Finding a good and trustworthy beta reader is just a part of getting a feedback. Knowing what questions to ask your beta readers would ensure you have a chance to know how to make your manuscript better.
Asking questions also open up a dialog between the beta reader and yourself and that could bring better understanding and more dimensions to your book.
Also, discuss about this Q&A feedback prior to them before sending your manuscript to avoid discrepancies.
Questions to ask beta readers
Here are some questions to ask beta readers to receive meaningful and constructive feedback.
These questions are based on the questionnaires I have received during the course of my beta reader journey and they are indicative only.
How interesting was the first chapter? Were you hooked or mildly interested?
At what point did you think “ah now the story begins”?
What were your expectation levels about the book based on the first few chapters?
Were you able to understand the setting (where and when) of the plot?
How predictable was the plot? Were you able to see where and how the story was moving along?
Was there a suspense/tension regarding the conflict?
Did you notice any foreshadowing for the third act?
Was there something in the plot that kept your attention from the main plot?
Did the climax work for you? Was it believable?
Were you confused about the story line or the time lines in the plot at any point?
Were the protagonists likeable and believable? What can be done to make them more likable?
Which character did you relate to the most?
Did you ever get confused in terms of who is who in the characters or their names?
Were there any characters that needed a better arc/development?
Who are your most and least favorite characters?
Which character did you want to see more of? Which side character are you curious about, after finishing the book?
What do you think of the relationship between the main characters?
What do you think of the relationship between the main character and the bad guy(s)?
Is there a character you wish didn’t exist?
Did the dialogue sound natural and keep up with the general pace of the book? Were there any conversations that looked forced and artificial?
At any point of the book, did you feel the storyline lag and you had to skip over? Did any part make you re-read for it to make sense?
Did you find yourself skimming pages? At which part did you put your book down/take a break?
Does the writing style match the genre? If not, how so?
Were able to “see” the action sequence in terms of ‘who did what’?
Did you notice any obvious, repeating spelling, grammatical, punctuation or capitalization errors?
Credibility & Sensitivity
Were there any apparent discrepancies or inconsistencies in time lines, places, character details, etc?
Was there something culturally incorrect or offensive to any particular section of readers? (question to be asked to the beta reader if they were from that marginal section)
Did any part of the book confuse/annoy/frustrate you? Which parts and why?
Did this book remind of you any other books you read? In what way?
Has the book been tagged under the correct genre? If not, why and what genre could be a better fit?
If you could add/delete one thing in the book/plot/characters, what would that be?
Will the topic be interesting and useful, if you had no prior interest/knowledge about it?
Was the topic well researched and have enough information?
At any point, did the book stopped following a narrative pattern and overwhelm with an information dump? If yes, where?
Did the book get boring at any point? If so, which part(s)?
Did the book have any redundant/repetitive pointers?
Were you able to feel the enthusiasm towards the topic from the author’s writing?
Did the book provide helpful next steps in terms of action plans etc?
Some tips before you send the questions
Use the list as a guideline and choose only questions that are relevant to your book and that will help your next draft
Keep the questions simple and do not ask them to quote examples for each pointers.
Do not overwhelm them with a huge questionnaire. Keep them few and it is better to give them the questions after they finish reading the book.
While it is a good practice to send a questionnaire to your beta reader, ensure that you need one. If you are still not sure what to ask, it is better to leave it to the beta reader to send a detailed report in their own template and style.
DO NOT FEEL PRESSURIZED TO SENDING QUESTIONS, for the sake of sending it. You are helping no one here.
It has been a hot minute since I had my last guest post by an indie author, right? But don’t worry, I am not going to make you wait any longer, for we have Sue Gilad writing about “Paid to Proofread”, which happens to be her book’s name as well. Let us get reading shall we?
Say hello to Sue!
