Where I’m at with my Wedding Party Series

jaredandleah

My first try at creating an aesthetic. All pictures taken from Pexels/Pixabay/Unsplash


 

I said since there is going to be such a long time between releases, I would try to update my fabulous readers better on my writing process while I write my Wedding Party Series. It used to be called my Bridesmaid Quartet, but as I was planning out my characters, I realized I was writing about only three bridesmaids and a groomsman. The Wedding Party series is a little more accurate, and more than likely that’s what I’ll call it when I publish it.

So where am I at?

Okay, well, first of all, I had carpal and cubital tunnel surgery on January tenth. I was able to write 35,000 words (about half of my book) before that, and I was pleased the book sounded as well as it did as a first draft. Had I not had to take time to recuperate, I more than likely could have had the first book done by now.

But I did something I don’t like doing.

I left a previous book undone. The Years Between Us was technically done when I opened the file for Jared and Leah (I always name the file by my characters’ names because it takes a while for me to think up a title), but it wasn’t edited. That’s what I had planned to do while I was in recovery.

Recovery took a little longer than I had expected, and I slept a lot. I watched a lot of Netflix. Luckily, I had thought ahead and planned out a few blog posts, so my website didn’t go neglected. I tried to tweet when I could. But mostly I gave myself a pass and took two weeks of a needed break from a very hectic publishing schedule so far.

The Years Between Us

The unofficial cover for The Years Between Us. Made with Canva.com and photo from canstockphoto.com

I have been able to give The Years Between Us two on screen editing sweeps. I usually print it out and edit it on paper, but I’m thinking this time I’ll skip that step and go straight to the listening part of it. Thinking about this after writing this section of my post, I realized I can’t skip this step. When I edit on paper, that is when I break up my book into chapters. I don’t write my book with chapters in mind, only breaking up my POV changes with scene breaks, and when I print out my book, it’s easier to “chunk it up” while in paper form.  

I’ll be working on two books simultaneously, and I don’t particularly care for it, but I like writing Jared and Leah and there’s no rush to put out The Years Between Us. When I DO get it done, it will be going on a long preorder, just so I don’t have so long between books, though by romance indie publishing standards, since I published All of Nothing in October, I should have another book out now.

Anyway, I did realize not long ago while I was reading my friend Aila’s blog, I’ll need to change a few things, and the sooner the better. Most of the time I don’t care what I name my characters as long as I haven’t used the name before, and it matches what I think the character looks like. Towns are the same. Sometimes I look up names, sometimes I steal them from work. (I work in a call center and see names of cities and towns all day long.) Sometimes I use a name generator. I didn’t think anything of using Blue Ridge, Minnesota for my small town’s name. Until I was reading a blog post of Aila’s. Color me surprised when I saw this:

Harlot of Blue Ridge

Beautiful! (And used with permission. Thanks, Aila!)

All I can think is that the name of her book kind of got stuck in my mind. I mentioned it to her, and she was very gracious, saying I didn’t need to change it. But she thought of it first, she’s further into her WIP than I am, and seriously, there are so many other names to choose from, I don’t need to steal borrow anyone else’s. I can’t tell you how excited I am to read her book though, and if you want to follow along with her writing journey, you should follow her blog and give her a follow on Twitter. I can’t tell you enough how impressed I am with what she gives to the indie writing community.

I am not going to lie: it’s been hard to get back into the swing of things. I’m not 100% healed, meaning, I’m not 100% pain free. My doctor said it could take my body up to 12 months to repair itself. On the bright side, I don’t feel any worse than when I did before my surgery, and if I could type through the pain then, I can type through it now.

I went back to work last week, so I’m hoping that returning to a schedule will help me make better use of my time.

In my next blog post, I’ll break down what I’m doing with Jared and Leah, and maybe share an excerpt or two of what’s been going on!

Until next time!

jared and leah for end of blog posts

 

My First Steps in Going Wide

 

 

going wide girl on tracks blog postI knew going wide was going to be a pain, and I was right. What’s been getting me down? Read on to find out!

