After you’ve written your manuscript and gone over it at least once, it’s usually time to ship it out to some beta-readers, to get an outside perspective. If nothing else, they can spot the things that you know about your story that you didn’t actually put down on paper.
There are tons of different techniques, and I’ve got to say, this time around, I’m kinda winging it.
How Many Beta-Readers To Ask?
It has been quite some time since I sent a new, fresh book off to beta-readers.
My first time, I just asked my friends on facebook — before I’d jumped into the writing world. I had RPG game masters, english teachers, family, and readers reading it. I tried my best to mix backgrounds, gender, and age. I sent it out to seven readers and heard back from five. I had in-depth feedback from four and high-level feedback from three (there was some overlap).
Since then, I’ve had plenty of critique partners — writers, looking at my manuscript with a similar lens to mine, that I let loose in ones-and-twos on more polished drafts.
For this beta? I asked a middle-grade writer friend, a YA writer friend, and was pleasantly surprised when a friend working on base during quarantine asked for something to do while waiting out his shift, helping make sure I didn’t *just* have writer perspectives.
Three beta-readers. Not a lot, but a nice balance if they all come through — which mine have. Just in time for me to have a block of time between chapters on that never-ending YA revision of mine.
What To Ask For
The best way to get beta-feedback you can really use is — shock-of-shocks — to ask for it. You know I’ve got my 10 Questions I Ask My Beta-Readers, such as: what works, what doesn’t, and what parts they enjoyed.
No matter what you’re worried about: characters, dialogue, world-building, pacing — now is the time to ask. Have them focus on the parts of the story that you care about.
You can even tell them to skip the line edits, if you want! Make this a developmental round of edits, not a copy edit.
They might not address all your questions directly, but by asking, you plant the ideas in their head before they begin, and it can really help direct their feedback.
Should Your Betas See What The Others Are Saying?
There are mixed feelings on this, and clearly, the answer is to do what works for you.
If you’re still world-building or playing with techiques and things, where you want to almost brainstorm what the story could look like with your betas, a shared document with open feedback might be just the ticket.
For me? I make sure they all have their own private copy, so they don’t know what anyone else is thinking. This way, I know they’re all facing it fresh, with no one else’s pre-conceived notions influencing them.
The choice is yours.
How To Compile Beta Feedback
Some people read feedback from beta-readers as it comes in, addressing stuff immediately with the excitement and energy they get from the fresh critique.
I like to sit on it.
Well, I read the draft letter they usually send with the big picture stuff and let it percolate in my brain. But the read-through and all the inline stuff? That waits.
I like to wait until I have feedback from ALL of my beta-readers. And then, I–
Wait. Let’s be honest here. This is only my second completed manuscript. I need to stop talking about this like I have a process. I sorta did this with my 2 or 3 shorts I sent out, but noo really. I just have “what I did last time” and “my vague plan that I’m stalling on by writing this blogpost.”
So, my plan and what I vaguely remember from my first round of betas, longer ago than I would like, is that I’m going to go through the feedback, chapter-by-chapter.
I’m going to have all three beta drafts and my own fresh-copy open at once. Maybe on separate quadrants of the screen? As I see line edits, I’ll see what the other betas thought, and decide if I want to incorporate them.
On a notepad, or gmail draft, I’ll be jotting down the larger stuff (although, most of that, I’d imagine, is not in-line, but instead in the draft letters they all sent me, that I already read).
I know, all the advice says to skip the line edits until you know if you’re even keeping that chapter, but I find getting the line edits out of the way makes the big choices easier, because I’m not overwhelmed with all the ‘clutter’ of the small stuff.
Last time, I printed the whole thing out, going chapter by chapter, making notes, writing new scenes on the back of the pages of the last draft. I’m debating now, and if I should do that before or after I do the quick line-edits. I almost called them ‘easy’ line edits, but they can be quite challenging. They’re just often smaller changes in scope, not difficulty.
To me? I consider changing wording and adding descriptions, etc, as ‘editing’. While changing pacing, characterization, and other big picture stuff are ‘revising’.
So, after I use their feedback to edit my manuscript, it’ll be time to look at the big picture and decide where to go from there.
How do you like to work with your beta-readers?
