Tag Archives: author

Writing is Hard

Every now and then someone decides to make a big post in a writing group  to announce that they’re going to quit writing. Often, it’s accompanied by paragraphs of whinging that it’s just “too hard”.

Please, don’t do that.

Yes, writing is HARD. For some, writing is an actual career. It’s a business we pour time, energy, and money into. Like any career, we need to constantly be learning and expanding your skills. We need to make sincere connections and invest in our business. We need to hire sub-contractors (editors, cover designers, etc.). And, we need to remember to be a kind boss to ourselves; take days off to recharge, celebrate victories (even the small ones), and treat ourselves once in a while.

And, there’s another harsh truth: Talent only gets you so far. The key ingredient for success is determination. We make a choice every day about whether or not we’re going to commit – to our partner, to our family, to our job, to our passions … Am I going to dedicate the time and energy to learn more and be better? Am I going access the resources others have provided? Am I going to push back against the random stumbling blocks life puts in the way?

The reality is: Writing isn’t for everyone. That’s okay. Not every career is a good match, right? It’s perfectly acceptable to career-change, but there’s a difference between realizing it isn’t working for you and giving up because it’s more difficult than you expected.

Writing doesn’t work for you? Fine. That happens. People change careers all the time. You want to walk away – that’s okay, but please: Close the door quietly behind you. Keep your “I Quit” posts out of writing groups. PLEASE. You don’t know who is going to read your post and be negatively affected by it. Your frustrated post can cut the knees out from someone who may be having a difficult moment or new authors just starting out and feel unsure of themselves.

Protect the well-being of others by being professional when you “career change”.

How To Write a Blurb

After your book’s cover snags a reader’s attention, your blurb needs to hook them in and make them want to buy it. Yet, as important as the blurb is, some authors  don’t give it the time and effort it deserves. Others simply don’t know how to make a blurb that grabs.

A good blurb needs to be short and concise while conveying the vital information of the story:

  • Introduce Hero
  • Introduce Setting
  • Outline Situation
  • Describe Problem/ Goal
  • Introduce Opposition
  • Describe What’s at Stake

Your blurb also needs to have a good hook to make the reader want to buy, so make sure that last part (what’s at stake) is big enough to create urgency.

Your blurb should read something like this:

Hero McGoodie just wants to enjoy a lazy summer, fishing and day dreaming. A strange set of footprints in the woods draws national media attention to his small town and tourists from all across the continent invade his fishing spot while looking for the source of the footprints.

Determined to reclaim his peaceful summer, Hero concocts a scheme to lead the media circus away from his community. However the owner of the mysterious footprints seems to have other plans, and Hero’s worries about invaders are about to reach intergalactic proportions.

So the break down looks like this:

  • Introduce Hero: Hero McGoodie
  • Introduce Setting: small town and surrounding woods/Hero’s fishing hole
  • Outline Situation: Strange footprints are drawing unwanted attention
  • Describe Problem/ Goal: Media and tourists are interfering with Hero’s summer plans
  • Introduce Opposition: The owner of the footprints
  • Describe What’s at Stake: Hint at an alien invasion (Note: Only hint about what is actually in the story. Please, don’t mislead your reader, even if the red herring is part of the story.)

Practice getting your blurb as concise and, if possible, run it past your editor for help with structure.

Good luck and happy writing <3

Download the Blurb Cheat sheet here or right click the image below and save.

What to Include in Your Author Newsletter

What are you putting in your newsletter to prompt clicks to your site? If you’re only including things that fans have already been exposed to via your social media accounts, you’re missing out on the opportunity to generate traffic to your site.