Kindle Select and KU Updates

I’ve pulled all my books out of Select. Before writing this post, I checked to see when they would drop out, and the latest one is dropping out on February ninth. Don’t Run Away had a few days left, so I took advantage of it and set my book for a free day one more time. More than likely, after I go wide, I’ll markdown Don’t Run Away as a permafree book because it’s the first in a trilogy and let that book be a loss leader into my other books. If you’re interested in setting a book permafree, take a look here for a quick tutorial.

This makes pricing my boxed set inconvenient though. Because box sets are supposed to be a deal, if Don’t Run Away is free, and the other two are only $2.99, readers who want all three are still only paying $6.00. But readers may find it easier or more convenient to buy the box set, so I’ll do the math and continue to offer it.

After they all drop out, I’ll spend an afternoon on the computer and slowly start adding them to other platforms. Kobo will be first because I want to go through them directly and have access to their promo dashboard. You don’t have access to that if you sell your books on Kobo through an aggregator like Draft 2 Digital.

 

IngramSpark Adventures

Ingram Spark was a load and a half of fun.

I thought if I waited long enough, my paperback books would drop out of KDP’s expanded distribution on their own when I took them out. But, a month later, when I added my ISBNs to IngramSpark, my ISBNs were still in use. You only need one ISBN per book for paperback. It’s okay to use your ISBN for KDP Print and IS as long as you purchased them from Bowker (in the US). Ingram won’t take the free one KDP Print will give you. I purchase all my ISBNs from https://www.myidentifiers.com/. This may be a game-changer for those on a budget–ISBNs are expensive.

But this is a decision you need to make for your business. What are your plans? Where do you want to be in five years? Ten? Do you want to have 20 books in your backlist and be all in with Amazon? Maybe you know you’ll never have 20 books in your backlist, and that’s okay. Maybe if you feel you’ll only ever have five books or so out, and you’re comfortable giving Amazon the reins, then that’s great. My publishing path is not going to be yours.

At any rate, right now I’m stuck waiting for Ingram to pull my books. I can get going on the covers, if I want, but I think I’d rather wait until my numbers “click in” so to speak, into my IS account. I can do All of Nothing as a trial run, see how it goes, since, for some reason, that book is available.

I did have to fill out a Title Transfer Addendum, and you can find that here if you’re interested in moving some titles over.

A word on imprints

IngramSpark, like KDP Print, allows you to publish under an imprint. I have an imprint–Coffee & Kisses Press. I also have Coffee and Kisses Press, because, well, “and” and “&” 2019-01-23aren’t the same thing. Who knew? I didn’t and found out the hard way. I’ll make sure when I buy my next group of numbers that I assign them to the Coffee & Kisses Press, just because the ampersand looks so much cuter. 🙂


Going wide has turned into a very slow process. But that’s okay. Better to do it now and have everything in place, than be scrambling later when an opportunity I didn’t think would come presents itself.

luck-is-what-happens-when-preparation-meets

I’ll keep you updated on the progress!

 

Until next time!

 

 

How Free is Self-Publishing?

It costs absolutely nothing to publish a book. Nothing.

free

There are free word processing programs like Google Docs. You can use a library’s internet and computer. Platforms like Draft2Digital and Amazon’s KDP will provide you with some kind of book identification number so you don’t have to buy ISBNs for your books.

All you need to do is write, make a cover in Canva using their free website, use a free for commercial use picture from Pixabay, Pexels, or Unsplash, and you are a published author. All for free.

But when isn’t that a good idea?

Do you know Amazon has over 7 billion books in their Kindle store? And writers publish more every day.

So not only are you competing with everyone you know on Writer Twitter, you are competing with writers who are not on Twitter, big time indies who don’t have much time for social media. You’re competing with traditionally published authors, and those authors range from anywhere between The Big Five to tiny university presses.

You’re competing with writers from the US, Canada, (do you know how many writers I know who live in London, Ontario? A lot!) the UK, Australia, and many other countries.

Over 7 billion books.

Okay. What what is this blog post really about now that I’ve made you feel like crap?

Spending money.

Self-publishing is free.

Until it isn’t.

I do everything myself. For my trilogy, and Wherever He Goes, I wrote them, edited them. I formatted them and did the covers. The orangy hue on the third is my fault. I didn’t have the skill to fix it. It doesn’t look bad on screen, but the paperback could look better. That’s just the way it is, and I accept that.

