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Dear Extra Squeeze Team, Beta Readers?

February 29, 2020 by in category Featured Author of the Month, The Extra Squeeze by The Extra Squeeze Team tagged as , , , , ,

Ever wonder what industry professionals think about the issues that can really impact our careers? Each month The Extra Squeeze features a fresh topic related to books and publishing.

Amazon mover and shaker Rebecca Forster and her handpicked team of book professionals offer frank responses from the POV of each of their specialties — Writing, Editing, PR/Biz Development, and Cover Design.

Do you have a question for The Extra Squeeze Team? Send them to us by using this handy link.

Dear Extra Squeeze Team, What Are Beta Readers and How Do I Get One?

Robin Blakely | The Extra Squeeze Team | A Slice of Orange

Robin Blakely

PR/Business Development coach for writers and artists; CEO, Creative Center of America; member, Forbes Coaches Council.

If you want to write a better book, consider finding a few Beta Readers.

The big idea behind working with Beta Readers is to test drive your finished piece on folks who will provide you with valuable insights that could improve your work before it reaches the general marketplace. As an author, you know that the reading experience matters. So you want to discover how the book is perceived by readers when you still have the opportunity to tinker with the mechanics of the experience, if you need to. It’s like your book is a roller coaster ride–you are the engineer who built the roller coaster and who wants to make sure the experience of the ride is everything you imagined it would be. Your Beta Readers are going to take a ride and tell you how it feels.

Here are three rules to abide by:

  1. Pick Beta Readers who already like, love or super-love your genre. If you have a vampire book, you want somebody who has read a few vampire books to weigh in on how your story stacks up. In roller coaster terms, the ones who know the difference between the almost flat, slow-moving Wacky Worm and the fast and jaw dropping Coney Island Cyclone are very important to you. A bit of experience means they have context and perspective and can tell you more about the ride than folks who don’t know what to expect. That is not to say that only those with experience are valuable, but it is to say that it is important to know the level of experience of the rider before you consider redesigning your roller coaster to suit them.
  2. Stay focused on the Beta Reader’s experience. Ask Beta Readers about where and when things were good, surprising, or breathtaking. Ask about when and where things were too slow, too fast, too sharp or too unexpected. Focus on their experience and see if several Beta Readers say the same thing independent of each other. Then do the critical thinking needed to adjust your ride. In roller coaster terms, don’t expect the Beta Reader to know what caused the ride to be too slow or too fast. Some may intuitively know solutions but really those problem-solving issues are up to the engineer or the mechanic—not the rider. Readers have different preferences so listen and watch for the patterns that emerge as Beta Readers share their experiences with you. If everyone remarks upon the same twist or turn in the ride, take a closer look at that place. Don’t try to rebuild to suit every preference. This is your roller coaster.
  3. Define where the Beta Reader fits into your production process. Don’t confuse the role of the Beta Reader with the role of the Editor. The goals are different. You either want the Beta Reader to help you make the best book for the editor or you want the Editor to help you make the best book for the Beta Reader. Be clear about when the Beta Reader is most valuable to you and how you will use the info that you acquire. The big idea is that the first impression is valuable, and you can’t have a first impression more than once. Value that first impression and leverage it.

How do you find Beta Readers? Not everyone is a good Beta Reader. Ask people who love to read to recommend their friends. Make it known to family, friends and colleagues that you want Beta Readers, what the role will involve and when the readers will be needed. Be organized and clear and very grateful.

Rebecca Forster | Extra Squeeze

Rebecca Forster 

USA Today Bestselling author of 35 books, including the Witness series and the new Finn O’Brien series.

A beta reader will give you objective input on your work before publication. These dedicated readers want you to succeed and they read extensively in your genre. I’m lucky to have a handful of trusted beta readers. They are smart, well read, and thoughtfully tell it like it is. I have been able to smooth over rough patches, deepen characterization and recognize pure silliness in my work because of them. Is love too strong a word for what they do for me? That being said, the wrong beta readers can shake an author’s confidence, undermine a vision and create chaos. One good one is worth five divisive ones. You can find them in critique groups, within your group of dedicated fans, or online in book groups. I found a wonderful article on beta reader etiquette.

This might help when you are trying to decide who you would like to invite into this very essential group: Helping Writers Become Authors Beta Reader Etiquette

Jenny Jensen | A Slice of Orange

Jenny Jensen

Developmental editor who has worked for twenty plus years with new and established authors of both fiction and non-fiction, traditional and indie.

 

Just like the software industry where a new, unreleased program – the beta version – is given to a group to test, writers ask a person familiar with their genre to read their manuscript. In both instances it’s a great way to work out kinks before publication.

