One of the things I love about doing honest book reviews from ARCs (advance review copies) is that I get to find some really talented authors. Kayla is one of these. She kindly offered her work The Council for a review. What I had to say was “Read this now.” It reminded me a bit of the Harry Potter Series by JK Rowling and a bit of the All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness. Kayla graciously agreed to offer this interview and share some of her experience with writing that novel. Thanks Kayla!
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m a psychological horror/thriller writer originally from Roseville, Michigan. A few years back, I moved across the country to Texas where I currently live with my husband and son. I love to read and write things in the psychological fiction genre. When I get free time, I like to go for walks in the woods and listen to ‘80’s music. My favorite author is Stephen King—he’s actually the reason I began writing, but I also have a soft spot for Edgar Allen Poe and Shakespeare as well.
What are some of the challenges of being an author?
The biggest challenge of being an author to me is simply getting the time to write. Life can be hectic sometimes so there will be days or even weeks that pass without me getting the time to write which can be bad if I leave off in the middle of a scene.
What process or routine do you follow to get so much writing done?
My writing process is actually quite complicated. When I begin a new project, I first write it all down in a spiral college-ruled notebook with a fountain pen. Pen on paper helps me gather my thoughts better than writing on a computer. After I finish my first draft in the notebook, I transfer all the writing to loose-leaf paper that I keep in a binder. After this draft is when I finally type it on the computer and look for things such as plot holes or areas where characters need development.
Which of your books do you love the most? Why?
I love The Council the most because at its heart, it tells the story of a girl figuring out who she is in a chaotic world and I think that’s something everyone can relate to on some level.
Which of your books do you feel the least affection towards? Why?
I think I feel the least affection toward my series The Blood Moon trilogy. While this was the first series that I wrote, I feel that the idea of vampires and werewolves has been done to the point where people will judge my books without even giving them a chance.
What are you working on right now?
Currently, I’m working on a handful of projects including The Elemental Coven, book two of The Witch’s Ambitions trilogy as well as Comatose at Dusk, book five of the Rituals of the Night series.
What advice would you give to authors just starting out?
Develop the toughest skin you can manage and then some. Writing is a hard business, and on most days you’ll want to bury your head in your pillows and stay there but there is light at the end of the tunnel if you have the determination and willingness to put in the effort it takes to get there. Just remember to write because it makes you happy. Don’t lose sight of that.
What do you want to know from readers?
From my readers, I’d like to know what it is about my work that drew them in to read something from me. First impressions are everything, after all. Being an indie author means news of my books travels by word of mouth. How did they hear from me and what made them decide to take the risk and show their literary love?
What do you want readers to know?
I appreciate every single person that takes time out of their day to read my work and support me. Writing is hard so having people who are there for me on days when I want to give up make all the difference. Without my readers, I’m nothing.
Where can readers find out more about your books or get in touch with you?
I’m available on just about every social media site known to man.
Here’s my most frequented sites:
Google +: https://plus.google.com/108956159394665688329
Facebook is always the best way to get in touch with me.
What is your favorite movie, comic, or book?
My favorite movie of all time is the 1988 movie Heathers. This dark comedy appealed to my twisted sense of humor and strengthened my faith in my Rituals of the Night series. No matter how many times I watch it, I never get sick of it.
What is your favorite food?
Pizza. I don’t know why but I could eat pizza for every meal and never get sick of it.
Who is your favorite character from The Council?
Lilith is my favorite character because of the way she’s not afraid to speak her mind. She doesn’t care what other people think of her and will do what she needs to do for herself and to protect the people that she loves.
What can’t that character live without?
The truth. If something is bothering her, Lilith MUST get to the bottom of it at all costs.
Tell us a little bit about your journey as an author.
I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. When I was in high school, I wrote a number of novella-length works but nothing too serious. Then I wrote my first series, The Blood Moon Trilogy. I never published it but instead, I moved onto the Rituals of the Night Series. I had written a handful of books for this series when I got the idea for The Council, my first fantasy book.
Published works require more than just an author. What sort of team members do you have to help you reach the final point of publishing a work?
I have a team of wonderful beta and advanced readers that give me essential story feedback before it goes onto my editor, Miss Crystal MM Burton to be polished and perfected. Finally, Laura Callender creates beautiful covers to help them stand out.
What do you love most about being an author?
