Finished your first draft? Had a couple of raving reviews from friends and family? There’s still one more phase to go through before getting ready to send your manuscript off to an editor. Getting feedback from beta readers can save you a lot of time (and money) further down the line and is not a stage to be skipped! Here at Rowanvale Books, we’ve put together some of our top tips to help you get started.
What are Beta Readers?
You may have heard the term ‘beta’ used in the tech industry to describe ‘first draft’ versions of new devices or apps, which normally require one or more rounds of beta testing by assumed typical users before they are officially released. When applied to publishing, the term ‘beta readers’ refers to a group of people who will read and critique your work in its early stages, helping to point out errors you may have missed in your initial self-edit. Beta readers can also be the first people to provide reviews of your book; these will prove crucial in generating sales when you begin to market!
As much as you may trust your closest friends to give you honest reviews, it’s important to remember that it’ll be difficult for them to not view your work with a bias. As scary as it is to let your book be read by strangers, ultimately this is the goal when you decide to publish! Remember that beta readers actively want to help you; they’re not doing this for the sake of leaving a scathing review. It’s a great way to ease into the idea of having your book read by a new audience.
Where to Find Beta Readers?
The task of looking for beta readers can seem understandably daunting at first. You’re not ready to start selling your book yet, so how on earth are you meant to find people to read it? Don’t worry! There’s a surprisingly wide range of ways you can find a group of readers suited to you and your needs.
If you already have a mailing list or social media channels, these are a great place to start. These people already have a connection to you and an interest in your work—they’ll likely want to read your novel, and help you out. You can trust that their feedback will be coming from readers who are genuinely interested in your genre and therefore has a good chance of representing the views of your target audience.
Writing communities are another great option. Here, you can swap manuscripts with other authors, so it essentially works as a trade. This would of course mean you taking to time to read and review other people’s work; however, you would receive feedback from someone who understands your craft and potentially has previous experience in editing and publishing.
Another option if you’re self-publishing with Rowanvale Books is the beta reader service we offer, in which we’ll match your manuscript with up to five regular readers of your genre from our select pool of beta readers. You can choose less than five if you wish, as we always make sure each of our services are tailored exactly to the individual author’s needs.
What Should You Ask From Your Beta Readers?
Beta readers should not be considered a replacement for an editor, nor should they be the first people to read your book. They should not be expected to fully fact-check your work or provide overly nuanced critiques of your style as a writer. Similarly, beta readers shouldn’t be made to feel like reading your book is homework or that there’s a mountain of pressure being put on them to review it within days; after all, they’re usually doing this simply as a favour to you.
Be sure to establish a friendly yet professional relationship with your group of beta readers. Naturally you’ll have a given timeframe in which you need your book to be read and reviewed by, but hold off from sending constant reminders or pushing for feedback. If you need to hear back within three weeks, for example, ask your readers to get in touch with you after two, leaving a little room for potential delays. Your readers will also appreciate it if you’re able to provide the manuscript in their preferred format (i.e. PDF, hard copy, Word Doc) so be sure to ask them early on in order to make the process run as smoothly as possible.
A list of guiding questions can be helpful for both you and your beta readers. It’ll make it easier for you to gather specific feedback on things you’re worried about, and it’ll help your readers to know what to look for while reading. Ten to fifteen questions is a good place to start. Here’s a few to get you started, but be sure to tailor yours to your book!
Does the order of scenes/chapters make sense?
Do any parts of the story feel rushed?
Do any particular moments feel ‘out-of-character’?
Are there any characters that you feel have been overused/are too stereotypical in this genre?
What was your favourite part and why?
Which setting was your least favourite and why?
The Rowanvale Books beta reader service includes detailed feedback forms that ask the readers questions about plot, characters, setting, dialogue, writing style and their overall impression. This can be extremely valuable in saving you some of the time and stress involved in finding beta readers and knowing how to work with them, if you don’t have previous experience.
