Indie-Publishing 411: Chat with Vania and KT–Beta Readers and Editing

Indie Publishing Chats

Thanks for joining us for our second chat of this series. KT and I chatted about beta readers and editing. Enjoy!

Vania Margene Rheault
You’ve written Down to Sleep, and it’s been slightly edited and with a couple betas. What has been your biggest surprise so far?

KT Daxon
My biggest surprise so far has to be that my Betas were able to finish it without wanting to throw it across the room. They enjoyed it, and to me that is HUGE. On the self-publishing side of things, I think I was a bit thrown off about how difficult doing everything yourself can be.

Vania Margene Rheault
Yeah, that is a rude awakening for sure! And as you can tell by some indie books out there, not everyone gets it right.
What made you decide to beta? I’m thinking back to where I was at your stage of the game. I had written On the Corner of 1700 Hamilton and someone offered to beta for me. The feedback was less than thrilling. Then I had Jewel edit it for me. Those two people were the only eyes I had on it before I published.

KT Daxon
That’s another story I need to read …*scratches a note on my notepad*. I decided to Beta because someone told me I should. I didn’t think anyone would be interested, so I took a chance. Melissa and Shannon were wonderful. Both had different styles and gave me TONS of amazing feedback. My editor will be happy as she won’t be getting pure crap. Ha!
What are your thoughts on Betas? Pros? Cons?

Vania Margene Rheault
I say don’t let them have too much weight. If I had listened to my beta, half of 1700 would be missing. Just because they don’t like it doesn’t mean you need to take to heart everything they say. Do stay true to your work and vision because at the end of the day, it’s your book and no one else’s.
What is the next step for you?

KT Daxon
That’s some good advice to carry with me as I move forward. I let what other people think dictate a lot of aspects of my life. But, this was my story in 2013, and it’s still my story today. As for what’s next, I’m currently editing the Beta suggestions. Picking and choosing what I think needs changed. I’m hoping to be done by the start of the 2nd week of January, and I’m trying to decide if I want to do another round of Betas or just shoot it to the editor…thoughts? How many rounds of Beta advice should one take?

Vania Margene Rheault
Probably that’s not best coming from me–Don’t Run Away, Chasing You and Running Scared won’t have any. So I would say do as many as you feel is necessary.
In the near future here, you have a lot you’re going to need to know. How are you preparing for that next step?

KT Daxon
A stiff drink? Haha. Kidding … though the thought does sound appealing. I’ve made myself a sponge. I accept advice when it’s given and I utilize the veteran’s in the writing community, such as yourself, for help. I’m dedicating the first weekend of the New Year to research on all aspects of self-publishing. Cover design, formatting (which scares me btw lol), ISBN’s, whatever I need to learn to publish this book, I’m soaking it up every way I can.
Any tips on what to tackle first?

Vania Margene Rheault
I read a lot of books when I first decided to self-publish. One of the two I read right off the bat was APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur-How to Publish a Book.
APE
This was one was instrumental in getting the lay of the land, so to speak, and the other one I told you about was A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers: How to Print-on-Demand with CreateSpace & Make eBooks for Kindle & Other eReaders.publishing with amazon

While there is some outdated info in each, they both still have really important information in their own right.
The first one was given to me by someone who was taking publishing classes at our university in Moorhead. It was a textbook in their class.

KT Daxon
I intend to get the second one once payday hits. It looks like it’s an easy read.

Vania Margene Rheault
I would caution you though, and make sure you double-check advice. What works for someone may not work for you. I read up on how to do it all myself, and while 1700 didn’t come out the best, at least I can say I learned what *not* to do. Fortunately, you know people have gone through it so you should have more help than I did.

KT Daxon
That’s true. It’s good for anyone to remember that advice isn’t someone holding a gun to your head telling you to change things or else, it’s just suggestions … helpful suggestions.

Vania Margene Rheault
Right. And everyone has a suggestion. LOL Okay, we’ll wrap up this chat for tonight! Thanks for hanging out with me!

Thanks for hanging out with us! Here are a few other articles on beta readers:
Ultimate Guide: How To Work With Beta Readers

How many Beta Readers do you need?

WHEN NOT TO LISTEN TO YOUR BETA READER

beta readers
Just for fun, since I’m not doing chat anymore, I’m going to give away Better Critiquing for Better Writing: Use Writing Feedback to Craft Your Story, Refine Your Message and Become a Better Writer by Kelly Hart. Enter HERE.