That feeling I get when all the ideas I have for a novel begin to come together in complicated waves and I create a fantastic world from nothing. It’s the best feeling in the world.
What do you dislike most about being an author?
Promotion. Being that I’m a small-time author, I don’t have the funds to hire a PA or anything of the sort. That means that some time that should be devoted to writing, goes to promoting the books I have out instead.
What is the most important piece of advice you have for other writers and authors?
Never give up. Writing is a tough business but wear your battle scars proudly and never let anyone take away the joy it gives you.
What is your favorite TV show?
I love American Horror Story because of the way it takes taboo subjects and twists them psychologically to build on the horror and suspense. I feel like each season is fascinating because it blends real life horrors with fictional to create something truly unique and original.
Do you ever have moments of self-doubt or novel-doubt?
I have a lot of moments of self-doubt and I think that’s what makes me a better writer. I’m always looking for ways to improve my craft and without self-doubt I wouldn’t do whatever possible to make myself a better writer.
Are there any unpublished manuscripts you have created? Will you ever publish them?
I have handfuls of unpublished manuscripts, most of which were written during my high school days. A put a few up on my Wattpad page but I’ve never given them much serious thought. Maybe one day once I’ve finished writing my two series, I’ll look at the ones with potential and see if they can be polished up a bit.
If you could go back in time and meet anyone, who would it be?
I would love to meet Eminem. His music has been such a huge motivating factor in my life both writing-wise and otherwise. A lot of my characters were developed with the aid of his music, and I think it would be an amazing opportunity to sit down and talk with him about what inspired him to create his music.
Is there anything you would like to add?
I just want to say another big thank you to everyone supporting my writing career. Thank you, Catherine, for having me. It’s been fun!
People have funny ideas about what it means to be a writer. Here are some common ones I’ve heard from fellow authors, publishers, editors, and professionals in the field.
1) You must be rich if you published a book
The chance to make money and become ‘rich’ on a book is 1 in a million. It’s no different than any creative art or business venture. A few make it big, some can manage a semblance of living wage, many are starving for their calling.
2) Publishing is a get rich quick scheme
Oh boy is this a delusion. I blame the popular media lens where the one in a million get held up in celebrity culture and normalized as rich and famous. It all looks so easy, so desirable, so flawless, so very very fake.
Writers put countless hours into their work and promoting it, even if conventionally published. Also, publishers (self or conventional/traditional) make almost nothing on the published product.
3) You do nothing all day but write about day dreams (Fiction Authors)
Okay, this one isn’t that far from the truth, but, let’s look at the complete truth of the matter.
Ever heard of a man named Tolkein? He created his own languages with grammar rules, pronunciations, and slang. So did Sci-Fi author Gene Roddenberry. Ever seen a specs manual of one of the famous Enterprise ships or alien ships? SO. MUCH. WORK. With a lot of structure, science, and academics behind them. Authors spend countless hours preparing before writing the book. Mapping out complex social systems and structures, hundreds of character sketches, and outlining are just some of the work authors can put into a book. They do this to make it believable, enriching, and immersive for you, the reader.
For those of us that don’t character sketch or map or graph or whiteboard everything — “Discovery Authors”— we can sometimes end up rewriting dozens of times or more. And I’m not talking about the standard four or so revisions a completed manuscript goes through. This is rewriting by deleting tens or hundreds of thousands of words, and spending long hours every day writing again and again and again. Just to get it right.
4) Your work is done after you write the book
All a first draft has to do is exist – Jane Smith.
After that first draft? Edits. Revisions. Marketability. Publishing. Cover artists and designers. Formatters. ISBNs. CIP data. ONIX data. Meta data. Laws and copyrights. Beta Readers. Revisions. Edits. Printing. Distribution. Sales. Marketing. Availability. Author Events. Book Events. More Events. Advertising. Marketing. Bleeding. Crying. Hair pulling. Networking. Blog posting. Social Media. Driving around selling books from the trunk of your car. Explaining over and over what your book is about. Agents. Websites and content. News releases. Interviews. Business. Accounting. Numbers. Contracts. Contractors. Sub-Contractors. Bills. Business laws. Your first born. Taxes…
Should I go on?