If your beta readers are also reviewing your book for you, it is important to ensure that you follow the guidelines set by Amazon regarding incentivising. While you may be offering your book to them for free in return for an honest review, the beta reader receiving a copy of your next book cannot be dependent on them having reviewed your last, for example. At Rowanvale Books, this is something we pay great attention to and provide particular support on, since we understand how confusing these terms and conditions can be for new authors!
How Do You Implement Feedback From Beta Readers?
Opinions and feedback from anyone who reads your book will always be subjective, and this is extremely important to remember when you start hearing back from your beta readers. Make sure it’s all carefully considered before you jump in and change everything about your book. For example, start out by looking for comments which have been made more than once. This is something the editorial team at Rowanvale Books have great amounts of experience in and where it can be really beneficial to receive some extra support, especially if it’s your first time publishing.
You may also find it helpful to go through multiple rounds of beta reading. You could start by sending your book to two or three people, make edits based on their feedback, and then send it on to another group of different readers. While this process takes a little longer, it will help give you some reassurance that you’re implementing the feedback correctly, and having more readers means you’ll receive a more diverse range of feedback!
'Implementing these tips into your search for beta readers should start you off on the right track! The beta reader service at Rowanvale Books rolls all of these into one flexible package so that we can make sure each author has the best possible start to their publishing journey.
‘The Beta Reader service is brilliant! It gave me a real sense of how readers are likely to react to book themes, plot and characters and provided plenty of direction on how I could improve the quality of my manuscript. I liked the questions put to the Beta readers - the detailed responses were most helpful in giving me material I could take further to improve the quality of my manuscript.’
– Chris Archer, Author
We’ve all heard of, and potentially even set for ourselves, the classic goal of reading 52 books in year, aka book a week. This might seem impossible for some or barely scratch the surface of a year’s reading for others. The team at Rowanvale Books are here to remind you that both of those options are completely okay! It’s 2022 – everyone has too much going on to worry about arbitrary metrics like how many books they read. That being said, we of course still believe in the power of books and what reading can do for you. Be it a quick escape from the world around us, a chance to learn about something new, or a social activity, time spent reading is always time well spent.
Here at Rowanvale, we understand how overwhelming it can be to set yourself a goal for how many books you want to read in a year. The scramble towards the end to find as short a book as possible to up your count may leave you reading books you’re not actually that interested in. Reading in your free time should never feel like homework, which is why we’ve put together a list of alternative goals and challenges for the new year to keep you excited and, most importantly, to keep you reading! Here’s our list for 2022:
TIME SPENT READING
Despite what we’ve said above, some people really enjoy metrics and numeric goals and can find them easier to achieve since they seem more tangible. An alternative to a certain number of books, and a possibly more approachable goal, is to aim to spend a certain amount of time reading. This could be an hour a day, ten hours a week or whatever else fits into your schedule! Maybe you listen to music while you walk the dogs in the morning or have the radio on while you’re cooking dinner; try replacing these with audiobooks to meet your goals! Or cut out an episode a day of your favourite Netflix show from your routine and replace it with an hour spent reading your book; that way the series will last longer, and you’ll get an extra hour of reading in! Incorporating some new daily habits into your life is a great, low pressure way to meet your reading goals in the new year.
JOIN A BOOK CLUB/BOOK SWAPS
Depending on where you are in the world, this may not be possible to do in person right now, but by this point I don’t think there are many people left who wouldn’t call themselves a Zoom aficionado! Oprah has been running an online book club since 1996 (!), so if it was possible then, it can only have gotten better by now. A quick internet search will bring up a whole host of opportunities, but you could also set one up with your friends or family by creating your own Facebook group and each taking it turns to pick the book of the week or month. Not only will this shake up your reading throughout the year, but it’ll also help you get to know more about the people you love by gaining an insight into the types of things they enjoy reading.
