Okay, I’ve written my magnum opus. I’ve elicited friends, family and beta-readers to read it, and I’m waiting on pins and needles for the feedback. I’m sitting with fingers and toes crossed, holding my breath, checking e-mail every five seconds, hoping against hope that the readers will like it. Then I get the first response: “I liked it. It’s good.”
Helpful? Yeah, no. Of course I would love to have my first readers ooh and ahh over the book, but this very non-specific comment is not constructive. Nice as it is, it tells me nothing.
The purpose of beta-readers is not to stroke my writer’s ego. That job belongs to my mother. The purpose of beta-readers is to find all the shortcomings in my writing before I push the publish button. They need to take that puppy out for a rigorous shake-down cruise and find every bug, every glitch, every typo, misplaced comma, and inconsistent tense. It’s painful to get feedback with a laundry list of problems, but would I rather see that list now, in a private e-mail before publication, or see it pasted up in a lambasting Amazon review for all the world to read? Continue reading “Open Letter to Beta-Readers”
Periodically a new blog post or article surfaces that complains bitterly about the proliferation of indie authors, the inundation of the unwashed that is swamping Amazon and muddying the waters for the traditionally-published. This almost always boils down to two major points: (1) just ANYbody can self-publish (which obviously is very true but sounds suspiciously like sour grapes to me) and (2) indie books sometimes (maybe more than sometimes) need more editing than they get. Very often these posts bleat about the fact that if authors wait and work to be picked up by a traditional house, they will have the benefit of thoughtful, detailed, professional editing and will, therefore, produce better books.
I beg to differ.
My first book was published in 1984 by a New York house. The book was complete when they optioned it and they never suggested so much as a comma to me. The fact that they accepted the manuscript verbatim and had zero editorial suggestions seemed like a silent nod of approval, and on good days I could believe that if I wanted. On bad days, I might just believe they deemed the book “good enough” and were not interested in spending time polishing it. When I got a letter from them saying I needed to add 70 pages to get to the proper page count, there was no hint of what the content should be. Story line, plot points or character development all seemed to be of no concern whatsoever. I duly added the pages, resubmitted them, and the book went to publication without any other changes. Even my few typos went in exactly as my fingers mangled them. Continue reading “The Editing Myth”
I see you out there, your fingers aching with that sweet, sweet pain of finishing a novel. You have a sense that someone should look at it before you publish. The neighbor’s babysitter, perhaps, because she has a degree in English? Okay, it’s in English muffins, but that’s close enough, right? Or maybe someone said you should have a beta reader. What’s that, some kind of telepathic fighting fish? Um…no. Continue reading “The Basics of Beta Readers”