A Writing Event Right for You – Part 2 of 3

Writing workshops, conferences, and retreats can provide authors with new perspectives and knowledge, facilitate lifelong relationships with other authors, and connect authors with professionals in the publishing world. When deciding which events to attend, be sure to consider your objectives for going (see Part 1 of 3).

Last week’s post touched on workshops, and today’s focus is conferences. The format of a conference is usually predicated by the sponsor or organizer of the event, which may be a genre-specific association, such as Romance Writers of America or the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, or a local, regional, or state writers’ association. Conferences may be one day or multiple days, are generally held annually, and are often an assemblage of many different events such as writing workshops, panel discussions, vendor show, manuscript critiques, readings, and author signings.

The size and scope of the conference will vary by the resources of the sponsor-organizer and the needs of their group members and attendees. I have attended writers conferences as small as several dozen people and as large as five hundred. Some writing organizations limit participation in their conference to their members, but most do not.

As I gathered information for this post, I quickly recognized the enormity of the task of compiling any meaningful list of writers’ conferences. Instead, I offer here a list of organizations that have extensive online compilations already. Some allow you to sort by genre, state, date, and in other ways. Have fun exploring and finding the perfect writing event for you!

NewPages.com, which provides news, information, and guides for writers has a conference listing here: http://www.newpages.com/writers-resources/writing-conferences-events

The Write Life has a listing of 30 conferences for authors, bloggers, and freelancers: https://thewritelife.com/writers-conferences/

The Association of Writers and Writing Programs has a Directory of Conferences and Centers which includes festivals, retreats, residencies, and writing centers, as well as conferences, and includes national and international events: https://www.awpwriter.org/wcc/directory_conferences_centers

Shaw Guides’ 2017 listing of events is here: http://writing.shawguides.com/Events

Poets & Writers has a database detailing over 200 conferences, residencies, and literary festivals: http://www.pw.org/conferences_and_residencies

Have you been to a writer’s conference? How was that experience for you? Do you have a favorite conference you have been to several times? What conference do you plan to attend in the future?

A Writing Event Right for You – Part 1 of 3

Writing workshops, conferences, and retreats can be fun, interesting, and exciting ways for authors to learn more about the craft of writing. Over time, I have attended all three types of events and I usually come away inspired and always return to my writing with new knowledge to apply.

When choosing to attend a writing event, here are a few things to consider:

  • What do you want to get from the experience? Is there a specific aspect of the craft that you want to learn more about? Is your primary goal to meet and network with other authors?
  • Who is sponsoring, teaching, or facilitating the event?
  • Do you prefer a format that allows for critique/feedback on your work-in-progress?
  • What is your budget for attending writing events?
  • Do you get the most from longer events that are immersive? Multi-day events that cover a variety of topics? Or short events focused on a single topic or aspect of writing?
  • How far are you willing to drive to attend and how long can you be away from home? Do you have a writing buddy who can share the driving or hotel expenses for distant events?

Over the coming weeks, we’ll discuss all three types of events. This week, we’ll focus on writing workshops. Writing workshops are often locally or regionally sited and typically require the least amount of driving and time away from home of these three kinds of events.

Workshops are offered in a variety of formats. Although some multi-day events describe themselves as workshops, a workshop is typically shorter than a conference or a retreat. They may be a short session—45 minutes or 1 hour—during a larger event, such as a retreat or a conference filled with several days of workshop options at one locale; they can be several hours or a half-day long and focused on one single aspect of writing; or they can be a day-long event held at a local venue, such as a conference center or college.

Some workshops are of the lecture/classroom-learning type while others are experiential. For me, the best workshops are the ones that provide a chance, while still at the event, to use what I just learned in my writing so I have a chance to ask questions of the facilitator or teacher.

With the growth in online courses of all types, the offerings of online workshops have also increased. Indeed, the terms course, class, and workshop are often used interchangeably. Like in-person workshops, online workshops are offered in various formats. Some are strictly email-based: you receive a lesson from the instructor via email and all interactions between you and the instructor, and among the participants, are done via email. On the far end of the spectrum, the facilitator might employ a variety of technology to deliver the online workshop: email, pdf forms and tip sheets, prerecorded videos sent via email or available on a private website, and live video conferencing with the instructor or the entire group of participants.

Be sure to research the workshop’s format and structure, the content or focus, and the instructor or facilitator before committing to a workshop, either in-person or online. Know what your workshop tuition includes, especially if it is long enough to span a mealtime.

Some resources for finding workshops include your local, regional, or state writer’s association and Shaw Guides online. If you live near a university or college, they may offer workshops that do not require you to enroll in their degreed programs.

Have you attended a workshop that was particularly beneficial to your future writing? If so, I’d love to hear about in the comments below or via email (Gina at AroundTheWritersTable.com; replace the “at” with @). Next week, we’ll talk about writers’ conferences.

Exquisite Month, Unfolding Year

Golden light washed over St. George Island on my first morning here. I am on St. George now and we just completed the second morning of workshops at the Fiction Among Friends women’s writing retreat. This is my ninth year attending. A sacred week for me, this is the one time of year when ALL I focus on are my own words, my writing. I am fortunate to have editing and coaching clients who understand and support me in this.

