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Friday, January 6, 2012

Goodreads and Beta Readers

Let me start off with since about mid-December there has been this concerted effort in support of Independent Authors as far as help, promotions, and connecting readers to new authors!  I know I have noticed the many areas that the incredible members of Goodreads from staff, to moderators, and different groups efforts.  My hat's off to Goodreads and thank you for being supportive, helpful, and becoming a beacon of support for the Independent Authors!
One of the things that they are trying to get off the ground is connecting Goodreads Reading Members to Authors to act as Beta Readers.  One of the stumbling blocks to this process is going to be the Definition and Understanding of what a Beta Reader is.  Once the prospective Beta Readers and authors get on the same page with this concept the smoother and easier the whole process will take off.
First off a Beta Reader is NOT  An Editor or a Book Reviewer!  NOT  I repeat NOT!
A Beta Reader is someone who has agreed to read a potentially hard to read piece of unedited garbage!  Hopefully it won't be that bad.  It may be just an outline of the story; it may be the unedited first draft or second draft of an up and coming book.  This is done to get real life feedback from somebody not emotionally connected to the story, not a fellow writer or even an editor, a regular everyday book loving person.
One of the authors I admire and love his work has an on-line class you can read through called his Master Class about writing.
Ken Follett  Masters Class
He has ten or so people read his outline for a story, and leave comments in the margins.  He repeats this process again where he fleshes out the outline into a rough draft of a story.  The things he is looking for are the following:
What parts of the story did you like?   What parts did you love?
What parts were slow?
Could you get a good mental image of the characters?
Was there anything that was confusing?
Did you come up with any questions while reading it that were not answered somewhere through the work?
Could you connect with the characters?
Who do you like?  Who do you hate?
The Beta Reader cam feel free to leave comments, suggestions, questions, feelings the work invoked while reading the work, areas that are confusing, not clear, etc.
The Author then may or may not use any or all of the suggestions when the time comes to go back through the story and re-write the next draft of the story.  This is a phase where we do initial editing, polishing, question our wording, fix technical areas, double check any and all facts concerning the story.  Consequently when the author changes one thing it has a ripple effect through the entire book.  It could be as simple as adding a phrase or taking out a character and the whole book changes.  Total Re-write required!  Maybe now you can see why it takes authors so long to come out with the next book in the series.
The Beta Reading Process, according to the inspired and talented Mr. Ken Follett, has done more to help him grow as a writer than anything else.  It helps us authors see firsthand what is working and what is not.  What people enjoy and are looking for in story and what can be cut out.  The last part of the process is the unending process of editing where nothing is sacred and anything can be cut up to and including the main the main character!  I generally shoot for twenty to thirty thousand words more than what I want the book to be at after editing, because at least that much will be heartlessly slashed out by the editors.
Rules for Beta Readers
1.  Authors probably should not use other authors or aspiring authors to be Beta Readers.  It is too close to being a conflict of interest.
2.  Beta Readers should be acknowledged by authors in their books.  I personally in lieu of payment for said services will mention the Beta Readers in the books acknowledgements and also gift published copies of the finished books to my Beta Readers.  The Acknowledgements are the part of the book most people skip over to begin reading the book.  If your name was mentioned in there you might actually read that part.
3.  Beta Readers must be of integrity and not divulge the spoilers of the book as it would be an advance sneak peek of an up and coming novel way before the time it will be published.  Imagine some huge big name series that was scheduled to come out in February and you had already read the rough draft of the book four months ago!  You next surprise is reading the sequel to the sequel while the world is getting excited about the new release.
4.  Don't be rude, correct the entire grammatical content of the book, inconsistencies and then tell everyone what a no talent hack this writer is because he sent you an un-edited piece of garbage.  It is supposed to be a rough draft!  It is supposed to be a feelings, like and dislike, mechanical critique of the material realizing it is a work in process.
I really hope this takes off.  I hope open minded adventurer readers will take advantage of the opportunity to get sneak peeks into the behind the scenes workings of creating a book and helping an author polish his skills.
I hope aspiring authors and new independent authors take advantage of this opportunity to hone their skills and improve the work before publishing it.  Un-critiqued, unedited or poorly edited work is the primary grips being leveled at the independent authors from the large entrenched published houses who feel they still hold all the keys to the doors of the literary world.  Properly using Beta Readers can streamline, help polish and teach us authors what is and is not working in our stories before they get to that point of no return where it is out there in the real world to be torn apart or loved and cherished by readers.
Readers, authors and aspiring authors please check out Goodreads you haven't already.  There is so much there to explore, to do and participate in.  It is a plethora of fun, excitement, games and opportunities, with over six million members to meet share and get to know.


Robert Chazz Chute said...

Great idea, sir! Shared on Scoopit! Thanks for posting on this.

Reena Jacobs said...

I followed the link to your blog from Chaz Writes. I really like this idea. I've considered going to Goodreads for beta readers. I tend to get hung up on the selection process though.

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