5) Publishing with a conventional publisher means I hand them my manuscript and they take care of things
Again, I blame the media/celebrity culture. Publishing has been significantly impacted by the economic concerns of the modern world. They don’t have teams of editors to spend hours on your manuscript. They often hire contractors. They don’t know your book as well as you do. They know the market. And they know how to edit, expect revisions. Oh, and marketing your book? That’s mostly up to you, dear writer. Yep, even if you’re conventionally published. There are no freebies, you’ll be pulling from your own pocket and working your behind off. That advance, you often have to pay it back.
6) It’s not a real job
If you took that arts or humanities degree or that degree someone didn’t understand and got the “what on earth will you do with that education?”. It doesn’t stop when you turn it into a profession they don’t understand. Don’t believe it’s a real job? Can you do 16 hour days every day of your life to make four dollars a year? Sorry… I’m ranting a bit. But seriously. It’s a real job. It’s a really difficult job. Anyone who tells you it isn’t is lying. Don’t believe me? As a few freelancers or authors or communications professionals, see what they say.
7) “I can’t do it” and other self-doubt lines
It’s work. It’s a hell of a lot of work. But you can. Believe me. You can do it. What does it take? Walk away from those doubtful words. Focus. Finish a manuscript. Then another. Learning. Dedication. Laughing at yourself. Forgiving yourself. Not comparing yourself to others. Hard work. But, if you want to do it enough, or, if like me you can’t stop doing it because you might suffocate to death and drown in untold stories, then you’ll do it.
Visitors, thank you for coming to the new and improved Inglenook, a Catherine Milos website. Author Spotlights were a regular feature on CatherineMilos.com and the tradition will continue here on this author-geared webpage.
Our most recent guest is author and speaker, Adam Dreece. Adam Dreece is the best-selling author of The Yellow Hoods series, The Wizard Killer Episodes, and The Man of Cloud 9. He’s seen enormous success as a self-published author in just a few years.
Thanks for being with us here today Adam!
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m a run of the mill dyslexic, severe asthmatic, chronic pain ‘enjoying’, prolific author. There are few incentives more great that pain on one side, and knowing that you’re “not supposed to be doing this”, to get you writing and building your author career and every day.
What is your favorite movie, comic, or book?
There are two recent movies that I feel capture two sides of me: Mr. Right and John Wick. I’ve been a HUGE comic book fan ever since I was about 7 years old. My favorites would shift depending on the writing, though my first favorites were Spider-Man, Iron Man, Superman, and Batman.
What are you most grateful for?
Despite my health challenges, I’m able to enjoy my family and do something I’m deeply passionate about. Every book has a “HOLY CRAP, I DID IT! I DID IT!” moment.
What is your favorite food?
Dairy-free, egg-free, soy-free pizza. My wife makes the most amazing crust, and we turn it into a true marvel like few others.
What does storytelling mean to you?
Storytelling for me is about creating a world, tale, and characters that the reader can really experience. I’m told that I write video, that people feel like they are standing right there in the room with the characters, and that’s what I’m after. It’s the oldest of human traditions, and in my mind, one of the most sacred. Without our stories, we are lost. Stories bring hope, warning, sorrow, joy, and more. There’s nothing like being a weaver of all that. Nothing.
It’s all carpe diem, seize the day. After twenty-five years of doing nothing with my writing, I had two medical events in 2009/2010 that flipped my life upside down. I decided that I would not dream of being an author, but I would start now. I had no idea what I was doing, but I was committed to trying to learn as I go and outrun my mistakes.
What are some of the challenges of self-publishing?
There are many, so let’s look at three:
1. You are the everything department. From selecting an editor and cover, formatting and production, never mind MARKETING MARKETING MARKETING of the book. You have to make all of the decisions and everything is reliant on you. When I started, I knew nothing and had a mammoth amount to learn.
2. Echo-chamber. It’s very easy to isolate yourself from getting real feedback about what you’re writing. In particular, this is dangerous when you’re writing something that’s very unclear in terms of its audience. I’ve seen some works that were intended for a blur between two audiences however it had natural turn offs for both audiences. The net result? A lot of effort went into putting out a book that couldn’t be appreciated and was hammered in reviews. Getting some real feedback or hiring a development editor could have avoided the issue.
3. Time. On top of the writing, there’s social media engagement, newsletters, and all of those tasks that I mentioned in #1. Where’s the time? You’ve got to become ruthless with your time as well as make sure that you don’t severe the tie with those that support you the most. What’s the point of “succeeding” if it means you scorched the soil from which you grew it?
Which of your books do you love the most? Why?
