Tuesday, April 29, 2014

April 2014:Beta Readers - Unsung Heroes

Many partners get involved in taking a document from a writer's imagination to an electronic or a printed page. Among the unnoticed participants are the beta readers.

Wikipedia defines a beta reader as those who read a written work, generally fiction, with the intent of looking over the material to find and improve elements such as grammar and spelling, as well as suggestions to improve the story, its characters, or its setting... Beta readers are not explicitly proofreaders or editors, but can serve in that context. Elements highlighted by beta readers encompass things such as plot holes, problems with continuity, characterization or believability; in fiction and non-fiction, the beta might also assist the author with fact checking.

These individuals are critical to the writing process. They help a writer get his or her head out of the story. The information provided to the writer is plentiful and nurturing to the book as well as the author. To insure a successful beta reader experience, a few recommendations need consideration.

Find a Conscientious "Beta Reader"
          I ask people who do not know me as a writer.  I want individuals who read, have a grasp of language, and will be truthful to me. Professional writing groups are a good place to start looking for beta reader recommendations. Writers sometime can be possessive of their beta readers. They may not give you the name of their individual beta readers.
          Professional beta readers exist.  Find a reputable site, preferably, a site recommended by a colleague. Get a recommendation from one or more of the reader’s clients. Make a contract with each beta reader.

Set Expectations
 Meet face-to-face with your beta reader. If you are doing this online, use Facetime or Skype. Give your beta reader a list of specific questions* (see giveaway below). Also give them latitude to write their own questions and comments. Beta readers do more than just look for typos, grammatical and spelling errors.

Set a Deadline for Question Submission
Give your reader a deadline to read the book and answer the questions.  Prepare clarifying questions after reading the reader's comments and before meeting with your readers.  Encourage the beta reader to explain why they felt the way they did about your story. This critique is important for your book. It will tell you several things, among them:
  • Who is your audience? Did you reach them?
  • Are your characters' motives clear?
  • Can the reader relate to the time and setting you wrote your story? If not, find out why.* 

Schedule a Review Meeting
Meet again face-to-face. Set a time limit for this meeting. Go into this meeting with your beta reader's completed questions. 

If you are not meeting online, meet in a public place (e.g., coffee shop, restaurant,) Give yourself and your reader enough time to explore what makes your book readable. Be opened to the beta reader's suggestions. If you are writing a series, your beta reader should be asking you who and what will happen in your next book.

My beta readers spare no criticism. They are truthful. Welcome the truth about your book. I also select beta readers from several different demographics. This helps me determine if I am reaching out to a small or broad audience. 

Preparing a book for a traditional publication or a self-publication begs to be tested before it is launched. Beta readers are the best "test lab" in my experience.

*FREE GIVE-A-WAY:  I can send you my beta reader questions. The list is based on research from the Internet and multiple reading materials. My current followers, please ask me for the list in the comment section of my blog. I will send it to you. 
 If you currently are not a follower, please join. The questions are yours for the asking.

Additional Resources:

Saturday, April 12, 2014

April 2014: National Poetry Month

"Poetry is the echo of the soul. It is God speaking through us."
Honor yourself and write a poem.”
— Pat W Coffey

April celebrates an form of expression attempted by writers throughout the ages - Poetry.  My personal writing journey began with poetry. The first writing award I received was for a poem written in high school about the fear of graduation.  Poetry allowed me to write emotional events in a short hand of descriptions and phrases. No parameters, just thoughts, emotions, and words filling the page with adolescent fury.

Every human is capable of a poem because poetry offers multiple forms of expression, from a haiku to a sonnet. Poetry has something to offer for everyone. Take some time this year and awake the poet within your soul. Be still, listen, inspiration is all around you. Write a poem for your self. It will make you wonder what else you are capable of doing.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

2014:Women Writers Weigh In on Self-Publishing

  •        The following women are part of my writing network. We don't see each other on a regular basis, nor do we talk or text one another each day. When wee meet we shared our love of writing and support each other. This diverse group of women who are making history with their writing. Yet, they had time to answer an email or have a cup of coffee. These colleagues assisted me with my research, helped me conquer my fears, and gave me suggestions based on their experiences in the e-publishing and self-publishing world. 
           We all wonder if those conferences and meetings are worth it. Interacting with authors does pay
    off.  Amy Jarecki ( Capture by the Pirate Laird (Highland Force) Volume 1)and The Highland Henchman (Highland Force) (Volume 2) and I met at my first Writers Boot Camp. She is an award winning writer with experience in the traditional and self-publishing world. She has been encouraging and helpful during my writing quests. She has strengthened and confirmed some of the information gathered during my research. She makes me believe in myself. 

 Amy's blog http://amyjarecki.blogspot.com  is a lesson in marketing and fun for any writer.  

         Lin Floyd- Discover Your Voice After Divorce is her third book on Amazon. Her books also are available for Kindle users ( https://kdp.amazon.com ). Lin and I hit it off a Poetry Writers Boot Camp. Lin had just written a non-fiction book and shared her experiences and frustrations. She shares my blog with her readers, which I am forever grateful. We exchange information, apprehensions, and support each other in anyway we can. These two writers have been touchstones for me not only while researching self-publishing, but also through my new venture of writing fiction.  Check out

 Lin's blog  at http://lettersfromlin.blogspot.com http://lettersfromlin.blogspot.com 
         If you every question the worth of maintaining a “presence” on social media. Don't!  Doree Anderson (Waiting), and I connected on Linkedin.com, on a "Group" site for writers. We chatted and shared comments on the same group discussions. We discovered we were located close to one another. We arranged to meet at a coffee shop to talk "shop." It was the best 2.5 hours I spent talking about writing. Doree was generous with her experiences. She explained the pitfalls and benefits of self-publishing, available software, and the "how-to" of book covers. She was enthusiastic and most helpful. We plan to meet and continue talking "shop."
 You can find out more about Doree at http://www.doreeanderson.com/blog.html
           The ability to answer, “I’m a writer,” can elicit some of the best information and create new contacts with other writers. Recently, I attended a luncheon with a friend and several women asked me about my work.  I smiled and said, "I am a writer."  My response evoked a reaction equal to Pandora's Box. Two other women at the table were writers.  Pamela Clark (Life Reflections: Create a Video Heirloom) is a using her writing to fund a non-profit organization to help families create heirloom videos of their loved ones in hospice.   
           Karen Post's wrote a non-fiction book based on her own experience of facing a terminal illness with her husband.  ('Til Death Do Us Part - And Then What? Have Those Conversations NOW That Will Prepare Your Spouse to Live On).  Both Pamela and Karen had different experiences and yet their frustrations were filled with vital tips to find one's way through the process of self-publishing. 

           My cousin LC Tobey (dreamartglass.com) who is an artist and a member of the Heritage Guild of Collin County, Inc., in McKinney, Texas. She also was a great source of information.  She collaborated on a children's book, Chester of Chestnut Square. The book was self-published to raise funds for the Heritage Guild. She gave me the heads up on registering my book with the Library of Congress and some print on demand options.
Social media and networking helped me in my quest to learn more about the business of self-publishing. Is it the only way to research this business? Of course not, but it was refreshing to hear individuals from different aspects of writing and publishing share their tips and on the "what not to dos" and “what worked.” Have I made my decision on the vendor I plan to use? Almost, still waiting for my Beta Reader and Graphic Artist to complete their projects. Then I will finalize my choice.