I’ve never created anything great on my own. I’m not complaining or searching for sympathy, merely stating a fact. I can produce good. I’ll even go as far to say I’m capable of very good. But great… nope, I can’t achieve that on my lonesome. I need help. I need to involve other people, not just to utilise their skill-set (which is hopefully greater than mine), but to escape my own head.
When it comes to the editing process, this is never more apparent. After all, I’ve just spent month-after-month writing the first draft, creating new worlds and characters and situations, and losing myself in a make-believe land. Am I really going to have an unbiased view at this point?
Hell no, which is why we involve editors at this stage of the process, but not just a proofreader or someone who checks your spelling, rather an editor who tears your story apart. For my most recent novel, I Unlove You, I worked with Diane Hall. She gave me the critique I needed. She delved deeper into the book and helped me see what I couldn’t see for myself.
She provided fresh eyes and a new insight, and this helped us transform I Unlove You from good to very good. But we still couldn’t create great between the two of us. This required more people. New fresh eyes. New glorious insight. I was too close to the book. So was Diane. So was my better half, who had supported me through the first and second drafts.
By the time we published I Unlove You on December 1st 2015, I believe it was as great as it could possibly be at that moment in time. Maybe a future version of moi could improve upon it, but right there… right then… it was great. So, how did we get there? How did we move from good… to very good… to great… ?
The simple answer: YOU.
Avid readers like yourself who provided a real insight into the mind of a reader who only cares about reading a good book. I didn’t used to involve Beta Readers or Early Readers. I know plenty of writers who still don’t, and who cringe at the idea. I personally love it, and I couldn’t imagine publishing another book without involving folk like you first.
Oh yes, when people ask me why I involve beta readers and early readers, I reply:
I’m incapable of creating great on my own. I need other people. I need fresh eyes. I need to walk in the shoes of those who are going to read the book. With their help and guidance, they shed new light on a story I know so well. With them, we craft greatness.
I’d like to take you through the process of how I found, enticed, and organised this beta/early reader experience. But before we get to the how, let’s first focus on who we actually involved . . .
I’ve always searched for advice and help with my books and writing, but in the beginning I turned to fellow writers, writing forums, and communities surrounded by folk like me. They often gave me fantastic advice, but there was a gigantic problem I kept coming across.
You see, these people were too much like me. They offered advice from the perspective of a writer. They tried to place themselves in the writing process, which is fantastic when it comes to editing and tightening up your story, but not always helpful to figure out what makes the best story.
Whereas avid readers who love to read… these fine people bring a fresh insight to the table. I started to involve Beta Readers in this way for my second novel, Tick to the Tock, but I only scratched the surface. For I Unlove You I wished to take things to the next level and involve folk like you in a way you’ve never been involved before.
It happened to align perfectly with my focus on experience too, for it invited you further into the journey. It’s brought many benefits to myself and I Unlove You (and hopefully to you too), but we’ll focus on that soon. First, let’s take a peek at the two types of who involved:
THE BETA READERS
A Beta Reader’s job is to read an early version of the book. As soon as I began working with Diane, I started the Beta Reading Search (more on this below) in the hope of finding a handful of awesome people willing to read a not-quite-finished novel.
A lot of the time people use fellow writers and authors as Beta Readers, but I wished to avoid this because I had Diane who offered me this perspective. All I craved was the insight from a reader who knew nothing about the story other than the story in front of them. I desired a fresh set of eyes who only cared for a good tale.
- Did it make them laugh or cry?
- Were they left empty and uninterested during any stage of the book?
- Did they like or loathe the characters?
- Simply put… did this book light a fire within them? Were they excited to share it with their friends?
Because of this, we had to make sure we sent them a nearly finished version. By the time I send their copy, it had gone through three full drafts. I was happy with it. Diane was happy with it. I still had some questions and queries, but for the most part I was content with everything.
