Skip to content

Category: A Writer’s Musings

Creating Characters Your Readers Will Love – Strengths and Weaknesses

Two weeks ago we looked at how to make your characters pop (not literally, of course. that would be messy), and today we’ll look a little closer at one of the points raised then.

Your characters’ strengths and weaknesses – and why both are equally important – has almost become a cliche post to write, if you ask me. But I read too many characters which only have strengths and no weaknesses, so I feel it’s important to repeat it again. As often as it takes!

Strengths

You’ll probably sigh with boredom and wonder if you should just skip this bit. After all, your character’s strengths are easy! Make him constantly positive! Make her confident! Make him a feminist! Make her brave!

It looks simple, but there’s more to character creation than making our precious babies brave or strong. Once you know what your character’s strength is, you can use it to really shine! How do you show that a female character is confident with her body and appearance? A lot of us girls struggle with our confidence, so writing a character who struggles, too, but turns it into a strength and becomes more confident as the plot progresses can be fantastic!

For example, Briana Morgan does this beautifully in Reflections. Rama is all of us where her body image is concerned. She hates her body and the way she looks, and clothes shopping with her beautiful friend is a nightmare. Watching her transformation into a self-confident girl who appreciates her body and looks was empowering, ladies!

Another fantastic example is Nina from the brilliant Six of Crows duology. She’s not your usual skinny girl but celebrates her slightly larger body, no excuses made. I think you’ll all agree, ladies, that that’s one hell of a strength! Reading about a character who’s comfortable with who she is, what she looks like and wears it like a badge of honour was empowering, ladies! (I seem to be developing a pattern here…)

One more example: In An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir, Laia is a slave girl who is tasked with infiltrating her enemy’s headquarters and spying on their leader (a fantastic villain, by the way, if you need more of those in your life (and, I mean, why wouldn’t you?)). She has no experience as a spy and is more likely to run away than stay and fight, but she’s stubborn, determined, and most of all she loves her brother, who’s been taken prisoner by the enemy. It’s for his sake she agrees, endures torture, and gets up time and time again. A love for your family and the will to see them safe is something we all recognise and can relate to, and informed Laia’s character development massively!

Weaknesses

Heroes need weaknesses like I need cookies after a long editing session, so you mustn’t skip this. Weaknesses make them more relatable. If your character is too perfect with no flaws, your readers will find it difficult to root for him, and that’s the last thing you want! Especially when it’s so easily avoided.

When you’re at the beginning of your writing journey and only just start to think about character creation, thinking of negative traits to give your precious imaginary friends can be difficult, but it’s vital that you don’t skip this step.

My favourite example comes from Nevernight, because it’s not the kind of weakness you’d expect. Mia trains to be an assassin – and as we all know from personal experience (*ahem* obviously), assassins get hired to kill, they don’t get to be picky. So it’s seen as a weakness (Mr. Kindly, her beautiful wisp of a ghost cat, points this out several times) that she can’t bury her compassion and do as she’s told. Because, friends, while she harbours deep hatred for a small selection of people, she’s really a good person deep down. Mia can’t get herself to kill innocent people, even if it’s expected of her, and she’s told over and over again that she needs to move past this if she wants to succeed. Given her ultimate goal, this was a genius weakness to give her!

Another good example comes from the Six of Crows duology (I’ve a feeling you’ll see this pop up a lot over the coming weeks…). While every character in these books is perfectly flawed, I’m going to talk about my own personal favourite: Jesper (I mean, they’re all personal favourites, but I had to pick one) He’s got a gambling problem, and it’s relevant to the plot because he gives away important information in the heat of the game, and he learns to resolve it! And that’s what you want friends: Weaknesses and strengths that are relevant to your plot are a must, but if your characters figure out how to grow and overcome their weaknesses?

So, you see, strengths and weaknesses can literally be anything! Something you might see as a positive trait to have (like Mia’s compassion) could well be a weakness in the context of your world.

Finally, your characters need a good balance of both. It’s no good having a character with all the strengths but no weaknesses as we’ve discussed, but it’s also no good having a character with too many flaws and not enough strengths to make up for it. You want your precious darlings to have weaknesses, but not so many that it gets difficult to root for them. They need to get through the plot and the barriers you create for them somehow, after all, and that’s going to be difficult without strong points.

How do you work out your characters strengths and weaknesses? Pour yourself a tea, and let’s chat! <3


Sign up for my newsletter for updates on my books and recommendations to help you grow as a writer:

For all of my other musings, click me!

For Cookie Break’s home page, have a look here.

Leave a Comment

Self-Doubt and Writer’s Block

It’s self-doubt awareness month on CookieBreak, friends! <3 Tomorrow Dana Fraedrich has a guest post for you, and in two weeks I’ve got a huge collaboration with 14 wonderful authors coming up, but today I’m on Nadia L. King’s blog to talk about self-doubt and writer’s block 🙂

Head on over there and check out the post:


Sign up for my newsletter for updates on my books and recommendations to help you grow as a writer:

For all of my other musings, click me!

For Cookie Break’s home page, have a look here.

Leave a Comment

Creating Characters Your Readers Will Love – How to Make Your Characters Stand Out

It’s time for the third serial, friends! And this one is all about the most important aspect of our stories – your characters! If you’d like to catch up with any of the previous lessons, you can do so here.

Before we really get to the heart of things, I’m just giving you an overview today so you know what to expect. It should be enough info that you won’t need to read the following posts if you don’t want to, but if you’d rather have more info you’ll get it over the weeks to come 😉 And there’s a free character questionnaire at the end of this post! Read on or scroll down now to download it if you wish to (it is free…)

So, how do you make your characters stand out? Creating flat, unbelievable characters is easily done, but it can be easily avoided, too. If you want your characters to shine, they need:

fears and dreams

Both of these together form the very foundation of your characters. Everyone wants something, and everyone is scared of something, so your characters need to reflect that if you want them to be believable. Their fears will be what hold them back and either send them into paralysis or get their adrenaline pumping. Their goals are their motivation to do, well, anything!

You can be as versatile as you want. Your characters can be afraid of failure, of the dark, of their parent beating them again when they get home, or of the impossibility of certainty when you can’t even be sure of your own existence. They can dream of landing that job they’ve applied for, of having a large family, of gaining financial security, or of looking at themselves in the mirror one day without hating what they see. Either way, your characters fears and dreams will greatly inform what they do.

If your book shows them struggle with the former and aim for the latter, you’re off to a good start!

weaknesses and strengths

I know it might be tempting to create a super character with all strengths and no flaws, but that’s precisely what’s going to make your little fictional babies unbelievable. The weaknesses are just as important as the strengths, friends! Weaknesses can include anything from being bad at public speaking to a massive gambling problem. Strengths can be just as versatile, and can cover anything from always remaining positive no matter the situation to being a survivor, and anything in between.

