Sometimes it feels like finding people to read your work is like locating the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Not only do you have to find someone willing to read your book, but then you need to harvest the insight and feedback they give you into productive edits.
Here are some of the different types of reader relationships you should be cultivating:
EDITOR – Often times a paid professional (or a super detail oriented and experienced writing peer) that can help you shape and polish your story. There are, in fact, numerous types of editors and types of edits they provide. While a Critique Partner or Beta will read your book and give you feedback, an editor’s main job is to help you polish your work and reflect your voice in the best possible way.
- Developmental Editors – Help shape your story arc and build the overall story by assisting with character and scene development
- Copy Editors – Copy editors identify grammar issues, punctuation errors, and make sure your work doesn’t scream “I have no idea what I’m doing!”
- Line Editors – (also called content or substantive editors) Look at your work line by line. They help with the third and fourth stages of your draft.
- Proofreaders – Proofreaders find formatting and grammatical errors in finished documents. They are sort of like super powered Beta Readers.
- Sensitivity Readers – I’m including this here as they are a specialized group of readers that help edit and check your work for content that could be offensive or misrepresent a group, gender, or culture.
There is a great article HERE that breaks down the different types of editors.
You can often times find editors through conferences, peer referral, writing forums, advertising in newsletters and association publications, and business sites like LinkedIn. Websites like FIVVER also have professionals that offer their services and many have reviews and samples of their work. Research your editor if you are hiring one. Make sure you understand their genre specialties, their success stories (who have they helped and how has that affected that writer’s success?) Also, ask for a sample of their work. Many editors will gladly review the first 5 pages, 500 words, or chapter for free to give you an example of what working with them would be like.
CRITIQUE PARTNERS – These are your peers and other writers that can advise you on craft, style, and execution while you are writing your work. Lots of writers build a long-term relationship with their CP (slang for Critique Partners.)
- They can be found online in forums that build the writing community (Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, etc.) Try the hashtag #CPMatch with #WritingCommunity, and include your genre.
- CPs often read double duty as Beta Readers
- There are web pages online that support finding a critique partner (www.critiquematch.com) or Maggie Stiefrater‘s Google Group “Critique Partner Matchup”
- CPs often swap work. If you are asking someone to read your work, you should expect to give as you receive.
- Many genre specific groups (like the SCWBI – Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, RWA – Romance Writers of America, or MWA – Mystery Writers of America) will have a forum or board for meeting critique partners.
- A great way to meet CPs is to take a class, meet peers at conferences, or connect with writers through a program like NaNoWriMo or a local writing cooperative.
HERE is a great article on “40 ways to find a Critique Partner.”
BETA READERS – Unlike peer readers that can offer craft and writing edits, Beta Readers read your book for fun. They come in at the end of the process and can offer final feedback and reviews for your story. For Indie authors, Betas can also act as ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) reviewers and can help boost pre-sales and marketing for your book.
- Like CPs, a lot of Betas can be found online. Try the hashtags #BetaReadersWanted or #BetaReadersNeeded
- Link up with other writers in your genre and swap Beta reading and reviewing to help each other out
- You can Tweet your logline and people may offer to read your book
- There are also Facebook groups like “KidLit411 Manuscript Swap” or search “Beta Readers” for a slew of options
- Hijack a local book club or ask friends and family that read in your genre. My daughter shares my MG stories with her peers at school. As with Critique Partners, it’s best to ask people who would commonly work with, or read, your sort of writing.
- Sign up for a digital book sharing site like Net Galley
Because Beta readers aren’t “professional readers” it is often good to have a clear way of obtaining feedback from them after they’ve read your work. Try including a quiz, questionnaire, or interview process into your schedule for Betas. HERE is an article with some good questions for gathering reader feedback.
There is also a great web service for quizzing and tracking Beta feedback – www.BetaBooks.com
KEEPING YOUR WORK SAFE
Not only is gathering information from your Betas easier with this sort of digital sharing forum, but it can increase your SAFETY WHILE SHARING YOUR WORK. I’m emphasizing this because PIRACY IS REAL. Got your attention, yet?
Finding editors, critique partners, and betas is a super important part of the writing process. However, it can also put your writing at risk of being copied. Your work is your intellectual property, and, just like you’d be cautious of handing over your phone or car keys, you need to be careful sharing your work. Here are a few ways to protect yourself:
- Use google docs to share your work. There is an advanced feature that limits/prevents editing, saving, and sharing your work
- Share with an eReader like BetaBooks. This program allows the author to track reader interest, seek feedback on their work, and see (to the page) how readers are moving through the story. PLUS, it doesn’t offer a copy paste function like a word document or .PDF
- Use a website like NetGalley. The platform gives readers a deadline to read your work and it also requests that they leave a review. BONUS – you get a review and a Beta response.
- For a fee you can update to Adobe DC which also has a number of ways to protect your work, but it will cost you about $14/month. You can subscribe on a month-by-month basis, saving up your work each time, but that might get frustrating.
- Bottom line – use common sense and know your readers. Build a relationship with them and get referrals from others in the writing community. If you are swapping with another author, or you see them every week in a class, they will be less likely to compromise your work because you’ll have a piece of their baby, too. My mind goes to medieval practices and swapping hostages while building relationships with allies…
- Sharing your work can be intimidating and worrisome, but it’s a big part of the polishing/crafting process and collaboration can really make your work better. Protect you and your word baby, but remember:
“We all need people who will give us feedback. That’s how we improve.” – Bill Gates
Up next in the Author’s Learning Workshop – SELF-EDITING – How to Make It Work and Why It’s Important. Once your editor(s) and readers share their suggested changes, edits, and feedback, how do you incorporate that into your work? You might also check out HOW TO EAT A COMPLIMENT SANDWICH which gives practical advice for accepting criticism.
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