Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Tuesday Tips: First Readers

I have heard a few new authors say, "My first draft is final draft." and later they wonder why the only person to buy their book was their Mom.

If your goal is to write a book that is commercially successful it has to have more than just good spelling, grammar and punctuation. All of those are important but there is more to it.

If you have the best story in the world and the spelling, grammar and punctuation is bad, it won't sell. If all those things are perfect and your story sucks it won't sell either.

A really good editor will fix technical issues but how do you fix the story? I use First Readers.

After I make the story as good as I can I send it off to my editor for her polish. Then I print a set of Red Pen Proofs. These copies go to my First Readers.

When I call them Red Pen Proofs that is a literal name. The First Readers mark them up. Make margin notes and give me advice on story, characters, plot, settings and everything and anything.  Then they return to proofs with notes. Some people call these people Beta Readers or Alpha Readers. I won't split hairs about defining these names of rolls.

When you work on a book for a long time, you get too close to it and may not see obvious issues. First Readers are a huge help.

How do you find them? That's the hardest part. I start with friends and family. Don't be offended if they can't help.

Friendship levels:
  • Friends help you move.
  • Real friends help you move bodies.
  • True friends will read your manuscript.
I also recommend finding readers in your writers group. It's best if they are fans of the genre you write. The more well-read they are, the easier it is to avoid tropes and obvious errors. You need people that will be brutally honest. Your mom will always say it's wonderful. After you have written a few books you may even be able to find a fan willing to give you honest feedback prior to publication. Listening to First Readers will make your story better. It's like reading reviews from the future and being able to fix the issues before you publish.

They will give you feedback. Be honest with yourself. You can take some advice and not other advice. Don't be so close and proud that the story suffers.

Make it easy for them to give you feedback. Sit with them over coffee and chat about it. If you can get them all together at once you can discuss it like a book club. I also think a questionnaire can help.

When it's done, I give them signed copies as a thank you.

--Listen to your First Readers. They are usually right.

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