In two weeks we’ll look a little closer at this and I’ll provide examples then, too, so be sure to look out for that! 🙂

personality quirks

Unlike strengths and weaknesses, personality quirks are small and more subtle, but can seriously break your readers if used well. For example, you might have a character who has to pet every stray cat she finds (who doesn’t, right?), or you might have a character who hates raw tomatoes but tolerates them on sandwiches and burgers (I’m just describing myself now…). Quirks like these really help your characters come to life, but be careful. It’s easy to give our characters oddities just for the sake of it, but you’re job isn’t done there. Make sure the quirks are relevant, maybe even related to a specific trait (a fidgety character might twirl her daggers a lot, or be jumpy), and your characters will be much stronger for it.

If you don’t know where to start, work backwards. Get to know your characters a little first, then figure out their quirks from there!

to be imperfect

No one is perfect. Not in real life, and not in fiction, either. I recently read a book I won’t name in which the MC had everything – a wonderful Mum, perfect adoptive parents later, all of the talent, fantastic group of friends, and an easy start into a new school where she was instantly accepted, even by the jocks. No weaknesses. No flaws. Just the perfect life in her perfect bubble.

Your readers will struggle to relate and care about your character. Even the hero of your story needs flaws, friends! If you’re new to all this it might seem counterproductive to give your MC negative traits, but we all have them, my dear. Your characters need to have them, too.

to have history

Your character’s life doesn’t begin with the first chapter. Our precious fictional young’uns have led interesting lives before Chapter One – The Beginning! If you don’t think so, then it’s your job to figure out what you’re missing. Something has put your characters on the paths that lead to them being introduced in your books – be that main character, all-important sidekick, or side character – and it’s important you know what happened to them. You don’t need to be as thorough as having a timeline with their educational history, dates of when they were applying for university, job hunting,  to and from dates of every relationship ever held, and so on, but you do need to know enough to confidently say, “This is what my character went through. This is why he is who he is today.”

Our history and past experiences shape us, after all!

to have redeemable qualities – even the villains!

Or perhaps that should be especially the villains? I mean, your MCs shouldn’t be so despicable that your readers need help liking them!

From your villain’s POV, this redeemable quality might be their weakness. Even your villain appreciates something. Not every villain is a cold, heartless creature of darkness! Villains have motivations, too – chaos for the sake of chaos is fine every now and again, but a villain with a personal reason is all the more terrifying. Maybe he even feels that this quality is holding them back in their quest to world domination? Gotta love a good villain with strong morals…

to develop

Your characters shouldn’t be the same people at the end of your book as they were at the start. They’ve just been on some kind of journey; show us what they learned! Your character might start out shy but slowly become more outgoing as your plot progresses. One character might start out scared of everything and everyone, but learn how to stand up for himself.

This is such an important step, because you can really touch your readers with this. All of us are on our own journeys, and if you can write a character who reflects some of what we go through – and, more importantly, shows her come out stronger at the end – you’ve got a winner! This is why fears are so important. Can your character learn to conquer what terrifies him? Drop him into his worst case scenario and see how he copes – and don’t forget to include it in your book!

I know figuring all this out can be daunting, never mind difficult. Don’t panic if you don’t have all the answers when you start writing; chances are they’ll come to you as you go. Many books have been written on character creation, and you’ll find heaps upon heaps of websites aiming to help you with this. My own favourite two ways are to just start writing and let the characters introduce themselves as and when they’re ready, and my character questionnaire. I can’t help you with the former so well – trust your precious fictional babies and they will open up eventually! – but I can help you with the latter! That’s right, it’s FREEBIE TIME! I’m making my character questionnaire of 35 questions (I found some with a hundred questions or more online, but gawd, who has the time for that? I’ve got too many characters for that!) available to you, right here:

Character Questionnaire

If you can ask yourself, “What would [name of your beloved character here] do?” in any situation, you’ve got it sussed out!

How do you make your characters stand out? I hope that the next few weeks answer every question you have regarding character creation. If they don’t, ask away. Or just stay and chat, if you fancy. There’s tea and cookies if you do <3


Sign up for my newsletter for updates on my books and recommendations to help you grow as a writer:

For all of my other musings, click me!

For Cookie Break’s home page, have a look here.

2 Comments

Everything You Need to Know About Beta Reading – Beta Readers vs. Critique Partners

You’ve probably heard both terms before, but chances are you’re not sure what the difference is between the two, especially if you’re at the very beginning of your writing journey. How are beta readers different to critique partners? Do you need both?

Let’s recap what we’ve learned about beta readers over the last few months.

Your beta squad:

  • is recruited when you can’t think of anything else to change/when you’re sick of looking at your own WIP (don’t feel bad – we’ve all been there)
  • helps you find the last few mistakes in your manuscript
  • is the last stop before the final edit and publication

Critique partners, on the other hand, can come in at any time, and you likely won’t have as many, either – although that’s up to you, of course!

Your critique partners should be people you trust to be honest since they will likely have a huge impact on your draft. If you have an ideal reader, ask them! Here are some of the things your critique partners can help with:

  • when you’re stuck halfway through writing the first draft, and need a second opinion on something specific, like a plot development or a new character
  • when you’ve edited your manuscript once or twice already, but want another writer to go over it before you send it to betas.
  • when you’ve applied the changes they suggested, but would like them to have another look after having rewritten that one annoying scene
  • when you have any questions about your book at all
  • when you need to bounce ideas before you even start writing

So, you see, unlike betas who come in at the end your critique partner can jump in at any time you need them. And there’s a reason they’re called partners – you should be willing to do the same for them. You could say it’s an exchange of help!

Like your beta squad, critique partners are unpaid. You’ll likely already repay them by doing them the same favour, but if you feel they deserve something extra feel free to treat them. While they are generally unpaid, there’s nothing that says you can’t gift them your book, a voucher, a drink, or whatever you think is appropriate!

I’ve had two critique partners go over Wardens of Archos for me at the same time as my editor did the developmental edit, and I can’t tell you how much my book has changed for the better! Thanks to my editor and critique partners, my draft is so much tighter. By the time my betas get to it, they shouldn’t have too much work to do – but I think we all know how this works 😛

Whether you work with both is up to you, but more feedback can’t hurt and once you’ve found a critique partner you trust and who gets you and your books, you can call on them again and again, knowing they’ll help you change your draft for the better.

