Tag Archives: beta reading

Beta or Worse?

Okay, so you’ve written a book and you’ve got a cover.

When you’re happy, do you go ahead and publish, or do you take it steady and make sure it’s readable?

Personally, I ask for beta readers and the more the merrier, whether it be a novel or a         collection of short stories. Yes, there might be a few issues in the final product but they also appear in books by acclaimed traditionally-published authors. Errors can be cut down dramatically with some effort and patience. It’s the responsibility of the author to produce the best book they can.

Before I send a manuscript to readers I’ll have gone at least as far as the third draft and on at least two occasions printed the story to perform a ‘red-pen’ edit. Even then, I tend to offer my beta readers a handful of things I’m    concerned about—a reader’s guide if you like:

Does the intro work? Is the dialogue realistic? Are the characters believable? Did you enjoy the story?

The list can be as long as the author feels necessary, but it’s hoped that the beta reader will highlight other issues too. If you create your characters and your imaginary world with care and attention to detail it will help to make the end product believable.

I’ve performed beta reading for many indie authors. Each book is different in length, style, author’s voice and topic. Not every book might be one I’d go looking for as reading material, but if it will help a fellow author I’m glad to do what I can if I can afford the time.

No, I’m not an editor but my expertise is that of the   reader who knows when something isn’t right in a variety of areas.

I know for example that firing an automatic pistol at a padlock or a door lock is about as much good as throwing your pen at it. Similarly, the only time firing a handgun at an escaping car will work is in movie-land. I know when to use farther instead of further, and inquiry rather than enquiry. No, a cowboy wasn’t thrown against the barn door by the ‘blast’ from a Colt 45, and I don’t care how close his adversary might have been. They’d need to be close just to hit one another. Cars don’t explode simply because they’ve overturned, and some blades don’t slide straight back out of the body after being thrust inward and upward.

Consistency and continuity are important to me and they are not the same thing.

Regarding consistency, I’m looking for a character’s name to always have one spelling, unless a nickname is used, and if a character has blue eyes, then they shouldn’t have brown eyes in the next chapter.

In continuity, I expect that when a character gets into a blue Jaguar and drives somewhere, they don’t get out of a red BMW at their destination.

To avoid rereading I prefer that no two characters use the same weapon, drive the same car or have similar names.

Two characters should not have their voices heard in the same paragraph but it seems to happen in a lot of eBooks. Sentences should also be manageable so that by the time you reach the end you remember the subject.

Dialogue tags don’t always have to be descriptive because the imagery and the dialogue ought to be creating the picture.

It’s fine, even preferable for a character to have a favourite word or phrase but not an author. Think about that one.

One of my greatest gripes is an author who doesn’t know their subject. Take for example the case of the famous   author who’s BDSM character introduces a young woman to mild punishment by giving her a traumatic thrashing with a leather belt, or … no, I’ll leave erotica out of this. Some misguided ideas would make your eyes water.

You get the idea … research, research, research, and don’t just use Google.

If you have space and are physically capable, get out of your chair and try the move you’ve just choreographed. How about:

Getting out of the car, she touched-up her lip gloss and lifted her purse.

No, she didn’t do it all while ‘getting out of the car’ she performed three separate actions.

Recently, I’ve spent a lot of time beta-reading for fellow indies and one of the things I feel that it does is help me in my writing. When I see an issue it tends to stand out and I learn from it, so it’s much less likely that I’ll do it in my work. Invariably, I gain confidence in my writing by seeing that in many cases I know when something is wrong or could be improved.

As an author, I’m aware of how important it is that I read regularly and widely. Thankfully because I’m a member of Kindle Unlimited I’ve been able to start and discard three books in the past couple of weeks. Unfortunate,   perhaps, but if those authors had taken the time to ask for a beta reader or two and I’d finished their books, I might have become a fan.

This article isn’t a rant, I’m highlighting an area of our craft that all indie authors should consider.

All comments are appreciated as always.

