Publishing 101: Who Should Read Your Book Before Publishing?

When writers finish their book, a common question I see is, “What’s next? Who should review it before it gets published?” It’s a great thing to consider. Some writers edit their book a few times then publish it on amazon. If you’re a trained editor, that should be fine, but it’s always a good idea to bring in fresh eyes to review your work. When you’ve read and edited your book so many times, it’s easy to miss small things because you’re too familiar with it. For example, no matter how many times I read The Purple Door District, I still missed the fact that one of my character’s names was spelled incorrectly.

Actually, five of us missed it, ha!

Now, I want to make this very clear from the beginning. These readers are using their personal time to help you. It’s important for the author to show them respect (and for the readers to also show respect to the author). As an author, don’t pressure readers to get the work done. As a reader, understand that the author has put their heart onto paper, so when you provide critique, make sure it’s constructive.

So who should you talk to?

Beta Readers: Beta readers read your book through the earlier stages. They give their initial impressions of the book, point out plot holes, inconsistencies, or anything major that they feel needs to be changed. This is a great opportunity to make a list of things for the beta readers to look for if you’re concerned about particular scenes, characters, or plot points. This feedback can help you turn your writing into a much stronger book and fix things that might otherwise seem broken. Take what they say into consideration, and perhaps ask if they would be willing to read a second draft.

Also keep in mind that you, as the author, don’t have to make all of the edits. These are opinions, after all, and you ultimately have control over your book. This applies to all the feedback you’re given.

Sensitivity Readers: Sensitivity readers are a subset of beta readers who review works to check for cultural inaccuracies, bias, representation issues, stereotypes, problematic language, etc. I personally use sensitivity readers because I write about characters outside of my scope. Example, I’m a white bi-sexual woman, but I also write about black heterosexual men, as well as Native American, Hispanic, Latino/a, and Indian characters. I want to make sure I’m representing everyone correctly without showing any bias or including accidental racist undertones. Now, there’s an argument going around that books shouldn’t need sensitivity readers, and if it’s fiction, why should it matter? In my opinion, correctly portraying people and cultures is very important, and I want to make sure my readers can see themselves in the characters and aren’t offended by my work. We already have enough racism going on in our country today, our books don’t need to add to it. I know I can’t please everyone, but I can at least make an attempt to appeal to the masses and not be ignorant to the needs of those outside of my scope. For more information about sensitivity readers, check out the link above.

Editors: This goes without saying, but you should have an editor look over your book. Again, no matter how many times we read our work (even if we’re editors ourselves), we’re going to miss things. We’ve built the entire world in our head. We might know what we mean in a sentence or paragraph, but an editor can clean it up to make it clearer for readers to understand. You can hire different types of editors too, whether they’re copy editors, line editors, or they kind of do it all. Expect to pay for an editor. They put a lot of work into their craft and should be compensated for it.

Proofreaders: A proofreader is one of the last people to look at the book and will skim it for any final spelling or grammatical errors. While editors can do this as well, it helps to have another pair of fresh eyes on your book even after the editing stage. I had two proofreaders who caught things my editor and I missed. And the proofreaders even found errors that one of the other proofreaders missed. My proofreaders review my book just before I click print, that way any egregious errors should be caught.

Except Carlos…your misspelled name will live on in infamy.

ARC Readers: Arc, or advanced reader copy, readers are the ones who first get your printed book in their hands. They may be tasked with leaving reviews on Amazon or providing quotes you can use when marketing your book. They may also catch any final errors that you missed, or problematic plot devices. At this point, everything should be pretty clean, but it does sometimes happen that an arc reader will point out a name the author forgot to remove, or perhaps a red herring that shouldn’t be in the book at all.

In extreme cases, ARC readers, or early critics, might point out a major objection to a book like what happened in Amelie Wen Zhao’s Blood Heir. The author pulled her novel from printing because of objections readers made about the depiction of slavery. Some critics denounced the novel, calling it “blatantly racist.” It’s possible having a sensitivity reader on the manuscript may have helped with this issue. In response, she said she intended to write the novel from her “immediate cultural perspective” and address indentured and human trafficking in industries across Asia instead. This situation started a twitter explosion on whether sensitivity readers are needed or not, and it still continues today. Be that as it may, it was the ARC readers who made the objections and caused Zhao to halt her book, which may have helped her save face in the end.