And that’s it for the series on beta reading! I hope you learned a lot, had all your questions answered, and feel better prepared for this step now. If there’s anything else you’d like to know, please don’t hesitate to ask! Here’s a list of all the posts in this series again, in case you’ve either missed something or would like to remind yourself of a specific topic:

How Do You Find Your Squad?

When Do You Assemble Your Squad?

What Do Beta Readers Do?

How to Work with Your Squad

How to Make Sense of All that Feedback

Don’t worry if you lose this link but want to come back to one of the above posts later – you can easily access them via the Writing Help and Tips page on the left 😉

The next series is all about character creation! If you want to know why weaknesses are just as important as strengths and why you don’t want a perfect character without flaws (among other topics), make sure you keep an eye on this blog!


Sign up for my newsletter for updates on my books and recommendations to help you grow as a writer:

For all of my other musings, click me!

For Cookie Break’s home page, have a look here.

Leave a Comment

Everything You Need to Know About Beta Reading – How to Make Sense of All that Feedback

Over the last few weeks we’ve looked at how to ask for beta readers, how to work with your eager beta squad, and how to be a beta reader if you’d rather be on that side of things. But how do you make sense of all their feedback? How do you know what to use, and what to discard? You’ll likely receive a lot of notes and once you do, things can get confusing quickly – especially if you leave organising them until the end.

As some of you know by now, I made the mistake of asking twelve betas to help me with Rise of the Sparrows, so naturally I had a huge amount of feedback! Some betas send me large chunks of notes on every chapter, whereas others only send me a few comments for the entire book. I still ended up with 21 A4 pages (typed, not hand-written – now that would have been chaos!), and if I hadn’t organised them from the beginning I imagine I’d have lost my mind doing it all at once at the end.

Please bare in mind that, while this process has worked pretty well for me, it may not do the same for you. If there’s another method you prefer, you’re welcome to share in the comments. I’m sure writers new to this process would appreciate it! 🙂

To start with, I asked my betas to send me lists of notes in emails as they read, rather than one big email with everything once they were done. This allowed me to add to my file here and there, and meant that I didn’t need to apply 21 fudging pages worth at once at the end. (don’t you just shiver at the horror?) Having lists, separated by chapter, also made the organisation itself much simpler.

I created a new document, and added all the chapter numbers with another section for miscellaneous notes at the end. As the feedback came in, I copied it from the email and pasted it into the relevant chapter section in my document. So far, so simple!

Next I colour-coded everything. Here’s a quick summary to give you an idea:

Positive feedback and swoonings

Change, don’t argue

Does this need changing? Come back to this

Questions

Notes

Changes were suggested, but we’ll ignore them

Once changes were applied or I’d made up my mind about everything purple, I changed the colour to a light grey. Here’s what my document looked like by the end:

 

Colour-coding your feedback makes it so much easier to see at one glance how you’re getting on and which chapters need more work. And anyway, it feels good to see all that red and purple turn white!

But how do you know which changes to apply, and what to discard?

It’s simple, really. You want to apply everything related to spelling, grammar, and punctuation – just be smart about it. If you’re British, for example, and your beta reader is American, they might think you’ve spelled ‘neighbours’ wrong because it’s ‘neighbors’ in American English. Unless your beta reader is also an editor, they might get some things wrong.

Opinions are more difficult to sift through, but even those don’t need to be complicated. If a beta says that the last line of Chapter 10 needs something more and you agree that it could do with a little more oomph, you get back to work. If four out of five betas tell you that a specific character didn’t add anything or that the prologue felt like filler, you cut. You may be especially fond of the prologue, or that character might be one of your favourites, but if they’re unnecessary or worse – slow down your plot – you cut them. You may have heard the phrase ‘killing your darlings’? This is what it means.

If, on the other hand, only one beta out of five didn’t like something, you can ignore it unless you agree. Other suggestions you can ignore are those which were meant well, but don’t actually work for your book. You’ll know them when you see them. One beta wanted to see more animals in Rise of the Sparrows, and wanted the ones that are in it to play a bigger part. That’s nice, but it’s not about the animals, so I dyed his suggestion blue and moved on.

Here’s one thing you need to be aware of: if, at any point, you think ‘Yeah, all right, I should probably change that but I can’t be bothered.’ or ‘He’s right, but I’m sick of looking at that chapter now and it’s so much work!’ you fudging apply the changes. I understand being sick of your own words after a while, but never let that stand in the way of a better draft. Not wanting to is never a good enough reason! Take a break, eat a cupcake, drink a bottle of wine by the fire with your favourite movie, and come back to it tomorrow. Or next week; however long you need.

Stephen King talks about this golden rule in his book On Writing: if half of your betas don’t like something and the other half do, you win – meaning you leave it as is. And don’t forget you can always ask your squad if you’re not sure about anything!

Having an ideal reader in mind also helps, so you can ask yourself “What would [insert name here] think?” when you’re stuck. Of course, the clever thing to do would be to ask your ideal reader to be a beta reader or critique partner… That way you don’t have to wonder what they’d think.

In two weeks we’ll look at the difference between beta readers and critique partners – and why you probably want both! 😉

How do you organise your feedback? If you’ve got any useful tips, share away! Or perhaps this is something you struggle with? Ask, and we can figure it out 🙂 Get yourself a tea and a biscuit first – it helps 😉


Sign up for my newsletter for updates on my books and recommendations to help you grow as a writer:

For all of my other musings, click me!

For Cookie Break’s home page, have a look here.

4 Comments

Everything You Need to Know About Beta Reading – How to Work with Your Squad

Two weeks ago we looked at what beta readers do – but how does this process work when you’re the writer? What does your squad need from you, besides your draft?

Above all else, working with beta readers is a cooperation. Today I’m giving you a few pointers about what to do and what not to do so you’re prepared 😉

Give them pointers. There’s a chance that some of your betas will be new to this process, and won’t know what to look for, so a list will make it much easier for them. This is also helpful for betas who have done this before – maybe even for you – because you might have specific things you’d like them to look for. I already mentioned this two weeks ago in my post about what betas do, but personally I have a problem with repetition, fight scenes, and under-describing settings, so all of those are on my list.

Be sure to include how you’d like to receive their feedback, too. Would you like a list of bullet points, chapter by chapter? Or maybe a general summary at the end of each chapter? Perhaps you’d​ prefer they track their changes in Word? Chances are, if you have five betas and leave them to it, you’ll receive five different feedback formats. You’ll have a lot of feedback by the end of the process, so having all these different formats would only make everything more complicated. Let them know what’s easiest for you (ideally when you first ask for betas) to take at least some of the pressure off – of you as well as your betas.