Your newsletter can’t be just about selling your book(s). You have to give readers a reason to engage. In preparation for my own newsletter launch, I took notes on the ways other authors have mentioned to get readers clicking though to their site instead of just scanning the newsletters. Maybe there’s something on this list that will help generate more traffic for you …

Ways to Engage

  • Polls (re: titles, character names, locations, future projects, etc.)
  • A peek at your world-building
  • Character interviews
  • Cut scenes from your book
  • Sample chapters of your book
  • Samples chapters of another author’s book
  • Asking the readers personal questions
  • Asking them to send photos related to topic of newsletter
  • Giveaways (gift cards, freebies)
  • Swag give-aways (post cards, book marks, magnets, key chains)
  • Flash stories/vignettes on your site
  • Discounts on another author’s book
  • A chance to win a beta read or critique of their story
  • Adding only the beginning of an article with a “Read More” link to your site
  • Book related art (ie. wall paper) and coloring pages they can download
  • A chance to win video chat with you
  • Video updates / behind the scenes
  • You reading the first chapter of your book
  • Photos of an event or activity (besides what you’ve posted on social media

Remember: The point is to get readers to open your email and click through to your site. Mention in your newsletter that you are doing/offering something and include a link to your site they can follow to participate.

What do you do with your newsletter to generate reader activity? Let me know in the comments!!

Beta Reader Checklist for Useful Feedback

A while back, I wrote about How I Found My Beta Team for Eyes of the Hunter and promised to share the guidelines I provide my beta readers with to help them give me useful feedback. This is that post 🙂

When looking for beta readers, I target honest and dependable people who enjoy the manuscript’s genre. I also make sure they are familiar with both good writing techniques and important elements to the craft.

To make sure everyone is on the same page, I need to know exactly what I want from my beta readers. Then, I make sure that they know by providing them with a clear list.

 

 

Below is the basic letter I give my beta readers, which I tailor per project and person. You can also download the template for the Beta Reader Checklist [pdf] for future reference.


Dear Beta Reader;

Thank you for being part of my Beta Team! I sincerely appreciate you taking the time to help me make improvements to [Book Title]. Please, don’t worry about grammar, spelling, and punctuation issues; an editor is helping with those. The feedback I’m concerned about centers on continuity, character development, dialogue, flow, and completeness:

  • Is the story interesting?
  • Does it make sense?
  • Any plot holes?
  • Does the story flow?
  • Is the continuity okay?
  • Did I miss any important information or opportunities?
  • Do you get a solid feel for the setting and people?
  • Do the characters unfold well?
  • Do any of the characters need more development?
  • Is the pacing okay? Does it lag anywhere?
  • Is anything clunky or awkward?
  • Are there problem areas that need more attention?
  • What worked for you? What didn’t work for you?
  • … And, of course, anything else you feel I should know.

 

Specific concerns I have for this book are:

  • [Specific feedback needed]

 

Please, be as specific as possible with your answers. Your honest comments will go a long way in helping this story be a success. I need your notes by [date]. I look forward to reading them and thank you, again.

Sincerely,
Rosa

Download the Beta Reader Checklist [pdf]


Need more information about what a beta reader does? Check out Duties of a Beta Reader, which includes a handy pdf to download.

 

Beta Reader Team: Assemble!

header-beta-reader-team | I Am Rosa

 (Or, “How I Found My Beta Team”)

 

My latest book, Eyes of the Hunter is currently in the hands of a wonderful team of beta readers. Even though they’re still reading, I’ve already received some very constructive feedback.  I’m thrilled!!

Today, I received this question from a fellow author:

May I ask how you got a team of beta readers? Because when I tried to get people to read my book before it was published no one was interested!

The short answer is:

I do my homework and am picky about who I ask.

The long answer:

I try to approach people who I know have beta read in the past, are interested in the genre of my book, have a good eye for detail, and have given solid feedback (to myself or others) in the past.

 

5 people agreed to beta read Eyes of the Hunter. Here is how I chose each one …

 

Beta Reader 1

This lady actually found me. She’d read a review I was under attack for writing, loved how honest and fair I’d been, and tracked me down on Facebook to ask if I would review her fantasy novel. I agreed, but couldn’t make it through the book. So, instead of writing a review, I asked if I could just give her suggestions on improvements. She agreed. She made the changes. She got picked up by a publisher (I’m not taking credit for that, btw) and has just release the sequel.