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P.S. Yes, I have changed my blog theme again. 🙂

My Writing Year – 2019

 

A successful writing year is measured using a variety of criteria by different authors. For me, I must feel that if not prolific, I’ve at least achieved a good standard with what I have published. I’m a firm believer that if as an author I expect a payment, I owe the customer my best efforts.

Rather than talk about ‘numbers’ as a guide, it would be better to look at the time taken for some of my most recent publications. Codename: Nightshade, for example, went through my process for two years before I was happy with the end result. One Man, Two Missions, was a bundle of files for a long time before I was satisfied with every story.

 

 

I created Tom Benson-Erotica to avoid, or at least reduce the mentions of the genre on here, but this post will be one of the exceptions and for good reason. I wrote a novel, a full-length prequel novel, and a book of fifty erotic poems.

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Although the erotica output in my own name may not sound impressive, one of my most ambitious projects to date was the creation of a new author.

During 2019, I published five full-size novels as Katya Cumming. I’ve kept the pseudonym and the stories (in progress), a secret for two years. When I came up with the idea I promised myself not to go public until I had completed several books and published them over a period of twelve months. This would allow me to assess unaided development. The experiment was also to see if ‘Katya’ would be prolific, and successful. She has been both when considering she’s had no support or advertising campaigns.

The theory of creating ‘box sets’ was beyond me for a while. I’d checked a fair number on Amazon and couldn’t see many reviews, so I figured that maybe they were popular as a purchase, but not easy to review. Whatever … I spent a couple of weeks selecting and producing four box sets. They haven’t been my most successful venture, but in each case, I’m giving something back in terms of pricing, so it’s the consumer’s loss; not mine.

Throughout the year I offered my services as a beta reader to several members of the Indie Author Support and Discussion group (IASD), the finest writing group of its type on Facebook. Oh, yes, and in between other things I produced two stories for the IASD horror anthology Depths of Darkness.

To return to my opening statement regarding success in the past year … yes, I believe that with the sales produced under my own name, and the regular sales by ‘Katya’, it has been a successful writing year.

I’ve produced this summary a month earlier than normal for two reasons. Firstly, I am deep into two WIP and will not be publishing anything new in December 2019. Secondly, this post will be appearing in the November issue of the superb Connections eMag produced by fellow author, Melanie P. Smith.

 

 

 

I have a smaller but no less important target for next year, but more of that in my New Writing Year – 2020 post in the near future. Thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts and summary, and for any comments or suggestions, you may leave. Sincere thanks go out to all you lovely people who’ve sampled or continue to read my efforts.

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On Top of The Covers

 

No, it’s not a title for an erotic novel, although it could be.

As any author will tell you, apart from a good story there are a couple of other important aspects when creating a book.

Good formatting to make the book look professional and easy to read, and of course, a decent price to attract sales are two areas to think about. A catchy, accurate title is in the running of important things to consider.

My attempt

Where do you first find the title?

Oh yes, on the cover.

I’ve been writing since 2007 and self-publishing since 2013. Yes, I know to some people it seems longer, but there you go – those are the facts.

 

How have I dealt with covers so far?

I produced covers myself in the early days and though I thought they were okay at the time, I never considered them to be good. I had this misconception that as long as there was a cover to bear the title and the title did its job – that was enough.

Not so, and anybody with experience of buying books or trying to sell books will know.

Would I buy a book with an amateur cover?

Not usually, so I shouldn’t expect anybody to buy mine if they have an amateur cover. Yes, there are some people out there who are not professional cover designers and they’re doing a good job, but many of the indie eBook and paperback covers are badly finished.

I paid for a professional book cover designer to produce a cover for Beyond The Law (as it was prior to becoming first in a trilogy). I later had the cover updated at no cost. The point is, that I saw my book sell and inside three months the price of the designer was covered by those sales. My return was such that the sales paid for the same designer to deal with Ten Days in PanamaAmsterdam Calling, A Taste of Honey and the other two books in the Beyond The Law trilogy.

Do I make exceptions?