What can you pay for when you self-publish?

  • Editing
  • Formatting
  • Cover

Those are the three big ones. But we can go further:

  • Beta Readers/Critique Partners/Book Coaches/Book Doulas
  • Blurb writing
  • Reviews/Arc review services like NetGalley
  • Advertising, ie, Facebook ads, Amazon ads, Promotions
  • ISBNs
  • Paperbacks for giveaways
  • Giveaway fees like on Goodreads

No one is saying you have to pay for all of that–or any of it.

It’s up to your discretion how much money you want to pump into your books.

See, this is the problem. No one wants to admit that they publish their books to sell them. Which leads an author not spending one dime on their books.

They are publishing for themselves. I repeat this over and over again like a broken record:

If you only publish for yourself you have no right to complain if your books do not sell.

But if you can admit you want people to pay to read your work then you have to take a hard look at your book.

Is the cover you made yourself doing the job?

Is your blurb up to snuff or is it confusing and off-putting?

Are there typos in the first few pages of the Look Inside?

If you can’t put out quality work yourself, then you’re going to need help.

It’s that simple.

And that difficult because saying you need help is a lot easier than being able to afford said help.

That being said, you can teach yourself how to do these things.

If you just shut down on me, it’s because you don’t want to take the time to learn. That’s okay. I wear clothes every day. That doesn’t mean I want to learn how to sew.

But what I’m trying to tell you is that you must find a happy medium between doing things for yourself and hiring out the help you need to make your book desirable to readers.

Because remember, readers have 7 billion choices.

Listen, my books aren’t pretty. Use the look Inside Feature for any of my books and you’ll see basic formatting. The embellishments are non-existent.

That’s fine. I taught myself enough to get by, and that’s good enough for me.

Readers aren’t going to care if you have fancy chapter headings if your story sucks.

So, being I’ve published a few things, I can suggest where you should put your money–if you have any, or where you should ask for favors from friends–if you have any. Just kidding!

  1. Editing. If you’re a newbie writer, this means a developmental edit as well as a line edit and proofing. Plot holes, flat characters. Developmental editing can be more of a job for a critique partner or someone from your writing group. Ask someone who reads your genre so they have a handle on the tropes and feel for the type of genre your book is in. Once you have a stellar story and a solid look inside sample, you need a good cover.
  2. Cover. Canva.com offers design classes. You need to train your eye and learn what makes a good cover. It can make or break your book. Plus, if you push your book in any way, ads, promos, giveaways, your cover will be the selling point. Look at your genre on Amazon. Look at templates. Try to duplicate them yourself in Canva. You may need to spring for a photo, but that’s not as expensive as you might think. I buy mine on canstockphoto.com for seven dollars apiece. Photos are even cheaper if you buy a credit package.

    A word of warning though. I write romance, and slapping some text onto a smiling couple is a lot different than making a cover for an Urban Fantasy novel. Fantasy, of any kind, requires a certain kind of cover. Negotiating a price with someone on Fiverr is a lot better than publishing a book that does not have an appropriate cover. Your sales will stop before they even start. I’m sorry, but that’s just the way it is.

    Sometimes you can find a pre-made template that’s cheap.

    Sometimes you can even find a photo on a photo site that is already doctored to how you need/want it to be. Set aside hours, days, if not weeks, to click through pictures. I’m barely 20,000 words into my next book and I’m already looking at photos.

  3. Formatting. Formatting for Kindle takes five minutes. All you need to do is set the options in Word so when you upload it into KDP it converts correctly. If you go wide and you use Draft2Digital, you don’t even have to do that. (Smashwords is a different story, and your Word file has to be formatted correctly or it won’t convert through their “meatgrinder” and they won’t publish your book.) Draft2Digital seems easier to work with, but I’m in KDP Select and haven’t used either of those services.

 

What is the cost of self-publishing? It can cost as much or as little as you want to put into it.

Someone opening a business always needs to invest. Paying for services is investing in your book business.

I used to think that I didn’t want to invest in my books because I may never get that money back. But that was incorrect thinking.

If my books are well-written, have a nice cover, and are formatted as to not turn anyone off from reading it, eventually, I will see that money returned to me by way of sales.