DIVERSIFY YOUR READING
I’m sure our Rowanvale team aren’t the only ones who sometimes feel like they’re stuck in a certain genre or type of book. There’s nothing wrong with knowing what you like, but sometimes it’s fun to try something new! You never know, you might find your new favourite book in a corner of the bookstore you would never have dreamed of approaching last year. Make a list of some genres you’ve not read before and try reading a book from one of them each month, or make every third book you read this year something you wouldn’t have read last year. Here’s a few genre ideas to get you started:
READ IN DIFFERENT LOCATIONS
Perhaps you’re already reading a wide variety of books but still feeling uninspired looking at you 2022 to-be-read list. Mixing up your reading locations is a great way to refresh your love for books! If you’re usually curled up on the sofa with a cuppa, try taking yourself (or a loved one) on a little coffee shop date (Covid restrictions pending). If the sun’s shining wherever you are, head to a local park and get yourself some fresh air and get lost in nature while you get lost in your book! For full immersion in what you’re reading, you could try reading in locations similar to those in the book! Head down to the beach if you’re reading a holiday romance, or maybe a museum café if you’re diving into the world of historical fiction!
KEEP A READING JOURNAL
Keeping a reading journal or setting up a Goodreads account is a brilliant way of keeping track of your reading goals this year, whichever one you choose. You’ll be able to reflect back at the end of year and find yourself in a better position to talk to others about what you’ve read, as well as pick out what you want to read over the next year. You can write full reviews (check out our blog post about why authors appreciate being left reviews, as it also includes why they’re important), a quick star rating or just a brief synopsis of the story to help jog your memory when you look back at all that you’ve read come December 31st.
We really hope these ideas will help to spark some inspiration over the next year and help you avoid and overcome any reading slumps! At the end of the day, Rowanvale Books firmly believe that reading is for everyone and there’s no right or wrong way to do it, whatever books you choose to read, and wherever you choose to read.
If you’ve ever had trouble creating a character that’s ‘three-dimensional’, you are not alone. It’s a common issue among writers, and it generally takes some real thought and analysis before characters feel realistic.
As a starting point, it may be worth taking personality traits from a few people you know and analysing them objectively, before combining them how you see fit to create a fictional character. For ‘fleshing out’ characters further, you may want to consider the following…
" It matters not what someone is born, but what they grow to be" -- JK Rowling – Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Narrative voice sets the tone of the novel and gives it a ‘personality’, aside from the characters and plot. It is an important element of writing to get right, and there are several things to consider when creating the right voice…
Point of view is perhaps the most vital aspect of narrative voice, and is probably one of the first decisions you’ll have to make in this respect. Do you want a reliable narrator or an unreliable one? Third person or first? Omniscient or limited?
Of course, there are things that will help you choose a point of view.
For example, if you want to show your main character’s direct thoughts, then a first-person narrator might be your best bet. Just bear in mind that you’ll be limited to writing about what that character thinks and witnesses.
If you want to show events that occur without the main character present, then it may be worth considering using third-person narration to show the viewpoints of different characters. An omniscient viewpoint is the most liberating option, and doesn’t limit what the narrative voice can see or think. However, it’s worth noting that this style of narration can make it difficult to let the reader into the thoughts of the characters, and changing point-of-view characters too frequently can become jarring and confusing to the reader.
A risky and less common option is a second-person narrator. This is great for allowing the reader to witness events in the narrative as themselves, but also makes it hard for them to become lost in the narrative, as they are constantly reminded that they exist as an outside witness.
You should play around and see where the plot takes you to figure out which point of view strikes you as the best to use.
Sensibility is perhaps a more overlooked aspect of narrative voice. To capture a character’s sensibility, a writer must put themselves entirely into the character’s shoes in order to convey a point of view that may differ greatly from their own.
Try thinking about how a youthful person may think and act… Instead of being confident, as an older person may be, they may be much more insecure. Without having experienced enough of the world to know better, they may obsess over trivial problems instead of the bigger picture. Rather than being settled into a job and family, they may be wracked with doubts and struggling to find their place in the world.
Of course, when writing about a character in a totally different situation to your own, research is key. If you’re writing about a character with a prosthetic leg, for example, and don’t have one yourself, then it’s definitely worth talking to someone who has a prosthetic leg and is willing to share their thoughts and experiences about their situation.
