I haven’t even written in my WIP this week. No word count change. Ugh. I told you that you could catch up to me this week. Yes, I have a new client who needs me to read, but I have spent my time on my trilogy these last few days, so I can give her my full attention. I was learning how to create Amazon ads, learning about marketing techniques, and sending out review requests for The Key of F and The Queen’s Heart, and looking for betas for the The Final Rescue.
Which brings me to today’s post.
YOU can help make a great book! I am currently…
Have you ever wanted to be a beta reader?
Now’s your chance to read more about it.
First, I can hear you asking…
The good news is, you don’t have to know anything about me, the book, or editing! I will be needing beta readers for the third book in my trilogy. It is a YA fantasy/romance called, The Final Rescue. Here’s the blurb:
“It is so packed with action that there was no place where I could say, ‘Ok time for bed now. I’ll finish it tomorrow.’ A must read.” ~Amazon Reviewer
Fale doesn’t know why she has visions of the queen’s past life. All she knows is that her magic becomes dangerously faulty every time she sees into the past. Through the visions, the mystery of Effailya’s banishment and life of slavery is solved; the reasons of her heated parting with Gryndoll are revealed, as well as who the queen’s secret lover was. And how that could possibly relate the Source Wizard to the Queen of Mages, herself.
The Source Wizard Gasten sends out his best efforts, but the new queen stays one step ahead of him. He may have found a way to send his spell to her. And if not, he’s found the old wizard’s journals, which are sure to give her weaknesses.
The Final Rescue is a face-paced adventure as the wizards and mages race toward their mutual destruction. A strong female lead not only survives her dystopian society… she solves the mystery of a hidden war, only to cause a new one, then battles both sides to rule it herself. It’s a conclusion for fans who fell in love with The Hunger Games, Divergent, and The Reader series. If you’re hooked on genre-blending, suspenseful, fantasy romance novels, with adventure, you’ll love The Final Rescue!
But what does a beta reader do?
They read the manuscript and answer questions like these…
I, of course, have different questions. Every author does. They are probably more specific to the book and what the author feels are their strengths and weaknesses. I don’t usually have a problem with spelling, so I wouldn’t emphasize a need for my betas to check on spelling. But I do sometimes struggle with comma splices. See, I can run my manuscript through spell check and Grammarly, but they aren’t always right, or don’t understand the context. You still have to know enough about grammar and punctuation to know when they are right, and when your situation supersedes the knowledge of the program.
But betas aren’t editors. They are the people who say things like, Her eyes were a honey brown in chapter two, but in chapter thirteen, it says her eyes are an olive color. Which is right? Or I thought the wizard gave him an enchanted sword, but here it says “dagger?” Or The pace is really slow here. Or This description had me jumping out of my chair!
You can say anything. Tell the author what you like, what you don’t like, and why. If you happen to be a grammar nazi, go for it, correct everything. If you won the spelling bee three years in a row, check my spelling. Every beta reader has their own style and way they “read” for an author.
So, as a beta, what do you do if the story is good, but it’s full of typos and you aren’t so great at editing, but you think you know a typo when you see one? Tell the author exactly what you thought. This is crucial. This is included in the editing phase of a book’s life. If you don’t point it out, they might publish it like that. You never know. So bring their attention to it. Authors know that reading beta feedback can sometimes feel brutal. Not that I’m suggesting you should be rude. By all means, be as polite and professional as possible. Never make it personal. Don’t tell someone they are a bad writer, they can’t write dialogue, or they have done a terrible job. Make it about the book. That’s how you can spare the author’s feelings in the best way. In this case, I would say, “I really liked your story I think…(give the good points). The biggest area that needs improvement is with typos, there were a lot more than I expected. I circled all the ones that didn’t look right to me and you can recheck them.”
Really, that can be all. Not that I think any author would be happy with that tiny bit of information, but if you aren’t a writer, at least tell the author what you liked and didn’t like, and anything you didn’t understand.
If they are a new author, they are more likely to get their feelings hurt. Growing a “thick skin” is just like getting a callous on your skin. You can’t have one at all without going through the pain of rubbing the skin off, scabbing, growing new skin that is likewise abused, but gets tougher, and every layer that you shave off, grows back thicker. Until you get to where seasoned authors are. We callous our hearts. Your book is your baby. In the beginning, the characters are likely versions of yourself, and do things that you would do or wouldn’t do.
