Your manuscript is complete. Now what?
If you’re blessed with a few good beta readers use them, but make sure to give them a brief letter of points to help you out.
The following questionnaire was sent out to my beta readers of a soon to be released book.
Dear Reader of my novel Cassandra: Night Shades,
What does an author expect/hope for from a beta reader? The story resides in my mind for so long that I reach a point when I need readers to tell me if I’ve said what I think I have. You are a very important part of the editing process. If you feel your suggestion can make the book better, easier to read, and more understandable, please elaborate.
You may answer under each question and post additional comments on the book. Then attach it to an email to: insert email
- Did the prologue and/or first chapter make you want to read more?
- At the end of each chapter, were there unanswered questions that made you want to flip the page and keep reading?
- (a)Did you relate to any of the characters?
(b) Did you stay interested until the end?
(c) Where did your interest lag?
- Did you find a place where you were confused? Help me find and fix that.
- Did the ending give closure? Do you feel it satisfied the needs of the story?
- Is this a book you could recommend to your reading friends?
As a beta reader, try to look at the big picture. If you see typos, feel free to note them, but don’t worry if you miss them at this stage of the game. Your input will help as much as the final edit.
Thank you. You are valuable and I appreciate you.
I have learned to send this thank you letter and book questions in a word format. All the reader has to do is write their answers in the blank spaces, save it, and e-mail the form back to me.
Your questions will vary depending on subject matter. Next step set the book aside while you wait for your betas. I like to review my draft each time one of my forms comes in. Try to look at your manuscript with the beta reader’s eyes. Don’t change anything yet, unless you find errors or typos, make notes of this person’s comments. I like to color code these areas with a separate color for each reader.
All your readers forms are back, and I’ll bet you had to remind them a few times that you have a deadline. Assuming that you had four beta readers and three out of the four had a problem with the same passage. Now is the time to clear that up. Time to send the new draft to a good proofreader. They will find issues that spellcheck and online auto checkers didn’t.
Next come the edits. I try for three rounds of edits using at least two editors. Note: pay attention to typos, misused words, punctuation, and sentence structure. Now the tricky part, don’t let anyone change your voice. This is your vision.
How this author has dealt with a few pitfalls:
I had no idea the issues with publishing e-books at the time I named this blog. It is my habit to publish my e-book and assess it before sending the manuscript in for print publication.
Approaching a book in this manner makes it easier to send it out to reviewers and selected readers. Then I can pick an excerpt or two for the back cover. The e-book is an easier fix if you missed something in your final revision.
In the beginning I used Librarything to offer free e-books to readers. I only picked up a few reviews for my efforts. However, I have gained a couple of loyal fans. These days I have a better following and choose who I send offers to via my email newsletter.
I used to worry about negative reviews, but the folks who get up on the wrong side of the bed and out to trash someone are just the facts of life as an author. Positive reviews from readers far out weigh the bummers. Truthfully, the one or two star sprinklings only lend credibility to the four and five star reviews.
Even the four and five star reviews can throw an author a curve. “Good plot, great characters, a real page turner, but could use some editing.”
What? I went through all the previously mentioned steps. How can this be? Off I go to check the submitted manuscript. It is correct. Recheck the e-pub it’s okay. Smashwords sends the e-pub to it’s distribution network, so it is my first check. Second the PDF, again from Smashwords. I no longer bother to check Amazon on my Kindle. I still review books for other authors who gift me an e-book through Amazon, but the books are such a mess, mine included, that I can not tell with all the added spaces and messed up paragraphs if the book actually was submitted as such.
The gal who does my e-book formatting is excellent and in no way responsible for the Kindle nightmares. That said, I have no way of knowing what form the other e-readers take or how they look. Smashwords way out sells Amazon with my e-books and the bulk of the sales are with Apple and the iBook, which is e-pub.
The bottom line is, once others get their hands on your book just remember the old bumper sticker “S— happens!”
The excellent editor who helped me with my two award winning children’s chapter books told me. “I’ve recently finished the latest book by SK and was amazed at the number of typos in the finished book.” His advice rings in my ears whenever I get stressed about striving for perfection. He told me I had a wonderful story and not to obsess about being perfect. I still try for perfect, but there is a point where you have to just go with it,
Jackie (J.M.) Anton
I am hoping to get my computer overhauled and to purchase a program that will let me format my own print books.
My next blog will tackle the issue of self-publishing.
My book market: http://mkt.com/jackie-anton/