Review: Scribophile, An Online Writing Group

ScribophileAfter graduating from the Novel Incubator program in June, I needed to find a writing group to give me the kind of feedback and motivation I got from the Incubator. Unable to find a group near my home, I started investigating online writing workshops. I used to develop and present online training, so I’m more comfortable with it than most, but I approached online workshopping with some skepticism, concerned about the impersonal nature of internet interactions and doubtful I would find the kind of expert feedback I was seeking on a website. But I simply wasn’t writing as much or as well without the kick in the pants I got from the Incubator program, so I thought why not at least see what was out there?

When I Googled ‘online writing groups,’ I got the most hits for Scribophile. The site was well-reviewed in writing forums, so I continued to the Scribophile home page where my curiosity was piqued by the amount of activity — more than 330,000 critiques served for 55,000 works over six years. I also liked its narrow focus on workshopping — “Critique > Write > Learn > Make Friends.” It isn’t a self-publishing company masquerading as a writing workshop (Penguin’s Book Country) or part of a larger educational site that uses the lure of workshopping to get people to take costly craft courses. Its only focus is on workshopping and discussions about writing.


The site works on a “free-to-play” model with limited ability to submit works and send messages to other members, or you can subscribe ($65 per year or $9 per month) for unlimited submissions and messaging, about the same cost as a one-day writing course at most institutions. Either way, the site is refreshingly ad-free, and you retain complete control of all your copyrights.

How it Works

Digging deeper, I was most intrigued by how the process worked. Scribophile will not let you submit until you critique. Critiquing earns you “Karma Points” (the site’s system of currency) which you use to pay for submitting. Typically, it takes three critiques to get enough Karma to submit, although you get more Karma the more detailed your critique is.

Works are submitted in 3,000 word chunks (suggested) and placed in a queue, headed toward the ‘spotlight,’ as it’s called. Once a work receives a certain number of critiques, usually between 3 and 6, it moves out of the spotlight, allowing other works to move up. Although members can critique any submission, getting works out of the spotlight moves your own work up, assuring it of getting critiqued if it hasn’t already been. You can always revise and resubmit a work, although every submission costs Karma.

Quality of Submissions and Critiques

I knew going in that because the site is open to anyone, the writing was bound to be uneven. Glancing at a few pieces, I was glad to find that as bad as some of the writing was, some of the writing and critiques were quite good. The trick seemed to be, then, how to make sure you critiqued writing you enjoyed and received useful critiques of your own work. Fortunately, there are ways to do that.

You can evaluate writers in the queue by clicking their names and reading their profiles, which often lists their education and experience, and how often they’ve been ‘favorited’ or ‘gifted’ by other writers. In any case, if you don’t like what you’re reading, you don’t have to critique it. Also, members are judged by their critiquing and develop a ‘reputation.’ It becomes clear that reciprocation is the best strategy — critiquing good writers and critiquers may get them to critique you.

Genre Offerings

The site offers 21 genres to choose from, including memoir and biography, but most are fiction-related, including science fiction, romance, fantasy, erotic, young adult, thriller, mystery and literary fiction. It’s great that you can restrict your reading to particular genres, but in the public forum, you can’t restrict who critiques your writing, so you may have people using up your allotted critiques who work in genres wildly different from your own. I wasn’t sure I wanted my sprawling contemporary novel critiqued by a flash-fiction writer whose idea of a great protagonist is a slobbering, thirteen-year-old zombie wizard on an interstellar mission to save the universe. And then I discovered Scribophile’s inner sanctum — its groups.


In Scribophile, you can create and/or join any number of groups to whom you can confine your writing submissions. Most groups are defined by genre, but many focus on the writer’s nationality, politics, gender, religion, age or writing experience. Some of these groups are open to any one, but others are private and by invitation-only — the true inner sanctum.

After getting some positive reviews for my critiques and a short story I submitted, I was invited by a writer to join a private group of several hundred writers. This particular group joins together its members into subgroups of four to six people based on their writing interests. I am now workshopping my novel with four other writers, three of whom write literary fiction, several of whom are English teachers and good writers, and all of whom are, at the very least, good at writing critiques.

My favorite part of Scribophile, I’ve discovered, is something real-world writing groups typically don’t do: the ‘inline critique.’

Inline Critiques

In Scribophile, you can critique a work in five different ways: you can leave a short or a longer, free-form comment; you can comment by topic (plot, POV, setting, characterization, etc.); you can rate the work by sliding scales (e.g., what’s the readability of the work on a scale of 1 to 10); and, finally, you can write an inline critique.

Okay, so we’ve all had people do line edits for us, marking up our manuscripts, or we’ve received inline critiques using Word comments or something similar. What’s so special about Scribophile’s?

For one thing, the site’s inline critique allows you to highlight text, suggest deletions and directly insert comments which highlight to green to differentiate them from the author’s text. The resulting screen is much easier to read than a commented Word doc with all its arrows and bubbles.