Yes, I continue to work hard at designing covers for my short story and poetry anthologies, because those types of books are recognised as being low in the sales market. For the past three months, my five-part series A Life of Choice has been selling well. To ensure the series was spotted by a target audience I created the covers with actual photographs from my military service mounted on a background of the regimental colours of the Royal Corps of Signals. I also design the covers for my erotica titles because although they sell, I consider them an extension of the joy of sex writing.

My efforts may not attain professional standards but I aim to maintain a brand feel by using continuity within any series. We all know that recognition plays a big part in marketing and it’s an area we should strive to understand.

 

What’s my next step?

Form the outset I’ve formatted my eBooks, although I have depended on beta readers to improve the end product. I recently bought a licence to use Vellum Press, which means I will now be able to format for a paperback.

 

As I write this, my cover designer is working on a paperback cover for Amsterdam Calling. I’m confident Aimee (the designer) will produce a good solution for me, and I’ve spent many hours working on a revamped version of the book’s formatting.

 

The results of our combined efforts will be here for all to see when I’ve got my first paperback in my hands. I’m nervous about taking such a step but I promised myself I would only go paperback if I saw sufficient sales of my eBooks. On top of the sales, I’ve had a lot of interest from people contacting me who for one reason or another cannot deal with eBooks.

 

I hope my words have sparked interest. Remember, if you do decide to pay somebody else to design your covers it will require effort from both parties, or as I suggest on another of my personal covers a little bit of Give & Take

 

Thank you for visiting my blog and as usual, any comments are welcome.

Reading, Writing, and Rhythm; Tick

BTL 3 Cast and Plans

I’m making headway with my ten writing aims for this year.

Reading

I’ve read and reviewed six titles from IASD authors since 1st January. On the flip side, I’ve read and not reviewed three titles, but I’d prefer not to get into my reasons right now. I’ve also started and not attempted to continue reading three other titles.Tom's Kindle

On Beta reading, I’ve performed the task for three authors, and was gratified to be told some of my comments were useful.IASD - globe (2)

Yes, my reading experience has been a mixed bag thus far.

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Writing

A couple of days ago I completed my most recent edit of Beyond The Law: Consequences, which as you all know is the final story in the trilogy. My target date for publication is next weekend, 11th / 12th February.

Novel - BTL 3 ConsequencesThe book will be a month later than I first intended, but I believe it has been much improved for the extra time spent reworking scenes and generally changing the sequence of events. At 60,000 words it is the shortest book in the trilogy.

I’ve had the advantage of one beta reader, and if I get any more volunteers I’ll need them to do a rapid turnaround if I’m to meet my publishing deadline.

When BTL: C hits the world I’ll get straight back to my series A Life of Choice, and get working with the next stage of Part 4.

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Rhythm

To maintain my working rhythm and achieve my ten aims for the year, I am intending to produce one blog post every month. If I happen to reach a publication date with one of my intended titles and it’s out of sync with my post, I’ll make an exception and write a brief ‘release’ post.

My fuel tank ... and a message.
My fuel tank … and a message.

What’s my issue with blog posts?

I don’t have an issue with the idea of the blog, but if I’ve learned anything over the last couple of years, apart from letting off steam, or getting my voice heard by a handful of followers – blogging is a time-consuming activity.

Blogging is an interactive pastime, and for me, in the grand scheme of things it doesn’t bring me an increased level of success with my priority activity – writing.

The Red Pen is mightier ...

My homepage for example boast of 937 followers – yeah, whatever. I’ve dug down into the bowels of my blog and found the true figure is 195, which I’d be happy to believe.

I don’t crave fame or celebrity, but I do have a deep-seated need for achievement. I’m confident I’ll feel fulfilled if I can maintain a steady course with my reading, writing, IASD admin duties and helping my fellow scribes whenever possible.

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Am I happy? Of course I am, however the tone may come across in parts of this post. I’m a writer and I have a list of ambitions to be fulfilled this year, and as I achieve each target, I’ll feel rewarded when I see a sale or a review.

As always, thank you for your time, and any comments.