Balancing a career as a producer, a mother, and a professional proofreader, Sue Gilad is a living example that you can have full-time income without having a full-time job. Gilad began freelance proofreading to subsidize her acting career, and has proofread over 1,200 books.
Gilad’s proofreading endeavors evolved into copyediting and content editing, eventually becoming a full-service editing company. Her client roster of book publishers includes Random House, Simon & Schuster, John Wiley & Sons, St. Martin’s Press, Oxford University Press, Workman Publishing, and Kensington Publishing, among others.
Do you feel as though the stress of a nine-to-five work ethic takes too much time out of your day? The time that you would like to use for reading books or discovering new pieces of literature based on your favorite genres? Or perhaps you are now realizing that you want a career where you can work from wherever, yet still have the ability to make a six-figure income?
Well my friend, if you said yes to any of these questions, then it looks like you are on the right path to becoming a paid proofreader. And guess what? We are here to be your three-step guide.
I’m going to share all the information you need to start proofreading professionally so that you can get paid to read all day long. So let’s get started.
1: HOW to do the job
Just like me, you may be thinking, “But where do I even learn how to become a paid proofreader Where do I begin?”. The simple answer to this is to just START.
Sure, you can spend money on classes and read endless “how-to” books, but you won’t get the practice you need until you just do it. As my favorite teacher once said, “the best way to learn is to do.”
Let’s be real here. Not everyone gets the best proofreading jobs right off the bat. Your first few proofreading gigs may not be as prestigious or lucrative as you’d like, but remember that it’s EXPECTED and ALRIGHT to be in this starting level.
Believe it or not, these small gigs are super important because they are there to add experience and worth to your resume to then get those big paying/incredibly interesting proofreading gigs.
2: WHO can get you the job
Reaching out to friends and family is the place to begin in any experience-building adventure. To put this in simple terms, it’s all about networking. This is the most productive and successful form of spreading your name in order to land opportunities that’ll inch you closer to getting that dream proofreading gig.
Who knows, maybe that aunt that you haven’t spoken to since she drank a little too much wine at the family get-together is a friend of someone who works at your favorite publishing house! Maybe that friend can land you your first big proofreading gig.
It’s also super important to focus on lending a hand to people that work within fields that require any form of writing. This act exercises your skills and adds to the strong portfolio you are trying to build.
Reaching out to friends in the business, law, and/or creative industry is a great starting point when offering your services. Even the simplest task of looking over a business card can take you a long way.
3: WHERE to get the jobs
Reaching out to friends and strangers isn’t the only way to network. Put yourself on blast by using social networking apps. Post Instagram stories that focus on telling your followers that you are now pursuing a career in proofreading.
You can screenshot and share that post so that your proofreading services get spread around. Write up a nifty Facebook status or Tweet on Twitter that highlights the proofreading services you are willing to provide.
Even a goofy TikTok that showcases your proofreading skills can go a long way!
Profile building on job-networking sites is also a good free advertisement. LinkedIn, Indeed, Glassdoor, Handshake, you name it! Apply, apply, apply.
Send a warm email to the company in order to inform them of your interest in proofreading for them. Make sure you are aware of current events, such as having COVID-19 etiquette during the current pandemic. Make sure you are both friendly and professional.
I had some fun reaching out to potential proofreading companies: I liked to add at the end of my missives: “P.S.: Forgot to mention, I never make mistakes.”
Don’t be afraid to cold call/email companies even if they aren’t hiring. Don’t hear back? Email or call again. This is a standard business convention.
So there you have it, three easy steps to get you on the right proofreading professional track. Always remember that the internet is your oyster. Building experiences means building referrals which results in more proofreading gigs.
Before you know it, you’ll be getting paid to sit on a beach and proofread a piece from your favorite genre.
I wish you all the best in your journey to discovering the gifted proofreader within yourself starting with these three steps.
Thank you, Sue!
And I am back to thank her for taking time off her busy schedule to write us a guest post. You can follow and contact her through these links.
