Sunday, 31 January 2016

So you want to be a beta reader?

Great! Authors love beta readers. We can’t get enough of them, good ones especially.  In an earlier blog I talked about at what stage in your manuscript you might think about sending it to betas. Now let’s look at things from a beta’s point of view.
I’ve been on both sides of this particular fence and this is what I feel a beta should bring to the reading table:
·         Be realistic about the time it’s going to take you to read a manuscript. Beta reading can take longer than reading for pleasure. If the author wants it yesterday, be honest if this ain’t gonna happen.
·         Keep in touch – if you’ve said you’ll have the book read by a certain date and can’t, then let your author know. They depend on you for feedback and will probably be working to a timescale.
·         Give decent feedback. Even though ‘I loved it!’ is great and gives the author a boost, tell them what bits you particularly liked and why. It’ll help them when they’re writing their next novel.
·         And vice versa – but try to be kind. Even if you hated it and thought a three year old could have had a better go at writing than your author, try to find something, anything, good to say.
·         If you can’t complete the beta read, please let your author know – again, they might be depending on you for feedback before they move forward.
·         Be honest – an author is looking for genuine reactions to their work. Being nice to not hurt an author’s feelings isn’t what an author needs.
·         If you feel you can point out grammar and spelling mistakes, then great. But that’s not what beta reading is all about. And don’t forget, you’re probably not reading a polished manuscript. You will most likely be reading an uncorrected proof ie – needs a final proof read.
·         If an author provided specific questions, try to answer them.

Remember, betas are readers - not editors, not reviewers.  You don’t need to provide your author with suggestions to improve plot or character development. You are there to give the author a reader’s opinion to their work. And better they discover that betas think their main character is unlikeable now, than when the book is published and reviewers get their hands on it!

From authors everywhere – we thank our betas from the bottom of our hearts!

Monday, 25 January 2016

When to send your manuscript to beta readers?

After doing another round of beta reading for several authors and being sent manuscripts in various stages of completion, I’ve been considering which is the best point in the life of a manuscript to send it out to beta readers, bearing in mind that an author may also be sending out ARCs at some point, too.

Here’s the conundrum, as I see it:

a   a)    When it’s totally, utterly, finally finished, polished to within an inch of its life and proof-read to perfection. It’s cost the author a great deal in time, and possibly money. He or she may have hired an editor and a proof reader and as far as they’re concerned it’s ready to be released into the big, wide world. But is it?  What if the betas come back with lots of issues? What if they think the plot is weak, or the main character is unlikeable? You could argue that a good editor should have picked up these kinds of issues well before the proof reading stage, but not necessarily. An editor is only one person, and they might love the direction your plot takes, but five out of seven of your betas don’t. So then it’s back to rewrites and the whole process starts again.

Or -

b   b)  When it’s got past the rough first draft stage, but it still has errors? Will your betas be forgiving of these, or will it affect their enjoyment enough for them to report back that the book isn’t for them? The obvious advantage to this option is that the author hasn’t invested too much time (and money) in the project before he/she knows they’re on the right track plot wise and character wise.

 Personally, I lean towards b), and am quite happy to accept a less-than-perfect manuscript from an author myself when I’m beta reading. In my opinion beta readers aren’t the same as reviewers and therefore perhaps shouldn’t expect a manuscript which is ready for publication. 

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Is Amazon deleting reviews?

It’s been batted around for ages that Amazon is deleting reviews from books if it suspects those reviews are written by friends of the author. I have no knowledge of this personally, however the issue seems to have been gathering speed over the last few months so I decided to take action when I realised Amazon owned Goodreads.

Yes, I know, slow on the uptake…

I’m not sure how Amazon makes the decision that a reader is known to an author, but most people who have an opinion on this believe that social media is involved. Goodreads allows their site users to link their Twitter, and other, feeds, so it seems perfectly reasonable to me that Amazon is able to connect the dots. I have no idea how, and there could possibly be magic involved, but I’m not taking any chances. I came to the conclusion to disconnect my Twitter from Goodreads. Then I took it one step further and unfriended all my friends on Goodreads. Just for good measure!

All you lovely Goodreads friends who suddenly realise I’m Billy-No-Mates (nope, not one friend left) I’m only doing this in the interests of preserving the few reviews I have. It’s nothing personal – honest! And if anyone wants to connect with me outside of Goodreads, then I’d be more than happy to chat.

If you want to learn more about the issue of Amazon pulling reviews check out the links  to see what other people are saying:

Friday, 1 January 2016

Free book for you to enjoy

Okay, I admit it, I'm spamming. But at least I'm not asking you to buy it - it's free. All you need to do is tell me which email address to send it to.

Click this secure link to let me know your email address.

Happy New Year!!

Sorry I've been away so long - I've been concentrating on my writing. I promise to do better this year.
Here's hoping 2016 will bring you everything you wish for xxxx

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

You know what they say about eggs and a single basket...

I became a published author because of Smashwords. Until I discovered their site (and that was purely by chance, if I remember rightly) I'd had no luck travelling down the traditional publishing road. In fact, I hadn't made it out of my front door!

When I realised there were such things as indie authors, and I could publish and be damned without having to secure a contract, however measly, my writing life was turned upside down. I embraced Smashwords with all the enthusiasm of a new lover. I published my first novel, then my second, until all five were loose on the digital world.

Some time after I published my first novel via Smashwords, I found I could publish through Amazon. So I did. At this point my books were digitally available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks (Apple), Scribd, Kobo, and a whole lot more, and I used Createspace for the print version.

Then KDP Select came to my attention, and I was seduced by the marketing. I enrolled first one and then all of my books in the scheme, and have since regretted it.

The problem I have with Select (and with Amazon as a whole) is the growing lack of diversity within the self-publishing business. With Oyster closing there is one less outlet for indie authors. How many more will go before Amazon is the only child left in the park with a ball? If indies want to play they may eventually have only one option - do it the Amazon way, or don't do it at all.

Don't get me wrong - I publish on Amazon and am grateful for it. But what happens if /when the option for indies shrinks to only Amazon?

Authors, as a profession, need to encourage diversification, not repress it. And we also need to make sure that a single publisher doesn't become the only publisher, or we might find we are suffering the consequences.

Monday, 21 September 2015

Thoughts on self-publishing

Alyssa Flowers asked me some questions about my experiences of self publishing. Here's the link to her website and the blog:

I really enjoyed reflecting on the whole process and I hope up-and-coming writers can learn from some of the mistakes I made!