A Beta Reader is not a critique partner. Those are the individuals who review your manuscript from a writer’s perspective. The Beta Reader provides a review from a reader’s perspective; their response more likely reflects how your intended audience will react to your story. That’s a critical perspective and gives the writer useful much useful fodder for improvement. Think of them as quality control.

Don’t confuse the Beta Reader with an editor. A professional editor, depending on the level of edit you use, will look closely at your manuscript for style issues, plot holes, inconsistencies etc. The Beta Reader simply tells you if the book was readable, or enjoyable or boring. Don’t expect them to tell you why or how it struck them that way, but value a reader’s opinion and use it when you reevaluate and revise.

You can find Beta Readers among friends or family members whose honesty you can trust. It’s good to reach outside your own circle, to a book club member for instance. The best place is to look to the writer’s community. Goodreads Beta Readers Group is great. My Writer’s Circle is an active writer’s platform also. Seek Beta Readers on Google and ye shall find.

Most writers work with more than one Beta Reader. Be careful to keep that within reason — info overload can paralyze your brain. And remember, this is a service you look to have donated; reciprocate by acting as a Beta Reader yourself. Every writer needs one or two.

H. O. Charles | A Slice of Orange

H.O. Charles

Cover designer and author of the fantasy series, The Fireblade Array


A beta reader will read the early, pre-publication versions of your books and identify any errors, plot holes, or editing problems. They could be pretty much anyone with an interest in reading. There are good betas and not-so-good betas. I picked several from amongst my fans – the ones who were desperate to read the next book, but I made sure I stuck with those who were the pickiest! The more errors they found, the more they questioned me, the more likely I was to choose them to be betas for the next book. They are very useful people!

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Dear Extra Squeeze Team, How Do You Plan a Book Launch?

February 14, 2020 by in category Featured Author of the Month, The Extra Squeeze by The Extra Squeeze Team tagged as , , , , , ,

Each Friday in February we’ll be featuring The Extra Squeeze Team.

Ever wonder what industry professionals think about the issues that can really impact our careers? Each month The Extra Squeeze features a fresh topic related to books and publishing.

Amazon mover and shaker Rebecca Forster and her handpicked team of book professionals offer frank responses from the POV of each of their specialties — Writing, Editing, PR/Biz Development, and Cover Design.

Have you a question for The Extra Squeeze Team? Send them to us by using this handy link.

Dear Extra Squeeze, How Do You Plan a Book Launch?

Rebecca Forster | Extra Squeeze

Rebecca Forster 

USA Today Bestselling author of 35 books, including the Witness series and the new Finn O’Brien series.

When I published my first book over thirty years ago I assumed the publisher would have all sorts of glittery, fantastic promotions planned that would shoot me to literary stardom.

Not!

In those days – just like these days – the author is responsible for launching their book and establishing their brand. The good news is that now the opportunity for promotion is controllable. I maintain a new release plan that has proven manageable and effective over the course of more than thirty books.

1) Write a good book: professional, exciting, as error free as possible and packaged beautifully. All the promotion in the world will not support an inferior product.

2) Set up your pre-orders and then create excitement with a sneak peek of a few chapters on your website (don’t forget buy links at the end of these chapters).

3) Alert interested parties starting with distribution channels. Smashwords, for instance, has an alert for author’s running BookBub ads. Once they know your ad date, they will pass the information along to their bookstores, those bookstores will consider your book for further promotion. BookBub Partners has an automated per-order alert for your followers. Amazon has the same. Read the distributor’s newsletters and find out what free opportunities are there for the taking.

4) When your manuscript is ready, start submitting it for reviews (I love PRG and InD’Tale).

5) Continue to nurture and grow your social media followers and plan affordable advertising geared toward look-alike audiences. Try sites like LitRing (have loved the 4 promos I’ve done with them). Many advertising sites won’t take pre-order advertising but purchase spots for immediately after your launch while your book is new. I am not a fan of blog tours. I have only paid to do one but I couldn’t quantify the results so for me this isn’t part of my strategy.

The bottom line is this: write well, be aware of what is available, be as genre specific as possible in your target marketing and remember that the launch is the beginning and not the end of your marketing efforts for your book and your brand.

Jenny Jensen | A Slice of Orange

Jenny Jensen

Developmental editor who has worked for twenty plus years with new and established authors of both fiction and non-fiction, traditional and indie.

Marketers say someone has to see your book 7 or 8 times before they buy. I’m not a marketer, so I can’t vouch for that but all the on-line exposure of a blog tour must be good. It can’t hurt – or can it? Just as a poorly written book will not sell, a poorly presented blog tour will turn off your audience before they even turn on. You need to leave a positive, compelling impression.