If you have something to add to Sue’s story, drop a comment here or send her a word of thanks on the social media. Both of us would love that.
One of the major concerns for indie authors when hiring a beta reader is about the safety of their manuscript. Can beta readers steal my work? Will they publish my manuscript as theirs? Will they rip my beloved characters off me? These questions must plague your mind, and for right reasons.
As someone who is producing digital content on multiple channels every single day, I understand your concerns. I worry on similar lines every night about my posts and graphics.
I get it.
How can you just hand over your manuscript that you have spent weeks and months on to some random stranger off the internet?
As someone who attempted fiction and poetry writing many moons ago and struggled at it, I have a great respect towards you all.
To come up with a plot and an outline is hard. But to sit down and pour the words on a paper (or screen?) is just mind blowing. You don’t deserve getting your hard work stolen/misused by anyone.
So if you are worried if the beta readers whom you entrust your manuscript with, can steal your work, I am here to put your concerns to rest.
The answer is no!
Professional beta readers do not steal your work because their job is dependent on their integrity and trustworthiness.
Things to do to avoid your work getting stolen
That being said, one can never be too cautious right? So here are some things you can do put your fear of getting your work stolen by your beta reader
1) Get to know them
Getting to know your beta reader would be a great way to start a relationship with them.
Go through the testimonials of their previous clients.
Have a conversation via mail or through call. Meet them over a coffee, if that is something you are both comfortable with.
2) Get someone who is not an author
Another way to minimize the risk of your work stolen by the beta reader is to avoid sharing your manuscript with a writer who is writing in the similar genre as you, or just avoid peer authors altogether.
I know this sounds a little too extreme but one can never be too careful when it comes to the internet right?
Many professional beta readers are willing to sign a contract and a Non Disclosure Agreement before they even receive their advance and your manuscript. I sign up these NDA, too
The contract binds them legally from discussing or sharing your manuscript, plot or anything from your work with anyone else or using your plot, character or words for any other purpose.
It explicitly states that the manuscript is for their eyes only.
4) Get a professional beta reader
Many a times, authors share their manuscript with other authors and the members of writing community for a feedback in exchange for feedback on of theirs.
Well, the system works.
But is it the most safe and effective method? That is arguable.
On the other hand, a professional beta reader is someone who has been doing this for a while and they have a track record. This automatically improves their chances of not being professional aka they don’t have to steal your art/product.
Amazon has become almost synonymous with self-publishing. And if you are planning to or have already self-published on Amazon, I am sure you are always on the look out for more tips to reach the best seller list. Don’t you?
Let us hear from an insider from the business, shall we?
Say hello to Lucia!
Lucia Tang is a writer with Reedsy, a marketplace that connects self-publishing authors with the world’s best editors, designers, and marketers.
Lucia covers various publishing-related topics on the Reedsy blog. In her spare time, she enjoys drinking cold brew and planning her historical fantasy novel.
Shall we get on with it?
What’s the indie author’s answer to a spot at the head of the New York Times Best Seller list? A correspondingly lofty perch on Amazon’s Best Sellers list, of course. If you opt to self-publish, you won’t be looking to the Gray Lady but the online retail giant for proof that your book has made it.
Luckily, self-publishing on Amazon is easy and fast — and that’s exactly why everyone seems to be doing it, from savvy genre geniuses to silly secessionists and DIY coffin-builders. The platform’s accessibility means both boundless oppo rtunity and bitter competition.
You might assume that the quality of your book, with its riveting plotline and tightly edited prose, will speak for itself. Not so — but there are few tricks you can use to help it on its way to the top. Without further ado, here are four tips every indie author should know when they self-publish through Amazon.
Tip #1. Think about your categories before you publish
Like every indie author, you know that writing your book is just the first step to seeing it on readers’ shelves (or in their Kindles). As your word count ticks upward and your plot winds down, you might already be envisioning (with either relish or dread) the marketing phase of things.