The other thing seems to be a cultural phenomenon. Scribophiles tend to use inline critiques not so much to analyze as to react. It’s kind of like those people who yell at movie screens: “Stop talking and shoot him!” or “Don’t open that door!” In addition to questions and concerns, members tend to record off-hand comments, LOLs and OMGs, ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’ as they happen, which I happen to find very valuable.

For instance, one reader reacting to the first pages of my book wrote of a 19-year-old character, “she sounds like my mom.” I clearly needed to make her appear younger in those early paragraphs. And when I described a Cadillac convertible as a tank, a reader said, “Aren’t convertibles small?” I knew the reader still hadn’t grasped this was the 1970s and not the present. When you see how readers are thinking and reacting as they are reading, you can see more clearly where and when your writing is staying on target or going astray. Even if a critiquer isn’t the best analyst of big writing problems, these tiny reactions can provide a wealth of useful information for making revisions.


It’s worth pointing out that Scribophile can also be a great tool for conventional, real-world writing groups or classes, allowing them not only to create private groups with access only to their members, but also to read and react to member writing offline before getting together in person. (Maybe we’ll all be bringing our iPads and laptops, open to sites like Scribophile, to our writing groups and classes someday instead of wasting reams of paper on hard-copy printouts.)

There are other, similar online writers groups* and it remains to be seen how useful an online writing group will be over the long haul of a novel. Can they help with the arc of a character, the trajectory of a plot over hundreds of pages? For now, Scribophile offers me enough of the critical insights I need to spot and revise problems in my writing, and more importantly, to keep me motivated. Writers need readers and Scribophile provides them.

* Editor’s note: This post originally linked to ReviewFuse, which appears to have gone offline since the publication of this post.


  1. Interesting stuff, Mark. I can use this to recommend to others, all those writers who always ask me about connecting to groups. I know this might not be their first choice, but it seems a nice option.

  2. I found this site also by doing a search for “writer’s group.” This is the BEST site ever. My writing has improved so much since I’ve joined. I’m also in the above private group. It’s great to have people critique your book from start to finish. Many, many wonderful writers here waiting to be “discovered.” I thoroughly encourage anyone who write to join.

  3. Billy Dean

    Most are just knee-jerk responses, not critical feedback. Comments like, “Oh, what a sweet poem.” And some make me feel as if I’ve been beaten with a stick. Critiques should be acts of service rendered with informed humility, not self-serving arrogance. But I agree with you that responses can be as valuable as analysis. And yes, it’s wise to evaluate the abilities and preferences of the writers giving you feedback so you can judge its quality and relevance for your target audience. Even experienced writers can get so caught up in dissecting a story or a poem that they can’t see the forest for the trees. I’ve book marked your blog and look forward to more of what you have to say about writing.

    • Edward Giles

      Mr Dean is asking a lot from a freebie site such as Scribophile. It pays to ignore trolls and over-pedantic or fussy reviews. One always thanks the critic, of course, but that’s mere good manners. With this in mind, I find the site both friendly and useful. I read stuff from terrible to impressive; the point is, the writers are sincere, and the critic should be equally so.

  4. R. Q. Ring

    This review overlooks Scribophile’s draconian editorial policy, which bans discussion of religion and politics, and erratic moderation, which categorizes vaccination as politics rather than medical science and disallows even secular references to the Bible as a work of literature. If reasonable rules and intelligent discourse best serve your interests as a writer (and they do) Scribophile is a poor choice.

    • Brenda

      Scribophile is a website to improve your writing, not discuss political or religious views. There are forums designated Writing, Publishing, Books, Meta Scrib (about Scrib itself), and the Cool Hang-Out Zone for general discussion. Politics and religion are banned because of the same reason they are banned at the dinner table – it disintegrates in nothing but screaming, accusations, unfounded facts, hurt feelings, and trolling, trolling, trolling. There are many other websites dedicated to “discussion” about these issues. As for the opinions on vaccinations, that doesn’t even come up because vaccinations as a subject matter had to be banned for all the reasons above. I have no idea why that would even be mentioned. It has nothing to do with writing.

      As a 3-year member of Scrib, I am very grateful for these policies, though I often strain under the rules because I would like to smack back at someone because heated topics do come up. I do participate in and read the forums, which many, many people don’t. The forums are no way required. However, I also remind myself that my purpose there is to become a better and more consistent writer and not shout at others about issues that have nothing to do with my goal. If you want to discuss politics or religion, you can create a private group in Scrib. Additionally, your posted writing can contain anything you wish to discuss no matter what the opinion or stance.

      I don’t find the moderation erratic in policy so much as the moderators are volunteers so are occasionally not there. They also rely on members hitting the “Bad post” button to identify a inappropriate post. Overall, they do a good job.

      As for the comment above on “most are knee-jerk responses”, I have not found that to be true at all. I’ve read some very poor crits to be sure, but a bad one can get the Bad Crit button and, if the administration agrees, that crit spot will open up again. Bad crit can include a rude or denigrating one. I’ve also read a great many good ones. You get the best feedback when you develop critiquing relationships, just like in a face-to-face group. Like the writer of this blog, I am also on a team in the same group and it has helped me immensely.

