Is Scribophile For You?

writing a bookI’m lucky to live in an area where you can’t throw a Kindle without hitting a writer. Not that I recommend you do that; it makes them cranky and it hurts the Kindle. But it does offer the opportunity to find a face-to-face critique group. If you reside off the beaten path or if the circumstances of your life don’t permit easy travel, gathering a roomful of writers can be more challenging. Social media can provide you with an online writing community, but this doesn’t work for everyone. You might want to keep your social media separate from your actual writing process. Rather than go without fresh eyes on your work, it could be worthwhile to try an online critiquing site like

scribophile logoScribophile operates in a true give-and-take, pay-it-forward style. In fact, you can’t get critiqued until you critique other writers first. You earn “karma points” when you do this. It makes sense — it avoids the drive-by factor, builds a community, and, if you’re not accustomed to critiquing other writers’ work, you get some experience.

Like most online providers these days, you can sign up for a free package or purchase an upgrade to more goodies. The free service, Scribophile Basic, is designed for more casual use — say, if you write a story once in a while or are working on a novel, but aren’t up and running with a full-on business. The lack of advanced privacy controls bothers me with the free level. If I’m participating in online critiquing, I want control over the eyeballs on my lousy first drafts.

“I can’t find enough words of praise for Scribophile,” says author Kathy Steinemann, who liked the features so much that she went premium within a few hours of joining, and writes there as Grannie Stein. The site has since become, in her opinion, the best of the three writing groups she’s involved with. The $65 a year upgrade lets you post unlimited drafts, offers the opportunity for more precise feedback, advanced privacy controls, ad-free use, and even a discount on a Scrivener license, if you’re so inclined to go in that direction.

It’s pretty easy to get started. Set up an account and enter the activation code. What I saw right away was the potential to build a community, but also for it to become a big time investment. Kathy agreed, but added, “As you read and comment, you learn how to improve your own writing. Critiquing is just part of what Scrib provides, however. The active forum system allows you to interact with others. However, if you spend too much time there, your attention will be diverted from what you should be doing: writing.”

You can also join a crazy number of groups — some set up by genre, if you just want to focus on your wheelhouse. One of the most interesting uses I’ve seen for groups is to form a private critiquing team. For a more experienced author who needs regular, consistent crit but doesn’t have the time or geographical ability to find a face-to-face critiquing circle, this could be a decent use of 65 bucks. Although just like any other writing group, you’ll need to evaluate whether it’s a good fit for you.

Author: Laurie Boris

Laurie Boris is a freelance writer, editor, proofreader, and former graphic designer. She has been writing fiction for over twenty-five years and is the award-winning author of four novels. She lives in New York’s lovely Hudson Valley. Learn more about Laurie at her website and her Amazon author page.

36 thoughts on “Is Scribophile For You?”

  1. Good article, Laurie.

    The privacy controls are quite extensive. You can post something and restrict it to specific people. That allows for private critiques that nobody can see except those people.

    Yes, I avoid the forums. However, on the few occasions when I’ve needed advice on technical topics that I couldn’t research with Google, the forums have been indispensable.

  2. Maybe I ought to fight my paranoia about copyright and my insecurities and check this out. My experience with other kinds of “forums” hasn’t been good, but a more focused group might be helpful. I agree about making sure it doesn’t take away from writing. As with anything, I’d view it as a tool, not a substitute for a social life.

    1. Thanks, Yvonne. I’d see this as another tool in the kit. For example, if I need feedback on a project I’m trying to complete outside of what I’m working on with my “face-to-face” group.

      1. Like ED, I am a happy Scribber and have found the site among the best of online writer groups.

        RE the copyright/privacy and “previously published” concerns many new(ish) writers express: through conversations with agents and publishers during workshops, several have mentioned Scrib as a place where it is safe to post work without fear of having work labeled as already published. It seems that many agents and publishers encourage writers (particularly those of us somewhat new to the craft) to find good workshops for critiquing work prior to sending it to an agent or publisher. Like Laurie, I live in a community that is home to some well-known and respected writers of note. I belong to a local writer group, but still find Scrib extremely helpful. Two of my best beta-readers are fellow Scribers.