As you write, think about your anticipated audience: what genre’s readers are you targeting, and how will they relate to your book? How is the story you’re telling similar to the ones they already love — and how does it stand apart from them all?
Thinking about this broadly is a good starting place. But because you’ll be launching your book on Amazon, you’ll have to look beyond, to a platform-specific consideration: Amazon categories.
On Amazon’s Kindle Store, books are divided into a number of categories, from those as broad as “Romance” and to those as specific as “Multicultural & Inspirational Romance.” Some are overpopulated, leading to cutthroat competition. Others get almost no shoppers — meaning it’s exceedingly difficult to get any actual sales volume, even for a “Best Seller” within the category.
To strike a happy medium, your book should aim for categories where demand is relatively high but the competition is relatively manageable.
It’s important to start thinking about these potential categories before you publish. Your book will naturally evolve over the course of the drafting process, and you might find that a plum category that was once a stretch is now a natural fit.
Tip #2. Make sure your cover isn’t too unique
Once you’ve written your book, it’s time to make sure it looks as beautiful as it reads. That means nailing the packaging. But as you craft (or commission) the perfect cover, there’s one counterintuitive tip you absolutely have to follow: make sure your cover isn’t too unique.
I know that sounds weird. Given how competitive Amazon is, shouldn’t you do everything in your power to stand out from the crowd? Well, you do want your cover to draw attention. But there are certain visual conventions you should follow.
Books draw upon an intricate visual code in their cover designs, even if they don’t belong to a highly pictorial genre like the early reader. For picture books and philosophical novels alike, there’s an established repertoire of typefaces, layouts, and other visual elements that makes each book’s genre apparent at a glance.
As a reader, you’ve probably used these conventions to inform your own book-buying choices. If you’re in the mood for, say, a beach-read romance, you’ll keep your eyes peeled for a whimsical, curlicued font. If you’re looking for military sci-fi, on the other hand, you’ll be primed to click on bold, sans-serif titles against cool-toned backgrounds suggestive of outer space.
Now that you’re an author, you’ll want to tap into these same assumptions to sell your book. So take a look at the top performers in the categories you chose for your book earlier. Pay attention to what their covers have in common, and think about how you can use them in your cover.
Tip #3. Write your book description with a three-part structure
When your book is polished inside and out, it’s time to head over to Amazon and set it live. f course, that isn’t a simple matter of mashing a big “Publish” button. You also have to generate all the content readers will see on your product page. That’s right: it’s time to write a snappy book description.
To succeed, your book description has to be two slightly contradictory things at once: a sales pitch for your book and a preview of your writing skills. This can be a challenge — after all, good ad copy and good prose don’t always look very much alike. But there’s a way to nail the sale without betraying your stylistic integrity as a writer: follow a three-part formula at the structural level, while using all the literary artistry at your disposal at the sentence level.
Here’s how to approach each section:
This section appears above the “read more” that pops up when a shopper loads your product page. You want it to grab their attention enough to click that “read more” — instead of hitting the back button. Choose a short and sweet tagline that distills your sales pitch. Has it already gotten rave reviews from a blogger you hooked up with an ARC? Is it perfect for fans of a buzzy series or hit TV show — but with much better gender politics and less shoehorned romance?
Here’s the part where you tell your readers what your book is actually about — without giving away too much, of course! This is a good place to introduce your protagonist. What makes them interesting? What kind of problems will they confront over the course of the book, and what’s at stake for them?
Your book description is, ultimately, a call to action. You don’t want your readers to merely luxuriate in your prose and move on — you want them to buy the book. Explain why they should pick it up.
At the end of the day, your book description should still sound like you, albeit at your punchiest. You don’t reader to feel disoriented and wonder whether you engaged a ghostwriter once they actually start reading your book.