      Scrib isn’t perfect, but neither is any place, especially one with so many members from all over the world. But people there take writing seriously and try to help. If you can’t take honest feedback, it might not be the place for you. If you can and can give honest, respectful feedback, then it might be a good place for you.

      • R. Q. Ring

        “Scribophile is a website to improve your writing, not discuss political or religious views.”

        Scribophile’s young owner enforces a sophomoric editorial policy under which virtually any subject may be classified as religious or political. The science of vaccination is no more religious or political than blood transfusions, homosexuality or the shape of the Earth, but at Scribophile to discuss such subjects is to imperil your work. When I questioned the moderation policy my post was deleted. And I wasn’t the only one. When others posted similar criticism, the owner of Scribophile, Alex Cabal, posted an angry warning that his unpaid volunteer moderators were not to be critized. By then I’d had enough. I asked for a refund on my premium membership. Cabal responded by deleting my account and keeping a portion of my membership fee. I kid you not. Luckily, it’s a big Internet and I’ve already found a writer’s workshop that’s better than Scribophile at a fraction of the price, where my work is not held hostage. As far as I’m concerned, Scribophile is to creative writing as MacDonald’s is to nutrition: best avoided.

    • Michaël Wertenberg

      I’ve been a member of Scribophile for several years and I don’t know why or how you came to this conclusion. Moderators censor mean-spirited comments or debates when they come up, but other than that, there is freedom to discuss many issues, as long as they pertain to writing.

      • Q. R. Ring

        “I’ve been a member of Scribophile for several years and I don’t know why or how you came to this conclusion.”

        I’ve already provided examples of subject matter that Scribophile deleted, including a secular reference to the Bible as a work of literature, vaccination as a medical science, and questions about Scribophile’s editorial policy, among others.

        “Moderators censor mean-spirited comments or debates when they come up, but other than that, there is freedom to discuss many issues, as long as they pertain to writing.”

        Maybe that is your experience, but it sure wasn’t mine, and it does not resemble Scribophile’s actual policy, under which you have no freedom at all: “We reserve the right to modify, suspend, or terminate your access to the service on our system at any time for any reason without notice or refund […]. We also reserve the right to modify or delete any and all program and data files associated with your account […] at any time and without notice.”

        Everything you do on Scribophile is hostage to the whims of its owner. In my case, Cabal deleted my entire account–every work, critique, forum post, and private message–because I asked for a refund.

        • Lucy

          I’ll preface this by saying how helpful the Scrib community is in helping me workshop poetry and prose and how useful a mature writers community is. The site administrator Mr Cabal is an exceptionally talented coder and the website is one of the best designed in the industry. In particular, the critiquing interface is wonderful. Scrib was instrumental in improving my writing when I first started writing in earnest. Like the other writers on this thread my experiences at the start were very positive, I learned a lot, and saw my first publication successes as a result of the workshopping I did there. I am still in two minds. For a new writer there probably isn’t anywhere better to have your work critiqued. I’m really torn. On one hand, it IS a good place to get help with your writing, on the other hand, new writers need to be aware of what the site administration is capable of and their track record. I cannot recommend the community.

          Unfortunately, what QR says is correct — the moderation on Scrib is volatile and if you run foul of the site administrator your work, contacts, critiques and correspondence can be deleted on a whim. Mr Cabal is also not above conducting passive-aggressive campaigns to try and get you to leave of your own accord. Those who say things like this: “It’s only the mean spirit people and trolls who get deleted” this is simply not true. I was generous with my time, and I can assure you though I have many faults, being mean-spirited is not one of them. Even now, some six months later, I get letters from Scribbers telling me how much they miss me. In my opinion the only poeple who don’t are the mean spirited ones who have been allowed to remain.

          QR above also notes that Mr Cabal is especially abusive to anyone commenting on vaccination. Before he banned vaccination discussions, during one forums discussion he was actively involved in April 2015, he said to the parent of a severely disabled child to go back to their crackpot websites and may the Great Spaghetti monster have mercy on their poor children (sic). The viciousness of that attack was unbelievable, but its by no means an isolated incident. I have screenshots, incidentally. I have witnessed his utterly vile attitude to people on certain issues which bordered on outright abuse, and his penchant for publicly humiliating people in closing moderation posts and through removing the vowels from ‘offending’ posts. I have very strong views on public humiliation: I don’t think it’s an appropriate way to treat your customers. Or anyone. QR is also correct that a secular post on the Bible as a work of ancient literature got deleted. I know because I wrote it. As I recall I also referenced other works which were at one time or another considered sacred to ancient peoples, like the Epic of Gilgamesh and Descent of Ianna. None of those writers were aware they were breaking any rules at all. It’s that sort of volatility which should trouble anyone.