My books will be sold for years and years.  As I slowly make a name for myself, my sales will increase. It will take time, but I’m in it for the long haul, and I have patience.

I’ve put money toward my books by way of taking the time to learn how to do things for myself. I read lots of editing books. I read tons of blog posts about what makes a good cover. I’ve practiced making covers. I’ve learned to format my files. It took time. But time is money. I’ll eventually see dividends on the time I invested in my books.

time is money

It’s a personal choice.


This blog post begins a self-publishing series about how you can do most of these things by yourself if you want, and where to look if you don’t. I’ll give you the resources I used to learn and you can decide for yourself if it’s easier for you to hire out, or if you can’t afford it, where you can spend time learning things on your own.

Look for my next blog post about editing resources.

Thanks for reading!

 

Indie-Publishing 411: Chat with Vania and KT–ISBN

When I first started out, ISBN numbers were a mystery to me. They aren’t so much anymore, but the prices haven’t changed since I started–they are still one of the most expensive things you can spend your money on when you self-publish.

Take a few minutes to listen in to our chat about them. Whether you decide to buy them or not is a personal choice, but it’s always a good idea to have all the facts before you choose.

Take it away, KT!barcode_design_elements_vector_set_519833

KT Daxon
What are we starting with first?

Vania Margene Rheault
Should we start with ISBN numbers? There’s quite a debate about them.

KT Daxon
Sounds great! What are the pros and cons when it comes to buying your own ISBN numbers vs using CreateSpace’s free ones?

Vania Margene Rheault
The biggest pro is that you are protecting your own work. I like knowing I own my work free and clear. Using a CreateSpace ISBN number doesn’t mean they own it, but they are listed as the publisher in the product details. Some people don’t mind it, but if a reader has been burned by an indie book,  it’s the quickest way to lose a sale.

createspace as publisher

This is from someone who took the free number.
The other pro is yes, you can list an imprint you create for yourself as the publisher, lending a bit more professionalism to your book.

imprint as publisher

KT Daxon
Which also doesn’t help separate you from other indie authors when you share the same “Publishing Name” I would think professionalism would be up on the top of an authors list?

Vania Margene Rheault
Yes. But that goes with the biggest con. ISBN numbers are expensive, and not everyone can afford them. If you publish with IngramSpark, they make you buy your own.

KT Daxon
I’m very excited to learn about imprints…as for the cost of the ISBNs, they are expensive but is it worth it to buy your own?

Vania Margene Rheault
Here’s where people are divided. Some say it’s worth it, some say they don’t care. The professional opinion of the Alliance for Independent Authors say you should always buy your own. But with CreateSpace giving them away, and Kindle Direct Publishing give you an Amazon Standard Identification Number (ASIN) lots of people forgo buying their own numbers.  It’s a personal choice. Personally, if you can afford it, I say you should. Even if just for the vanity (and fun!)  of being able to use your own imprint.

KT Daxon
I really can’t see myself doing it any other way. Self-publishing is a journey, why wouldn’t you want to go all in?

Vania Margene Rheault
I guess cost is the main issue. After you pay for editing, maybe formatting, maybe cover design, there’s not much money left for something you can get for free.
Another con is if you’re going to be slow to publish. The best deals are in packs of 10, 100, and 1000. If you only publish once a year, it doesn’t seem worth it.

KT Daxon
Do ISBN numbers expire?isbn number

Vania Margene Rheault
No. Once they are yours, they are yours. But you can’t sell them or give them away. They are registered under your name and imprint. I called and asked them that. 🙂

KT Daxon
So as long as you wrote 10 books in your lifetime, it wouldn’t be a waste….if one could afford it?

Vania Margene Rheault
Five books. One for the paperback and one for the KDP version. Any version of the book needs a new ISBN number. I’m thinking of publishing my books in Large Print. That would require another ISBN. So one book could have four or five ISBN numbers.

KT Daxon
Such great information to know. Knowing that each book requires a different number, shows me that it IS worth it to get your own. Even if you had to sell something to afford it. (Which is what I considered, haha!)
Does CS and KDP have unlimited free ones?

Vania Margene Rheault
Yes, they’ll give you as many as you need to publish.

