On Beta Reading

So I got tagged in this post by the awesome Karma Chesnut (@KarmaMarieC):IMG_8986.jpg


I read Karma’s WIP (work in progress/manuscript) and absolutely loved it. Probably one of my favorite reads (so I’ll definitely be posting more information here when it gets published so you can check it out too).


So, what is BETA/Beta reading?

Beta reading usually consists of reading and giving feedback on a polished manuscript, either before the author has an agent or after (but before publishing). Authors usually ask friends and family as well as other writers to give feedback.


What’s the difference between a Beta reader and an ARC reader?

ARC stands for advanced reader copy. Before a book is published, but after the major edits, readers (especially reviewers and bloggers) read and recommend ARCs to promote pre-sales and sales. Most of the time there are changes made after Beta-reading, but not in an ARC (unless it is a typo, etc).


Why do it?

The more eyes you can get on your manuscript the better you can make it (and more likely you’ll catch plot holes or awkward phrasing etc.) This doesn’t mean you have to listen to everything every reader says, but the more information you have the easier it is to make an informed decision. For example if 1/14 of readers want something different you may consider it but maybe not as strongly as if 12/14 agree on something.


When should I look for someone to Beta read? After hiding my manuscript from all eyes until it’s perfect?

For my first novel, I hid it from the world until I was half way through and got stuck so I gave it to my mom for help, and then only let others read it once it was fully done. For my second, I’ve had more feedback throughout the process– friends who I shared chapters with to make sure I was going in the right direction, for motivation to write as they prodded me for what happened next, and encouragement as they told me what was working (and what wasn’t, but how to fix it).

I personally would recommend everyone have a trusted early reader (an alpha reader, shall we say) who reads as you write. You can ask them for feedback or just encouragement, whatever you need. It adds a level of accountability that can be crucial especially during the “middle manuscript sag” when motivation and hope for finishing are low. That being said, another way to get this is through critique groups.


What’s a critique group?

Usually composed of a group of writers who share parts of their work at a time (chapters, pages, etc) and give feedback to each other. This can occur online, in person, or a mix of the two.


Where can I find one?

Ask for writers wanting to make a group on Twitter (#writingcommunity). See if there’s a literary center near you (like the Loft in Minnesota). Many of these also have online forums where you can post. Go to conferences and talk with other writers. Make one if you have friends who are writers. If you’re in school, ask the English department or English teacher if they know of other writers who might be interested.


How do I know if it’s working well?

So my first two critique groups were sub-par and I thought that’s how all of them would be. In the first, I gave much more feedback than I received, was one of the only people to turn in my critiques on time, had very different view points than the other authors, and just seemed to be putting in way more than I was getting out of it.

That being said, make sure that you are getting out of it what you want and that you aren’t putting in an unequal amount. Make sure the people you are with have similar styles in that their feedback is helpful.

In my second group, we were all at different places in the writing process and wanted different things– some wanted to do writing exercises together, some wanted to share experiences, and some wanted feedback on materials. Basically it was hard to cover everything and made much of the time unhelpful for most people.

So make sure you’re with other writers at a similar stage in the writing process who want the same things out of the group.

Make sure there aren’t too many people because as great as it is to get more feedback, that means another set of pages you also have to critique.


Utilizing your critique group for more than just feedback.

If/when you go to publish, ask them to write reviews (on Amazon and Goodreads and a blog if they have them). They’re hard to come by and make a big difference in others buying the book.

Promote each other’s work on social media, blogs, etc.

Have them review query materials.

Ask them to write a review for the cover, especially if they are published or well known.


If you found this article helpful, share it on social media and follow my blog (on the menu on the right). You can follow me on Twitter at @mollyfennig .

A Teen Writer’s Guide to Social Media

On any writing website/help book/blog you’re likely to encounter the words “author platform.” Often it is presented as “to be a successful writer, focus on growing your author platform”. However, as you probably already know, doing so is about as straight forward as writing an actual book (which takes years, on average) or creating a five star restaurant (which happens rarely, on average). Some of this has to do with the fact that there are countless social media sites, and some of it to do with the fact that every single author is trying to grow their own platform.

Here’s my guide to tackling social media and your “platform” in a doable manner. 

1. Make your author website. 

The author website is great to have a place to host a blog (which is encouraged although not necessary. If you do blog, you probably only need to post one or two times a week). It’s also a great place to post information about you, your books, and other author-y  information (you can decide what this entails). Also, add links to your other social media sites (yes, you do need separate author accounts).

Setting up a website can be relatively complicated, but doesn’t have to be. Sites like WordPress offer free websites, although they do have the name WordPress in the title (like mollyfennig.wordpress.com) which is less professional. You can buy a web domain later if you decide to, also, without having to worry about making or buying site layouts/templates (making the web address mollyfennig.com without changing anything else, for example).

2. Twitter

I opened my Twitter account 3 months ago and already have about 800 followers (yay!). Initially, I just tweeted quotes (inspirational ones or those about writing) making sure to add a picture when there were enough characters left (22) and adding relevant hashtags (#amwriting, #author, #quote, #inspirationalquote, #writer, etc. you can look these up online or by looking at author accounts). 

Be sure to like/retweet other people’s content and reach out to other authors. Also, if you blog, share links to your blog posts on Twitter. 

One easy way to increase followers is to follow a bunch of people (pretty easy concept). Then, you can download an app to figure out who didn’t follow you back and unfollow them (be sure to wait some time, probably about a week.)

3. Instagram

I just got an Instagram recently (follow me @mollyfennig !) Initially, it was a strange concept to share pictures as an author who normally just deals with words. Here are some things authors can share, though. 

Pictures of books you’re reading, pictures of your book covers/where your speaking/other promotional materials, pictures of inspirational quotes (you can make these with, you guessed it, an app), pictures of things that inspire you, and basically anything else that pertains to you as an author. 

4. Facebook

Create a Facebook page (under the category artists, then choose author). Invite people to like your page, share blog posts, and post updates on upcoming books, etc). You can make an event for each book that comes out and invite people to it, instead of having to make a new page for each book. 

5. Other social media

I tried Pintrest, but found it hard to generate a following while taking a lot of effort, it would be a good one for you to try, but may not work out. 

Goodreads is great when you do go to publish your book or to rate other people’s books. 

Of course, there are countless others, but don’t feel like you have to have an account on every single site. It will be too much, I promise. 

6. A word of caution

It’s easy to get sucked into social media and lose writing time. You have to set aside a fair amount of time to get a return, but don’t try to do it all at once. Pick a site to start with, then slowly add more once you’ve mastered it. Don’t post too often, make sure to help other people out as well, and reference Google when needed. (For example, look up the best times to post and what days to post what kind of content.)
If you found this post helpful, share it on your (possibly new) social media accounts! 

What have you done to “grow your author platform”? Comment below.