Are there any things you’d suggest I do differently? Does something else work for you?
Let me know in the comments below and I’ll be back again, next week, with more writing tips and writerly musings.
As January firmly establishes itself, I’m finally ready to talk about what 2020 is going to look like for me.
Last year was intended to be a year of reading, revision, and reflection.
Thusly, I listed my goals:
As I shared last week, I did great on everything on that list — except my revisions and querying — you know, the parts of the list that actually get me closer to publication. Does anyone else see the problem here?
This year? This year my focus is on revisions and querying/submitting.
As always, I like to set SMART goals –
Specific – you’ll see numbers and dates!
Measurable – you’ll still see numbers and dates
Achievable – I set goals for things I have influence over. I’m aiming for an agent, getting something published, but unless I self-pub, I have no control over that.
Relevant – I’m keeping my exercise goals and healthy eating off this post. These are all about my writing, the relevance should be clear.
Time-sensitive – Obviously, these are intended to be completed in 2020, but some items may have specific dates associated.
So? Let’s take last year’s list and put it in a new priority order.
Last year’s goal of revising 3 full manuscripts was… ambitious. I clearly was thinking more about what it takes for me to edit (clean up a draft) than about what it takes to get feedback from others, integrate it, and polish the draft till it comes out in my voice.
The manuscript I had ready for querying last year is in the middle of revisions with my wonderful mentor. But? The mentorship officially ended last April, and, although she generously volunteered to keep at it with me, she has paying work that, of course, comes first. So? We’re working through my novel 30 pages at a time.
My hope is to have the revisions done by the end of May, when I hit Balticon. But, life happens. So, what can I do to speed up the process on my end? Make sure that the next 30 page chunk is as ready to go as I can make it before I get feedback from the previous section.
I’m cutting a secondary character’s role in the last 3rd of the journey, and changing the nature of the last leg of the journey quite a bit, so I already know a large part of the plotting changes. Plus, my mentor keeps reminding me to add visuals. As I’ve said before, I worry about what’s in the character’s head and the action. I forget people want to see the world itself. So, that’s my revision priority.
But, of course, there’s going to be some downtime.
To fill that in, I’ve been nudging my alpha reader who has my middle-grade contemporary fantasy (the school play story) and should hear back in the next week or so.
Also? Last year also included writing some short stories and some poetry. Between revising my middle-grade story and getting those shorts and poetry ready for publication, I’ve got a lot to work on.
2. Querying & Submitting
If you haven’t tried to get your work published before, this item might seem confusing. What’s the difference?
Querying is a intro-letter and first chapter or so that you send to a literary agent. Once you have an agent, they often make you do revisions, before submitting your work to a publishing house.
Why do you need an agent? There are many publishing houses that do not accept unagented work. Agents understand what your contract should look like and what is negotiable. Plus? The agent’s job is to know the market — and thus know what your book needs in order to best sell it — and to whom. Typically, you query 5-10 agents at a time.
Submitting a manuscript/short story/poem is what you can do to any editor/publisher who is open to it: publishers (who are open to unagented work), literary magazines, anthologies, etc.
When you’re sending a cover letter and your story to the place that will actually print/publish the piece, it’s called a submission. Typically, submissions are exclusive (unless the guidelines state otherwise), so you have to wait to hear back before you can send to another publisher.
This year, for my short stories and poetry, I’m going to try to get at least 5 stories ready for publication and submit them to at least 10 markets. At least half of those submissions should be before July, just to make sure I don’t forget to put myself out there.
With you, I’m finding an audience and, I hope, creating a community. You are the people whose queries I help polish as you look for an agent, whose books I add to my massive to-read pile, the people I feature in my Author Spotlights. Blogging puts me out there, keeps me accountable, and gives me a way to give back to the community.
Plus? I haven’t missed a week on my blog since February of 2016 (although, I have done reruns) nor a vlog-post since I started vlogging on June 27, 2017. So? I’d hate to break my posting streak! Thus, I’ll continue putting out a new blog/vlog every Thursday with writing tips or writerly musings.
I’m already off to a great start with this, but when I have them lined up, I’ll also be sharing Author Spotlights or Query Corners on Tuesdays.
