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! 

Pacing –  

Does the order of scenes/chapters make sense? 

Do any parts of the story feel rushed? 

Characters –  

Do any particular moments feel ‘out-of-character’? 

Are there any characters that you feel have been overused/are too stereotypical in this genre? 

Likes/dislikes –  

What was your favourite part and why? 

Which setting was your least favourite and why? 


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 you carefully consider the feedback 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.’ 

– Cris Archer, Author


While you’re here, why not check out a few more of our blog posts here.  Alternatively, if you’re interested in the services we offer, our plethora of packages can be found here and our Frequently Asked Questions can be found here. Can’t find an answer? Not to worry! Feel free to contact us at or call us on 029 2128 0200 where we are more than happy to answer any other questions.

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!


While you’re here, why not check out a few more of our blog posts here.  Alternatively, if you’re interested in the services we offer, our plethora of packages can be found here and our Frequently Asked Questions can be found here. Can’t find an answer? Not to worry! Feel free to contact us at or call us on 029 2128 0200 where we are more than happy to answer any other questions.

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:

This ?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. 

Want to try something different?

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. 




This 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.  

Try this ...

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!


While you’re here, why not check out a few more of our blog posts here.  Alternatively, if you’re interested in the services we offer, our plethora of packages can be found here and our Frequently Asked Questions can be found here. Can’t find an answer? Not to worry! Feel free to contact us at or call us on 029 2128 0200 where we are more than happy to answer any other questions.

With the advent of the school Christmas holidays and a potential period of isolation and quarantine this winter, looking for ways to entertain your little ones might seem trickier than normal. Here at Rowanvale Books, we’ve put together our list of top Christmas story books to make sure you’ve always got something on hand to keep your kids (and yourself!) occupied. With a mix of classics, Rowanvale’s own and more topical books, there’s something in this list for everyone! 


  1. Santa Goes on Strike, Jem Vanston 

  2. How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Dr Seuss 

  3. Sockz at Christmas, Erica Willmott 

  4. Denzil the Hard-Nosed Reindeer, Leighton J. Rees 

  5. The North Pole Lockdown, Danielle Corrigan  




Santa Goes on Strike, Jem Vanston 

Tired of people’s selfishness and greed at Christmastime, a depressed Santa decides to go on strike, leaving the reindeer to work things out for themselves. With a message relevant for any time of year, Santa Goes on Strike aims to raise awareness of depression and the importance of family during tough times. Praised for his poetic writing, Jem Vanston has written a funny and heart-warming story, enjoyable for adults and children alike. 

Purchase here: 

How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Dr Seuss  

74 years after its original publication, we’re doubtful that this Christmas classic needs any introduction. A story truly suitable for all ages, this is a perfect book to combine with a cosy movie night on one of our long winter evenings.  

Sockz at Christmas, Erica Willmott 

A series about travelling socks—including trips to New York and ParisSockz came about when Erica gave her uncle thirty pairs of socks for his birthday, only to find that he had no matching pairs left within two months! In this instalment, Sockz makes his way up to the North Pole, where he meets a worried Santa, unsure if he’ll be able to deliver enough presents on Christmas Eve. Will Sockz be able to save the day? 

Purchase here: 

Denzil the Hard-Nosed Reindeer, Leighton J. Rees 

You’ve surely heard of Rudolf and co., but has anyone ever told you about Denzil? Santa’s rudest, laziest and most stubborn reindeer has been his best kept secret… until now. This funny, light-hearted tale will bring a smile to everyone’s faces this Christmas, with the story of a reindeer which has never before been told. 

Purchase here: 

The North Pole Lockdown, Danielle Corrigan  

Danielle Corrigan has written a story perfect for any true believers in the magic of Father Christmas who are worried about how the presents will be delivered after the lockdowns taking place this year. Santa and his elves are determined not to let the events of the past year ruin Christmas in this tale of a community finding a way to come together, even if they have to keep two metres apart. 


While you’re here, why not check out a few more of our blog posts here.  Alternatively, if you’re interested in the services we offer, our plethora of packages can be found here and our Frequently Asked Questions can be found here. Can’t find an answer? Not to worry! Feel free to contact us at or call us on 029 2128 0200 where we are more than happy to answer any other questions.