Set them a deadline. Beta reading a book is a huge task and takes a lot of work. You might have deadlines you need to keep yourself, and I can tell you from personal experience that having a deadline helps. I beta read a manuscript once which had no deadline and I was told that I could take however long I needed with it. This resulted in me prioritising more urgent tasks and not putting the time in. Make sure your betas know when you need their feedback to avoid this very thing – and if you don’t have a deadline from the start but that changes, let them know as soon as you have a date.

Let them know that it’s okay to drop out. I feel this is quite important, because sometimes other things come up or get in the way, and your betas should know that it’s okay if plans change. I hate abandoning voluntary projects, but sometimes it can’t be helped. I still feel bad, but if I know that the writer understands it takes the pressure off.

This is especially important when they don’t want to continue because they don’t like your book. No one book is for everyone, and if your book doesn’t work for one of your betas (or later, readers) that’s okay. The vital thing here is to assure them that it’s fine, and that you ask them why they don’t like your book. If it just doesn’t work for them personally, you’re okay. If it’s because the world building is bad, your characters all sound the same, and most of your pages consist of run-on sentences, you’ve got work to do.

Don’t get defensive. I can’t stress enough how important this is. When I had beta readers go over Rise of the Sparrows, two of my betas asked me if I’d get mad if they pointed out mistakes. Now, my friends, writers who react like that miss the point of having beta readers. If you’re not prepared for criticism and honest feedback, you’re not ready for betas, never mind for publishing. Reviewers can and will be rough. You might feel that their dislikes are unjustified. But you never, ever, get into an argument over it. Your betas do you a favour. A massive, huge favour. Don’t get angry when they tell you that they don’t like a character, or a certain scene. That’s the feedback you want, and the reason you asked for betas in the first place. You thank them. You don’t make them regret that they volunteered.

Organise their feedback in a way that works for you. Because it’s really easy to get lost in all that feedback if you don’t. And you’ll get lots of it, trust me! With Rise of the Sparrows I had 21 A4 pages worth. I’ll go more into how I made sense of it all in two weeks time, but for now suffice it to say that you want to organise it somehow. A separate file on your memory stick, post-it notes, a notebook with handwritten notes, an app on your phone – whatever works for you. Just do yourself a favour and organise it all, and don’t leave it until the last second because you will pull your hair out if you do.

Ask if you’re not sure! Sometimes, something your betas say might not make sense to you, or one beta might point out one thing which seems kinda huge but none of the others have flagged it up. If you’re not sure, about anything, ask your betas for clarification! This doesn’t have to be about small things only, either. If your betas suggested to add a scene somewhere, you can send it back to them and ask for feedback on that, too. As I said above, working with betas is all about cooperation. It’s not a ‘they do their thing, I await results, and then we never talk to each other again’ kind of situation. I’m not suggesting you ask them to read the whole draft again, but a couple of scenes – especially when they insisted you add them – should be fine. Ask if they’d be willing to take another look, and don’t get defensive if they say no (“But they agreed to read everything!” Sure, but don’t forget that you’ve added stuff since then.). If they finished their beta read and have started other projects, you can’t hold that against them.

Beta readers work for free. I’m not telling you that you can’t reward your betas if you want to – you’re absolutely welcome to! – but I don’t want you to feel an obligation in that regard. Some writers offer amazon vouchers in return. You might offer a signed copy of the book they helped improve. Personally, I offer a discount on all my editing services to all my betas. Generally, however, betas don’t receive anything, and they certainly don’t get an hourly wage! If you want to offer yours something you definitely can, but don’t feel like you have to or else you’re not doing this right.

Make sure they know you’re grateful. Your betas do you one massive favour, friend. It takes time to read an entire book and take notes, especially if your book needs a lot of work. I recommend being a beta yourself at least once, so you can really get a sense of the amount of work that goes into this process!

Are you about to work with betas for the first time and have more questions? Ask away! 🙂 Or have you worked with betas in the past and would like to add something to this list? Share away! 🙂 Make a tea, grab a biscuit, and say hi.


Sign up for my newsletter for updates on my books and recommendations to help you grow as a writer:

For all of my other musings, click me!

For Cookie Break’s home page, have a look here.

1 Comment

Everything You Need to Know About Beta Reading – What Do Beta Readers Do?

Over the last few weeks we’ve looked at how and when to assemble your beta squad, but that only helps you if you’re the writer. Today I’d like to consider the other side, and talk about how to be a beta reader.

I’ve been on both sides of this process now and have seen what worked when I was the author, and also what worked and what I needed when I was the beta reader. I hope the information below will help clarify questions you might have, or make sense of everything if this is your first time beta reading 🙂

If you’re the writer and need a few questions answered, hang on in there – I’ll be back for you in two weeks ^-^

Be honest. I know it can be difficult to tell someone that you didn’t like something they created – maybe you even hated it, or maybe your author’s grammar is terrible when you know for a fact that your author prides herself on her grammar skills – but it’s essential that you do. The first and only thing we need from you is honesty. I know it’s not always easy, but think of it this way: If you’ve spotted something and aren’t sure how to say that it doesn’t work for you or you think that an entire view point should be cut, it’s all the more important that we know about it. Because those things are big, and there’s a good chance that other betas feel the same way. Or maybe they don’t know how to phrase their concerns either, and therefore no one says anything? You could be the beta who saves our WIP, friend!

We can take your criticism. That’s why we recruited you, after all 🙂

Be polite. While it’s vital to be honest, there’s no reason to be rude. Comments such as ‘No, no, NO!’ or ‘This is awful. The hell were you thinking?’ are unnecessary. We are aware that not every reader is going to enjoy our book, and if the majority of your feedback looks like the two examples above I think your writer has the right to suggest you stop. We don’t want you to force yourself through a book you don’t like – and if most of your feedback is ‘NO! CHANGE IT!’ I think it’s fair to assume that you’re not enjoying yourself. No one book is for everyone, and if my book isn’t for you you’re allowed to walk away (but please say something, so I don’t wonder what happened to you. I won’t take it personally.)

You don’t have to sugarcoat everything you don’t agree with or every bit of incorrect grammar, but manners go a long way!

If you’re not sure about something, ask. You know you were asked to check for character development, but your writer keeps spelling a specific word wrong each time he uses it. Should you point it out? Your writer didn’t ask for it, but it seems important enough to say something. Or maybe you feel strongly about Deran and Tyler’s relationship, but does your writer need to know about the parts you love? Is it helpful if some of your feedback isn’t about things that need changing, but things you enjoy?

Ohmygodyesplease! The best thing to do when you’re not sure is to just ask. Beta reading is a partnership between you, dear reader, and your writer. They should be available to answer questions if you need something clarified. If your writer is unavailable, include it.

