The other reader approached the MS as a proofreader / copy editor would, making comments about typos, etc. but very few comments after the initial chapters. He also uploaded his MS and I was able to read it and make in-line comments, very much like with Word, so I also got to see the service from the "reader" perspective, but I'll get into that in a second.

Chapter word counts. lists the chapters down the side with word count. (See image) This was handy, as I was able to see, by chapter, which ones were super-duper long and break them up into smaller, scene-based chapters.
Reader metrics. You can see where readers actually read the text. For example, there was one reader who "finished" the text but spent minimal time -- seconds -- in chapters, or even no time at all (in one chapter). That reader also left no comments. I came to the conclusion it's doubtful that reader actually "read" the story.

Reader comments. Readers can use emojis, make in-line comments, review and rate chapters, leave notes at the end of chapters, review and rate the work overall once finished reading.

Difficult to use. Navigation within was not ...intuitive. At times, it was just plain difficult to navigate.
Browser un-friendly. I use Firefox, primarily, and no matter what I did to allow the site through the home firewall, it would not work with I would go to read / make a comment on a manuscript in Firefox, and it would not allow me to type more than one letter, and then it would shut down. I had to switch browsers to Chrome, and even then, it was still glitchy. Many of my comments just never "stuck," because the service would freeze after I made a comment and I'd get frustrated and stop for the day.
Lack of page numbers. This was annoying, to say the least. It makes it just a tad bit difficult to find the spot where you need / want to edit in your masterfile. I had to identify specific phrases from surrounding / nearby text, do a Find in Word, then locate the passage I needed and make the change in my (master) document. Not impossible, but not ideal, either.

Lack of ability to download / capture / save reader comments. You cannot electronically copy comments, at all, to preserve them. I like to keep all feedback, and this is a BIG drawback for me. I found a solution (keep reading).

Lack of ability to print . There is no printing function with the service, at all.

In addition, the service has the one drawback that all electronic access to files has -- and ironically it's the one it purports to protect authors from -- and that's copying the text.

It doesn't prevent the user from taking screen shots of the manuscript, then using an app like Snagit to capture the text. Ironically, this is what I ended up doing, to save /capture reader comments.

So, the main selling point, that it's safer than sharing an electronic file, or inviting someone to edit a file via a link on your Google Drive, just didn't pan out.

I don't know that I'll never use it again, but in general I'll look for something a bit easier to use and that gives me more control over capturing / saving / printing reader comments.

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