          At the time Mr Cabal vindictively deleted my account without discussion, or warning, I had done over 600 critiques which had been rated over 800 times, I had done over 300,000 words of critique across nearly every genre, I was liked and respected, and one of the top ten contributors. Mr Cabal took issue with me because in November 2015 I raised in private with two of his moderators about the increase in trolling attacks on women and minorities in main discussions. Then I lost three of my most talented critics because they had been abused in the forums. From November 2015 onward, Mr Cabal started a vicious and nasty campaign of attempting to publicly humiliate me and delete my posts. I didn’t confront him (there was no point) and did my best to ignore his behaviour, but the final straw came when I was trolled and ganged up on in a group by outside ringers. A friend found independent evidence that it was a cyberstalking attack that had been planned outside the community. They immediately went to the moderators who took it to Mr Cabal — who did nothing. Cybertalking is a serious federal offense and while I knew Mr Cabal had taken a personal dislike to me, I never considered he would go as far as to allow criminal activities to take place there unchecked no matter how much he disliked the victim of the offence.

          When I queried a moderator why nothing had been done, Mr Cabal closed my account. There was no discussion. No warning. No communication at all. Because I was such a high profile member, he then placed defamatory comment in the forums about me. He only refunded my remaining membership fee when I went to the Society of Authors. The loss of my poetry, my networking, and especially my correspondence was especially awful, not least because at no point did Mr Cabal or indeed any of the moderators come and speak to me about my alleged ‘wrongdoing.’

          It’s my opinion that Scrib is a wonderful community with very many talented writers, but the value of the community for me was severely diminished by losing so many talented critics due to the way the site is run. It is also my opinion that Scrib’s services are not as described — Scrib actively markets their premium membership as a safe place to store your work:

          “Keep your work and critiques safely archived.
          No need to delete your hard work or the critiques you’ve received. Keep all your writing and critiques accessible and online with Scribophile Premium.”

          “Unlimited works posted at once
          Keep as many works posted on Scribophile as you want. Never worry about having to delete work and the precious critiques they’ve received again!”

          When it became clear that Mr Cabal was not going to do anything about the stalking I had started taking down my novel. But if he had deleted me even 24 hours before he did, I would have lost every piece of workshopped writing for the previous two years. Even has it stood the loss of my poetry (which was still up) and correspondence (which can *never* be replaced) was devastating. I only received a refund when I went to my writer’s organisation.

          Since leaving Scrib I’ve been approached by several other writers — all women — who have had their accounts deleted in the same manner, and most of those individuals had complained about trolling, abuse or stalking on the site. Still others have voluntarily closed their accounts because of the way in which female writers (especially) are treated in particular. Several British writers contacted me reporting that there had been a mass exodus of British writers prior to my arrival in the community because a very respected female writer had been abused there, again by the site administration.

          I cannot recommend Scrib not just because of the volatile nature of the moderation there, but also because stalking appears to be tolerated. Several of my friends have reported being threatened with account closure privately for mentioning what happened to me, to the extent where I had to place a public plea on my facebook page for my fellow writers not to engage the moderation team on what happened to me, start threads about it.

          I appreciate there are writers who have been there for years who experience no issues. I also acknowledge the wonderful resource and great help Scrib was to me, and to many other new writers: especially the wide knowledge base which is especially useful for research. I had many positive experiences at Scrib. But latterly, my experience was so terrible, so awful, that I cannot recommend this community. Frankly, in my opinion, it isn’t safe. However, my decision to break the silence and speak publicly about my experience there appears to have resulted in a change of policy: one woman writer whose account was closed recently was at least given 12 hours to clear her desk. So my advice really is ‘find another crit site,’ but if you’re going to use Scrib, make sure you keep back ups of all crits, work and correspondence, and if you ever have an experience like mine (and several other writers) report it to your writers organisations — and if you are stalked, to go straight to law enforcement. My hope is that the realisation that people can very easily compare notes on their experiences these days will prompt a better customer relationship management.

          Happy writing.

          • Diane Howell

            Thanks SO much!! Wow. I know this kind of thing happens. I just left Critique Circle because a critique got personal. It’s not allowed and I won’t report it – waste of time. I did get a refund on my membership fees. I appreciated that.

            As someone below wrote so many of the critiquers are trolls that have time on their hands since they’re not spending time in hard labor refining, submitting, taking classes, etc. but think, I guess, if they can slam other writers, when they themselves don’t know how to write, they feel credible.

            I did receive a lot of good constructive criticism that improved my work, but it just isn’t worth wading through all the critiques that pull every sentence and idea apart with nothing positive to say. The rule of thumb is, the good writers know good writing when they see it, their critiques are balanced with positive remarks and pointing out mistakes or how your work could improve.

            Thanks again. Good luck to you.