You can’t go wrong by including information, only by leaving potentially important information gone unsaid.

Show us your excitement! There’s nothing more encouraging than when I receive feedback like this:

or this:

Beta reading doesn’t have to be formal. If you love what you’ve read and are excited about where the story is going, please share it with your writer! There’s nothing that builds us up quite like the examples above. It’s one thing to say ‘I liked that scene between Rose and Henry’ and quite another to go ‘YASSSSS! OMG YES!’

Some of the feedback we receive is going to be negative, sometimes disheartening. Receiving a little love note here and there is going to make our day like nothing else can.

Ask your writer what he/she needs from you. I can’t speak for all writers, but I like to include a small list of things to look for when I send my initial email with the WIP. Chances are that some of my betas will be new to this and might not know what to look for, so a list is useful! If your writer didn’t tell you what they need from you, don’t be afraid to ask. There’s a good chance that there’s something specific your writer is after – personally, I know I have a problem with repetition, my fight scenes could be stronger, and it turns out I under-describe settings (I’m worried I’ll do more telling than showing), so it’s useful for my betas to know to look for these things.

Don’t feel guilty if you have to drop out. Easier said than done, I know, but sometimes we simply can’t finish what we started. Something might have come up in your personal life, for example, and you don’t need to add more stress to yourself. You’re not the only beta we have, so don’t worry. Your leaving doesn’t force us to start over again.

Read it like you would read any other book. By the time a writer reaches out to betas, the draft has already undergone several revisions. We don’t expect you to be an editor, we just need you to point out things as you spot them. Don’t worry if you didn’t flag up anything in chapter 12. That’s not a sign that you’re not pointing out enough mistakes, but rather that you’re enjoying the book! There’s something good to be said for a beta reader getting too lost in the story to notice mistakes. It might not help us improve that scene, but it does tell us that it’s engaging – and that’s precisely the kind of feedback we need. So sit back with a cuppa tea, get your reading groove on, and do what you do best!

Of course, if you’d rather sit down with a check list and analyse every chapter in detail you’re welcome to do that, too. Just don’t put too much pressure on yourself and remember to enjoy yourself, too.

I know having an entire book to beta read is daunting. What if you don’t do well enough? What if you don’t catch mistakes? What if the writer ends up being displeased with your services and sets his dragons on you? Don’t worry, there’s no such thing as useless feedback. If it stood out to you, it’s good enough! That’s all we want from you – things that stood out. Those can be positive (“I LOVED how the relationship between Anna and Derek developed!”) or negative (“I just can’t connect with Cynthia. I feel like I should because we’re similar, but I just can’t put myself in her shoes.”) or even just “You keep confusing ‘save’ and ‘safe’ – you may want to read up on that.” but either way, it’s all useful.

The last thing we want is for you to get stressed over this!

Beta readers don’t get paid. I know some writers stray from that general rule, but don’t expect to get paid. Beta readers do what they do for free, to do the author a favour, and because they love books. Shaping a draft into something even better – knowing that you’ve played a part in making a book the best it can be – is exciting, and might even be the reason you’re considering it! I know how time-consuming beta reading is for everyone involved, so you can believe me when I say that I immensely appreciate what you do.

Having said that, some writers do offer small rewards to treat their betas. I know some writers offer Amazon vouchers, for example, or a free print copy of their book once it’s published. I offer a discount on all my editing services to my betas.

But just be aware that the common thing is no pay. It’s up to the writer whether she wants to offer a reward, but there’s no obligation. Please don’t offer to beta read expecting a voucher or any other reward. If your writer gives you something in return, it’ll be specified.

Now it’s over to you! If you’re the writer – What do you need from your betas? Do you have any more advice for someone who’s new to this, or someone who’s had a bad experience? If you’re the beta – Do you have any more questions? Get yourself a tea/coffee, maybe some cookies, and ask away! 🙂


Sign up for my newsletter for updates on my books and recommendations to help you grow as a writer:

Gifs are from Giphy

For all of my other musings, click me!

For Cookie Break’s home page, have a look here.

5 Comments

Everything You Need to Know About Beta Reading – When Do You Assemble Your Squad?

Now that you know how to find your squad, it’s time to look at when to assemble your loyal betas.

I know the tempting thing to do is to ask for betas the moment you finish your first draft. You’re on a high after having typed The End and trust me, I get it (The. Best. Feeling!) – but allow me to convince you that this is not the best moment to call in reinforcements.

I recommend, strongly, that you only call in betas when you yourself can’t figure out what else to change. You’ve done one or two rounds of edits, maybe a critique partner has already gone over your book baby, perhaps your editor has even done a developmental round – and now the whole thing has stopped making sense to you. You know that strange feeling when you read a word over and over again until it looks like it can’t possibly be a word? (Try it, it’s very frustrating.) That’s when you know you’re ready for betas. You’ve done what you can, and now you can’t do any more.

By the time you’ve edited your own work once or twice you’ll know every last shady corner pretty well, so you’re even more likely to gloss over obvious errors.

Chances are you’ll find a thousand things to reword, cut, slash, slaughter, and add when you do your first edit. Make sure all that is done before you ask for betas, so that, by the time they get your draft in their inbox, it’s as close to the final version as it can be!

Your betas should point out where you’ve missed a smudge after you’ve already polished your work. They shouldn’t have to do everything – that’s your job.

Think of it this way: The draft you send your betas should be a draft you are happy with – a draft you’d be happy to publish, even! (except you’re not, you wouldn’t be asking for betas otherwise *ahem*) You essentially test your book on readers, and it’s harder to do that when you know your WIP still needs a lot of work. You want to know how it reads amongst other things; if it’s still riddled with spelling errors by this stage it’ll be harder to enjoy, and you won’t get the most out of your betas.

Your beta readers aren’t your editor. You want them to point out mistakes, but you should still attempt to clear the field before you ask them to diffuse whatever bombs you’ve missed. If you can think of a few things you should change/add/cut/rephrase, please fix those first. Your betas will be grateful!

If you feel that you do need a second opinion before you reach the beta stage, you can always get a critique partner or two. But that’s a topic for another post 🙂

How do YOU know you’re ready for beta readers? If you’re a writer or a beta reader with questions regarding this step, please don’t hesitate to ask (once you’ve helped yourself to tea and biscuits, naturally).


Sign up for my newsletter for updates on my books and recommendations to help you grow as a writer:

Gifs are from Giphy

For all of my other musings, click me!

For Cookie Break’s home page, have a look here.

2 Comments

How do You Market Your Book Once It’s Published? 11 Authors Share Their Secrets!