    2. I’ve been a member of Scribophile for almost five years, and privacy seems to be the biggest concern of new members. However, writings on the site aren’t visible by the public or indexed by Google (and therefore aren’t considered published); you have to be a member in order to read any of the posted works, and as someone pointed out, you can set your privacy settings so only certain people can read your stuff – although this does limit the potential number of critiques you get.
      In the entire time I’ve been there, I don’t think there’s been a single case of someone’s work being stolen from the site.

  3. The premium membership is a steal at $65 per year, especially when you consider how expensive other options for critiques and various services can get.

    The forums can suck up your writing time, true, but they can also help you build your networking foundation. In some cases, even simple games like Word Association or the Image Word thread can help you build vocabulary skills—or at least, make you think about them.

    1. Thank you for visiting, Lee. Good to know about the networking possibilities and the games – as long as they fit in with your time management.

  4. I’ve tried it but for me it ended up not being a good value. Unfortunately, like most similar systems, it suffers from a glut of people who just want to get critiques and not give, and the rules set in place do little to combat this. The karma system does not help prevent the drive by critiquer, if anything it only helps because of the small minimum word requirement.

    It became pretty easy to tell when someone just threw in the minimum words needed to get the full payout, then stopped. They almost never did more than your spotlight pieces, people frequently would just jump into a work midway even and just do that while making vague comments that only showed they hadn’t read any of the previous chapters.

    While there was a reporting system for such things, it was made very clear that you weren’t expected to use it for anything but the most egregious of errors (like someone who copy/pasted a speech into their critique). Simply leaving the exact minimum of words with no real substance didn’t count.

    It was particularly disheartening for me as I went into it with the idea of doing full critiques and being helpful, with many of mine being 500-2000 words depending on chapter length. I even did one full novel. Putting in hours of effort to get so little in return left a slightly bitter taste in my mouth.

    And yes, the forums can be a huge time sink. They can also get nasty (especially in the indie vs traditional arguments…), like most site forums sadly, though the no politics/religion rule helps some.

    All that said, it may be a tool others find useful, if nothing else to scout out potential betas that you can then work on a more personal level for novel exchanges and the like or just to get very general feedback on a chapter.

    1. All you do is press the “Bad Critique” flag. The moderators review the critique and in most cases, convert it to a comment. You get your spotlight back and the person who left the useless crit loses any karma earned. I’ve started doing this, and Scrib has converted every bad critique I’ve reported.

      The person who leaves the critique learns what not to do. It’s an anonymous process. I have had others report on bad crits left on my work, and they were converted to comments before I even had a chance to review them.

      1. It may have changed in the last year or so since I left the site, but when I was a member using the Bad Critique button was heavily frowned on and implied it should be used rarely or never. I did use it twice myself (where the person’s remarks on both my pieces were so far out of left field it was like they weren’t for the same piece).

        But for the others which were short and lacking in any real substance, hitting bad Critique was frown on, at least that was the impression I got from moderators and the forum members. Particularly during some of the heated forum discussions about the bad critique system.

        If it is working for you, then that’s great. 🙂

        1. Alex, the owner, has made it clear that he WANTS people to hit the bad crit button if a crit falls outside of proper critting. He has never ever ever ever frowned upon people hitting the bad crit button. He understands and has said many times the value of the crits is what makes or breaks Scrib.

          There are some members who believe that the writer of a piece should be the only one allowed to hit the bad crit button, and that’s where heated forum discussions come into play. It’s a philosophy that Alex doesn’t agree with. Thank goodness.

        2. I’ve yet to need to use the bad crit button on Scribophile, but there was recently a forum post about using it. The moderators supported its use and encouraged the members to use it.

          The problem with the term “bad critique,” though, is that a person might mark a critique as “bad” when it’s not really bad. It’s just not helpful. This is a different thing. You might not see their critique as useful, but “bad” implies they didn’t even try. Sure, some do the bare minimum to get by, but even those crits can have some spark of value in them.