As a note, I think Zhao reacted with professional grace and respect. She took her reader’s objections in stride and sought to fix the issue rather than condemn the readers for their critiques.

These are just a few people who can review your book before it’s ready for publication. Make sure, too, that you’re giving your book to people who will provide honest feedback and won’t just say, “Omg, I love this. It’s amazing!” or “This is garbage. Throw it out.” Neither of these is helpful (though it is nice to receive the praise). And when you receive feedback, be gracious and understand that these people are just trying to help you. They aren’t your enemy. They aren’t trying to make you fail. They truly, and honestly, want to make your book the best it can possibly be. If you’re not able to handle critique, you may want to reconsider publishing so soon because, believe me, this world is filled with critics (both good and bad).

Another thing to keep in mind is hiring editors, sensitivity readers, etc., does not come cheap. Make sure you budget for it, or find other arrangements with the readers. Whether it’s swapping book edits for book edits, or giving free copies of your book to readers, make their time worth it. If you respect and appreciate them, they’ll respect and appreciate you.

What about you? Do you have particular readers you go to when you finish a book? What’s helped you the most? Let us know! Also, if you’re an editor, sensitivity reader, proofreader, beta reader, or ARC reader, feel free to post your services below!

 

2018 Wrap Up and 2019 Goals

I can’t believe that 2018 is finally over. It felt like the year that just would not die! I made resolutions last year, but most of them I don’t even  remember, except for wanting to start querying Dragon Steal, which I did manage to accomplish. For this post, I’d like to go over some of the awesome (and not-so-awesome) things that happened this year and cover my goals for 2019.

2018 in Review

  • Finished editing Dragon Steal and submitted it for publication.
    • I’ve received several rejection letters but recently got a full manuscript request. While the rejections have hurt, at least the book is out there!
  • I created my own website and started developing a branded persona on twitter, facebook, instagram, etc. I have over 1,000 followers both on twitter and on instagram.
    • Even better, I’ve met a ton of amazing authors and creators through these sites who I can’t wait to work with next year!
  • Wrote, edited, and published The Purple Door District.  I can’t believe I developed my own marketing and indiegogo campaigns, formatted the book, published it, and held a launch party all in the space of six months. The question is, can I do it for PDD2?
  • Had “Latte with a Shot of Poltergeist” and “Frozen Heart” published in anthologies.
  • Submitted more short stories and poetry than I ever have before. While I received a lot of rejections, I at least received a few publications.
  • Officially launched The Writers’ Rooms with my co-Director, Alexandra Penn. We also finished our Articles of Incorporation and got certified as a non-profit corporation.
  • Helped develop the concierge anthology through The Writers’ Rooms.
  • Returned to my college and taught a few classes about publishing and NaNoWriMo.
  • Wrote 50k words for The Purple Door District: Wolf Pit.
  • Lost about 45 lbs through exercise and healthy eating.
  • Attended my first book signing event with other authors and signed up for even more in 2019.
  • Hosted giveaways for my book and swag that was developed by local creators.
  • Started my patreon account to help raise money for my writing career.
  • Received honorable mention in Writers of the Future.
  • Truly started my profession as an author.

It’s been a really big year for me writing wise. I still can’t believe that six months ago I decided to publish The Purple Door District. It seems like ages since I made that decision. I’ve managed to publish a few pieces of work this year, including on wattpad and patreon.

Next year, I hope to do even more, but also find a way to take care of myself at the same time.

2019 Goals

  • Focus on my mental health and take better care of myself mentally and physically.
  • Find an agent and publisher for Dragon Steal.
  • Finish writing and publish The Purple Door District: Wolf Pit.
  • Work on Fates and Furies with my co-author, AE Kellar, and hopefully publish the first book, if not in 2019, then in early 2020.
  • Submit more short stories and poetry for publication.
  • Start working on The Purple Door District #3 and Dragon Steal #2
  • Return to working on Traitors of the Crown.
  • Lose more weight for health reasons and get healthier.
  • Attend multiple writing conventions to both sell my books and to meet other authors.
  • Start my path to becoming a full-time author.

These are pretty ambitious goals, but I think most of them are possible. I really do need to focus on my mental and physical health, though, because I managed to break myself a few times while working on PDD. If I can’t hold myself together, I won’t be able to accomplish any/all of this.

I’m really proud of what I did this year. It’s my biggest year as an author, and I can’t wait to see what 2019 holds. I’m also a little scared. What if next year doesn’t unfold as well? I guess that’s all part of growing up and making plans as a writer, though. Some years you’re going to make it big, and some years are going to be a lot slower. I hope 2019 is still a fantastic one.