Just the word ‘marketing’ sends nervous shivers down the backs of many authors. It’s something you know you need to do – something really quite vital to your book’s success – but chances are you’re putting it off. You might be procrastinating because you have no idea where to start, because you don’t think of yourself as a marketing strategist but a creative, because it seems intimidating, or because any number of different reasons, but either way – it’s not getting done, is it?

Don’t worry, we don’t blame you. When you’re new to this writing thing you have so much to think about – How do you publish your book? Do you need an editor? What are beta readers and why does everyone say you need them? – that marketing likely takes a step back. Marketing happens after your book is out, right? Why worry about it before you approve your book on Amazon when there is everything else to do?

I know. I, and every author below (or ever), have been in the same place at one point. But the truth is that marketing happens at just about every stage of your bookish career – certainly after you’ve published your book (*high five!*), but also before you get to that stage.

So what can you do? Where do you start? The eleven authors below are here to help you with just that! Marketing is daunting, and chances are it always will be, but hopefully after reading this post you’ll feel a little more confident, and maybe even see the fun side! (I promise you, it exists if you know where to look.)

My personal recommendation is social media. Create a blog, sign up for Twitter, Instagram, Facebook – whichever works best for you – before your book is out, and start mentioning here and there that you’re a writer with a book in the works. I can’t stress how wonderful the writing community is. I know signing up and declaring you’re a writer can be pretty scary, but I promise you we’ll catch you and welcome you with cookies and kittens (and tea/coffee, naturally). You’ll be glad you’ve joined, trust me. The sooner you can do this, the better. Your release day may seem like a long way off when you’ve only just finished your first draft, but that’s precisely why that’s the ideal time to start promoting. Think of it this way – if you wait until your book is out, no one will know it exists on release day. But if you create a blog, post regularly, and have at least a small but intrigued social media following by release day, then those are people who do know about your book! There may not be many if it’s your first book, but a few are better than none.

There’s only one thing you need to be on social media, and that’s yourself. Make sure your posts are genuine, avoid posting nothing but “My book is awesome! You have to read it NOW!”, and you’ll find your people (sometimes refered to as your tribe) in no time!

If you want to catch up with me on social media, glance over to the left-hand side – you’ve got all my links right there 😉

But let’s hear from the other eleven authors, shall we? (My thanks to all of you again for stopping by and sharing your insights <3 )

Nadia L. King, Author of Jenna’s Truth

A surprise that came with becoming a writer is the need for public speaking. When my debut book was published last year, I was most surprised by how much public speaking I needed to undertake. As writers, we often prefer to stay in the worlds we create in our heads. This isn’t always possible. We have to become adept at public speaking. No matter how shy you are, you will have public speaking engagements. The greater the public’s exposure to your book and to you, the more likely readers will ‘buy-in’ to your book. So get ready for radio and TV interviews, library talks, and school visits. You can have the fanciest, most sophisticated author website on the planet, but nothing beats the human touch. If we are truly to connect with our readers, we will need to speak to them and more often than not, this will require us to speak publicly.

Speaking engagements in Australia are paid and minimum rates are set by the Australian Society of Authors. Let schools and public libraries know you are available for talks by personally contacting them and providing details of what you cover in your talks and the audience you target. Remember, exposure is a powerful tool so use it when opportunities arise. So dear friends, get ready, feel the fear and do it anyway. Your book asks it of you.

 You can find Nadia on her blog, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Goodreads, and Amazon.

Anna B. Madrise, Author of The Hatter’s Wife

Book marketing in today’s day and age, has become a business in and of itself. There are whole websites, presentations, and companies, slated towards the “how-to’s” an author should follow to market their book. What they don’t tell you, is whether you are self-pub, tradish, or hybrid, you – the author – are going to be doing a good deal amount of your own marketing, on your own.

My first tip? Start with one social media site and get really good at using it. Be it Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest (yes there are authors who are doing fabulous on Pinterest!) pick one, and learn EVERYTHING you can about how to use that social media site as a place to market your books.

My second tip? Schedule time each week that you set aside to actually “do” the marketing of your book. Don’t try to pile it on top of writing days or research days, it will only overwhelm and frustrate you. It needs to be treated with the same importance as when you sit down to work on your manuscripts. In some cases, after your book is published, it starts to become more important because finding your audience, that will read your work, is the foundation to your author business.

Finally, enjoy the process. You became a writer/author for a reason. Don’t be afraid to showcase all your hard work to the world. Go in with a positive attitude and you will be rewarded much the same, in return.

You can find Anna on her website, InstagramTwitterFacebook, Goodreads, and Amazon.

Michael Chrobak, Author of Brother Thomas and the Guardians of Zion and Where Angels Dwell

Marketing starts before a book is released. It doesn’t matter how much you are going to spend advertising, if your potential readers aren’t attracted to it, they aren’t going to buy. Period. So, what do you need? First, a well-designed cover. Unless you’re a talented artist, don’t create your own cover. It will look self-published, and in this business, that’s bad. If your budget is limited, spend most of it on a good cover. Also – edit, edit, edit. Spelling, grammar mistakes, or timeline discrepancies give the reader the impression you don’t care. They might buy your first book, but they most likely won’t get the next.

Once it’s released, social media will be your best friend. It’s free, so use it. Try to build your follower base to at least 500 to 1000 before you release. And please, don’t make every post or tweet about your book. Let them see your personality. The more they think you’re someone they could hang out with, the more willing they are to not only read your books, but give you reviews as well. Reviews are what sell your books to the rest of the world. So treat your followers with respect, and be personal. I only post about my book when I have something to share. Updates on new releases, promotions or sales, new cover reveals, etc. I also recommend having a blog and writing about anything but your books. It gives your fans something to read while they wait for the sequel.

You can find Michael on his website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Goodreads, and Amazon.

Becky Wright, Author of The Manningtree Account and Remember to Love Me

Cultivating self-belief is one of the most daunting tasks as an Independent Author, but, inevitably, one of the first to master. Your story, your words, your thoughts are of course personal; therefore marketing your book is also promoting you.

The obvious place to start is with your loyal friends and family, but regards to onward marketing, think local. It’s important in the early stages to establish a readership, a following, a core group of readers who will eagerly ‘read & rave’ about your work. Once your book is in the hands of a reader, it becomes theirs; it now, no longer belongs solely to you. This is your greatest connection and tool.

Create an eye-catching Press Release, you will find numerous templates online. Think punchy and to the point – ‘who, what, when and why’. This is your press tool. Check out your local newspapers & magazines for spotlight features, book reviews and entertainment features. These are invaluable, some may jump at the chance of a local interest editorial, some may ask for an advertorial – you pay for a small advert and they give you a read up, creating a win-win situation.