          I’ve been a premium member since last September and have received 155 critiques on various pieces. All have been helpful to some degree.

          The forums, btw, are heavily moderated and when threads start turning snarky, posts are deleted. The Scribophile forums are definitely not bad as writing forums go. In fact, they’re probably the best controlled forums I’ve ever been part of.

          Is Scribophile for everyone? Probably not. Nothing can fit every person out there. But I think it’s a good fit for many writers, and it certainly has been for me. I’m part of a local writers group, and we formed a group within Scribophile so we can do our critiques of each other’s work easier (we also get crits from “outsiders” that we can discuss in our face to face meetings).

    2. “[Scribophile] suffers from a glut of people who just want to get critiques and not give, and the rules set in place do little to combat this. The karma system does not help prevent the drive by critiquer, if anything it only helps because of the small minimum word requirement.”

      I’ve been a premium member for six months now, getting critiques on about 30,000 words of my WIP. My experience thus far doesn’t square with the “glut of people” comment quoted above. I offer extra reward to a critiquer, an option for those seeking critiques, and this can theoretically attract karma-harvesters who give drive-by criques in order to scoop my the extra credit I offer. However, in six months of this kind of thing, I have only gotten two sub-par critiques. One of them I reported, and I got my reward back. I don’t know what happened to the drive-by; Scribophile is scrupulously private about its disciplinary actions.

      As far as 2,000 word criques go, you can have them. I much prefer the short-and-to-the-point criticism. Wordiness itself is a form of karma harvesting. Saying in 2,000 words what can be said in 200 does not benefit the one getting the critique. It only gives him more verbiage to wade through, while bestowing on the loquacious critiquer karma that she doesn’t really deserve.

  5. I live in a place where if you throw a kindle, you might hit a sheep, a cow, a tree, a mountain, or even a farmer (if you’re very very lucky and have a good aim.) But a writer? No.
    Yet I found the best face-to-face real world critique group anyone could ask for. Here’s how it happened:
    I took a year-long, post-graduate-level, fiction course in a big city two hours drive from home. I was the lowest qualified person in the course, which means I stood to gain the most form these other authors. I only just squeaked in to the course.There were nine of us. For me it involved four hours driving once a week during term time.
    On the first night of the course, one of the others in the class told us that we WOULD all meet up after the class in the pub down the road for a meal and a drink. No arguments. We would all meet. I did argue, saying that it was late at night and I still had a two hour drive home to negotiate. That was not accepted. I went to the pub. I ate a meal but declined to drink alcohol because of the drive coming up. They were okay with that as long as I stayed and socialised.
    That became the routine. We all met up socially after class. THAT was the key to the critique group working. We met for concentrated writing workshops and critiquing in class. We also met up socially just as often. That was back in 2010. Now we still meet up for critiques and socialising and we even have fantastic writers’ retreat weekends together in delightful places.

    Incidentally that’s exactly how the world’s most famous critique group worked. They had the same two kinds of meetings, the social ones in the pub, and the serious critiquing ones. They were called the Inklings and they had J R R Tolkien and C S Lewis among them. We call ourselves the Rogues.
    That Inklings formula helped us to develop great trust and respect for one another until we became a tight knit band. It’s incredibly valuable and we all know it.

  6. I live in the heart of deepest Brittany, but write in English (or at least my version of it, 😉

    I’ve been a member of Scribophile for three years and would wholeheartedly recommend it to writers at all levels of experience.

    Thus ends the free plug. 🙂

  7. Thank you for taking the time to write about Scribophile, my home within a home.

    I’ve been a member of Scrib for more than two years, now. When I first joined I had already been on a lengthy sojourn into the cycle of ‘I will write a novel!’ multiple times. (Most writers will know the feeling of struggling, putting in time and effort, only to end up with a pile of scrap paper.)