I’m thinking of adding some Authortube videos of my massive to-read pile, or maybe an occasional brief weekly check-in since those were popular during NaNo. I just need to find a time that works every week for those, so I can schedule them in advance and make them interactive.
I did great on this one last year, but I’m not gonna look a gift horse in the mouth. I had a lot of travel, and managed to hit 41 books, but there’s no guarantee this year will as generous. I even managed to read a decent amount of physical books — but a lot of those were new or re-reads. Not as many from my to-read pile as I’d like to admit.
So? I’m keeping my goal from last year of reading 26 books – a little more than two a month. This time? At least 10 of them should be physical and ALREADY on my bookshelf.
So far? I finished a short story collection I bought over the holidays AND read a book that’s been with me since before I moved. Not a bad start!
Yet again, writing is so far down my list!
I can hear your thoughts, your concerns. What’s wrong, Morgan? I thought this was your writing blog. Why isn’t this more writing focused? Do you want to be a blogger/vlogger more than a writer?
Well, first? Rewriting IS writing, and revisions are tops on my list. The goal is publication and I’ve got 4 manuscripts, 21+ short stories, and 30+ poems just waiting for a home.
More writing right now just means a larger backlog of things to be polished.
But! Never fear, I will be doing OctPoWriMo again — writing a poem a day for all of October. And then NaNoWriMo — writing 50,000 words in November. If I’m really stumped in November, I’ll rebel and revise either 5 shorts or a full manuscript. But, knowing me, I’ll probably make new words.
6. Beta Readers
I’ll be reaching out to beta readers as I wrap up my revisions on my middle grade novel, hopefully before August. Last year’s goals of having revisions of two different manuscripts done by May AND July were unrealistic.
As always, I like to keep my beta reader pool to no more than 8 readers, typically from different backgrounds. I usually give them separate copies, so that their feedback won’t influence each other.
I’m considering joining a local critique group and feel that short stories work much better in those venues than a full manuscript. Especially since I’m more interested in feedback on my pacing and characterization than the chapter itself. I guess it’s arrogance, but I think I know where my problem points lay.
On the flip-side, I’m now a contributing editor to The Oddville Press, an online literary magazine of odd, but not really fantastical tales. I’m also a regular beta-reader for my dad (who’s retired from a day job and enjoys filling my inbox). Not to mention, I have a few critique partners, and writer friends who have been known to reach out for feedback. I will try not to commit to more than 3 full length betas this year.
Actually, maybe I should have changed the name of this goal. This should be all the in-person writing goals. I aim to attend 6+ open mic nights, 4+ monthly writer meetings, try a critique group, and 3 NaNoWriMo events (kickoff, 1 write in, and the all-nighter till 11pm). Plus? Two+ conventions.
I intend to hit Balticon again (May) and — if everything works out — WorldCon (August) in New Zealand (!!). I submitted to be a panelist at Balticon again… and this time was accepted! And? I think they approved the panels I suggested (topics from this blog that I feel I can talk competently on, and that my unpublished perspective won’t be a detriment to my authority on the subject).
How do I know they approved them? They recruited me to be on their Programming team! (Apparently, after attending nearly 30 panels a year for the last 5 years, they suspected I might have opinions about what makes a good panel and who are the good panelists.) So, that’s another time commitment.
What does being on panels net me? Why do I want to do this?
First, it’s a greater reach for my blog and vlog. Plus, a larger audience when I do get published. Hopefully, a way to make more friends and supporters. Plus, a chance to talk about all the stuff I obsess over on my blog and on my vlog in person with actual people.
But how does attending conventions count as a writing goal? Isn’t it just fun?Or part of your social media addiction?
Well, if you’ve been following my blog, you’ve probably noticed that over half the content is actually write ups from notes at convention panels! I attend the panels, for those who can’t (or don’t). Also? My sister teases me that I act like a teacher, trying to get her recertification credits, all in one weekend.
And? Well, I talked about it in my post on attending conventions, but, of course, there’s the networking aspect. The science-fiction and fantasy conventions I prefer are full of readers, writers, and even some publishers and agents!
As is becoming my trend, the first part of my year will be focused on revisions, the middle on conventions, and the end on writing. Plus, I’ll be reading and blogging and vlogging throughout the year.
