authors, Editing, helpful hints, Publishing, self publishing, writing

Treat Your Book Like a Start-up: How Beta-Readers Can Help You Launch Your Book Successfully

BookCountry-logoLucy Silag, community and engagement manager at Book Country, has written a very helpful whitepaper outlining the benefits of including beta-readers in your writing process. Book Country is an online writing and publishing community that is a division of Penguin Random House. Lucy is a graduate of the fiction program at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. She is also the author of the Beautiful Americans novels for young adults (Penguin/Razorbill) and has written nonfiction for magazines and blogs. What follows is an excerpt from her whitepaper, which you can obtain when you register on the Book Country site.

 What Is a “Beta-Reader”?

The idea of a “beta-reader” comes from the parlance of start-up companies. Before a company launches a new website, they will ask web-savvy “beta-users” to use their site and give feedback on it. The company then has a chance to improve their site before they make it widely available to the public, which helps them to make a better product and avoid bad publicity.

A “beta-reader,” then, is someone who reads your book and gives you feedback on it before you begin the publishing process. This helps you to see how readers would react to your book if you tried to sell your current version to them.

How do beta-readers help writers?

Beta-readers help writers to figure out which parts of their books are working and which parts need to be revised. Often, writers can’t see what’s not working in a manuscript unless someone points it out to them.  Additionally, a beta-reader can make suggestions for how to improve your book’s cover, marketing copy, and even your author bio.

Get a copy of this helpful whitepaper at BookCountry.com

Get a copy of this helpful whitepaper at BookCountry.com

Who Is the Right Beta-Reader for You?

Here are a few things to look for in your ideal beta-readers:

  • Do they read a lot of books, especially contemporary books? Are they aware of current publishing trends and bestselling writers?
  • Are they well-read in the genre that you are writing in? For example, if you are writing romance, you’ll want a beta-reader who has read many romance novels. They’ll be able to tell you how your book measures up against other writers of the genre.
  • Do they write too? A writer will be able to analyze your book in a way that goes beyond what the average reader will offer in terms of feedback. A beta-reader who is also a writer can tell you not just where you have made typos or copyediting mistakes but can also offer suggestions for how to improve voice, character development, plot, setting, and pacing.

Finding Beta-Readers through Online Workshopping

Online workshopping has become a convenient, low-risk, and free way for writers to get feedback on their work. Often called “online writing communities,” these sites are like social networks for writers and no-commitment writing classes all in one. Simply join the online writing community and exchange feedback with writers from the comfort of your own home.

What should you look for in an online writing community?

  • The community should have a fair system for making sure that members are actually reviewing one another, rather than just posting their own books for review.
  • Make sure the community has writers in your genre.
  • Writers reviewing manuscripts in a community should be exchanging detailed, honest feedback, and offering suggestions on how to make your book better.
  • You should be able to post new drafts of your book and archive previous versions of the manuscript so that you can access them as you revise.
  • The community should have credible ties to the publishing industry, so that you can trust the opinions and advice of the site’s content.
  • The community should be open to traditional publishing and self-publishing.
  • The community should be focused on helping one another.

What Kind of Feedback Makes Your Book Better?

A writer needs honest, detailed feedback about these writing issues:

  • plot
  • setting
  • character development
  • voice
  • continuity
  • setting
  • point of view
  • pacing
  • dialogue
  • clarity in specific lines or passages of the prose

Since so much of finding an audience and selling a book is about how a book is positioned in the marketplace, it’s also important to get feedback about how your book compares to other books in its genre, and whether the way it’s presented (for example, the book’s cover and title) makes sense to a reader. A writer should get feedback on his or her synopsis too.

Workshopping your book with beta-readers can be the difference between a great idea and a great book. Follow the example of successful start-up companies, and find beta-readers to help you launch your book successfully.

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authors, Editing, helpful hints, Indie book publishing, self publishing, writing

LET’S EAT GRANDMA: The Importance of Proofreading

kathyideOne of the things I enjoy most about my current role is the opportunity to meet and interact with some amazingly creative and professional people. A few weeks ago when I gave the key note address at the West Coast Writers Conference Indie Author Conference, I had the opportunity to meet Kathy Ide.  Kathy is a published author/ghostwriter, editor/mentor, and writers’ conference speaker.  Her latest book is Proofreading Secrets of Best-Selling Authors is a must read for every aspiring authorShe is also the founder and coordinator of The Christian PEN: Proofreaders and Editors Network (www.TheChristianPEN.com) and the Christian Editor Connection (www.ChristianEditor.com).  