And so these marvellous Beta Readers read this not-quite-complete novel, and they shared their thoughts and feedback, and they highlighted spelling errors they came across, and if something didn’t quite sit right.
They shared the parts they loved and they shared the parts they didn’t.
They gave me an honest insight into their mind, and I asked further questions, and although I didn’t change much of the book, I changed some. I tightened here. I tightened there. They helped me transform I Unlove You into a better book, which allowed us to send it to the next group of amazing people…
THE EARLY READERS
Whilst the Beta Readers scoured over I Unlove You, we quietly built an army of early readers who were ready and raring to go. They wanted to read the book and they wanted to read it before it launched on December 1st. A lot of writers involve Beta Readers (although like I say, they often use fellow pen scratchers), but few utilise Early Readers like this.
I don’t know why they don’t either, because there are THREE HUGE BENEFITS in doing so:
- You involve your most valued readers in the journey, readying them for the big launch
- You gather a hoard of early reviews that appear on Amazon before the big day
- Best of all… you get one final round of input before you share the completed version with the whole world.
At this stage I knew I wouldn’t change much of the book. Between working with Diane, reading the book several times myself, and taking on board what those awesome Beta Reading peeps offered, we spotted and perfected 99% of what we needed to.
But there’s always that 1% that sneaks through the cracks…
- That easy to miss spelling mistake
- A misplaced comma
- A small inconsistency
- Maybe a sentence that isn’t quite right…
Early Readers offer you one final chance to make a few alterations before you send the book to the printers; before you upload the final version to Amazon; and before you email those to reviewers. Remember, this is about turning a good book into a great book, and these tweaks make all the difference.
And all the while we gathered reviews, helped spread the word, built an eager street team, and invited an amazing group of people deeper into the experience. This is why I yearned for a group of awesome Beta / Early Readers.
This is why it was so important to me. I hope you see this now. I hope you appreciate the value such an approach has. But this only shares half the tale, as it isn’t just why you do something, it’s how you do it too.
WOULD YOU LIKE TO KNOW HOW I DID ALL OF THIS?
If you’re a writer or curious reader, you may like to know HOW I did all of this. I’m happy to share the complete step-by-step process with you, but rather than add everything into this post, I created a separate PDF for you.
No need to sign up or add your email. Just click the button below and you’ll get instant access to it. Enjoy.
I once was blind but now I see. I used to think I could do it all by myself, but today I realise how crazy this is.
I love to converse with my fellow writers, but having them be part of the Beta Reading team… not always the best idea. What matters is making the story the best it can be for readers… readers like you… readers who want to love and enjoy and feel something towards the book.
Involving people and inviting them into the process achieves this, and not only does it help transform a good book into a great one, it improves this experience we’re on together – reader to writer… amigo to amigo. It places ownership on your hands and helps kick things off in style, because without this approach how could we possibly have garnered the amount of reviews we did after the first few days??
Between the willingness to reach out and invite people, amazing tools like Typeform and Contactually, and awesome folk like yourself, we worked together and made a difference. We improved this overall experience, and for me, it personifies what we’re trying to achieve with the Forever Free concept.
I’m so thankful for these incredible Beta & Early Readers, and everyone else who continues to be part of this journey. Oh, and if you’d like to see who was part of this Beta / Early Reader adventure, scroll to the bottom of the page…
And if you’d like to be an early reader in the future, let me know. I think we did a good job with I Unlove You, but I plan to take it to the next level during our next launch 🙂
HAVE YOU GRABBED YOUR FREE COPY OF I UNLOVE YOU YET?
If you enjoy Coming-of-Age Novels that feature real moments you yourself can relate to, and love stories with a twist that leave you reaching for a tissue, you may like to introduce yourself to Aus & B.
And don't forget to share to this post with all those you know. It's time to help spread the (un)Love
A BIG THANK YOU TO:
Teresa de Grosbi
Thank you, all. You’re all awesome!