What are your goals for 2019? Feel free to share them below! Also, let me know what topics you’d like me to cover this year!

Happy Writing!

Erin

Editing 101: Proofreading vs Editing vs Content Editing

I don’t know which is worse, writer’s block or editing. Yes, I said it, editing can be awful. Sometimes all you want to do is write, but instead you have to take that vicious red pen to your story and cut out the words you lovingly crafted.

Alright, so maybe I’m being a little dramatic, but I’ve spent the entire last week editing my manuscript, and it’s taught me a couple of things. First, let’s talk about the basics. What kinds of editing exist?

Proofreading: This is a cursory review of the text, checking for basic grammatical and punctuation errors.

Editing: Rewording lines, phrases, paragraphs, even pages! This is your chance to really clean up your document and make it pristine.

Content Editing: Content editing focuses exactly on that, the content. You take this step to find inconsistencies in plot, structure, character development, details in your world building, etc.

Think of it like cleaning a house. Content editing is picking up all of the junk on the tables, floors, and counters. You put the items where they need to be so you can get to a lesser mess. Editing is vacuuming and sweeping the floors, getting rid of the rest of the visible grime. Proofreading is dusting and polishing the furniture. It’s that last step before you feel like you have a clean house.

You have to take it in steps, otherwise you can get too overwhelmed. In the case of The Purple Door District, the last time I edited the book, I content edited. I checked for all of the major errors, plot holes, and inconsistencies that I had let slip through. This past week, I focused on general editing. I read every sentence and considered its structure, its flow, and its literary appeal. I ended up really enjoying that part, but it was exhausting as well. I felt like I was both creating and fixing at the same time. I’ve tried to do it all at once, and believe me, that’s even more draining.

Take it slow, and be kind to both yourself and your work. In all honesty, “editing” is never truly done. You’ll always want to change something, but there comes a point when you just have to let it go. That’s what professional editors are for.

Once my editor gets my book back to me, I’ll proofread it for any final errors that I might have missed along the way. Editing is quite the journey, but it’s well worth the destination. In the end, you’ll have a manuscript in your hands that you can be proud to call your own.

Happy writing/editing!

I Wrote a Book! Now What?

I’ve completed the rough drafts of many books in my years of writing. What typically happens is I put the finishing touches on the book, read through it once, then put it aside so I can work on the next book in the series. I’m now to the point that I actually need to prepare the book for an agent. So then I ask myself, now what? How do I go about fixing up the book when I know I have a ton of errors interspersed throughout the text?

Here are a few tips I’ve learned while updating my own book.

  • Breathe and Separate: Before you even start editing your story, take a minute to breathe. Separate yourself from the book for a few days, weeks, or even a month or two if that’s what you need. If you jump into it too quickly, the story will be too fresh in your head, and that means it’ll be harder for you to find mistakes. You want to read it fresh. And you also want to convince yourself not to get overwhelmed. This is not a fast process, so pace yourself.
  • Change the formatting: If you have your text double-spaced, single space it. If you have it single-spaced, double space it. You’d be surprised how different your book looks when you do this, and it can help you catch more errors than if you look at it the same way you always have.
  • Print it Out: As with changing the format, printing the book out allows you to look at the story in a different medium. This can also help you find errors as you go through it.
  • Separate the Chapters: If your book is in one document, then save all the chapters as separate documents. As you read through, you can mark off what chapter you’re on. I find that knowing I have to review 44 chapters is less daunting than having to read almost 400 pages.
  • Quick Read Through: Once you’ve had time to breathe, read through your book once without making any changes. If there are changes you want to make, write notes so you don’t distract yourself from reading through. This will help you focus more on plot errors.
  • Pick a Topic: When you decide to edit your book, after the initial read, only choose one topic to edit. Maybe you’re checking for continuity errors. Maybe you’re looking for plot problems, or grammatical changes. Whatever it is, edit one topic at a time because otherwise you might find it way too overwhelming.
  • Color Coding: Color code different types of errors to help keep your edits organized. Use “blue” for continuity problems and “green” to identify when characters show up. Post it notes also help with this if you have a printed copy.

These are just a few tips you can use to start off editing your first draft. As you go through, you’ll become more comfortable with the styles that work for you. If you have any additional suggestions, post them below!