    After joining Scribophile and developing a critical eye of my writing (through critiquing other people’s writings in a large host of genres and concepts, and having my works critiqued just as thoroughly), as well as building my self-confidence and self-esteem, I can now proudly claim to be the author of three novels and scores of novellas and short stories. I have since been accepted by a sizable publisher and have self published more than 350,000 words of fiction.

    Aside writing improvements, members of Scribophile have helped me greatly improve my cover-art graphics skills, things such as writing queries and synopsis (much more complicated that I thought it would be), learning my way around social media, and even constructing my websites.

    I am no longer a struggling writer, I am now an author.

    That’s my two-bits 🙂 Thanks for the opportunity to give Scrib its due.

  8. I’ve been a Scrib member for three years and I love it. Through getting and giving critiques, my writing has improved trememdously. Since joining Scrib, I’ve had 22 publications, and I’ve successfully launched two online journals. I attribute all of that to Scribophile and the awesome writers there.
    And beyond that, I’ve made connections with some of the most amazing people.
    Scribophile is a great place to be, and it’s like anything else, it is what you make it.

  9. Scribophile is also useful for foreign writers like myself. Thanks to the help I got there I published two of my stories. Without Scribophile this would never have happened!

  10. I moderate a group on Scribophile called Writers Who Love Romance. The group came about because of the general lack of esteem many writers have for those of us writing romances. We are one of the most active groups there and we welcome all writers. We have an extensive thread on resources, aimed at helping any writer with a need to improve. And we have the Candy Dish.

  11. I take a balanced view. In my opinion Scrib offers the widest knowledge base and the best inline critiquing system currently available, and its flexibility offers both novice writers and pros multiple eyes on their work. It allows you to write or experiment with different genres, and is especially useful for indie authors since some Scribbers (not me, unfortunately, I so, so want this talent) have keen editorial eyes. This means you can actually get a pretty clean copy of an MS by the end of it. It’s especially good for beta reading, but you get out of it what you put in: joining groups and networking is an essential part of the process for getting the feedback you need. This DOES help with marketing too, since writers in your genre are also readers in your genre, and will recommend your work to their friends etc if they like it. It means you can rapidly built FB and Twitter followings, which means, if you DO decide to trad-pub, you have a workable author platform. I use Scrib mostly for research and networking. The $65 is exceptionally good value for money, but you should be aware there are other excellent websites that offer more intimate critiquing circles if you prefer small groups. Scrib perhaps suits the extroverts a little bit better, or it takes us less time to form the critting partnerships we need. Introverted writers might find Inked Voices a better match. I loved Inked Voices in the short time I was there, but had to make a choice and went with Scrib because of my established networks there.

    Regarding the criticisms. There are reporting mechanisms for abuse of the karma system. I’ve had trouble perhaps twice in the year I’ve been there from drive-by crits. Those folks don’t last long on Scrib. You DO need to network. This can be an issue for writers who don’t like networking. There has been, in the past, some low-grade, or even high-grade nastiness in the forums. The best way to avoid that is to educate yourself about how subtle cyberbullying can get, and then call it when you see it. I’ve actually noticed a distinct drop in toxic behavior in recent months. Any large group of people will generate personalities that grate on each other, and some of the groups have additional safeguards in place, but there are good reporting mechanisms and hardworking moderators.

    The forums are a time suck. They are also places to network. Networking is a time suck, but we have to do it.

    There are differences of opinion on indie and trad publishing. However, Scrib has some of the best sub-groups for independent authors on the Web, and within those groups a wealth of information on marketing and publishing can be found, as well as enabling you to troubleshoot real-time.

    All in all, Scrib is a positive place to hone your craft, and a hell of a lot cheaper than a creative writing programme.

  12. Scribophile has many positives, I’ve learned so much in a year. Most members don’t like to mention the darker side. The mean and nasty replies to forum posts. Someone must have a very thick skin to be on Scribophile for any length of time. The system is nice and runs well. BUT, you do have individuals that karma farm and write 2000 word critiques for no reason. I am always worried about people stealing ideas and such. The privacy settings are lacking in my opinion on viewing people’s information or critiques done. Always room for improvement.

