So you’ve written your book; now what?
Let’s face it, on the whole most of us… we’re writers. YOU are writers. Not assessors, or developmental or copy editors, or beta readers (don’t get me started), or proofreaders, or layout artists/typesetters, or marketers. That’s just where I was, before I changed over from 25 years of writing in various media, to publishing. But unless you are planning on making publishing a career path instead of writing – (*cups ears*) what’s that you say? You just want to write? Well, okay then, you want to focus on creating fabulous books – and have other people do the wonders of producing your book. So, what next?
Terrified, you know that while you yourself may utterly love your book, there is a teeny possibility that others may not. You know that your masterpiece needs approval from someone else, maybe some suggestions, even. But who can you trust with this work of art?
Shyly, you ask someone you know well to cast their eyes over it. Perhaps your mother, or sister, or cousin Lily-Mae, or Jethro, the guy who flirts with you at work. DON’T DO IT! I know it’s the most natural inclination you have, but more dreams have been crushed, flowers trampled, by people close to writers, than I care to count. Unless of course your mother is an editor or publisher, or professor, or… No wait, still don’t do it. They will either feel the need to praise you highly, tell you they adore it and how clever you are, or they’ll stoke their envy with cruelty. There may be a small percentage of people who will give you honest, straight-forward opinions, and indeed be well qualified to do so (my mother, for instance, found my ms by accident, read it, and as a highly intelligent well-read woman told me I was an idiot if I didn’t send it out to publishers. Do as I say, not as I do, please) but on the whole, family and friends are dangerous.
And so your thoughts turn to–
Eeek! You have heard of these creatures as you researched writing on the web; at first you don’t understand what they are, but you join a few FB groups and discover they are just what you (think you) need. NO! Not at this stage! You are still looking for an assessor, someone to read the ms and opine. But isn’t that the same thing? Well, it depends on what you ask them to do. But beware the list members who pop up on groups and offer to beta read. Who are they? Are they truly experienced beta readers, or are they other authors willing to exchange the favour? What do you know about them? It’s so easy to rush in gratefully and take them up on their offer, and end up in a quagmire of logrollers.
A GOOD beta reader will be experienced in genres, structures within those genres (it’s pointless having a tough male thriller writer read your cozy mystery or romance), the way a book should flow from pitch point to pitch point, whether your hook is strong enough, whether your middle is strong enough, whether your end is strong enough. Can they recognise your own unique “voice” and not try to tell you to change it? Can they pick up on plot holes, or incongruities? Will they spot where your timeline fails? Will they give you honest, unbiased feedback notes?
Someone like that will expect to be paid. If you want beta readers who don’t have the experience or desire to be paid for the hours and hours they will spend on your book, then you are on your own, my friend. Those mystical creatures do exist, but only just this side of the unicorn line.
But First: Assessments!
The alternative – and indeed, predecessor – to a beta reader would be an assessor. This is someone a step before beta readers (yes, I know this isn’t in chronological order, but I know how writers think, lol!), who will read through the book and make notes on what they notice. They don’t make corrections to the ms, but their notes may include comments on weaknesses, strengths, and certainly they should give their experienced opinion on marketability, even if it means telling you the bad news that this may be a nice book to give your family and friends but that it is unlikely to bring in much dividends. This is essential, because it advises you on whether to spend money on getting the book properly produced (self-published), or just do your own thing and shove it up to Amazon in hopes friends will buy it. However, an assessor may well say they love the book (and why), and encourage you to try getting it traditionally published, or self-published. So choose an assessor with a good background in publishing, expect to pay for the assessment, and you should get a reliable opinion. If you don’t like that one, by all means go for a second one.
NEXT TIME we will talk about the next steps into editing. Thanks for dropping by! 🙂