I had to stop and think about this question. Right now, I’d say it’s the fifth and final installment in The Yellow Hoods. There’s some much emotion and power in that book, so many gets wrapped up, all the while so much new fertile ground is laid for where things are going. In particular, what happens with Tee and Elly gets me emotional just thinking about it.
Which of your books do you feel the least affection towards? Why?
It’s one thing to say that all of my books are my children, and I love all of them, but honestly there’s not one that I love less. I put my heart and soul in each and every one of them. Take The Man of Cloud 9, for example. To date, it’s my book that has sold the least, however I know that as a sci-fi thriller novel I’m building a nearly entirely new audience and that’s going to have a longer burn to build up a level of audience like The Wizard Killer did quickly. However, there’s is so much me in that book on so many levels, as well as so much misunderstanding of me in that book, that it will forever have a special place in my heart. It’s also a goodbye to my software career in many ways.
So what about the first book of the Yellow Hoods, Along Came a Wolf? That was me not just taking down the dream of being a writer off the shelf, taking it apart, and doing something about it, but it has a tenderness and sophistication that I know if I try to touch it, I will dispel the most important part of what enchants so many readers. Never mind that it was my daughter’s nudge, and a silly bedtime story that I told her, that created a crack in the damn of excuses which was that book, and it caused a best-selling series to gush out.
At the end of the day, maybe it’s because I leave nothing emotionally, intellectually, or imaginatively on the table when I write a book. I truly love each out and could go into details as to why.
What are you working on right now?
I’ve drafted my first non-fiction book which is about hand-selling books. It’s based on a popular seminar I’ve given a number of times. I’m also writing my first fantasy space-opera, Tilruna. Season One will launch in September and I’m going to bringing a whole universe into people’s lives.
There’s an extra-special part to Tilruna for me, which was a world and tale that I created for Dungeons and Dragons eons ago. I still have the duo-tang of notes for it. While what I’m doing uses in a limited way, the essence and mythos I created, are there. I’m SO excited about it.
You ran into a bit of a stumbling block by going Amazon exclusive. Can you offer a bit about what happened and where people can learn more from your experience?
For those that would like to know the full story, here’s my blog post and the YouTube videos (One, Two).
But in brief, I put my Yellow Hoods books into the KDP Select program around December 9th. I thought I’d see if I could get more readers from Kindle Unlimited. I did a hard push on promotions, and one of those came back to bite me. Whether its because they are directly associated with scammers, or because scammers are looking for victims through those that advertise with this particular service, I saw an unbelievable spike in my page read count (Amazon pays per page read). One day I had an extra 25k, the next day 0, then day three had 10k. All of those page reads were accounted for by the time I got up in the morning.
I reported it to Amazon, and they told me that there was nothing weird or wrong. Around January 12th, I was informed that my account was being terminated. All of my books vanished.
They ended up restoring my books and apologizing. The department that had told me everything was fine was supposed to have shared my emails with the anti-fraud department as a matter of protocol, but didn’t. Well, the fraud folks defected bots reading my books.
Scammers will upload their fake books (i.e. nonsense books or books with the same page 1000 times or whatever) and will use bots to read them, generating money for them. However, to make those bots harder to detect, the scammers will make them read other peoples books. Amazon assumes that if someone is benefiting from it, i.e. the innocent author who would potentially get 5 cents from the reads, is in on it. Then wham, author gets shutdown hard. In Amazon’s defense, this is an extremely hard problem to resolve, and I believe they’re looking at ways to get better at determining those that are in on it versus those who are innocent victims.
You have developed significant success in such a short period of time. How did you do it? How do you feel about it?
One of the things that I’m notoriously bad at is recognizing what I’ve actually accomplished and appreciating it. I feel like I’m in a kayak looking at the rapids ahead and getting all tense, not realizing how far down the river I’ve gone. It’s by spending time helping out other authors, which I try to make sure I do each and every week, that helps me realize I have things to offer that I picked up along the way.
How did I do it? Sacrificing 90%+ of my TV time and all of my video game time was one of the things. Another was by giving myself deadlines that were hard but achievable, and sticking to them.
I had no idea what I was doing, but I wasn’t willing to let that stop me.
What advice would you give to authors just starting out?
Give yourself permission to make a mess. Also, if anyone’s discouraging you or trying to help you by telling you “the hard truth,” find a way to block them out.