Congratulations! You’ve finished your final draft and are ready to put your book into the hands of readers, and now you’re working out where to start with the publishing process. The first decision you’ll have to make is whether you want to pitch your book to traditional publishing houses or take the self-publishing route. Luckily for you, we’ve put together this guide to self-publishing to help you work out which is the best option for you!  





  1. Creative Control
  2. Higher Royalties
  3. Hand-Picked Team
  4. No Deadlines
  5. No Rejection
  6. Kudos  


  1. Upfront Costs
  2. Finding a Team  
  3. Less Support 
  4. Book Marketing  


#1 Complete Creative Control & Maintaining Your Rights  

While traditional publishing houses will undoubtedly want a say in the final edit of your book, the design of the cover and the marketing strategies, publishing a book yourself will allow you total control over every decision. You can choose which aspects to seek advice on and whether or not you follow said advice. You won’t have to give up the rights to your book, or any future work. You’ll also have better opportunities for niche publishing, as most traditional publishers tend to stick with the more popular and established genres. 

#2 Higher Royalty Rates  

Traditional publishing routes can leave authors taking home as little as 10% of the royalties from their work. This is scarcely the case with self-publishing, especially if you opt to sell your books yourself and not through an online retailer. Publishing with Rowanvale Books and selling via our online bookstore will guarantee you a 65% share in the royalties earned from your books! 

#3 Hand-picked Publishing Team  

Gone are the worries of not getting on with your colleagues, if you’re the person who gets to choose them! Much like the freedom of complete creative control, you’ll also have the final and only say in who organises the logistics of publishing your book. You can choose different people for different services to make sure everyone on your team shares the same vision and values when it comes to sharing your work with the world. At Rowanvale Books, we have a team of friendly professionals able to help in a wide range of services to ensure that you can build the team you need. 

#4 No Deadline Stress & Quicker Publishing Process (If Desired)  

While setting your own deadlines can be a helpful time-management tool, when you publish your own work, there’s no one above you to bark orders about when final edits are due or when you need to have made a decision about your cover art. Especially if it’s your first book, it can be hard letting go of your work and putting it out into the world. Self-publishing gives you all the time you need to make the decisions that really matter to you. On the reverse side, if you want, you can speed up the process and release your book much quicker than a traditional publishing house, where it takes on average 12 to 36 months!  

#5 No Rejection or Confusing Contract Clauses  

You could have a future bestseller in the palm of your hands, but the unfortunate fact of the matter is that traditional publishing is a struggling industry. Many publishing houses can only afford to take on books they can almost guarantee will do well, meaning less-established authors can easily become overwhelmed or put off when faced with rejection.


If you know that what you’ve written is worth reading, then self-publishing is a great way to start getting it into the hands (or Kindles) of readers.


You’ll also enjoy the added bonus of avoiding the confusing contract clauses that come with signing with a traditional publishing house! 

#6 Make a Name for Yourself  

There’s no doubt that publishing a book yourself is a difficult thing to do, but the rewards at the end are so worth it! Seeing your finished product and knowing that every aspect had your direct involvement will only make you want to do it all again. And when the book does well, you’ll only receive even more kudos when people find out you published it yourself! 



#1 Upfront Costs  

Although in the long run you’ll receive more of the profits from your books, the initial upfront costs of self-publishing unfortunately cannot be avoided. Luckily, there are many options for you to choose from to find the prices and services that work best for you! Rowanvale Books work as a remote team to help keep costs down and tailor all of our packages to each individual project. We recognise that it’s not a ‘one size fits all’ industry, allowing for all budgets to be met. 

#2 Finding a Reputable Publishing Team 

The task of finding an entire publishing team yourself can feel pretty daunting at first, but rest assured, it’s by no means impossible. Rowanvale Books was founded when Cat saw the difficulties her father had faced with one of the world’s biggest self-publishing companies. As a result, the whole team is well aware of the service that authors deserve to receive and is dedicated to making sure they get it.  