All forms of media whether traditional print, or online social are a truly valuable source. Once mastered, Twitter, Facebook & Instagram will be your best buddies. But be caution, your time is precious, you are a writer, so make sure you dedicate time for writing.

You can find Becky on her website, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Goodreads, and Amazon.

RK Ride, Author of the Stella series

To be honest, the least favourite part of my publishing journey has to be marketing! But, I quickly realised that if I wanted people to enjoy the story I’d created, I had to get my head around the fact that I needed to let readers know my book was out there.  And one way I discovered to accomplish that, was not through ‘selling’ but through ‘connecting’.  Connecting with not only potential readers, but with fellow authors too. As authors, we are not in competition with each other. When you consider how many books a voracious reader can devour in a year, compared to how many books one author can write, it makes a whole lot of sense to collaborate with and support other authors.

A common medium to connect with others is through Social Media, and while it is a fabulous medium, it can also be a huge time suck. Early on in my marketing journey, I spent a lot of time on social media, but I found that my time spent was often grossly disproportionate to the amount of sales made. Now I focus my time and attention on growing my email list so that I can connect with my followers on a much more personal, one to one basis via a monthly newsletter, while still support my colleagues by having an Author Interview section in my mail out.

You can find Rhonda on her website, Facebook, and Instagram, Goodreads, and Amazon.

K.J. Chapman, author of the EVO Nation series and Thrown to the Blue

Indie authors are self-reliant on every publishing detail no matter how big or small. One aspect, and one of the most important, is marketing. Getting your book seen and reviewed will take up just as much time as the writing did in the first place.

I was a total newbie to anything self-publishing when I released my first book. I started marketing after publication and have since learnt that I made my life hard. Networking and building up your social media presence is vital, especially before publication. Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and a website/blog are just some of the key marketing platforms to build up a target audience, open avenues for beta and ARC readers, and to garner a solid group of fans who will support your work, read and review, share, repost, host you on their own blogs etc.

One part of successful marketing are visuals to use on these various social media platforms. You can hire professionals to create your promos, Facebook banners etc. Or you can create your own as and when you need them. Here are some links to websites that allow you to create free promos and/or edit images for this purpose:

www.canva.com (this website has a fantastic array of free tools to make book covers, Instagram posts, Twitter banners, and much more.)

www.picmonkey.com (this website allows you to edit images, add text, change eye colour, hair colour etc. Useful for editing free-stock pictures.)

www.pixabay.com (this website offers numerous images released free of copyrights under Creative Commons CC0.

I hope this has helped writers looking at going down the indie publishing route. It can be a long, tiring slog, but it gets your work out there and under your terms.

You can find Kayleigh on her blog, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Goodreads, and Amazon.

Beverley Lee, Author of the Gabriel Davenport Trilogy

Marketing is an unruly beast as there isn’t an established rule book. But what does work may surprise you. It doesn’t involve spending money, just time. Support other writers. Cheer on all of their successes and be there on the bad days. The writing community is tight knit, they will do the same for you, and their readers may become your readers, which, in turn, will open up another new line of readership for you. It’s only by supporting others that we grow stronger as a whole.

If you do decide that advertising in a book promotion newsletter is for you, do your research on which are the best fit for your genre. Find out how many subscribers they have and what their newsletter actually looks like. Is it professional? (Some aren’t!) You will need to schedule well in advance though if you want to tie in your promotion with any others you are running. Some do book up months in advance so you need a marketing plan. Run a few campaigns and log your sales, rebook with the ones that give you the best return. You probably won’t even break even with the cost, but what it will do is to boost your book further up the rankings so that more people will see it. Keeping your book visible is one of the most important things that you can do.

You can find Beverley on her website, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Goodreads, and Amazon.

Ellen Read, Author of The Dragon Sleeps

After so many months writing a book, editing and publishing it, I then had to sell it. This is the most difficult of all.  I have worked in publicity/marketing in the performing arts, and although I think this was of some help, books are so very different. I researched and read everything I could find on how to go about selling my books. To start with, I had a website built. Then I started building an online presence. I started a writer’s page on Facebook and I joined Instagram and Goodreads. Instagram, in particular, was a revelation. I did not expect to find a book/writer/reader community there. Goodreads is also a great way to communicate with other authors and readers. A blog followed, although at first I wasn’t certain what I wanted to say. If you are selling your books on Amazon, as most Indie authors are, Amazon gives you an author page in US, UK, France and Germany, but not Australia and being Australian, I wish they did. However, there will always be some negatives. The thing is to work with are the positives. Author signings are a good way to get your book out there too. Sometimes I wonder how to fit in writing but it’s necessary to build followers.

You can find Ellen on her blog, website, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Google+, Goodreads, and Amazon.

G. R. Thomas, Author of The A’vean Chronicles

Visibility. This is the key word to demonstrate best practice book marketing. This is achievable three ways.

Social media. Used regularly, it is an effective platform to promote your book whether it be the cover, reviews or quotes, release dates and special promos.

Interaction. Be available to engage with readers and other authors to build relationships and trust. This promotes interest in your work as well as a sense of feeling like there’s a connection between the author and reader. We all know how exciting it is if we get a like from our favourite authors.

Book signings. There’s nothing like face to face interaction for you to draw a reader in and become memorable to them. Face to face signings have been the single most successful means for me in terms of sales, return customers and increase in social media following.

You can find Grace on her website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Goodreads, and Amazon.

A. Morgan, Author of The Siblings

As an independent author, it is key to market the story right. Some pay for companies to do this for them, or like me, prefer the cheap and easy route by doing it myself.

For those looking to do it themselves, here is a few things to consider:

– Blog it. If you have a blog, get your story familiar with your followers by posting key information, excerpts, teasers, novel aesthetics or anything else you can think of by shouting loudest.

– Tweet it. Twitter along with its hashtags help many indie authors get their work out in the big bad world. Be it via #BookBoost, #indieauthors or the simple #amwriting, many people get the chance to see it. But be careful, filling up your timeline with nothing but self promotion, it can put a lot off followers off.

– I do not use it myself currently but Instagram seems to be a popular place to leave teasers.

Also, remember what type of readers you are looking to attract. If you’re trying to sell romance to a site popular with hardcore horror readers, you may not get the reaction you desire. The internet is a beautiful place and I know next time around, I will strive to do much more in advance. Leaving things to the last minute is not ideal. Scout hashtag games, bloggers willing to read advance copies and don’t be afraid to give away some for free.

Good luck with your journey and be prepared.

You can find Alan on his blog, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Melinda Devine, Author of Gina’s Diaries

Marketing. If I had to label this word, a sticker reading ‘A necessary evil’ would be slapped upon it.