What do you want to know from readers?
I love hearing what touched them, what moments or characters did they connect with.
Also, you can get ISBNs and other details to order them from your favorite store here.
There’s also my blog.
AND lastly, if anyone would like an “Adam Dreece 3 book sampler”, go here.
Catherine: Thank you for agreeing to be featured here today as the Author Spotlight guest.
I recently finished the first book in your Bound series and immediately picked up your second. It was a great YA read that kept me up to the early morning hours.
Could you offer a bit about the Bound series?
Stormy: The Bound series is my baby. Bound by Duty is the first book I ever wrote and I’ve been absolutely astonished at the response I’ve received to the series. I write clean, coming of age stories and with Bound, my focus was really on telling a layered, complex story through the eyes of those directly affected. I used multiple POVs as the series progressed to show you the other side of things and wanted to hone in on what it takes as an 18-year-old (with or without powers) to determine the person you want to be and what you’re willing to do to become that person.
Catherine: Do you have a favorite character in the series?
Stormy: Bethany is probably my favorite. She is truly a hybrid of my best friends throughout my lifetime and she’s the exact grounding that Amelia needed throughout the story.
Catherine: What would that character’s (or the main character if no favorite) favorite ice cream be?
Stormy: Bethany – likely twist. She wants the best of both worlds.
Catherine: Tell us a little bit about your journey as an author.
Stormy: This was a journey I never expected to be on. I never wanted to be an author but one day the story appeared and I couldn’t not write it. Or the next one. Or the next three. I quit my dream job to make time in my life for writing and marketing my books and I hope to one day be full time. My first series is self-published and my next stand alone book is currently being queried to agents so I can make the jump to hybrid publishing.
Catherine: What is one lesson you’ve learned as a self-published independent author?
Stormy: Being an author isn’t about writing books, it’s about being an entrepreneur. It’s about investing time, money, sanity, tears and sleep for something you believe in more than anyone else can fathom. If all you want to do is write the books, don’t expect success because it’s impossible. It sounds harsh, but it really is true. Between my day job and writing/marketing, I’ve put in 80+ hour weeks for more than three years.
Catherine: Is there something about the industry – a piece of advice or an idealized image – that you’ve learned to be completely true or untrue?
Stormy: No one cares as much about your books as you. No one will work as hard (i.e. a vendor, publicist, etc.), no one will have your expectations and no one will want to put in the hours. This isn’t a one man show, you need other people, but you have to give them a break when it comes to your expectations because they simply cannot be as passionate about your work as you are.
Catherine: Is there something you would like readers to know, or would like to know from your readers?
Stormy: I would love to tell readers that my joy comes from connecting with you. I try to develop layered characters who have gone through their own personal traumas (we all have!) but don’t let those traumas define them. I want to show you that growing up is hard but doable and that it’s so much easier when you surround yourself with the right people. I hope you see that mistakes will happen but the real truth is what you do once you’ve acknowledged the mistake. My books are about helping you live your best life, so I hope you find someone to connect to in the story that touches you.
Catherine: What is one thing that always brings a smile to your face?
Stormy: Getting messages from readers! Nothing makes my day more than a tweet, review or Facebook post from someone who has read my books.
Catherine: What keeps you grounded/sane during the intensive creative and business moments of being a self-published author?
Stormy: My husband. He reminds me that in order to write about life, I have to live it. He gets me out of my cave and he always makes me laugh.
Catherine: What is your favorite place?
Stormy: Anywhere I can put my feet in an ocean (and preferably have someone bring me a glass of wine).
Catherine: What is one thing you couldn’t live without?
Stormy: My laptop. I can hand write, but there’s something about the connection to the keys that I need.
Catherine: What is your favorite TV show?
Stormy: NCIS, but that’s now debatable with Michael Weatherly (aka Tony DiNozzo) gone.
Catherine: How can readers get their hands on the Bound books?
Stormy: You will find them on every e-book retailer, with the first book (Bound by Duty) always FREE! And the paperbacks are available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble (online or requested at your local store) and Book Depository.
Catherine: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Stormy: I write because books were the place I escaped to growing up. They were my sanity and my closest friends. I can only aspire to write a book that touches someone like books have touched me. I do hope you stick around to see where I go from here. J
Catherine: Thank you Stormy. Interested in reaching out to Stormy or following her? Check out her website http://www.stormysmith.com/
Catherine: Hello Readers, Writers, everyone. Today we have author Andris Bear joining us to tell us a bit about her paranormal fiction (with angels) Angel Unborn. It is part of a series by the way. Thank you Andris for being here, it is an honor to be able to interview you.
