Lightening strikes and hoards: the critical role of beta readers

I wrote this article on my author site after being inspired by some surprising (infuriating, actually) discoveries by my beta readers. When I sent out the manuscript for THE PRINCE OF GRAVES to the brave souls who volunteered to read it, I had an idea of the problems they might find: some passive voice, some tense inconsistencies, and the occasional typo. Yes, they did find these, plus some errors that I cannot explain how I put them in there in the first place. 

So if you’re wondering about using beta readers, here’s my two cents:

Lightening strikes and hoards: the critical role of beta readers

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#Writing and #Publishing…that’s a lot!

I want to apologize for how quiet this blog has been over the past few weeks. In a nutshell, I’ve been finishing my latest work, a fantasy novella of about 28,000 words, and preparing it for self publication. The link below is to a quick update I posted on my author blog, The Weathered Journal.

I’m excited about this, but it also begs for an article on WHY I’m going the self publishing route for this piece while I’m working the traditional route for my first novel. There is still a lot of skepticism (to put it mildly) from a lot of writers about self publishing, and I feel compelled to tell why I’m going this way. I hope to get that article out here shortly (as in, the next day or two). Until then, please check out my update on THE PRINCE OF GRAVES.

The Quiet Before the Release

Self Publishing and Traditional Publishing Resources

We’ve talked about writing and editing.  I figured it would be good to hit publishing next. For aspiring authors, such as myself, there are two primary routes available to us: self publishing and traditional publishing.

Self Publishing:

I heard the siren-song of self-publishing years ago, and I still haven’t shaken it.  From my research, it does appear that for a typically reasonable price, you can pay to have your book bound and available for sale relatively quickly.  Most of the main Self Publishing sites offer editing and marketing advice (often for a price).  So there’s definitely something to be said for getting your literary labor of love bound and online with Amazon.com. 

The downside, though, is that the marketing pretty much falls on you.  While the Self Publishing companies offer a variety of tools to help, you’re going to be spending a significant amount of time pushing your book in a variety of ways (assuming that sales means anything to you.  Heck, you might be happy just to have the book published).

There’s something that I think needs to be addressed about self publishing, though, before jumping into the web sites. If you go to Google, and start typing in any of the major Self Publishing companies, you’ll quickly notice that high up on the search suggestions will be the words “Company name” and “scam” (e.g. “Outskirts press scam”).  I’ve looked at some of the complaints (not a lot, to be honest), and some of them look legit.  But I also know of people who have used self publishing, and they have been perfectly happy with their service.  I guess I’d advise you to do the same thing that you’d do any time that you plan on sinking a significant amount of money into anything…if it seems to stink before you commit, don’t do it.

Here are the primary companies I’ve found.

Outskirts Press
This is one of the more well known companies.  I’ve found the website easy to navigate, and the author packages pretty easy to understand. I’m not promoting them…I haven’t used them yet.  But it’s a good place to start to get an idea of what Self Publishing can offer.

iUniverse
like Outskirts, iUniverse offers a variety of author packages, but they cost significantly more.  I’m assuming that their editorial and marketing advice is part of the reason why. 

Traditional Publishing

Don’t go looking for these guys.  At least, not the big ones like Random House.  They’re too busy, and if you go to their web sites they make it clear that they have little interest in hearing from individual, non-established authors.  Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on how you choose to look at it), there are agents who can make contact for you. 

Agents typically ask for nothing up front.  In fact, I ran across at least one advice article that recommended you completely avoid any literary agent that wants to charge you upfront.  The way the business works, apparently, is that if they think they can sell your book, they’ll do the legwork.  They’ll get their cut when the deal had been inked with the publisher.

Here are some agent finding resources I’ve come across.  As with the editing services, I can’t recommend any of these yet.  I will as soon as I get to that stage with my novel:

Writer’s Literary Agency
These guys go to great pains to woo those who are considering self publishing, or may have already self published.  They acknowledge the frustrations of breaking into traditional publishing, and make the bold request to “Give Our Literary and Book Agency 90 Days To Sell Your Work…”  I like the pitch, but again, I can’t vouch for them yet.

AgentQuery 
I have to admit, I really like this tool.  It opens the door to apparently hundreds of agents who handle all writing genres.  The links I’ve followed from my searches through this site have usually been current and useful. 

I hope this is useful to some of you.  If you have any experience with these guys, let me know.  Good luck!

W.E. Linde