Twelve-year-old Kassidy is the daughter of beloved Quiethouse beta reader and indie author Marie Krepps (also writing as Ashley Uzzell). Their family had a rough October, but the last straw was finding out Kassidy has non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Obviously, it was heartbreaking news. Check out her blog post about the situation here: https://authorauzzell.wordpress.com/
The family has had a hard time this year, so I'm asking for your help. There are big ways and little ways, and they all count.
As beta readers, we come across a plethora of manuscripts, all at different stages. There are the manuscripts that make us want to jump for joy and tell the world about the great story we just read. Other times (most of the time), we are reading manuscripts that are not in their final stages, and it can sometimes be hard to focus on the story and not get mired down in the aspects that are not polished. When this happens, it is important to remember a few key things, in order to avoid giving an overly negative critique.
The most important thing to remember when you are beta reading for an author is that they are handing you their word baby. They have nurtured and grown this baby for longer than the average human gestation. At some point, they have gotten distracted by baby’s big blue eyes, and have, very naturally, gone nose blind to its diaper. If you are lucky, the baby is in clean clothing, and all you have to do is coo and suggest a quick diaper change. Most likely though, the baby has had a major blowout, and the author doesn’t realize that their baby is covered in poop. It is your job, therefore, to coo at the baby, acknowledging the miracle of the ten fingers and ten perfect toes, while handing the author a wet wipe. Coo and wipe, coo and wipe. The symbolism isn’t perfect, but you get the drift. Every author is going to have parts of their book that shine and parts that need a little help. It is really important to mention both of these things equally. Is the writer good with dialogue? Do they put emotions into words so that you can sympathize with the main character? Is there a pet in the manuscript that is written in such a loving way that you want to run to the shelter and buy a fur baby of your own? In your mind, these things may seem secondary to the glaring grammatical errors or characters who are not progressing or changing, but what the author does well is just as important to mention as what they haven’t done well. Usually, where a manuscript shines is where the author feels the most confident. Acknowledging the good allows the author to feel a kinship with the beta reader, causing the author to be a little more ok with criticism that is less than flattering. Acknowledge the cuteness of the baby, subtly point to the diaper.
The second most important thing to remember when beta reading is that there is a book for every reader and a reader for every book. I recently beta read a book that offended me so much I had to talk myself out of quitting no less than four times. I had to stand up, walk away from the computer screen, pour a glass of wine, gulp, and then embark on the next chapter. Rinse and repeat. I gave this book five stars. Why? Because the writing was impeccable, the characters were thoroughly developed, and the plot was exceptionally well thought out. I had to look past my personal bias and ask myself if the structure of this manuscript was good. It was. Not everyone is going to be as offended as I was at certain topics. My experience is not your experience. What I find horrendously offensive, you may find funny, and vice versa. Though I am not this book’s ideal reader/audience, I have no doubt that someone out there will fall in love with the story, and as I was beta reading, I had to keep that potential reader in mind.
The third most important thing to remember is that this work belongs to the author. It is theirs to do with what they wish. Giving the author a suggestion as opposed to an order gives the author the feeling of owning their work. The last thing we, as beta readers, want to do is rip a manuscript apart and then rewrite it ourselves. This goes against the very nature of beta reading. We are not copy editing the manuscript. Suggestions keep the feedback light and less official, more in line with a beta read. As an example, if an author has used the sentence: “I seen that car go down the road,” instead of telling the author to replace the word seen with saw, I would simply highlight the word seen and comment seen vs. saw. Or, I would write, “Consider rephrasing using the word saw instead of seen.” Utilizing suggestions instead of orders significantly reduces the negativity that the author will potentially sense coming from the beta reader.
Lastly, try to remember that we are choosing to beta read. This is not a chore or something we do to be able to put food on the table. It is something we do because we love reading. This is supposed to be fun. You are helping usher word babies into the literary world! This is a huge honor. I remember when I was in elementary school, the principal called my mom into his office to talk about my behavior in class. I was (unsuccessfully) hiding novels behind my textbooks and reading during lectures. I couldn’t stand to be away from whatever I was reading for a whole school day, or even between recess and lunch! I assume many beta readers have a similar passion for reading, and this is in turn how we should approach beta reading. With passion! Instead of reading a chapter and then taking laborious notes, I use the comment function in Word to remark on what I am reading, as I am reading it. The author is literally privy to my train of thought as I am reading their manuscript. Where did I lose concentration? Where did I laugh out loud? This kind of informal commentary is essentially what the authors are looking to us to provide. They are looking to improve the experience of the potential reader by having someone experience their story in advance. By helping make the experience of reading these manuscripts better than they were originally, we are helping get more books out there, and maybe, just maybe, helping to get a book into the hands of someone who will fall in love with it.
Kristina G. is a Quiethouse beta reader. Check out authors' reviews of her beta reading.
Bio: Kristina's passion for reading started at a young age. During the day, she works as an administrative assistant both at a hospital lab and at her husband’s financial planning firm. She enjoys up-cycling books into decorative items, including votives, plant holders, and paper flowers. When she is not reading, she is most likely playing video games with her husband. Her favorite authors are Kate Morton, Sarah Jio and Kristin Hannah.