#3 Less Support 

One common, and understandable, worry when it comes to self-publishing is that you won’t have as much of a support network around you as you would with traditional publishing. However, once you’ve found yourself a team that you trust and work well with, it’ll become clear just how many avenues for support there really are. At Rowanvale, you can find support right from the editorial process all the way through to getting your first reviews!  

#4 Book Marketing  

The business and marketing side of publishing a book can seem like it’s written in a foreign language if it’s not something you’ve ever had to do before.


Like most of your concerns when it comes to self-publishing, this can easily be addressed with the right team behind you (us!).


At Rowanvale Books, we offer services ranging from running social media campaigns to self-publishing on Amazon to help with analytics. We believe in coaching authors so that you become skilled in marketing your own work, rather than just doing it all for you. This only adds to the list of skills you can gain by opting to self-publish!  



Self-publishing a book, especially if it’s your first time, will always be a learning process. It is, however, also a truly empowering process when you’re able to be a part of your book’s entire journey from an idea in your head to a finished product. At Rowanvale Books, we’re here to help you every step of the way.  


While you’re here, why not check out a few more of our blog posts here.  Alternatively, if you’re interested in the services we offer, our plethora of packages can be found here and our Frequently Asked Questions can be found here. Can’t find an answer? Not to worry! Feel free to contact us at or call us on 029 2128 0200 where we are more than happy to answer any other questions.


Long, dark mornings and evenings during the winter can be the best excuse to curl up in bed with a good book. Make yourself a nice, warm mug of coffee or hot chocolate, wrap yourself in your warmest blanket and snuggle up with one of Rowanvale Books’ winter recommendations.



Little Women, Louisa May Alcott

After the film’s success last year, many of us were reminded of the classic we read as children. If you were swept up in the usual business of Christmas festivities last year and didn’t have the chance to pick up a copy of the book after your trip to the cinema, this year is surely your chance. With multiple Christmassy and snowy scenes throughout, the book is a sure-fire feel-good trip down memory lane. No better way to spend the festive period, if you ask us!


The Best Kind of Beautiful, Frances Whiting

If you fancy getting swept away in a romantic novel you can’t put down, then Frances Whiting’s The Best Kind of Beautiful is the book for you this winter. With a storyline very fitting for our current uncertain times, Whiting writes in a manner that really allows you to get to know the characters and fully immerse yourself in their lives. Perfect for those days where you don’t really want to see anyone, but still don’t want to feel completely alone.


The Ruins of War, Julian Armstrong

One of Rowanvale Books’ own, Julian Armstrong’s compelling fantasy winter mystery will leave you struggling to think about anything else. The cover art alone is enough to transport you straight to the heart of a dark, snow-covered forest. A real page turner, Ruins of War is ideal for those rainy or snowy days where all you want is to curl up with a book you’ll never want to stop reading.



A Whole Life, Robert Seethaler

Robert Seethaler writes poetically about a life of isolation high up in the Alps. Despite only being a short book, you’ll find yourself with a real attachment to protagonist Andreas Egger as Seethaler elegantly discloses private moments from the character’s life, both past and present. A Whole Life can be easily read in a single sitting as—like with most books on this list—you’ll find yourself so wrapped up in the story that you won’t want to do anything else.


The Harry Potter Series, J. K. Rowling

Christmas and winter is often a time for familiar comforts, and there’s nothing more comforting for so many of us than the Harry Potter chronicles. With almost every book and film containing Christmas or snowy scenes, there’s no wonder so many people see them as December classics! They’re a great option for book and movie marathons alone, or for cosy nights in with friends and family.


While you’re here, why not check out a few more of our blog posts here.  Alternatively, if you’re interested in the services we offer, our plethora of packages can be found here and our Frequently Asked Questions can be found here. Can’t find an answer? Not to worry! Feel free to contact us at or call us on 029 2128 0200 where we are more than happy to answer any other questions.

Get in Touch

Learn more in our free publishing guide, which gives you a more detailed look at the process, or by speaking to one of our publishing consultants, who would be happy to walk you through all the details you need to begin the process.
“When I found Rowanvale, they seemed like the perfect publishing house for me and my books, almost like it was too good to be true! But they really are everything they say they are.”

– D. Bishop
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