We kept in touch. When I see a snippet or article she’s written, I read it and comment. She’s improved. A lot. She’s serious and dedicated, so I continue to support her. And, she also freelances as an editor. So, when it came time to assemble beta readers, I asked if she’d be interested. She said, “Yes.”

 

Beta Reader 2

Amusingly enough, I found this lady exactly the same way Beta Reader 1 found me! She was being attacked by another author for the honest review she wrote on GoodReads in exchange for an ARC. Curious, I read the review. It was actually a very fair review, praising the author’s writing skill, but pointing out there were issues with the story that didn’t sit well with her. She didn’t finish reading, so she marked it DNF (Did Not Finish) to make sure it wouldn’t hurt the author’s rating. I sent her a message, apologizing on behalf of authors who aren’t dicks, and told her that I really liked how honest and fair she’d been. Since I knew from her GoodReads profile that she liked stories similar to Eyes of the Hunter, I asked if she’d be interested in beta reading it and gave a her brief description. She agreed.

 

Beta Reader 3

About a year ago, a lady in one of the Facebook writing groups I’m part of asked if someone could do some artwork for her. I was interested in what she wanted done and offered my services. I really liked her honesty in comments and noticed she always had great suggestions. So, instead of cash payment, I asked if she’d be interested in beta reading for me. I gave her a brief description of Eyes of the Hunter. She liked the story idea and had read some of my other writing, so she felt confident that she’d enjoy this and agreed.

 

Beta Reader 4

This one, I can thank Beta Reader 1 for. She’d talked me up to this gentleman and I apparently made a good impression in the Facebook groups we were part of. We chatted back and forth on Facebook for months. When he found out I was almost ready to hand off Eyes of the Hunter to beta readers, he expressed an interest in reading it. From our conversations, I knew he’s very honest about his opinions and he has a great eye for detail. Even though the story is aimed for YA female readers, I thought a male opinion would be beneficial. So, I asked if he’d go one further and beta read it for me. He said yes and  offered some amazingly helpful insights.

 

Beta Reader 5

I met this lady through – you guessed it – a Facebook writing group. She sent me a friend request after we’d exchanged comments in the group. I had a favourable opinion of her; plainspoken and insightful. I accepted though we never actually chatted after that … until I saw a status update from her one night as I was about to shut down my computer for the night. She seemed to be in distress and I was worried that she was suicidal. Facebook had just implemented its suicide prevention feature, which was totally useless. So, I sent her a message which led to a conversation that lasted several hours (until I felt satisfied that she wasn’t going to do anything harmful to herself). Being writers, we naturally talked about books and writing. I told her a bit about Eyes of the Hunter and it was apparently up her alley of interest. She told me that she beta reads, critiques, and reviews. So, I asked if she’d like to beta read it for me and she said, “yes.”

kapow-1601675_960_720

And, there you have it: My amazing beta team for Eyes of the Hunter <3

Finding quality beta readers is a long process:

  • I observe the feedback a person gives to others and what they contribute to conversations in groups.
  • I build a sincere rapport with them. (Note the word sincere. I care about these people and they care about me.)
  • I find out if beta reading is something they’re interested in and what genres they prefer.
  • When I ask them to beta read, I give them just enough detail about the story to hook them, but not enough to ruin the fun.

Some people I asked were swamped with other projects or felt the story was not quite to their interests. No problem! I’ve asked enough people that a couple of “no’s” still leaves me with a fair size group for feedback. Plus if anyone has something come up where they can’t follow through, I wouldn’t be stranded for feedback.


Want to know what guidelines I give my beta readers?
Read my follow-up article, Beta Reader Checklist for Useful Feedback.