Tip #4. Use HTML to make your product page pop
Over the course of self-publishing your book on Amazon, you had to grapple with a number of big-picture considerations, from the importance of visual convention to the dilemmas posed by commercialism in art. I’m delighted to end on a much lighter note, with a tip that’s far less philosophically fraught.
Now that you’ve got a punchy, three-part description that wraps your unique literary style in a charmingly commercial package, you’ll want to optimize how it looks on your product page. To really make your description pop, mix it up with some HTML. You’ll be able to add visual interest — important for your headline especially — with the following HTML styles:
<b>Use this for bold text<b>
<i>Use this for italicized text</i>
<u>Use this for underlined text</u>
<q>Use this for block quotes</q>
<ol>Use this to create a numbered list
<li>Each element of the list will start with this tag
<ul>Use this to create a bulleted list— just like this one!
<li>Use this, again, for each element in the list>
With a book description full of vim, verve, and visual interest, you’re ready to start reeling in sales. Now, off to write your next book!
Thank you, Lucia!
And I am back to thank her for taking time off her busy schedule to write us a guest post. You can follow and contact her through these links.
I know it has been a while since we had an author speaking to us about the craft of writing and we have Beatrice who will talk to us about a topic that is very relevant today – writing diverse characters and poverty as a diversity factor.
I will let Beatrice talk now!
Say hello to Beatrice!
Beatrice De Soprontu began writing at the age of four, when she scribbled on the walls with a crayon. Now an adult, she mostly scribbles on her home computer surrounded by her noisy children and their less noisy father.
Born and raised in New York City, (which includes: Queens, Bronx, Brooklyn, maybe even Staten Island – a.k.a. the real New York and not the tourist trap that is Manhattan), she enthusiastically travels the world on a budget whenever she gets the chance.
You can find her book Vices/Virtues on Amazon or B&N
Let’s get on with it shall we?
One of the greatest tenants of fiction writing is that a strong character needs to overcome major adversity. In modern literature these hurdles can stem from identity markers such as race and sexual orientation, or they can be of a more fantastic nature such as aliens or monsters. Oddly however, being impoverished is rarely depicted as a problem.
Roughly a third of the world live in poverty and that’s not just in the “third-world”. In the arguably wealthy United States, roughly 40 million people are impoverished. That’s a lot of poor people. All of them differ in their backgrounds, beliefs and lifestyles, yet they face a common foe: grinding day-to-day poverty. Their stories are important and should spur us as writers to represent them in our tales.
Hence, for authors who wish to incorporate the struggles of being destitute into their fictional works here are 5 easy suggestions.
Separate poverty from race
In many fictional works race and/or ethnicity are linked to poverty, especially “urban” poverty. It’s understandable given that disproportionate numbers of minorities are poor. However, the problem is that this merging of class and race easily leads to stereotypes.
When poor characters live in rural areas, they become hillbillies, when they reside in urban areas we get a scene from “Boyz in the Hood”. Please just don’t.
Separate poverty from crime
Newsflash: lots of rich and even middle-class folks commit crimes. While poorer areas might be affected by higher crime rates, illegal activities don’t have to define the characters’ lives.
Remember the very admirable Evans family from “Good Times”? The episode titled the “Debutante Ball” is all about how the older son J.J. tries to date a young woman whose family feels his is not good enough for her. Their opinion isn’t based on anything he’s done, but solely on the fact that he lives in the “ghetto”.
Voila! A plot that tackles urban poverty minus the gangbangers!
Poverty is relative
A person might not even realize how poor they are. Curious but true, if everyone around you lives a life just like yours, you probably won’t know life could be different. Especially when you are young, it’s easy to imagine those wealthy people you read about or see on television are fictional. (I’m a grown woman, yet I still find it hard to wrap my head around the flying airplane suites of “Crazy Rich Asians”.)