 

Prepare Several Blurbs

 

Since the content should be unique to each site you’ll need to prepare several blurbs – those enticing peeks at your story – not to mention tweets and whatever other social media is on offer. You can approach a blurb in different ways: lead with the most startling action element, lead with the dilemma, lead with a spotlight on character or setting, but lead with a sentence that hooks.

 

Describe Your Story Well

 

However you describe your story it’s critical that it be well written. This is, after all, the reader’s first taste of your voice. I’ve read choppy, unstrung blurbs that show what might be an interesting plot if you overlook the way the words are strung together. Regardless of how intriguing the plot sounds my immediate reaction is: This person can’t write. I won’t be reading this one.

 

Edit. Edit. Edit.

 

Of course, you’ve written a great book. It’s been carefully crafted, closely edited for errors in all respects from plot and character development to syntax and grammar. Your beta readers love it. Now you have to craft the words to sell the story without a single spoiler and with the same silver voice of the book. Craft your blurbs and interview responses with the same care you gave your book. And edit, edit, edit.

Robin Blakely | The Extra Squeeze Team | A Slice of Orange

Robin Blakely

PR/Business Development coach for writers and artists; CEO, Creative Center of America; member, Forbes Coaches Council.

 


You need a PR plan to succeed. Straight up, any plan is better than no plan…and even if you are working with a traditional publisher, your plan may be the only plan that is ever created with much concern about building your long-term career. Accept early that your success as an author is not your publisher’s concern. Their business is centered around the products they have curated for their brand; it includes the book you created–not you.

The reality is, take care of yourself and build your own business.

Phase One is prep time.

 

Build or refresh your website. Connect your social media platforms to your website. Make sure that you use one author picture across platforms so that your brand has a singular face. Establish a media page to create and post your downloadable press kit. Include links to downloadable high-resolution images of your book cover and your author photo. Make sure you have a landing page for book sales.

Prepare a press release that offers the announcement of your book to share with your local paper, bloggers, industry influencers, and reviewers. Don’t know who they are? Figure it out. Clearly define the top four niches of your audience and start building a database of contacts to help you reach each target. In Phase One, fully create the day-by-day choreography for book launch week.

Phase Two is book launch week.

 

Synchronize your PR efforts to reach every corner of your world with news about your book in the seven days of the week that your book is first released. Everyone you can imagine needs to know now, all at once. Either plan a parade of activity or nothing will happen.

Phase Three is steady-to-the-course season.

 

PR efforts must be sustained. That means shift your message from new book announcement to relevant reasons to discover your book, reasons to peek inside, opportunities to read and buy.

How does a blog tour figure into all this? Up to you. The key is to decide when, how, and if you want a blog tour. It is hard work with lots of moving parts. It is a godsend for some authors and hellish for others.

H. O. Charles | A Slice of Orange

H.O. Charles

Cover designer and author of the fantasy series, The Fireblade Array


I wish I knew the answer to this one because if I did, I would be a ££££££££££££-ionaire by now! I can tell you what NOT to do. When I launched my first book, I did little more than list it on Amazon and submit it to Smashwords. I had no idea about advertising (still learning on that front), and I published in secret, under a pseudonym, so had no friend or colleague network to exploit.

 

Tip 1: Don’t go it alone – if you know people who can help, use them. This applies to other authors. If they see your work and like it, they might team up with you to do a newsletter promo or similar.

 

Tip 2: Don’t do what soooo many authors do and sign up to a forum, then post once about your amazing new book. It won’t get you sales, but it will get people’s backs up (may have done this <coughs>).

 

Tip 3: Don’t list your pre-orders at full price. If you’re unknown, no one will take a chance on you anyway so you may have to lure customers in by being cheap!

 

Positive tips:

  • Do look at advertising opportunities, and check out writers’ forum reviews on their effectiveness.
  • Do make sure all of your pages are set up nicely – web page, Goodreads page, Facebook page… etc. so that readers can look you up, contact you and leave reviews easily.
  • Try to get on a few blog interviews.
  • Do be careful with your PR and the claims you make. It’s perfectly okay to brag about your past achievements, as long as they’re verifiable. I’ve noticed a few writers recently who claim to have sold 200,000 books in a month – you go to their Amazon page, and their book is ranked #100,008,282,212! It’s very easy to see through such fabrications, and once a writer loses trust from their readership, it’s unlikely to be regained.

Last of all, I would say to keep your expectations low. I know that sounds dreadfully pessimistic, but realistically, very few authors do well on one book without the backing of an expensive PR agency. It’s only once you have a good body of work out there and plenty of positive reviews that more readers will start to notice you.