Other questions people have asked about ISBN numbers:

*Can you change the cover without needing a new number?  Yes.
*Can you change the insides without need a new number? Yes–if you don’t change more    than 20%.
*Can you change the size of your book and keep the same number? No.
*Can you change the title and keep the same number? No.
*Can you change your author name and keep the same number? No.

KT Daxon
Great information to know! Especially for those just venturing out. I’ve learned so much tonight!

Vania Margene Rheault
I hope we’ve helped some others, too. Do you have any other questions right now?

KT Daxon
Not at this time. The good thing about these chats, I’m sure we’ll get comments to inspire other chats.

Vania Margene Rheault
Awesome! I’ll dig up a couple of articles on the pros and cons of buying your own ISBNs as well.

It was fun to chat with KT about ISBN numbers. I know they are very expensive, and I like I said in the chat, not everyone can afford them–especially if they pay for other things for their book like editing or cover design.

Here’s what the Alliance of Independent Authors says about buying your own. You can read it here.

Should You Buy Your Own ISBN When You Self-Publish?

ISBN 101 For Self-Publishers

Thanks for listening in! Next time we’ll be chatting about imprints! See you there!

Vania Blog Signature

To Query or Not to Query

When I talk to people about my publishing plans for my next couple of books, people ask me if I’ll ever query and try for a traditionally published deal. I always say, “No, I’m not writing anything queryable right now.”

People can take that a lot of different ways, and mostly that sounds like I don’t have faith in what I’m writing, or that my work is crap and only suited for self-publishing.

That couldn’t be further from that truth.

What I mean by that is, I know what I’m writing. I know what it’s suited for. That doesn’t mean what I’m writing isn’t being traditionally published; it just means I don’t have to find an agent to get it there. I write fluff. Maybe that’s demeaning to my genre when I say that, but I also am not pinning my work with any more importance than it deserves. Harlequin, the publisher that brings you the lines Temptation, Desire, Blaze, and the like (they’ve done some remodeling, so I don’t know what their lines are now) prints hundreds of books like that every year. In my Barnes and Noble, they take up a shelf in the corner of the building near the floor. All the shiny red spines with titles like One Night with the Billionaire or The Cowboy’s Baby. Women read these by the handfuls; a quick read you can get through in a couple hours before tossing it onto a pile and reaching for another one, like candies in a heart-shaped box. You know what you’re getting, you savor it as it melts in your mouth, but you have no problem reaching for another one when the chocolate is gone.

My books are like that. What I write in three to four months will be devoured in three to four hours, and I’m okay with that. I’m more than okay with that. Romance is a huge genre, and where there are millions of writers cranking out millions of books, there are also millions of readers. They don’t call the Romance genre the bestselling genre for nothing.

But along with pages of guidelines for how they like their books to be written and their preferred word count, Harlequin has its own dropbox on its website. I don’t need to query an agent and let my manuscript sit in a slush pile to wait for an agent’s assistant to skim my query letter. I can upload my manuscript onto Harlequin’s website myself, or to Carina Press, the digital-first arm of Harlequin, and let it rot in their slush pile without any help, thank you.

If I were to query, going back to the original question, I would query something more serious. Something I worked harder for. We all have visions of our books sitting on the display table at Barnes and Noble in the center of their main walkway. Trust me when I say Don’t Run Away would never make it there—agent or not. No, looking at the New York Times Book Review right now, I would want to write something more akin to Women’s Fiction, not Contemporary Romance. I would want my manuscript to mean something, to say something, to point out an injustice, to try to right a wrong, to help someone. I would want my manuscript to come from my brain as well as my heart.

bookstore_page

I’m not trying to degrade romance, not at all. But any romance writer or reader knows the difference between In the Arms of Her Boss and Sing Unburied Sing by Jesmyn Ward, a finalist for the National Book Award for Fiction. And let’s be clear, a reader who picks up either one of these knows what she’s getting. You have to be in the mood to read it, and a writer has to be in the mood (not to mention have the talent and skills) to write it.

I’m not in the mood to try to write something of Sing Unburied Sing’s caliber. I’m perfectly happy editing Chasing You. (You can weigh the two books by title alone, can’t you?)