Except December. I’m not a writer in December — everyone needs a chance to breath.
We’ll have to wait until next January to see if I had 2020 foresight.
The booktuber world is right next door to the authortuber world — full of people talking about their to-read lists, the books they’re actually reading, and their own community. As opposed to us authortubers, talking about writing tips, writing progress, and apparently streaming virtual write-ins. Both are full of people passionate about books and wanting to talk about it on youtube.
Everyone had their own path and reasons that led them to youtube.
For Claire, 5 years ago, her partner started a geeking out/gaming channel. After seeing how it went, and attending a convention, she wanted to get in on it too, but with her own hobbies. Thus, her booktube channel was born.
Linnea started as a blogger. She’d seen the English-language booktubers, but was worried there wasn’t a large enough audience in her native tongue. Then? She found the other european-vloggers and decided to try it anyway.
Bree had graduated from college and was underemployed. So, she got back to her love of books, found the community, and wanted to join the conversation.
Thomas had been doing traditional book reviews on http://www.sfReviews.net since 2001. He’d seen his gamer friends start up game vlogs and wanted to try, so he tried it — without even knowing the community was there! He’s found that reviews are a lot more personal when your face is attached to the words.
Common BookTube Videos
These booktubers wanted to talk about books on youtube, but what sort of videos are out there?
Book Hall – A stack of new books that you’ve gotten.
Thomas called his a ‘mail bag’, because he didn’t know it was a thing
Bree loves watching these, but hates recording them
Linnae loves these
TBR – Your to-be-read pile. What you’re planning to read in the coming week or month.
Claire loves these
Wrap-up – Your end of the week/month where you talk about which books you actually got to, and what you thought about them. – Some people do a video for each book (like Thomas, with his traditional book review roots)
Book discussions – Talking and analysing books. These come in many forms.
Comparing the book to the movie
Comparing and contrasting different books of a similar theme
Top 5 Wednesday – Share your top 5 books in a given theme/genre
Getting Started on Booktube
Don’t be afraid to join in. You don’t need much to get started, and all of the booktubers out there started just like you, wondering why anyone would care what they think about books.
These are people who love reading and just want to connect with other fans. Just like you.
All you need is a smartphone, a youtube account, and the internet
Crappy videos are fine – talk to people and build community.
Try to post on a consistent schedule, at least once a month.
Audio is more important than video, look to upgrade that first.
To upgrade your video, you can do it in phases
Better microphone (like a Blue Snowball mic + pop filter)
Better camera (like a logitech USB webcam)
Better lighting (like umbrella lights)
Video Editing (like VegasPro)
If you get big enough (4,000 view hours + 1,000 subscribers), youtube will let you monetize.
Patreon may be a better way to get money, but you have to have something to offer people at the different tiers that people are interested in. And that often means bonus material. NOTE: Most monetized channels can pay for a coffee. Or, in a good month, start to recoup the money they spent on equipment. WARNING: In some countries, it is illegal to accept donations/ patronage without giving them something physical in return.
Joining the BookTube Community
Most of these tips are going to sound familiar if you’ve seen any of my other posts on joining other online communities.
Subscribe to other booktubers!
Comment on other booktubers!
Comment on what they’re discussing, be on topic! You might think a compliment like, “you’re pretty” is something everyone wants to hear. Instead? The booktuber is probably thinking you didn’t care about what they were discussing.
NOTE: If your comment is non-specific, just long enough that your name links back to your own channel, they can tell you’re just trying to use them to find followers. It’s rude and won’t win you any friends.
Watch to the end! Many booktubers have bonus material there. Like booktube challenges, or requests for you to share your own links below (either for your channel or similar themed videos).
As always, don’t be disappointed at slow traction. It takes a while to become an “overnight” success.
Booktubers to watch!
If booktube sounds up your alley or you’re already a fan, here are some people the panelists suggested to check out.
I know, I know. I’m a writer blogger, but I’ve got this YouTube channel thing, as an #authorTuber. So, when I saw this panel at Balticon53, I had to pop in and take some notes. I’ve blogged about my approach before, but these notes come from the experts!
