Movies have their test screenings, pharmaceuticals have their trials, software has its beta versions. Now writer Nino Ricci is throwing his support behind the notion that novels should have beta versions as well, to help stave off the nasty reviews that often accompany a book’s release.
“Writers aren’t gods,” says Ricci, whose own novel Testament presents the reputed son of a god, Jesus Christ, as the bastard offspring of a Roman soldier, a gambit that earned him the ire of fundamentalists and made him a subject of attack on several phone-in radio shows. “They make mistakes. Beta versions would give them a chance to catch them before the critics do.”
Ricci claims that many writers have seen a drastic reduction in editorial attention in recent years as publishers have trimmed staff to cut costs.
“They push you out there to the wolves and meanwhile nobody has noticed that the name of your major character changes three times or that your Foucaultian analysis of twentieth century materialism has entirely failed to take into account Homi Bhabha and Georges Bataille. No other industry operates with such a lack of quality control.”
Ricci’s idea is simple: instead of using a single editor to hone their novels, writers would use the feedback of a carefully selected community of first readers, preferably made up of people who are overworked and underpaid and very crotchety, to simulate the actual reviewing community.
“The beauty of the scheme,” says Ricci, “is that even if the feedback was negative you wouldn’t necessarily have to change your book. Instead you could just plaster the cover of the final release with negative quotes from the beta comments, and reviewers would feel obliged to disagree with them they same way they feel obliged to disagree with positive ones.”What did you learn in school today? Sharing.