If, or when, I plan to query, it will be with a book that will make it worth my time, and it will be with a book that will be worth the pain and heartache of rejection. Because I know the score. Querying is a whole lot of rejection, and I won’t put myself through that for a computer file full of fluff.

You might think that I’m too hard on myself, but I prefer to think of it as a realistic POV of my work. And, quite possibly, more indie writers should have it. Querying a story that won’t make it onto a table at the Barnes and Noble will sour you on the whole process. Traditional publishers only publish so many books per year. Why query a book that would never make it? That’s not to say your fluff isn’t good enough for Harlequin or a small press. (The back of bookstore on a shelf near the floor is better than nowhere at all, right?) It very well may be, and you should definitely go that route if you feel your book is worth it. Query to find an agent knowing/admitting where your book is going to end up, or use Harlequin’s dropbox and let your book sit in cyber purgatory for a few months while interns wade through the submissions.

But I won’t bother to try to find an agent for something that will sell just fine when I self-publish it.

After I’ve grown a bit more as a writer, or maybe when I have a nice backlist I can be proud of and want to challenge myself, or when the perfect plot plops into my head, I’ll write my book and I will query it to find an agent who loves it as much as I do, and maybe one day it will end up at the Barnes and Noble on a table in their main walkway.
I’ll pass it and brush my fingers over the cover as I walk to the café for a coffee. But for now, I’ll finish writing Running Scared while chocolate melts in my mouth.

Read to Me, Baby!

Many have you may have realized I’ve disappeared off social media for a bit. If you haven’t, uh. Anyway, so I’ve been editing the first book in my Tower City Romance Trilogy. I’ve been working on this for a while now, and I’m so close to publishing, I can taste it.

coffee-2436940_1920

But editing is a bitch, and it seems like no matter how much I do, it will never be enough. It doesn’t help that I’m taking an online editing class, and every time I complete lesson, I find a million more things wrong with my manuscript.

One class was extremely helpful though and we were told to either make Word read our work to us aloud or to read it ourselves. I can’t stand the sound of my own voice, and it’s a fact that you know what it says so your brain may fill in the blanks and you won’t catch what’s wrong, anyway. I didn’t know Word could read to you so I looked up the directions. You can find them here.

Quite simply, I fell in love with it. I can’t stop listening to my own work. I delight in hearing a perfect sentence or laugh when a piece dialogue sounds as good spoken as it did in my head. Of course, it’s not perfect. He doesn’t say some of my characters’ names right, and he skips over ellipses and em dashes. What does he get right? Well, he reads everything just as it’s written: the double words, the typos, the skipped words. I’m not sure a human could even do this level of proofreading. It’s not fail-proof, he doesn’t know I typed except when I meant accept, but that’s the beauty of him speaking it aloud, you can read along and correct as he goes.

The voice sounds more like this than that, but that’s okay.

This makes it tedious–it takes a long time to listen, correct, listen, correct, listen. Sometimes to the same paragraph over and over again. But I see more advantages of this than not. Audio is getting bigger and bigger, and there are a couple avenues indies can take to make audiobooks of their books.

ACX
ACX stands for Amazon Creative Exchange. Through ACX, for a fee, an indie can turn their book into audio and sell it alongside their books on Amazon.

Findaway Voices
Draft2Digital has partnered with Findaway Voices to give indies another choice than to go with Amazon to turn their books into audio. You can read about it here.

How cool is it that you already have an idea of how your book is going to sound if you decide to turn it into audio?  You won’t have to worry how that two-page paragraph, where, oops, you have six comma splices and five semicolons, will sound. You won’t have to worry if it sounds odd every time your characters speak to each other and they say each other’s names a million times.

Not to mention, that since you have already heard everything in your book spoken aloud, you really won’t have to do anything with your proof but make sure the inside and cover turned out.

So, this is what I’ve been doing for the past few days. I have a publishing date set for November, and I’ve been trying to get through this book. It’s slow going because as I said, he’s finding things I want to fix, so I do, then I listen and have to fix it if it doesn’t sound right, or if I made a mistake while I was fixing my mistake. Yeah, that happens. A lot. But I know that after all this is done, my book will sound the best I can make it.

Have you tried this? Tell me what you think!

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.

canstockphoto89558

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.

stephen king reading

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.

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