There were times when someone said, “I don’t think she would do that.” And I thought, of course she would, because that’s what I would do. But you aren’t the character. The character isn’t you. Some people in the beginning have a very hard time differentiating between critique on their novel and critique of themselves. If the author is new, and beta readers should find out if this is their first book or not, use kid-gloves. Meaning, tread with extra patience and kindness.
Me? I know my book isn’t me. It’s a product that I produce. The characters aren’t me and their actions should reflect what the situation demands of them, not relating to me at all. If my betas bring up something I don’t agree with, generally, my first thought is, “Well, I guess I didn’t make that clear enough.”
If you are an author reading this, try it. Tell me if it works for you. When you get critique you don’t like, before you get upset, ask yourself, “Is there a better way to put that? Is it a problem that I just wasn’t clear enough with my meaning, that they misunderstood?” It helps. It lets you see the book as a craft, not an extension of yourself.
So, be brave and say yes to being a beta reader. Read the work and enjoy it, or don’t. Then be honest. And if I freaked you out about not being harsh, here’s what I mean, if a situation comes up in the book that just doesn’t work, or there’s a reaction from a character that comes out of left field, you could say, “This doesn’t work at all. It doesn’t make any sense. You wrote her one way and now you’ve got her doing this thing that makes her look stupid. I don’t get your reasoning at all, it’s really confusing. Your writing style needs work.”
Or, you could say, “The character has been calm and collected throughout the book, so when she freaked out and shot the security guard, I was really shocked. It didn’t seem like it matched her character. I think Cindy would have (and give a suggestion on what you think she should have done). With her freaking out, the story loses focus and I got confused. But when Cindy got to the hideout, I was back on track. (This lets the author know how much of the scene needs to be changed.) I don’t think it will work if you leave it this way. It makes the bit about her being ‘unable to move in a crisis’ implausible and makes her bipolar at best.”
Okay, that last bit was just teasing, but do you see? I didn’t say anything that the author could relate to themselves as criticism. I talked about the character and the world and explained why I didn’t think it would work.
Authors just want your opinion. And they will take it in any form they can get. If you only work on world-building, then do that. If you only work on conjugating verbs, then do that. The more different types of critique the author gets, the more well-rounded the story will be. And don’t worry about being “right.” Just give your opinion. If it’s a “no way,” the author just won’t do that. They have the final say, all you need to do is make the suggestion.
So make a lot of suggestions!! Be a beta reader!
Be my superhero and help a new book become the best it can be!
I hope that helps you get a grasp on what is expected from a beta reader and how to help in the most friendly way. And who doesn’t want a free book?
I will not be sending out the manuscript until September.
so you have time to spare, but I need to know who is committing
to be on my team. If you read for me, your name will go in the “Acknowledgements” section in the book
and I will send you free book swag, if you desire.
(And live in the continental US.)
If you think you would like to be a beta reader,
comment below or email me at: email@example.com with your name, preferred email (if not the one you sent from), and format of the manuscript that you need: i.e. EPUB, pdf, or Mobi (for Kindle).
Addendum 9/2/19 I’d like to add a bit. Maybe you’re an author thinking, boy I could use some beta readers! Where can I get some? Well, first, think of anyone you know, beta reading is what you use your friends and family for, NOT editing. You want their opinions and want them to find the plot holes. Once you’ve exhausted that bank, there are other options.
- You could advertise- if you are a writer, you may have fans or a blog, or newsletter. Ask any of those groups, like I did on this blog. I had 23 people volunteer for this book.
2. Put it out on Twitter (under hashtags like #betareader and #Writingcommunity) and Facebook on pages dedicated to writing and/or beta reading.
3. Check your local community college English department. Many college students can get credit for reading and practice with their editing/content reading and evaluating skills.
4. There are sites online (like http://www.Authorsxp.com) that offer beta reading services. They have people sign up to be betas and when you pay them an amount, they make your book available to those people and they can choose to read it or not.
As with anything, you can Google beta reading and get a plethora of ideas and tips, etc. Just read reviews on any service before you purchase an expensive package. If they’ve screwed someone else, trust me, someone’s put it online. Just google for reviews of that service and trust the authors. That’s all I can think of, but if you have ideas for finding beta readers that I haven’t covered, please comment below!
All my best. ~jenn
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