Andris: Hi Catherine! Thanks so much for having me.
- Tell us a bit about Angel Unborn.
Angel Unborn is a paranormal romance about a woman, Joey Benton, who thinks her life is falling apart when, in reality, it’s finally coming together. Her assigned protector is even less enthused about their pairing than she is, and she fights him at every turn, but destiny will not be denied. And hers is to stand in defense of humanity against the darkest being ever created.
- Who is your favorite character from the first book?
Hmmm, that’s a hard one—I have so many for so many different reasons. If I had to choose just one, I’d say Devi, the Angel of Destiny. She is meddlesome, conniving, and half crazy. Not to mention the life of the party. She is a lot of fun to write.
- What can’t that character live without?
Purpose. Her greatest satisfaction comes from a soul meeting its destiny, and she will manipulate whoever and whatever to make sure that happens. Whether said soul likes it or not.
- What do you love most about being an author?
I love the creativity and the fact that only I can bring these stories to life as they are in my head—there is no right or wrong, just what comes out on the page. It’s freeing to create worlds and characters and guide them to their fate. But the best part is sharing my stories with others and hearing from them that they loved them. That anyone else loves my characters as much as I do is such a joy.
- What do you dislike most about being an author?
I’m a control freak. Lol. I have writer friends who can write a full length novel in two months—it takes me eight months to a year because it must be just right! I stress and fret over every stinking detail that it’s a miracle I haven’t given myself a stroke yet.
- What is the most important piece of advice you have for other writers and authors?
I don’t have to follow my own advice, do I? Because I’m not good at that. Lol. I think the best advice is to give up control (See?! Can’t do it!) and take it one step at a time. All the details that seem overwhelming at the beginning will fall in line little by little, and the next thing you know, it’s a done deal. And then you can have a nice, stiff drink.
- If you could travel anywhere, where would you go?
I’d love to see Scotland and The Vatican, but I’m a homebody, so the idea of putting on a bra and pants to leave the house holds little appeal to me. I know, I know, I’m terrible!
- What is your favorite TV show or movie?
My favorite TV show would have to be Supernatural because Dean. Just Dean. I love me some him. My favorite movie is Clue. Tim Curry makes me happy on every level.
- How can readers get their hands on your book(s)?
All of my books are available across all major e-book retailers (Amazon, iBooks, Barnes and Noble, Google Play, and Kobo), and the first in my Deadly Sins, Angel Unborn, is free, so you can try it without risk.
- I hope you folks caught that – her first book is free. Did you know, many of the authors featured on this blog have free works to introduce you to their story? Andris, what is the best way for folks to get in touch with you?
- Do you ever have moments of self-doubt or novel-doubt?
Only with every breath. 😉
- If you could go back in time and meet anyone, who would it be?
Lucille Ball. She was strong, classy, and determined. She was beautiful, but I love that she was admired for her work ethic and willingness to make people laugh, often at her own expense.
- Is there anything you would like to add?
Other than thank you for having me, nope!
Well thank you for your time Andris and hope future readers will pick up your books, all of them. Right now!
Okay, maybe you aren’t all that confused about Alpha and Beta Readers. Maybe you’ve got an awesome team behind you. Great! But a quick internet survey clearly indicates there is confusion abundant for new and veteran authors and those readers who might be interested in such a role.
What is an Alpha or a Beta Reader?
Well, the short of it is:
Alpha Readers assist writers by offering a reader’s perspective for a manuscript after an initial draft. The manuscript often has not been edited. It’s not uncommon for an Alpha to read before the author edits the first draft.
Beta Readers assist writers by offering a reader’s perspective for a manuscript which has been edited and is shortly due for publication.
What do they do?
They read. The main goal is to provide feedback to the author to help them gauge audience reception, improve and catch last-minute plot/story holes, and catch embarrassing errors that can easily occur after review after review and hour after hour an author and their professional editor put into a work.
How are they different?
Alphas look at a book for general issues in the story, they don’t concentrate on grammar or punctuation or syntax. They do focus on abhorrent characterization, missing dialogue, missing description and general appeal of the work.