  13. I’ve been a member of Scribophile for two years and five months. I recommend it to all writers who seriously wanted to improve and succeed in their writing.

    Being in Scribophile, helped me improve my English and my skills as a writer. Now, I’m close to getting my work publish, and the best part is I’m still learning from them.

    I made several friends who helped me put up my blog, critiqued my posts, and gave me specific and useful critiques.

  14. I live in the middle of nowhere. A live critique group is out of the question for me. I ran into a fellow on Facebook in a discussion that had nothing to do with writing, but for some reason mentioned I was working on a novel. He told me I should join Scribophile. He did, and thanks to the site, his nonfiction book got published.

    That was two years ago. I consider the small cost of Scrib’s premium membership the best money I have spent. You get what you are willing to give. The karma system works wonderfully. Initially, you have to invest time to build relationships through doing critiques and networking. In my case, that took about 60 days to get good relationships developed. I have writers who have continued to critique me since I joined.

    Moderators and site admin strongly encourage folks to report bad crits or nasty posts. I have never seen anyone discourage that. The thing is, a ‘bad’ crit can’t be one that just told you, honestly, that your baby is ugly. It has to be one that told you in a nasty, unencouraging manner or was simply karma farming. In two years and 200,000 words on Scrib, I have had one bad crit. That person was immediately banned from the site!

    Scrib has members that range from the very knowledgeable, experienced folks (published authors, agents, editors) to beginners. Critiques can vary from technical to simple reader reaction. All are of value.

    The forums can be time sucks. Some are hilarious entertainment, some are simple nonsense, many offer tons of shared experience and information that is valuable. Various aspects of the art of writing, info on publishing and marketing, contests, tips on publishers accepting submissions etc. are widely shared in the forums. They are well moderated and nasty posts are shut down quickly. I have never reported a bad crit, never had to. I have reported bad posts and they were immediately acted upon by the mods.Debate can get passionate in the forums at times, but passionate debate is NOT the same as nastiness. Personal attacks will get a post deleted, a thread shut down, and the guilty party risks getting banned from the site.

    Privacy is not an issue. Your work is secure and you have options to limit the visibility of your work to others on the site. Critiques on works with that limited visibility are also not visible to others.

    It is the best run site I have experienced. Considering the huge membership, that is quite an accomplishment. My writing has improved tremendously thanks to Scribophile. I recommend it highly to anyone wanting to improve their writing and receive valuable input.

  15. While critique sites aren’t really something I’m interested in, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Ms. Boris and Indies Unlimited for always sharing useful information, whether it’s about their site or another. It would be nice if some of these friendly Scribophile members would come and hang out here from time to time now that they’ve discovered IU. Cheers, Morgan.

  16. I ran an entire 115,000-word novel through Scribophile’s critique system and the help I received was invaluable. As a result, the book was picked up by a publisher. I never could have done that without Scribophile.

    I’ve been a Scribophile member for better than three years. As others have said, the value of your membership is entirely up to you. If you’re serious about writing, and serious about the site helping you, it’s the place to be.

  17. I’ve been a member of Scribophile for about a year now, however, I’ve only been making use of it since about October. That was out of fear. I’ve obviously overcome that fear.

    And I couldn’t be more glad that I did.

    I’ve made some amazing online friends, have a great network of writers, and my writing has improved in areas I had no idea even existed. I’ll even have my first short story published in July as part of an anthology because of these wonderful people.
    Scribophile is a place where no question is frowned upon, and all questions will be answered, whether about how a certain gun works or if you’re asking the opposite sex what certain things feel like to them. Nothing is taboo.
    I’ve never had a bad critique – though I have had a few I’ve scratched my head over, asked others off-forum about a few comments. But I came for guidance and honest feedback on my writing.
    And I’ve gotten that and so much more. And the Premium membership? For $9/month or $65/year, the fee is well worth every penny – the two biggest perks being that there is no limit to the number of works you can post for critique (two for non-premium members) or how many messages you can have in your in-box for private conversations.

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