If you’re writing about a character who has just witnessed their pet being put down, try talking to somebody who has been in that situation and is willing to share their experiences. Channel these genuine thoughts and emotions into your writing, and you’ll find that you can create a much more relatable and realistic character voice.
Which point of view do you prefer to write in? Why? Do you ever struggle to get into the heads of your characters? It would be interesting to hear your thoughts in the comments!
Finished writing a book that you just can’t wait to see on the shelves (virtual or otherwise)? You’ve got an undoubtedly exciting journey ahead of you; however, you might also have hundreds of questions about it and little idea of where to look for the answers. How do you publish a book? Is self-publishing worth it? What about vanity publishing? At Rowanvale Books, we’re here to help guide you through these questions so you make the right decisions for your book, and this article is a great place to start!
What is Vanity Publishing?
Vanity publishing is the process by which a publishing house is paid by an author to publish and release their book. It differs from self-publishing a book in that the publishing house will take responsibility for much of the creative side of the process. A vanity press will usually publish any book that a writer pays it to.
Pros and Cons of Vanity Publishing
One perceived advantage of vanity publishing is that these companies will have the knowledge and experience to provide a quick and easy publishing process. While this may sometimes be the case, often they are simply aiming to churn out as many books as possible while charging the highest price they can get away with; hardly the journey you had in mind for you book when you first put pen to paper.
If the only thing you care about is seeing a finished copy of your book, and you have enough funds behind you, then vanity publishing can achieve just that. And it often really is just that. Their marketing tends to assume a ‘one size fits all’ strategy, and despite having some connections with bigger-name retailers, selling with them will come at an extra cost. Particularly if your book fits into a more niche genre, you’ll likely find it difficult to use a vanity publishing company as a way to start earning from your work.
What is Self-Publishing?
Self-publishing a book means that you, the author, have full creative control over the process and are ultimately responsible for making the decisions. Self-publishing companies, such as Rowanvale Books, are often hired by authors to help with this process and provide the skills and know-how to create and market the finished product you have in mind.
Pros and Cons of Self-Publishing
Self-publishing costs may initially put you off of the process and make it easily confused with vanity publishing. The difference lies in the fact that vanity publishers are aiming at those who are so desperate to publish their book that they can charge high fees while also taking the rights to the work. This is not the case when you self-publish a book. At Rowanvale Books, we publish books by authors who we truly believe in, and offer flexible options so you’re only paying for the service that you need. If you’re already a marketing whiz, for example, then why should you be expected to pay someone else to do that for you?
A lack of industry experience can also be pretty terrifying when putting your work out there, especially if it’s your first time! Choosing the right self-publishing company to help you is crucial in making sure you feel supported the whole way. Because of the fact that you hold the creative control and rights over the book, the team at Rowanvale ensures that you’re constantly learning throughout the process rather than just taking over for you. We offer services from editing and pre-publishing to marketing and aftercare, meaning that once you’ve published your first book with us, you’ll be fully equipped to do it all again in the future!
The biggest advantage that comes with self-publishing has been hinted at throughout this article: the fact that your work remains exactly that. Your work. Authors are 100% in control of the rights to their book. With Rowanvale Books you are free, at any point, to take you book and publish in another way or with other people. If you have a clear vision of your finished book, we will allow you to achieve that. If you don’t, we have a team of passionate and talented individuals who will guide you.
Virginia Woolf, Mark Twain and E.L. James all started their journeys by self-publishing. If they can do it, so can you!
Is self-publishing worth it? Can you actually use it as a way to get your books out there or even make some money? If self-publishing hasn’t always been your first choice, it may seem a little disheartening at first, but we’ve put together this list of self-publishing success stories to lift your spirits and show the kind of results you can achieve! There’s no one right way to publish a book, and self-publishing allows you to create a finished product that is tailored exactly to your vision. For us at Rowanvale Books, that’s a success in and of itself!