Betas look at a book for appeal to an audience, they catch plot holes, grammar, punctuation, spelling issues, characterization issues, and focus on reader experience including why they loved sections or were thrown out of the book by something.
What’s so great about them?
For the Readers
Alpha/Beta Reading offers the reader sneak peaks into upcoming books, or gives them an opportunity to get goodies from the writers they love before anyone else does (alphas usually get the work even before the editor). It’s a pretty awesome gig for the bibliophile.
For the Authors
Alpha and Beta Readers offer invaluable perspectives from different walks of life. Some authors seek out Alpha and Beta Readers for their experience, cultural awareness, profession, and genre likes to ensure their work is on the mark with facts, industry, and reader perspectives. They’re a first or last line of defense against the never-ending edit stream, helping to stop major problems and minor annoyances.
What isn’t so great about them?
For the Readers
Good Alpha and Beta Readers can also end up spending time on a manuscript they despise or by an author who is ‘precious’ about their work – as my communications consultant has described. Authors who are precious about their work, who struggle with criticism can be a big turn-off for great readers. As with all art, which is a very personal creative endeavor, it makes sense for authors to hold their works close to their hearts. As a professional artist who seeks to make a living off of their talent, it doesn’t make sense to let that care and investment create a barrier to growth and connection with fans. The impact on reputation is strong. Adam Dreece offers a great example for how to handle criticism point blank from a fan (and Alpha and Beta Readers are fans).
For the Authors
Good Alpha and Beta Readers are hard to find. Authors need constructive criticism, keen eyes, and willing hearts. The reader who just reads works to offer an ‘it’s good’ or ‘it was okay’ is a hindrance on a team of professionals. This is why I advocate that Alpha and Beta Readers be compensated for their time. Good ones are working for the author. They deserve to be paid or somehow appreciated for the time and energy they’re going to put into a work.
There is a great deal of contention in the community about this. Some readers and authors believe whole-heartedly they should not charge or pay for these services. Others won’t waste the time on readers who aren’t professionals. Why? Professional Beta Readers tend to offer higher quality works, are often other authors and editors and reviewers with industry experience, and can deliver constructive criticism. But not always. There can be a great number of fee charging individuals who also just don’t cut it.
How Do I Become an Alpha or Beta Reader?
It’s all about networking, and how you present yourself. But first, you have to decide if you’re going to do it for free, or professionally. If professionally, you may have to set up an actual business. Check with your local municipal, provincial/state, and federal offices regarding a home-based business.
You’ll need to decide if you’re Alpha or Beta Reading or both.
Next, decide how much time you’re willing to dedicate. Make sure you’re willing to offer constructive feedback by deadlines. A little research can go a long way – find question sheets or checklists online to help identify key issues to look for.
Know any authors? Ask them if they need one.
Another great resource is Goodreads.com. There are many groups set up just for readers and authors to connect. Find an author’s post seeking a reader, or put a post in the right group/topic indicating your favorite genres, themes, topics and authors and that you’re available to Alpha or Beta Read.
There are some online groups and community groups set up as well. Check your local library, writing association and guilds to see if they have any connections you can tap into.
Not a professional? Don’t worry. Audience readers who enjoy the genres they read in still have a lot to offer. If there are sections you hate or love, the authors need to know that.
How Do I Get an Alpha or Beta Reader on My Team?
Ask supportive friends and family who can offer truthful, constructive feedback. Or check out Goodreads.com (which you should be on already if you’re a published author). There are many groups set up just for readers and authors to connect.
A google search or inquiry to your author community might yield professional reader groups or editors willing to Alpha or Beta read for a nominal fee. An editor Alpha/Beta reader is good, they’ll catch a lot of things audience readers won’t. Have both on your team, audience and professionals, but make sure you offer compensation to both. You’ll create a team of loyal supporters who can help bring magic to your manuscripts for years to come. Not to mention, you have a small group to tap into for reviews. I recommend you have no less than 5 and no more than 15 for a manuscript. Integrating comments can be a real challenge from more than 15. If you have more than 15, split the group. Have two phases of read through with two different Alpha/Beta teams. Alternatively, ask some to offer reviews online shortly after/before the book is published and some to Alpha or Beta Read. While reading the reviews, you should take notes on areas for improvement and success.
Want to know more or want Catherine on your team (she’s an editor/Alpha/Beta Reader too!)? Contact her.