    • M

      Agreed, I paid for Scrib for a while. Save your money people! It’s filled with random critters earning their Karma points. I met some nice people on the site itself, but the administration is awful and not kidding about the forums. You want to suppress writing scribo is the place. They shut down anything like Christian, but everything else is welcome. No politics and that is whatever is deemed political at the time. I saw threads shut down because people offered prayers for victims of terror. Breaking two rules at once I guess. And serious favoritism is played out on forums, mods will cut one person’s post and not another due I suppose too if they like their opinion. I paid money each month for mods who I am told do work for free. Whatever that is supposed to mean. I’d rather be dealing with a professional I pay in that case.
      Critiques are hit or miss. Pay an editor. Have people you trust read your work. It’s just not worth it. Number one, you are dealing with fellow authors, not readers there is a huge difference in feedback. Number two quality is very random people. Can’t put at work up without five Karma per around 3,000 word a chapter roughly, meaning you have to critique roughly 5 pieces to get that karma. Lots of karma farmers out there.

  5. I have just begun my membership with Scribophile, and at this point I must say that the experience has been extremely positive. Writers, in my opinion, have become the prophets of the 21st century, and we do so through finding the deeper undercurrents of emotion and passion which underlie us all. It is not necessary, or advisable, in my opinion, to focus on particular controversial subjects in order to make an impact and generally support the concepts of humanity, open-mindedness and compassion. s writers, we have the opportunity to move deeper than the surface, and impact so much more than a single issue. While I have strong, researched and articulated opinions in regards to subjects such as vaccinations, those opinions are based on larger concepts. These concepts include the defining of truth, the power of publicity, the deifying of wealth, and personal responsibility. Through fiction, I can lace themes within the world of story without engendering the reflexive responses I would receive were I to attack them outside of the realm of fiction. I can make the reader think, what if. For me, especially within the realm of a forum designed to hone our writing skills, this is more than enough. As of this point, I am absolutely grateful for the opportunity to share a forum with other writers, of many different personal philosophies and ideologies, and gauge the strength of my prose, the value of my shared emotions. Scribophile, is very much like a sit down dinner with family. We can honor, love, respect and care for our family members, but some subjects are best set aside, in order to revel in the areas where we connect.
    This review of Scribophile brings up some excellent ideas, and I plan to be adding more in-line reactions, rather than saving them for comments or opening statements. Thank you for a through, well researched (through experience) post!!!

  6. Fantastic review, Mark. Thanks.

    I enjoy the Scribophile comments from people who aren’t grammar nerds or MFAs. Their feedback is what I’d expect from a reader–my end user. This type of feedback isn’t available via a local writers’ group.

  7. S.M. Kelly

    I concur with those who’ve found Scribophile’s draconian policies and inequitable treatment a downside to the other positives the site offers. As a writer critique site, it does run smoothly with state-of-the-art technology and frequent upgrades to keep things user friendly for use on a variety of electronic devices. I’ve also met some great friends I’ve networked with. The small groups are the best, but even they have their limitations because mostly the best writers are off doing what writers are supposed to do – write, publish and market their work. And most of the writers on the site are geared to fantasy and sci-fi genre writing. Anything literary, classic or deep in thought is ridiculed and considered “boring” by most of the site’s members as stated both in critiques and in endless forum discussions. That means the majority of long standing members are trolls who either can’t or won’t pursue publication and would rather wreak havoc and subjugate unsuspecting newbies to bad writing advice and systematic indoctrination of Scribophile’s CoC and unwritten rules of order.

    The CoC on banning religion and politics is a joke. A slanderous quip can be idly made about Margaret Thatcher or George Bush in a thread about writing that has nothing to do with politics and nothing is done about it. That post can even be red flagged for CoC and still nothing is done. I know because I watched it happen and red flagged the comment. However, someone voicing an opinion against said comment in the thread, THAT one is deleted or the thread is shut down for “CoC”. Or worse, the opposing view might even be shamed with a “disemvowelment” a sophomoric attempt to muscle out anyone the mods don’t agree with.

    As to religion, a friendly “Happy Easter” thread was shut down for being “too religious” while other New Age or universalist themed messages are allowed even if they are purported as “truth”. However, a discussion on global warming, transcendental meditation or palm reading can be discussed with full vigor as a real belief system and goes on unabated, but politely disagree with any of the above or mention an alternate view and it’s shut down. Particularly if someone gets their panties in a twist over it because not everyone agrees with them. If you can manage to get along on the site for it’s free content, I’d recommend that only. It’s worth it for the few good writers and critiques you might get, but certainly not worth paying to the tune of $9 per month for it.

  8. Fenton Stafford

    If you want to concentrate your literary discourse with a group of JK Rowling wannabes then Scrib is the place to go. There are a few good writers there but they are usually not very active or have just used the Scrib site to find personal contacts with whom they can work offsite. The active part of the community is composed of beginners who think that they can learn to write in a month or so and most of them are, as expected, working on a novel. Others are self published genre writers who often discuss the in and outs of money in self publishing ( a great success is to bring in 700 a month or so). Recently a thread titled something like, How Long Will it Take asked about how to make a *meager* living in writing, 5k or so a month. It’s a humour site, really. Check it out for free.