Thanks for reading! Tune in next time when KT and I discuss ISBN numbers.

Vania Blog Signature

Making Time to Beta Read and/or Edit

I beta read and I edit for my friends. When I beta read, sometimes that turns into light editing—I’ll point out typos, etc., if/when I find them, and I think the authors appreciate that. Sometimes I get asked to do a full edit, and sometimes the author isn’t clear, and I end up doing a full edit, anyway. Doing an edit is almost easier than only beta reading because my eyes immediately start searching for mistakes.

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This is true when I read anything. Reading for pleasure is almost non-existent because I automatically start editing and revising. “I would have written it this way. . .” While this can be good practice, trying to turn it off to enjoy a book is almost impossible. It doesn’t help when I feel justified when I do find something wrong.

But I like to beta read and edit because it sharpens my own skills as a writer. If I see repetition, telling instead of showing, words being used in the incorrect context, head hopping, it makes me more sensitive to it and I spot it more easily in my own work.

Stephen King says you don’t have time to be a writer if you don’t have time to be a reader, and this is true. You learn by reading other people, and you also expand your vocabulary. You improve your grammar and punctuation when you see it used correctly and if you think it isn’t being used correctly, you can look it up. Fact-checking helps you and the person you’re editing/beta reading for.

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It isn’t easy to make time to beta read—we have so little time as it is, writers like to use that time to write.

I’ve often likened writing to other occupations: you don’t have a business without product to sell, you wouldn’t want your child to go to school with a teacher who wasn’t always updating her skills, you wouldn’t go to a doctor who wasn’t constantly going to workshops, seminars, and publishing in medical journals.

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You can’t write books without reading other people’s work or fine-tune your voice without reading editing books and how-to books about the craft of writing. No organization is making you do those things; a company isn’t going to give you tuition reimbursement. You are your own boss and it’s up to you to keep learning for yourself.

Beta reading is fun, and it’s helpful, and someday you’ll need a beta reader. What goes around comes around, so try to make time when you can.

Tips on how to beta read:

  1. Sometimes you’ll start beta reading a book that doesn’t suit you. Figure out why it doesn’t before you say anything. If it’s not your preferred genre, speak up before you agree.
  2. If it is your genre, make notes as you read. What feels off? Is the beginning slow, are the characters flat? This is why you’re beta reading—to give useful feedback. Don’t be vague—the beginning lacked pizzazz. How was it boring? Maybe the action picked up in chapter two.  Did the author start the book in the wrong place?
  3. As you read to the middle look at the characters. Are they still interesting? Are they battling an inner conflict? Are they struggling? A saggy middle is something many authors, including myself, have an issue with.
  4. Look for inconsistencies. Are the characters’ physical attributes the same throughout the book? If they have a pet, do they disappear half way through the book because the author forgot to include it?
  5. How is the dialogue? Does it flow? Do what the characters talk about further the story?
  6. Do any scenes seem to bog the story down?
  7. When you reach the end, think of the story as a whole. Are there any plot holes? Any minor characters that could have been developed or any of their storylines that don’t make sense? (Ask if there is a sequel in the works if this is the case, sometimes the foreshadowing won’t make sense. But foreshadowing should only make the reader curious to read the next book, not make the reader wonder if the author dropped the ball.) Does the ending give you a satisfied feeling? Does it feel rushed? Do the characters complete their internal journey, face their fears,  finally get what they want?

Ideally, the author you’re beta reading for will give you ample time to read the book before publishing and tell you a reasonable deadline. Sometimes, if they’ve finished editing it and the piece is ready to be published, the author won’t wait.

This can put you in a bad position if you’re finding typos—you won’t get a chance to give your feedback to your author. If you’re given a deadline try to stick to it. But the urges to hit “publish” are strong, and if your author goes ahead and publishes without waiting for you, try not to feel hurt or resentful. You can still finish beta reading and forward on the mistakes you found. Perhaps s/he fixed them without telling you.

Sometimes you might be expected to leave a review. Ask first to be sure—especially if you didn’t care for the book. You may want to skip leaving a review rather than leave a poor one because this book is will be new and no review will be better than a bad one.

Anyway, beta reading or editing for people is win-win. It helps you become a better writer, and it helps the person you’re reading for.

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We need to help each other be better writers, one chapter at a time.

Vania Blog Signature