Thanks to Rebecca Davis, Devin Jackson Randall, and JP Beaubien, moderated by Melissa L Hayden, I’ve got some validation for things I do, and some new things to try out.
How do you even START a YouTube channel?
If you have a gmail account, you’re already there — at least for personal use.
Why you might want a separate email and channel for your YouTube Channel
Prevents hackers or trolls from easily interferring with your day-to-day accounts.
Helps with branding.
Because you can’t keep your subscriptions entirely private from the one you’re subscribing TO — and not all the YouTube channels you follow are likely to be on-brand.
How Private Can Your Activity Be?
You can hide/show a lot of things from your feed, but on the individual videos/channels that you’ve responded to, your name is still attached. Such as:
Why You Might Want Your Activity Public
Just like with blogging, a good comment on another user’s blog can drive traffic back to your channel.
Plus? People like to support people who support them — the reciprocal nature of YouTube can be strong, especially among smaller YouTubers.
The “Rules” of YouTube
Before you start putting everything out there, you’ve got to know the rules.
Copyright infringement check is mostly automated — a single report of infringement is a lot less “weighty”. (Thank you, trolls)
You can get hit months later with an infringement charge — that results in your video getting removed — for sharing a Picture.
Typically, in this case, you can successfully argue that it is:
To avoid charges — video clips from movies/etc need to be a small percentage of your video.
If you get 3 strikes in one year, your site is DELETED.
Why are copyright claims important?
1. If a property doesn’t protect their copyright material, then it enters into common use and their copyright holds no weight.
2. If your channel is big enough to be monetized, there are more restrictions on what you can share from other sources.
How DOES One Get Monetized?
The big question that a lot of YouTubers want to know.
CAVEAT: the rules are ALWAYS changing.
The big things you need to know:
Over 1,000 subscribers
4,000 hours of watch time in the last year
You get no payout until you’ve earned $100
If your content is tagged with a yellow dollar sign, it means some ads may not be appropriate for this video. In other words, you get fewer ads and less money.
I.e. Some key words, that are not listed anywhere, can lead to less visibility and ads. Experience has shown YouTubers that “corpse” is one of those words.
How To Monetize A Post If You Can
There will be a “Monetization” tab in the YouTube creator studio
You get to select where in your video the ad is:
Mid-video, 30 second, unskippable ad
Ads at the end
Where Do The Ads Come From?
By the time you have 20-30,000 followers, you’ll start getting propositions, although it might not be ads that you want. These days? It usually starts off with:
Phone mobile games.
Where Do YouTubers Make Their Money?
It’s not from the monetization. Yes, they get some money from there, but that’s not where the salary-level YouTubers get paid.
Sponsorships are where it’s at. After you have about 70,000 followers, sponsorship offers will be coming in. Make sure it’s something that matches your brand and something you’re not embarrassed to tie your name to.
How To Find A Sponsorship?
Wait for them to come to you, unless you have a great pitch, for a company that is an excellent match for your channel. Don’t accept a sponsor you don’t believe in.
The recommended way to handle a sponsorship is through an agency like socialBluebook.com.
Typically, you’ll have a contract and a due date, with 2 business days for you to approve their ad. The contract is typically terms:
Either X views in Y days
Or you’ll have to show their ad again
YouTube is a Hussle
For people who aren’t monetized through YouTube or sponsors, there’s still ways to make money — if just to support your YouTube habit.
YouTube isn’t just screaming into the void. You want to have something to offer. You want to have a theme, so that subscribers know what to expect — not meeting expectations is the best way to lose followers and get down-voted.
You need to have a personality! People watch videos because of the person, more than the information. They can probably get the information elsewhere.
Building on that — you need to entertain the audience and have energy.
Invest in a decent microphone (Audacity is a decent, free, voice editing software program)
Manage the comments on your posts
You can ban certain words
You can shadow-ban: the user sees their comment, but no one else does.
Watch and comment on other people’s videos. Especially in your niche:
Your videos should appeal to their audience
You can see what other people are doing in your niche
You can see what’s overdone and what’s not covered
And? If you’re posting on the topic, you’re probably interested in it
CAVEAT: Don’t spam comments. “Nice post. Check out my site.” are obvious link spam and won’t get you far.