Weir wrote about a topic he was well informed on and truly passionate about. By publishing gradually, he received invaluable feedback, allowing him to publish the best possible version when the time came. The process may have been long, but in this case, no one can doubt that it was worth it in the end.
We hope this post has given you some inspiration to kick-start your self-publishing career, now that you know how much you can achieve! For more information on the services we offer at Rowanvale Books or if you have any questions about any part of the process, drop an email to ínfo@rowanvalebooks.com !
Valentine’s Day is upon us, and what better way is there to celebrate than getting stuck into a good romance novel?
Fancy trying your hand at writing a romance? Check out the following top tips on writing a romance novel, grab your laptop – and maybe a glass of vino – and see what you can create!
Whether it’s a day of love and romance, the day before the chocolate is reduced, or an over-commercialised made-up holiday, Valentine’s Day has a different meaning for everyone. Despite this, it may surprise you to learn that its history is even more contested than the many ways in which it’s celebrated today.
Who was St Valentine?
Catholicism actually recognises a number of saints named some variation of Valentine, Valentinus or Valentina. One of them was known to have helped Christians escape torture and punishment in Roman prisons and allegedly sent a love letter to a young girl who he had been tutoring – could this have been the first ever Valentine’s card?
Another popular suggestion for the origin of Valentine’s Day is a Roman priest (surprisingly) named Valentine who continued to perform marriages for young lovers even after they’d been outlawed. Believing that single men would make for better soldiers, marriages had been banned by the emperor.
While there are, of course, some dissimilarities, both of these origin stories revolve around prison, torture and fighting. This may appear a little alarming when you consider the meaning of Valentine’s Day today. Yet both origin stories continue to highlight Valentine (whoever he may be and whatever year he may reside in) as a compassionate and romantic figure.
Mass-produced Cards and Commercialisation
Valentine’s Day gained popularity again around the 17th century with readymade cards beginning to become available. With the expression of emotions often being discouraged at this time, these cards and the day itself provided a new opportunity for people to share their feelings with one another.
By the 1910s, Hallmark had begun mass-producing and distributing official Valentine’s Day cards, starting to mark the day as the holiday it’s now known as all over the world.
Valentine’s Day Today
In 2021, Valentine’s Day no longer has to be seen as a day only for those in relationships. After the year we’ve all had, there’s never been a better time to find some time for a bit of extra self-love and self-care. Why not take buy yourself a nice box of chocolates or take up reading a new book with a cup of tea? Remember that self-care can take different forms for different people. Whether you’re spending the day looking after yourself, treating your friends and family, or the traditional way with your partner, love on Valentine’s Day is something that shouldn’t be reserved solely for couples. Rather, it should be experienced by all.
Sometimes it’s easy to feel like you’ve been swept off your feet just by the words of a character in a book. Other times, you might wish that the out-of-this-world romantic dates in books that have enchanted you for years would happen in real life. The Rowanvale Books team are, as you might expect, all avid and passionate readers, dreaming of Valentine’s Days similar to those we’ve read about in our favourite romance novels. To help you (and us!) out in achieving this, we’ve put together this list of bookish date ideas for you and your loved ones, be that romantic partners, best friends or housemates!
We hope you’ll be able to take some inspiration from these ideas when planning your Valentine’s Day this year and in years to come, or whenever you fancy adding a bookish spin to your dating life all the way through the year!
If you are a first-time writer, chances are you are determined to write a successful novel. Success for many authors is about influencing others through the gift of writing, though it could mean something entirely different for you. However you define it, facing challenges is guaranteed, recognising your talent is important, and pushing yourself in the right direction to reach your desired end goal is essential.
If you want to get your book ready for success, it is time to implement effective ideas and habits. Use these tips below to guide you to the success you deserve.
Want to know more about beta readers? See our other article here.
If you’d like help with any of this, our Marketing Advisors here at Rowanvale Books can assist you with creating marketing strategies, promoting your book to the right people and transforming yourself into a brand. View our Marketing Advisor services here.