I asked her to share some of her wisdom and experience with my readers through a blog post. Her post is what follows and I think you will find it to be very helpful.

 

LET’S EAT GRANDMA: The Importance of Proofreading

Have you seen the plaques and T-shirts that say:

Let’s Eat Grandma.

Let’s Eat, Grandma.

                        Commas Save Lives.

I love that! It shows how one tiny bit of punctuation can change the entire meaning and tone of a sentence.

You may think that as long as you’ve got life-changing content in your nonfiction manuscript, or an intriguing story with lots of conflict and interesting characters in your fiction manuscript, that should be enough. And yes, content and story are extremely important. But no matter how good those things are, you’ll be running some pretty big risks if you don’t bother proofreading your manuscript carefully for typos, inaccuracies, and inconsistencies … and learning the industry-standard rules regarding punctuation, usage, grammar, and spelling.

OK, you won’t be putting your grandmother’s life on the line or joining a tribe of cannibals. But tiny mistakes in your writing can have disastrous consequences. Here are my top ten:

 

  1. Mechanical errors can decrease your chance of acceptance by a traditional publisher.
  1. Mechanical errors can cause miscommunication.
  1. Mechanical errors can cause confusion.
  1. Mechanical errors can give an unprofessional appearance to publishers and readers.
  1. Mechanical errors can be embarrassing.
  1. Mechanical errors may cause readers to take you and your message less seriously.
  1. Mechanical errors can affect the sales of your book.
  1. Mechanical errors could cost you money.
  1. Mechanical errors can be distracting
  2. Mechanical errors can give you a poor reputation.

 

Professionalism Is Key

Proofreading Secrets_FrontCoverIf you’re writing just for family and friends, it may not matter so much whether every comma is in exactly the right place or if you have a few typos here and there. But if you want to get your book published in today’s highly competitive commercial market, you need every edge you can get. If you expect people to buy what you write, you need to take the time to do it right.

If you have a hard time finding typos, inconsistencies, and “PUGS” errors in your writing, consider hiring a professional proofreader. If you go to http://www.ChristianEditor.com and fill out the form for Authors Seeking Editors, you’ll be connected with established, professional editors who can make your manuscript shine.

A comma may not save Grandma’s life. But a careful proofread might make a life-or-death difference for your manuscript.

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Author Solutions, authors, book marketing, helpful hints, Indie book publishing, Publishing, self publishing, writing

7 things you need to know to write the best title for your book

Choosing a title for your book is certainly a creative decision, but it is also your first marketing decision because your book title can greatly help or hinder the sale of your book. While most authors usually have a title in mind when they first start writing their manuscript,  it is worth considering the following tips before you select a final title for your book.

Short can be sweet…and memorable

Short titles are usually the best.

Short titles are usually the best.

Think about the book titles you remember. I suspect many if not have short titles. So try to come up with a title for your book that has no more than four or five words at most. For whatever reason, it seems like a lot of titles have three words in them. The Hunger Games and The Tipping Point are examples. Keep that in mind as you craft your title.

“Your book title is your first marketing decision”

Avoid words that are obscure, hard to pronounce or spell

Sometimes in an attempt to be provocative authors will choose words that are unusual in an attempt to standout. Don’t be tempted. Obscure words are great for scoring points in Scrabble, but for book titles.

Give readers a hint about what they will find in the book

Again some authors will attempt to be coy thinking they should be obscure or provocative and tease readers with the title. Not a good plan. Make it memorable but don’t confuse readers or make them guess what the book may be about.

Know your genre

While it is important to be unique, it is also important to understand what the latest trends are and what is appropriate for your genre. You can learn that by looking at on-line retailers, the titles of a respected publisher in your genre or visiting your local bookstore or library.

Love EmHave a clear subtitle for your non-fiction book

If you are writing a non-fiction book a subtitle can really help readers understand what they will get from reading the book. A great example is a book published by Berrett Koehler titled, Love ‘Em or Lose ‘Em, with the subtitle, Getting Good People to Stay. This is a great example of a catchy short title, with a great subtitle.

Do your research

Once you have a title or titles you like, do some research to see if there are books out there in your genre with the same or a similar title. I have been surprised over the years, how many authors chose a title without doing a simple internet search on an online retailer to see if that title is already being used.

Ask your readers what they think

If you have viable options for a title, you may be able to engage your readers to determine your best title. If you have a blog or mailing list, you can present the title candidates to potential readers and let them vote. Along with learning which title like the most, you also help market the new book before it’s available.