If you have a question or topic you would like the Extra Squeeze Team to tackle please use the this contact form.

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Is the F-word a bomb?

October 31, 2019 by in category The Extra Squeeze by The Extra Squeeze Team, Writing tagged as , , , , ,

From The Extra Squeeze Archives

Is the F word a bomb?

We’ve read books with it all over the place and yet notice that readers object to it.

Does anyone really like using it?

Would another word do?

When is it necessary?

Rebecca Forster | Extra Squeeze

Rebecca Forster 

USA Today Bestselling author of 35 books, including the Witness series and the new Finn O’Brien series.

Is the F word a bomb?

What kind of fucking question is that?


What kind of friggin’ question is that?


What kind of question is that?

Actually, this is a great question and one I am happy to weigh in on because the use of the F-word had an impact it had on my career.

I began my career as a romance writer (I was fired from this gig because I kept killing characters before they fell in love. My editor suggested a genre change.) I never used the F-word when I wrote romance. When I moved to contemporary women’s fiction I used it sparingly in these longer, more intricately plotted books (the word was only uttered by bad guys).

 

When I upped the ante and moved into a male dominated genre – legal thrillers – everything changed. Writing became tighter, characters multi-faceted, plots ‘torn from the headlines’ were much grittier. In my writing the F-bomb was spoken by hard charging attorneys and socially marginalized criminals alike to underscore their tenacity for fighting for justice in the former instance or illustrate disdain for the system in the latter.

 

Hostile Witness* was the first book where I really let loose. Lots of male thriller writers used the word, why not me? My editor at Penguin/Putnam had no problem with it and approved the book. When the Hostile Witness was traditionally published, I received no letters of complaint.

 

Then came the Internet. I republished the first three books of the Witness Series* and readers started posting reviews as easily as they clicked their Kindle. I remember the first bad review I received because of my use of the F word. It said, “The language in this book is vile. I will never read this author again.”

 

That stopped me cold, so I went back to the files and searched how many times I had used the F-word. I was shocked and embarrassed by what I found. In my quest to establish myself as a hard-edged thriller writer, I had gone overboard. Using profanity to the degree I had took the reader out of the story at best and offended them at worst. I asked myself, was there a better way to write a scene? A better way to inform a character? Had I been a lazy author and fallen back on a word rather than my skill to get a point across?

 

The answer to all these questions was yes. Now I use the word friggin’ or cut the word off at Fu­ — and let the reader’s mind fill in the blank. Bottom line, I took the review to heart, objectively looked at my work and made an informed decision before I re-edited the book. Did I lose anything by banning the F-word?

(F-word deleted) no.

 

*Hostile Witness is Free to readers.

**Sign up for my mailing list and get Hostile Witness and the Spotlight Novella, Hannah’s Diary, Free.

Jenny Jensen | A Slice of Orange

Jenny Jensen

Developmental editor who has worked for twenty plus years with new and established authors of both fiction and non-fiction, traditional and indie.

The Urban Dictionary defines ‘F-bomb’ as “the strongest weapon in one’s verbal arsenal” (a bit extreme, but it makes the point). Is it necessary to use in fiction? No, not necessary, but sometimes appropriate. The plot, the scene, the character, the action, the tone can all come together to make the F-word the only adjective or expletive that works. In that case, it should be a shocker – a strong, realistic part of the narrative rhythm. The word should be chosen with consideration and, by all the writing gods, don’t overuse it. Repetition strips the word of any value; it just becomes distasteful, silly and embarrassingly adolescent.

It wasn’t long ago a writer would never consider using the word, nor would a publisher let them, although the F word was understood to have the strength of a bomb.

from The Maltese Falcon (Dashiell Hammett, 1930)

The boy spoke two words, the first a short guttural verb, the second ”you”.

“People lose teeth talking like that.” Spade’s voice was still amiable though his face had become wooden.

Great, right!? There are so many options for word smithing around the F-word but that requires thought and skill. Too many authors take the easy way out and use it as verb, adjective and noun. That’s just lazy or the mark of a poor writer.

I recently ran across this Amazon review:

I gave it 5 stars, because the writing, the sense of humor the detective has, and the story! All great! In fact, you are such a good writer, you don’t need to use the “F” word as much as you do! Your characters are great without it!

Such a good writer…you don’t need to use… the reviewer said. That’s exactly what I mean.