Clearly, this is a high-level conceptual approach to YouTube. Where to start, the big copyright worries, some of the details about how monetization works, and community expectations.
Is there anything the panelists missed? Anything I wrote down wrong?And… is there anything you’d like to share about YOUR approach? Let me know in the comments below.
And? If you’re an #authorTube blogger, this is a call out for you to share your links below! I’d love to connect.
As January firmly establishes itself, this might seem a bit late for a resolutions post, but I always planned to take January off from writing and relax some, so you haven’t missed anything.
For me, this is going to be a year of reading, revision, and reflection.
I’ve got such a lovely streak going here, I’d hate to break it. So, I’ll continue putting out a new blog/vlog every Thursday on writing tips or writerly musings.
When I have them lined up, I’ll be sharing Author Spotlights or Query Corners on Tuesdays.
Plus, I’m contemplating maybe a picture post on the weekends. I’m debating if Saturday or Sunday is better. Suggestions?
They say one can’t be a writer without reading. And, finding out what’s new and good in your genre is research, right? Although, that doesn’t mean I won’t do plenty of ‘for fun’ reading.
My goal is to read 26 books this year, one every other week on average. (Although, I tend to read in binges.) I’m looking at taking breaks from writing to focus on downtime and reading in January, March, May, and July. And I hope that planning intentional breaks will help fight the feeling of being on a never-ending treadmill, where I fail if I let myself take a break.
So far? I’ve read a couple romances and all 4 books in Charlie Holmberg’s The Paper Magician series. I think I’m off to a good start.
I’m sitting on a backlog of 4 manuscripts in various states — mostly collecting dust. It’s time to fix that.
I got some great feedback from a critique partner back in November for Manuscript #1 (a secondary world young adult fantasy), but it was kind of a bitter pill to swallow. I have been brainstorming and messaging with the critiquer on ways to fix it. But I took December and January off, partially sulking, partially trying to figure out how to solve the issues mentioned. I’m going to let the ideas percolate a bit more and plan to hold off until February before implementing my fixes.
Then, in April, I’m going to pull out MS #2 — the sequel to MS #1.
In June, I’m going to pull out either MS #3 (my gender-bent Robin Hood) or MS #4 (my middle-grade contemporary fantasy, where the more you connect with what you read, the more your world shifts to be like it… physically!)
Once MS #1 has been revised, again, I’m marching into the query trenches once more.
Starting in March, I intend to send out 3 queries a week for 4 months, unless I get an R&R. If it goes no where, I’ll contemplate edits in August.
I’ll be reaching out to beta readers as I wrap up my revisions on MS #2 (May) and MS #3 or #4(July). Readers for MS #2 will, by necessity, be people who have beta read or critiqued MS #1, but for the others, I’m open to a small pool of new readers.
I like to keep my beta reader pool to no more than 8 readers, typically from different backgrounds. I usually give them separate copies, so that their feedback won’t influence each other.
If my Alpha reader’s schedule permits, I’ll send my manuscripts to her for quick feedback, but otherwise, these may just go straight to my beta readers.
In August and September, I’ve blocked time to incorporate the feedback — at least for MS #2. And perhaps, some updates for MS #1 (either as query feedback suggests, or to better set up MS #2’s plotting).
I intend to hit Balticon again (May) and WorldCon (August) in Dublin (!!). I submitted to be a panelist at Balticon… but after they’d already started sending out panel invites, so I may have been too late there. We’ll see. (Keep your fingers crossed!)
Hmmm, there’s very little actual writing on this project plan, but sometimes, that’s how the cookie crumbles. Besides, I’ve been assured that editing and revising and brainstorming ARE part of the writing process.
Plus? I don’t have a big idea pushing on me right now.
That said, I intend to do OctPoWriMo again — writing a poem a day for all of October. And then NaNoWriMo.
If I don’t have an idea by then, I’ll do a rebel NaNo and revise whichever manuscript hasn’t been touched.
And that’s my plan for the year. If you got a little lost, here’s the plan in chart form.
I’ll be focusing on reading every other month until the last quarter, revising most of my backlog, querying, a couple conventions, and a bit of writing.