Do you have any other tips you would like to share? Leave a comment and I will post it.

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Author Solutions, authors, Ebooks, Editing, helpful hints, Publishing, self publishing, writing

Mistakes spell check would miss, but a good editor will catch.

One of the most important things self-published authors can do is have their book edited by an experienced professional. Spell check does not count as editing despite what some first time authors may think. Let me just give you a few examples of mistakes in the following sentences that spell check would miss.

  1. I did not here the gate change for my flight; so I did not get there bags on the plane.
  2. Once I realized I needed to move myself foreword: I had the angel I needed to see what I needed to sea.
  3. He was so surprised. He looked like a dear in the headlights.

See if you can find them all and post your answers in the comment section.

In a few days, I will post the answers.

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Author Solutions, authors, helpful hints, Indie book publishing, Publishing, self publishing, writing

Free webinar to help you fulfill your New Year’s publishing resolution!

Register for the free webinar at the Author Learning Center.

Register for the free webinar at the Author Learning Center.

Along with losing weight, start exercising and quit smoking, one of the more common New Year’s resolutions is publish a book.  However, for most first-time authors, that task may seem confusing or unachievable. It does not have to be.

On Tuesday, January 7th at 7:30 pm EST, I want to give you some tips on how you can fulfill your New Year’s publishing resolution and make 2014 the year you become a published author.  Through the Author Learning Center, I will offer a FREE webinar titled, “6 tips on how to get published in 2014″.   Along with presenting helpful hints to get you to your goal, there will be a time for you to ask questions.  While there is no charge for the webinar, registrations are limited, so don’t wait to sign up.  Click on the link below and I look forward to hearing from you next Tuesday.

Register for the free webinar.

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Author Solutions, authors, book selling, helpful hints, Indie book publishing, Publishing, self publishing

5 signs you are not ready to publish a book yet

TheIndieBookPublishingRevolution-1The Indie Revolution in publishing has been a wonderful development. It has removed the barriers that used to exist between authors and readers and made it possible for anyone who has a manuscript to have a book available in distribution. However, just because everyone can publish a book, doesn’t mean everyone should. By that statement, I am not saying aspiring authors should not take advantage of the publishing opportunities that make this the best time in history to be an author. Rather,  I mean some authors may not have a realistic assessment of what it takes to put a good book in the market and attract readers. So here are five signs you may not be ready to publish.

  1.  You believe you are a one-draft wonder:  Most authors write because they feel passionate about what they have to say, but that doesn’t mean a good editor can’t improve on what you say and how you say it. Too many self-published authors believe their first draft is just perfect and they rush to publish that.  Good editing will only improve the work and make what you have to say even more powerful.
  2. Your daughter is an artist: Great book covers take more than artistic talent and too often authors rely on an inexperienced cover designer to create the book cover. Not a good idea. That’s why on this blog I have made numerous posts about how to design a killer book cover. Just search by that term if you want some great tips.
  3. You have never checked to see if anyone else is using your book title: I am amazed how many authors will chose a book title without ever browsing the internet to see if someone else is already using the title. Try to find a title that  no one else is using.  Sounds obvious, but too many authors get locked in on an idea and don’t do the proper research to have their title stand out.Bookshelf
  4. You have not browsed a bookstore in months: Don’t publish in isolation. Visit the local bookstore and look for titles that jump off the shelf for you. Take note of what is unique about the design. Also pay attention to your genre to see if you can spot any trends you can take advantage of when you are designing your book.
  5. You believe a platform is something a carpenter builds: That is actually a line I heard from an author when I asked what he was doing to build his platform. Bottom line is you need to start marketing and connecting with potential readers even before your book is available and then continue to build momentum once your title is live.
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Author Solutions, authors, Editing, helpful hints, Indie book publishing, Publishing, self publishing, writing

First-time author advice from Simon and Schuster Senior Editor, Abby Zidle

Archway logoArchway Publishing, the self publishing service of Simon and Schuster which is operated by Author Solutions,  has offered some outstanding webinars in the past year to help authors understand what they need to do to make their books as good as they can be. One of the presenters was Abby Zidle, senior editor at Simon and Schuster who did a presentation titled Top Ten Mistakes Writers Make. The webinar is free and you can watch it by clicking here. As a sampler of what you can expect, Abby offers some helpful tips in this 90 second video titled Avoiding Mistakes First-time Writers Make. Definitely worth watching if you are in the proess of workig on a manuscript.

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