  9. Elie Martin

    Don’t pay for this site. I was coaxed into trying it by blog post lik this one. I’m off of it now. It cost a lot and well there are some very unpleasent people there. Sadly many consist of the groups leadership. Also their latest a group to teach writers to write erotica… I have objection that kind of stuff on public forums anyway but when it pops up right there on main forums of a writers group no thanks. There largest and most active group called sex sells gets there stuff plastered all over the main threads poping up on my feed and yet if I say God is good or I’m a christian or start a thread about morality I get diemvowled or removed. That or over talked by the nasty mob bosses that seem to run the forums.
    The group can cut your membership and you can lose posted work without warning. Work you had to not only pay to put up but then alsso had to work for evey karma point to post. So you critique about four works to put up one work but risk losing all that work if you offend the ‘blessed Alex’ who plays master of the group.

    • Lucy

      Just to deal with a few points raised by Elie and S.M. Kelly.

      Scribophile is primarily a social network with critique functions and works by a system of notifications. When you like or favourite someone or start following them, the system tags that member and their activity is logged in your news feeds. So this means if you ‘favourite’ a writer who is a member of the Romance and Erotica groups, then their activity in those groups enters your feed unless that person has set their privacy settings to prevent the system tagging them. Since writers there work by networking there, most keep their notifications feeds open so they can follow their friends and vice versa. The only way to stop the notifications showing up in your feed is to un-favourite that writer. Personally I found the networking capabilities one of the pluses of the site, but accept that others might have found it difficult and also found it difficult to manage their settings so that objectionable material did not pop up in their feeds.

      As for threads in the main fora on mature subject matter, in a free society writers should be free to discuss what they wish in terms of writing character crafting. As a writer I wrote across several genres — including erotic literary fiction — but I also ciritqued inspirational and Christian literature there on a matter of principle. In a free society, where freedom of expression is valued, every writer in a community should be able write about the stories that move them and receive quality critiques. Experienced critics and editors also critique with the intended market for the piece in mind. To my mind concerns by Christian (or indeed any other faith-based writer) that they were exposed to threads in the main fora on mature subject matter and were upset by it — while I cannot ever judge their discomfort — freedom of expression is more important in a creative environment. There are other crit sites which centre on small group particulation which may suit those writers better, Inked Voices is one, and I believe (though I haven’t checked it out to any great degree) Critique Circle also might be a better fit. In general, on Scrib there were some thread topics started that made me feel deeply uncomfortable, but my passion for freedom of expression meant that regardless of the content I wouldn’t seek to try to control what people posted. What upset me was things like not being able to talk about crafting characters or the Bible as a work of ancient literature without being hounded from the fora. I recall one discussion on Moby Dick, for crying out loud, got shut down because of the religion ban. That was just ridiculous.

      Generally those seeking deeper discussions on literature and indeed, literary writers in general will be frustrated with their experience there as history, religion and politics do tend to overlap. How can I write about my Tudor thriller without discussing religion or politics? How am I supposed to craft my Catholic or Muslim character and flesh them out properly rather than rely on cookie-cutter cliches if every time search the knowledge base of the community I’m shut down with “Oh! Oh! Religion! Imma gonna TELL!” as if we were six year olds. The main fora provide entertainment but serious discussion really takes place in the groups.

      What I would agree with is that some of the groups suffer from nasty atmospheres and poor group moderation. Dogpiling and abuse, particularly in the Romance and Erotica groups (at least this was the case when I was there) was particularly bad and eclipsed the abuses of the main discussions. Even romance and erotic writers — let alone Christian writers — have been hounded out of those groups by unpleasant characters. And for those conservative and elderly writers, or writers without a thick skin, I can see why some of the subjects of some of the discussions could be upsetting. I might be as liberal as they get, but I will defend and respect a religious or conservative writer’s right to write about what they want.

      What I find intolerable is that someone should be berated or judged or hounded or deleted, or otherwise publicly humiliated by the other members, or by the moderation team, for expressing their opinion. And it’s the culture of public humiliation — the denial of the essential humanity of that person. That is a culture which I believe has been allowed to fester and flourish at Scrib.

  10. Runnerjohn


    Thank you very much for posting your experiences. It sounds like several people have legitimate complaints, but only Lucy offered some alternative sites (Inked Voices and Critique Circle). What other places do you suggest, so I can look into those? I’m writing YA Fantasy, if that helps.

    Thank you!

  11. Allison

    Absolutely love Scribophile. I’ve been a member for a few months already and it’s one of the best communities I’ve ever joined. Lots of talented people there, the site moderators are on top of things, and there’s tons to learn. Highly recommended!

  12. Victor

    Scribophile is a fine site for aspiring writers. It is beautifully designed and quite user-friendly. And some very good writers hang out there. My only criticism: The karma system for earning credits results in a critter who writes a short and superficial in-line critique after a single read-through receiving just as many karma points as the critter who produces an in-depth narrative crit that discusses, plot, character, theme, etc. In other words, there is a strong built-in incentive to produce quickie crits rather than the kind of analysis that would really help a writer. Nevertheless, I urge people to take a good look at Scrib.