Likewise, you might have quite a number of conveniences (clean water, free schools, tv, cell phones, microwavable pizza, really fancy sneakers, etc.) and still consider yourself to be quite poor, leading to the next point…
Poverty can damage a person psychologically
The impact of poverty in a character’s life doesn’t have to be confined to the tangible here and now. Psychologists have written extensively on how prolonged impoverishment results in long lasting detrimental effects.
Increased stress and internalized shame are just some of the possible legacies. It’s juicy stuff for an author, real psychological foes that need to be vanquished. Why not mine the possibility?
Characters are more than identity tags
We are all more than our identity markers. Never trap a character in a label. Your poor character is more than that, he or she also has feelings about religion, sexuality, and ethnicity. This person may be irked by the incorrect positioning of toilet paper. (What’s best rolling over or under?)
Write to all of it. Don’t feel you have to explain every decision they make. Fictional characters, like all people, are mysterious creatures and that complexity is part of their beauty.
Make your characters diverse. Make them interesting. Make them struggle. It’s easier than you think. Just rob them. Take away all their cash. You’ll find that when resources are scarce, your characters become richer.
Thank you, Beatrice
And I am back to thank her for taking time off her busy schedule to write us a guest post. You can follow and contact her through these links.
Writing a book is just a part of your job as an indie author. Marketing your indie books is a huge task that begins after you finish your manuscript and get it published. As an indie writer, it is entirely up to you to get the word out there and get everyone to hear about how awesome it is.
Spreading word through the social media about your book is just breaking the surface. Ask any author and they will tell you it needs more than a couple of tweets and likes.
It is upon us to reach out to the book bloggers and readers community through every open avenue and guest blogging opportunities are just an extra tool to do that.
What is guest blogging?
I love writing on my blog and when some other blogger offers me a chance to do that on their blog, it is just more than an opportunity to write that I receive. It means the blogger trusts me enough to let me take over their personal space, which is a huge thing for me.
I am always looking for book sites to guest post, if you are a book blogger looking for a guest blogger, do reach out to me! I recently wrote on Dani’s Perspective of a Writer on Bookstagram and how it affected my reading habits.
I know how busy all of you are – writing plots, rewriting plots, editing your manuscript, thinking of miserable ways to kill my favorite characters, seeking out publishers, emptying the wine bottle and ordering Chinese takeout – yes yes, important things!
But I am just trying to make my case on why you should add guest posts on that list of to do things. Here we go!
Putting your name out there!
There is it. I don’t even have to sugar coat this, do I? Every author, indie or otherwise, is looking for new avenues to put their name and their book’s in front of new audience everyday, and guest post in your favorite book blogger’s site or any other book site would do that easily.
I mean a book blogger will definitely share a similar but new audience as you (AKA bookworms AKA your readers) and what better way to put yourself on a blast than to address them via their favorite blogger?
Reviews are not all that you need
Of course book reviews are critical to your sales and marketing. But they are not all, are they?
But you get to control where and when you are gonna write a guest article and you could schedule it to suit your promotional plans. It is even a win-win for you and the book blogger in that way.
Choose what you talk about
That brings us to my next point – you can decide on what you are writing about.
Initially the book blogger discusses with you on what sorta content they expect from you, but other than they usually do not interfere in your writing process. Depending on the topic you choose, you can be as informal and friendly as you want.
Many authors I know choose to talk about their books and their characters and some even discuss about their writing craft. It depends entirely on you to write whatever you want to talk about.
Linking your guest posts to your website and your articles will increase the number of page visits to your site and thus improved online presence. Of course, higher page hits means more revenue, if you are into monetization.
Pitch in your guest post ideas!
That brings me to the end of the post, almost. As I mentioned earlier, Elgee Writes is currently open for accepting articles from authors, artists and anyone who is related to the self or independent publishing world. If that is you and you are interested to write a guest post on related topics, drop me a message here.
Do you do guest articles? What are you favorite sites that accept guest posts from bloggers? If you have any author friends that are looking for sites to contribute, do share this post with them. And as always, let us talk.