H.O. Charles

Cover designer and author of the fantasy series, The Fireblade Array


Well, a bomb is something designed to explode on impact, so I guess if you want to f-bomb effectively, it needs to be unexpected! In that case, it’ll only detonate properly in the most delicate, sweetest and appeasing of godly novels! But, of course, readers don’t always like to be shocked so hard that they fall off their chairs, and using language that is not in-keeping with the story will only make it jar, in my opinion. As writers, we aim to torture and make our readers emotional from time to time, but there’s intent and then there’s intent.

 

I don’t mind using swear words – their offensiveness changes over time, and the F-bomb (being polite for you all here), is hardly the most offensive word or phrase out there at the moment. In some novels it’s absolutely appropriate to include swearing, and the target readership will reflect that. I do think over-reliance on a single swear word is a negative thing though. There are so many varied ways of swearing, and it’s up to the author to come up with setting- or character-appropriate vocabulary. In my fantasy novels, I frequently use ‘follocks!‘ (an obvious portmanteau of f**k and boll**ks), because it conveys the emotion I want, but also carries humour and sets the imaginary world apart from this one.

What do you think of using the F-word in fiction? Let us know in the comments.

Ever wonder what industry professionals think about the issues that can really impact our careers? Each month The Extra Squeeze features a fresh topic related to books and publishing.

Amazon mover and shaker Rebecca Forster and her handpicked team of book professionals offer frank responses from the POV of each of their specialties — Writing, Editing, PR/Biz Development, and Cover Design.

Do you have a question for The Extra Squeeze? Contact us here.

We're Taking Questions | A Slice of Orange
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August Featured Author: H. O. Charles

August 28, 2019 by in category Art, Cover, Design by H. O. Charles, Featured Author of the Month tagged as , , , ,

H. O. Charles Featured Author for August

H.O. Charles is an Amazon Top 100 Sci-Fi and Fantasy author of The Fireblade Array – a #2 best-selling series across Kindle, iBooks and B&N Nook in the Sci-Fi and Fantasy categories (#1 would just be showing off, right?) Okay, it did hit #1 in Epic Fantasy in all those places . . . BUT DON’T TELL ANYONE because no one likes a bragger.

Though born in Northern England, Charles now resides in a white house in Sussex and sounds like a southerner. Charles has spent many years at various academic institutions, and cut short writing a PhD in favour of writing about swords and sorcery instead. Hobbies include being in the sea, being by the sea and eating things that come out of the sea. Walks with a very naughty rough collie puppy also take up much of Charles’ time.


Social Media Links

Website
Facebook
Twitter
Goodreads


Books by H. O. Charles


ANOMALY OF BLAZE

Buy now!
ANOMALY OF BLAZE

ASCENT OF ICE

Buy now!
ASCENT OF ICE

BLAZED UNION

Buy now!
BLAZED UNION

CITY OF BLAZE

Buy now!
CITY OF BLAZE

FALL OF BLAZE

Buy now!
FALL OF BLAZE

NATION OF BLAZE

Buy now!
NATION OF BLAZE

SNOWLANDS

Buy now!
SNOWLANDS

VOICES OF BLAZE

Buy now!
VOICES OF BLAZE

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August Featured Author: H. O. Charles

August 21, 2019 by in category Art, Cover, Design by H. O. Charles, Featured Author of the Month tagged as , , , ,

H. O. Charles Featured Author for August

H.O. Charles is an Amazon Top 100 Sci-Fi and Fantasy author of The Fireblade Array – a #2 best-selling series across Kindle, iBooks and B&N Nook in the Sci-Fi and Fantasy categories (#1 would just be showing off, right?) Okay, it did hit #1 in Epic Fantasy in all those places . . . BUT DON’T TELL ANYONE because no one likes a bragger.

Though born in Northern England, Charles now resides in a white house in Sussex and sounds like a southerner. Charles has spent many years at various academic institutions, and cut short writing a PhD in favour of writing about swords and sorcery instead. Hobbies include being in the sea, being by the sea and eating things that come out of the sea. Walks with a very naughty rough collie puppy also take up much of Charles’ time.


Social Media Links

Website
Facebook
Twitter
Goodreads


Books by H. O. Charles


ANOMALY OF BLAZE

Buy now!
ANOMALY OF BLAZE

ASCENT OF ICE

Buy now!
ASCENT OF ICE

BLAZED UNION

Buy now!
BLAZED UNION

CITY OF BLAZE

Buy now!
CITY OF BLAZE

FALL OF BLAZE

Buy now!
FALL OF BLAZE

NATION OF BLAZE

Buy now!
NATION OF BLAZE

SNOWLANDS

Buy now!
SNOWLANDS

VOICES OF BLAZE

Buy now!
VOICES OF BLAZE

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