  13. Jack

    I have been there now long enough to get a taste. I have experienced some of the ‘negatives’ whined about above, and I have heard some horror stories and seen people treated ‘unfairly’. I can’t pretend that doesn’t happen.

    But most if not all of the horror stories are not because Scribophile is a house of horrors. On the contrary, Scribophile is pretty damned great. The horrors come mostly from airholes and trolls who, like cockroaches, will show up pretty much anywhere on the internet where a member subscription page is available to them. That said, Scribophile actively tries to keep those sorts of actions to a minimum, which is to their credit.

    It is what it is. And there are a lot of wonderful things there, as well. I’ve learned a ton of things in my short time there.

    Just like ‘free speech’ does not indemnify one from the consequences of what one says, it is important to know that this is Alex Cabal’s candy store, and no one else’s. It’s his vision, and his business. It is literally a business that he owns. He runs a tight ship, the way he chooses to. And that is his prerogative, and his absolute right.

    If it is not for you, then fine. There are other places to be. But Alex is god there, and he makes the decisions, right or wrong, and he has every right to do that. It’s his site. If you won’t play by the rules, you don’t get to play anymore. It’s as simple as that, and that is how it probably should be. Otherwise, anarchy.

    I have a lot of respect for what Alex has accomplished. It is the best site I’ve ever seen, for anything. It is not perfect, but it is a great tool. The positives greatly outweigh the imagined negatives. I am very impressed by how well the site is run.

    One of my larger complaints is that I think the mods are sometimes not as smart as Alex, and can be a bit overzealous. The rules are tight, but they are obviously there to keep the goal of the site front and center, and to keep everyone on the rails, and prevent it from becoming an out-of-hand social media site with fractured focus, which IMHO is what every social media site has devolved into. So I applaud the firm hand here, even if it might bite me some day, fairly or unfairly. If it does? Maybe I don’t belong.

    But I am playing by the rules in respect to the site, because there are so many wonderful benefits to doing that.

    My other complaint is that I would like to see the karma system and crit system tweaked a little bit. It might be written in stone and that might not be possible, so I will not hold my breath. But there is a tendency for some folks to skim your work, eke out the minimum 125 words, even if they are pretty useless, and push you out of a spotlight that you waited 2 weeks to get into, and paid karma to get into.

    Also, since chapters have a shelf life, critiquers are rarely treated to ‘Chapter One’, because that gets locked after a while. So most crits are done by parachuting into the middle of someone’s story to read half of one chapter, completely out if context.

    While there is value in someone reading it out of context, only good, experienced critiquers (few and far between, in my experience) take this into account. I get inline questions constantly about ‘I don’t understand’, because yes, dummies, it’s out of context. More often than I like, some of the critiquers are so mindless and skim so heavily, that they even miss the context which is right there two sentences back.

    The encouraging inlines (‘Good paragraph’ ‘I like that line’) are nice, and being supportive is almost necessary when critiquing, but some crits are all ‘oohs and ahhs’ and really provide little of substance. One of the rules is to not do that; to provide helpful suggestions rather than just unhelpful comments, and if that is not a good rule, then I don’t know what one might be. Draconian? Hardly.

    The one thing that seems to be obvious is that the best critiques come from the best writers. And vice versa.

    Bottom line, curation is the key. So yes, the best way to get the greatest benefit from Scribophile is to cultivate a connection with the better writers, crit their stuff, converse with them in the forum threads, and msg them and even become friends with them.

    If you don’t do that, you may be getting a few (or more) worthless drive-by crits from the less-talented members. But regardless, there is a wealth of good information from learned and talented people there. You just have to dig for it.

    • Brandon

      I agree with everything you write about Scribophile. My only criticism is that you are required to do an awful lot of critiquing to earn enough karma points to place a section of your own work there. Otherwise it’s a great service.

  14. Jack

    Yes. It typically takes 3 critiques to get enough karma. But that makes sense to me. This means on average that every piece of work gets 3 critiques when placed into a spotlight. Not 3 good critiques, but 3 of any kind. Good, bad, or ugly.

    Here is what does not make sense to me:

    They do that to encourage 3 critiques, good, bad or ugly, and then they DISCOURAGE any more critiques. first by lowering the karma, and second by locking the work.

    The ability to get full karma is time limited to a number of critiques, which discourages critiquing them after they get 3, DISCOURAGES CRITIQUING THEM ON A SUPPOSED CRITIQUING SITE. And then they lock them. NO ONE AN CRITIQUE THEM AT ALL after they’re locked, which is typically at 30 days.

    So is it now still a critique site? Or is it just a repository? An archive? That all seems at cross-purposes to the intent of having a critique site.

    It also forces a user to parachute into chapters out of context. If I find someone who gave a good critique, or someone who posted thoughtfully in the forums, I can assume they are a good writer. Then I go to sample their work, and it’s locked. Or at least Chapter One is locked. I can’t critique it. ON AN EFFING CRITIQUING SITE.

    This means that good writers have difficulty building up a reputation and encouraging people who assume they will be posting good work, to even begin to sample their work. How does that make any sense at all?