Check out Kristina's blog: Get on Your Ass and Read.
Copyright © 2016 Quiethouse Editing
Beta readers are popping up everywhere. Goodreads groups, Facebook groups, writing groups, etc. You may wonder why authors even go through a company like Quiethouse to find beta readers when there are so many readers offering their services for free.
1. You get what you pay for.
A good beta reader is going to read (and maybe even reread) your book, then formulate really in-depth feedback, which takes many hours, to help you make your book better. If you want someone to do good work for you, pay them. There is this pervasive thought in our society that people should not be paid for creative services (or services that cater to that market) like writing, editing, design, etc. That's entitlement, ladies and gentlemen. Some think they are entitled to have someone work for them for free or very, very cheap. If someone's offering you free services... Again, you get what you pay for.
Sometimes authors tell me an individual beta reader they used only gave them feedback that resembles "I liked it" or "It needs work." Quiethouse beta readers fill out an in-depth questionnaire and include additional notes as they read, either in your manuscript or on the questionnaire. They also provide you with a 0-5 star rating (to help you see how readers might rate the book when it's published).
2. Great customer service
I hear so many stories about beta readers who just disappeared after being sent a book--the authors never heard from them again. An individual beta reader may not be able to finish the beta read for you because of an emergency or... perhaps they just don't like the book or they just don't have time to read it. There could be any number of reasons keeping them from finishing the beta read for you.
At Quiethouse, if your reader is unable to finish, I will find you a new reader or refund your money. You will never hear radio silence on my end because you're dealing with me and not the reader individually. All communication goes through me, and I make sure a reader returns their feedback by the deadline (barring any extenuating circumstances, which is rare). After I return a beta reader's feedback to the author, I ask the author to let me know how the reader did so I can make sure we're doing good work. If something about our service doesn't please you, I want to know about it so I can remedy the problem.
3. Confidentiality and Security
What if the unthinkable happens? What if you send your manuscript, which you've put your heart and soul into, to a "beta reader" who is actually someone pirating books? Yes, it happens. And it's scary. It is honestly my worst (business) fear.
At Quiethouse, I have vetted all our readers. I've made sure they are real people, not just someone using a fake name so they can steal books. Each reader has signed a Confidentiality Agreement that gives you (and me) legal standing should something like that take place. Each reader has also been tested by reading and providing feedback on a book before they join our group. I make sure each reader is able to provide thorough, insightful feedback and will be able to help authors, not just perform a cursory read of the book and provide subpar feedback.
And, no, not all individual beta readers provide subpar feedback. There are great readers out there; the trouble is finding them.
If you'd like to contact us for more information about beta reading, please contact us using the form below.
You can meet our readers and read reviews that authors have written for them here: http://www.quiethouseediting.com/meetthereaders
If you want to apply to be a beta reader, contact me through the form below.
Copyright © 2016 Quiethouse Editing
I want to shine the spotlight on one of Quiethouse's beta readers. Kristina G. has been beta reading for Quiethouse for about seven months now and has received nothing but glowing reviews from the authors she reads for. Kristina is definitely one of our shining stars.
After a beta reader finishes their review and I email it to the author, I always ask the author to rate and review the beta reader. I want to make sure authors are getting what they've paid for and that this service remains helpful to authors. Gregory Austin, author of Philosophical Nonsense & Gunplay, sent a fantastic review after I returned Kristina's beta feedback to him, and I'd like to share it. There is nothing more rewarding to my little editor's heart (as far as work goes) than waking up in the morning to see great feedback from authors, whether it be regarding editing or beta reading. Here's Gregory's feedback:
Kristina was a fantastic beta reader. Not only was it clear that she took the task seriously, there were also many facets of her review that showed she had a vested interest in making the novel I submitted to your service, the best novel it is capable of being. Being a regular participant in local and online critique groups, I entered this process with an intermediate idea of how a proper beta should be, at least in my mind. Kristina far exceeded my expectations.
You can see some of her other reviews here: https://www.quiethouseediting.com/kristinas-reviews.html. If you'd liked to schedule beta readers, please contact us.
Thank you, Kristina. You are a gem. So glad you're on our team.
Gregory Austin can be found by following these links:
Or you can follow him on these Twitter accounts:
@BuffaloGregNY and @Elmwoodwriters
Copyright © 2016 Quiethouse Editing
Do you know when to use pour and pore? They are often confused. Pore is more widely used to describe those crevices in our faces that get all clogged and gross. However, that is not its only proper usage.
If you want to write about a police officer who is studying a crime scene intently, does he pore or pour over it?
Let’s go to the trusty Merriam-Webster to see what it says.
Pour is defined as
1 : to cause (something) to flow in a steady stream from or into a container or place
2: to fill a cup or glass with a drink for someone
3 : to flow or move continuously in a steady stream
However, pore is defined as
1 : to gaze intently
2 : to read or study attentively —usually used with over
3 : to reflect or meditate steadily
That makes it pretty clear! One would pour milk over cereal and then pore over a textbook.
Copyright © 2016 Quiethouse Editing
Something witty should go here, but I haven't had enough coffee.