When I began writing my debut novel Gina’s Diaries, I had no idea about marketing, let alone having to market my own book and myself as an author. I mean, really? Isn’t being an author just sitting and writing and releasing book after book? The answer: no. Especially for an Indie author.

To sell my book and myself, I needed to let everyone know we existed and to do that, I had to accept marketing was just as important as the book itself.

I have found two platforms which I’m comfortable with: Facebook and Instagram.

Facebook has worked for me in letting my friends and family know about my books, where they can purchase them, giving updates on my WIP and if I’m doing any book events or anything locally.

Instagram has been fabulous in reaching a far wider audience but in also allowing me to connect with authors and readers alike. I’ve held a couple of giveaways, placed my book on sale, attempted a few teasers and learnt an abundance of marketing ideas from the ever supportive author/bookstagram community.

I may see marketing as a necessary evil at the moment but that’s only because I’m still learning how to do it. One day it will just be a necessity and then, when I’ve successfully mastered it, marketing will be a breeze!

You can find Melinda on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Goodreads, and Amazon.

How do YOU market your books? What works best for you? Grab a cookie, make a tea/coffee, and let’s chat!


Sign up for my newsletter for updates on my books and recommendations to help you grow as a writer:

For all of my other musings, click me!

For Cookie Break’s home page, have a look here.

12 Comments

Everything You Need to Know About Beta Reading – How Do You Find Your Squad?

Welcome to the new series, friends! 🙂 This one is all about beta reading. If you’ve missed anything in my series about world building, or if you’d like to remind yourself of a couple of points, you can now find all posts neatly listed here 😉

Knowing how to be a good beta reader and what to ask for if you’re the writer is useful and all, but how do you actually find beta readers? It’s a question I’ve been asked several times since I’ve started this blog, so I thought it was the perfect topic to start with!

Ask on your blog

This was the most effective way for me. I asked here, and you answered! I had far more responses than I expected to receive, so this worked very well for me. You can take a look at my post here if you’d like to get a better idea of what I did:

I recommend you ask on your blog for another reason, too: The people who follow your blog are more likely to be interested in your progress than Twitter followers, for example, where most people follow someone without really thinking about it. Therefore, if you ask on your blog or website you’re more likely to get the word to people who are genuinely interested in your books, and actually want to help. I don’t need to spell out for you why that’s a good thing. And it brings me to my next point, too:

Ask in your newsletter

Now, I understand if you’re new to this blogging and writing thing you likely haven’t gone all out right away. That’s okay. These are suggestions, after all, and you don’t have to run with all of them! So don’t worry if you don’t have a newsletter.

If you do have one, however, I recommend that you use it to build your squad. Our inboxes are sacred; we don’t subscribe to someone’s mailing list unless we’re really, really interested. So, if you ask for beta readers via your newsletter, you can be sure that the people who open it actually care.

Ask on social media

Social media can be excellent for getting the word out to as many people as possible as soon as possible. However, please be advised that a lot of people who follow you on social media won’t actually be interested in your books. Similar to giveaways, a lot of people might reply and follow you until they realise that they didn’t make it (which is okay, by the way – you can’t make everyone who volunteers a beta reader, that’d be insane, but I’ll come to that in a moment).

Therefore, if you’re going to ask on social media, I’d advise you only do it in conjunction with your blog. You could set up some simple guidelines, so you can be sure that the people who respond are definitely interested and know what you need from them.

Ask on specific websites

Now, I admit, I haven’t actually tried this. I know there are several sites which specialise in getting beta readers and writers together, but because I haven’t tried it I can’t recommend any. I do, however, know a few writers who have done this with mixed results. Some betas you get are excellent. Others read one chapter or get halfway through your manuscript and then drop out, often without a word.

So ask on beta specific websites at your own risk. They can work out great, or you might waste a couple of months without receiving any input.

Who should you take?

Having a squad of writers definitely has its advantages, but don’t forget that you’re not writing solely for other writers. You also want input from people who don’t obsess over grammar rules and theory books; you know, readers. It’s a good idea to have a mixture of the two, across all age groups, of both genders. Someone who wouldn’t normally read the genre you write can be just as valuable as a whole-life fan. Someone who loves your genre might get lost in the story and not notice smaller mistakes as a result. Someone who wouldn’t usually pick up a book like yours, on the other hand, might be more focused on spelling and grammar.

How many do you want?

The more betas you have, the more opinions you’re going to get. In small numbers that’s a great thing – if one beta hates chapter four or Billy’s character development but the other five betas love it, you’ve likely got nothing to worry about. But do you know what happens when you have twelve betas? You get twelve opinions, some of them very different, and you’ll end up not knowing what to do. Does it really help you to know that three people hated Jianna, one person sort of disliked her, five people were indifferent but didn’t want her to die exactly, and the other three adored the ground she sways on? What do you do with that information? All it tells you is that some people love her and others don’t, but you probably already guessed that before you sent your book out to betas. After all, the same is true for everything we create.

But you don’t want too few betas, either. Imagine having two betas. One hates Charlie, the other doesn’t comment. Does that mean that Charlie is unlikable? Does it mean you have to cut her?

So how many betas should you have? Personally I recommend four to seven, but seven might already be pushing it. The best thing to do is to experiment, and see what works best for you. Too many opinions will quickly become overwhelming, but too few and you won’t learn anything. I’d say start with five, and if you then feel that you’re not receiving enough input you can always recruit a few more.

To summarise:

Having strangers read your book is the way to go, but knowing that you can trust people is a good thing, too. I know plenty of people on social media, for example, who I’m not that close to that I’d call us best friends exactly, but who I know would stick to their word and do a good job. Don’t just recruit your best friends who read all the time and your parents. They don’t make good beta readers unless they can be absolutely, brutally, honest with you, and most of your friends won’t want to do that. If you do recruit one or two friends, make sure you still recruit enough other betas to ensure complete honesty.

Asking here on CookieBreak worked best for me and I will ask in my newsletter, too, when the times comes (in a few weeks… stay sharp, friends). I will ask on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook as well, but I will lead people back here so I can explain my conditions properly and in detail.

In two weeks we’ll look at when the right time to ask for betas is, but before that 11 authors share their best marketing tips here next week! An Easter gift from us, to you 😉

How do you ask for betas? Have you gone over a website, and what’s your experience? (Recommendations welcome!) More importantly, do you have any more questions? 🙂 Make a tea, grab a cookie, and let’s chat!


Sign up for my newsletter for updates on my books and recommendations to help you grow as a writer:

Gifs are from Giphy

For all of my other musings, click me!

For Cookie Break’s home page, have a look here.

12 Comments