    It would seem to make more sense that good writers would be encouraged to build a cadre of readers that see how good they are by their good forum posts and their good crits, and bad writers would have the difficulty of building such a cadre, and terrible writers would have great difficulty, and so might just leave the site and leave the better writers alone. IOW, quality should be what builds the audience, just like in the real world. Not these silly rules, which instead encourage bad critiquers to critique your work and push it out of the spotlight.

    So much of the critique capability on this critiquing site is a drive-by. Blink, and you’ll miss it.

    It’s a good site, and a good tool. But I don’t understand why they handle things in a way that pushes people to a better site, like BetaBooks.

    • Robert Gallup

      Glibophile’s ethically challengeed owner has built a proprietary product for his personal enrichment. Ever try to download any of your own work or received critiques? Don’t bother. You can’t. You either keep using Glibophile or abandon your work–classic vendor lock-in.

      • Bran

        Robert, downloading may not be possible. But it’s easy to copy and paste — your own stuff or material you wish to crit.

        • Robert Gallup

          “Very easy” would be tapping a download button that saves all of your content to your computer using an open standard. “Very hard” means opening the page that you want to download, selecting only the text that you want to save, copying it, switching to another application, pasting the text, restoring the formatting and mark-up that is removed, saving the file, and then repeating the process (potentially hundreds of times) for each critique or other content that you wish to save. The current process consists of the latter and there is no reason why it must, except to ensure that Glibophile keeps a tighter grip on your work.

  15. Jack


    That might be the most ridiculous comment yet.

    Why would there be any need to ‘download’ something one has already ‘uploaded’? If a member has enough common sense to edit before revising, they already HAVE their ‘work’. And I have spoken to members who like to print and save critiques, so that is not ‘locked-in’, either. Some comments reveal immediately that the commenter might have no earthly idea what they are even talking about.

    This may also be not just ridiculous, but also a senseless vicious attack. Fire at will, but no one except the owner has any idea why this product and service was created. And virtually everything done interacting with the general public by anyone qualifies as being done for ‘their personal enrichment’. Bending to pick up a 20 off the sidewalk is done for your ‘personal enrichment’. Going to work is done for your ‘personal enrichment’. Starting a business or internet service is done partly for someone’s ‘personal enrichment’, even non-profits. So there is nothing at all wrong with ‘personal enrichment’, because that is what all of us do nearly every single day. It’s how we put food on the table. It’s how we survive.

    The implication here is that this service was created specifically for self-aggrandizement. Again, puh-lease. Even if it were (and it obviously is not), there is nothing wrong with that if the service provides quid pro quo benefits, which this service does, primarily for free.

    Businesses are often also created to provide a service, to help people, and to employ people. Rarely are they created to specifically enrich someone. Most of the advantages of this service are absolutely free. The service is welcomed and regarded highly by thousands of people. It also fills a niche not filled very well by any other service.

    No one is holding a gun to anyone’s head or even bombarding them with ads or emails. If someone likes the service enough, it is their choice to go premium, and that provides even more great services. What premium membership provides is clearly spelled out ahead of time. The choice is theirs.

    There always has to be one. Opinions are allowed, and sometimes they are just ridiculous.

    Here’s mine, and this is not directed at anyone specifically: I think making vicious baseless attacks is what might be considered ‘ethically challenged’, not starting a free service that helps people and asks them to follow rules. I also consider mindless drive-by attack typing to be troll behavior, and would be happy if people that did that would just turn around, go back under their bridge, and stop breathing the air that belongs to the rest of us.

  16. Robert Gallup

    The criticisms directed at Glibophile in these comments share a common theme that the site is mismanaged. Members have reported being insulted, attacked personally, threatened, harassed, and upon protesting or questioning, have their accounts banned, with the owner keeping the member’s money after deleting the content s/he paid for–in violation of the site’s terms of service, which misleadingly promises that your work is safe while reserving the right to destroy it. I have witnessed or experienced these things myself and no, I don’t think such behavior is ethical, nor do I think reporting these things to others is somehow unfair or unethical. That the owner of Glibophile is so sensitive to such remarks–to the tune of arbitrary mass deletions–suggests that the ongoing criticism of the juvenile way he runs Glibophile is hitting uncomfortably close to the mark.

    The Glibophile fanboys have no legitimate or fair-minded rebuttals to these criticisms, so out comes the content-free paraphrasing, by which the fanboy responds without really engaging any of the points raised. It’s not that the site rules are unconscionable, or that the moderation is unfair, or that the owner mistreats his clients, or that anyone would have the unfathomable wish to download all of his work from the site and leave. Naw, We’re a bunch of ridiculous, mindless, vicious, whining, rule-breaking trolls, with no need to save our work, and nothing better to do than invent mean comments about the poor, misunderstood Alex Cabal. That, or we really have been mistreated and ripped off, and prospective Glibophile members ought to think twice before they entrust their money and work to Alex Cabal’s whims. I encourage everyone who reads these comments to decide for themselves which version is closer to the truth.

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