This week’s retreat is the beginning of an exquisite month for me. I have the luxury of staying at the beachfront retreat house for most of January. This first week, I am writer/participant, working on my novel Dancing at The Orange Peel. In week two, I’m a sort of “house mother” for retreaters who want to continue writing on their own. Week three, we welcome another group of writers to the house for whom I’ll play co-host, supporting our fabulous retreat organizer, Perky Granger. Week four, I step into the role of organizer/facilitator for Content Creation Camp, a three-day/four-night women’s retreat for non-fiction writers. If it is true that the way we begin our year sets the stage for the way the year will unfold then I am one happy gal and a satisfied author!

Since this month is so far out-of-routine for me, I want to let you know what’s in store for you at Around the Writer’s Table. My novel awaits, so I’ll be brief.

First, due to poor internet and cell service at our retreat location (for which I’m actually quite grateful), there will be no CONVERSATIONS Around the Writer’s Table call in January. I’ll resume the calls in February and intend to continue them monthly in 2017. If you have a guest to suggest or a topic you want us to explore on the calls, please send me an email.

Lined up for February and March are guests Licia Berry and Heather Whitaker. Licia will discuss creative voice and Heather, a return guest, will go deeper into an earlier discussion we began last fall on point of view. More details are coming soon, so put the third Wednesday of each month at 7pm Eastern on your calendar now!

In lieu of this month’s call and given the theme of my current activities, I will do a series of blog posts about writer events that can help us improve our craft. Workshops, conferences, and retreats offer fantastic learning experiences and opportunities to engage with other like-minded authors. I’ll focus on one of these in each of the next three posts.

A final note to women readers/writers: a few spaces are still available in the fiction retreat (January 15 to 22) and the non-fiction retreat (January 25 to 29). If you want to jump start your writing for 2017, please join us! You can get more details here: Fiction Among Friends/St. George Writer’s Retreat and here Content Creation Camp.

Thanks to each of you who responded to my New Year’s email. I’d still love to hear from the rest of you about your writing plans for 2017 and how writing helps you make meaning in your life.

As always, in gratitude and service,

Writing as an Instrument for Meaning-Making

Last week, I wrote about how we must write, no matter what, in the middle of things, despite circumstances . . . that we must make time to write. I was resolute in my instruction, adamant in my advice.

Then the unthinkable happened.

I am still numb from the loss on Christmas Eve of my second father, the man who became my stepdad when I was five and has been a rock in my life ever since. For almost 28 months, he fought the cancer battle, so a turn, at some point, was inevitable. But we have a way, sometimes, of vehemently denying what we know to be unequivocal truth.

Unthinkable—yes. Unexpected—well, no.

I was prepared to write during this visit home, every day, just as I advised you to do. My laptop, notebooks, and favorite pencils were loaded into my backpack. Of course, I would write. No matter what.

And then I didn’t.

Trauma sends me inward in a sheltered, reclusive, and self-protective way that does not allow for writing. At least not at first.

I process loss and grief in much the same way that I learn. I soak up everything. I experience and live into all the bits and pieces. Then I step back and parse, embracing the useful, helpful fragments until they become part of me, and then I release the remaining shards. Only then can I write about it in a meaningful way.

Others writers literally write through their pain, putting words to the page in the midst of their still unfolding, raw, and ragged grief.

Both ways are right.

Both ways lead down a meandering and sometimes lengthy path of getting our questions answered, grasping for the purpose of things, seeking to explain, longing to understand, exploring the unthinkable in ways that make it bearable.

Writing is a significant instrument for making meaning in this world, a mighty hammer in our human toolkit which we too often dismiss or diminish in its importance for that purpose. I hold that all writers, no matter their genre, write to make sense of their lives and of this greater existence that we all share.

Every one of us asks, at some point, “What is the meaning of life, of this life, of my life?” We often talk about seeking meaning, finding meaning, looking for meaning. The idea of making meaning in life is far more appealing to me, though. The former posit that meaning is external to us, not of our own doing, completely outside our purview, that we must search outwardly to discover it. The philosophy that we make, i.e., create, the meaning in our lives is empowering and, at once, exciting and soothing to me. It gives me the sense that this is up to me—a huge responsibility, for sure, but also a satisfying understanding that I have some measurable control here.

Using writing as a tool for making meaning in life is a theme I am committed to exploring in 2017. I want to dive deeply into 12 keys that I feel are essential for meaning-making and how writing fits into that endeavor. I hope you will join me on this journey, much of which will unfold here on this blog.

As 2016 comes to a close, I extend my deepest thanks to all of you who have supported me and Around the Writer’s Table this year. Our tagline is “Training, Resources, Connections” and that last part—the connections—that is the truly enriching piece for me. 2016 has been filled with rich, new, rewarding relationships and I am grateful beyond measure for every single one of you.

Yours in gratitude and service,

Tuesday Tip: Make Time to Write . . . No Matter What

Looking for only the perfect time to create? Forget about it! You are always in the middle of something so it is right in the middle of things that your creating must also happen.

Never is there a moment when we aren’t “in the middle of something.” And that holds especially true during the holiday season. Over the next few weeks, your commitment to your writing will be tested in countless ways–likely, already has been.

woman-1733881_1920There is only one solution: regardless of what’s going on in the rest of your world, you simply must write.

It sounds so simple! But you know it isn’t.

Do it anyway.

Plan it, if only for fifteen or twenty minutes a day. Do it consistently, no matter what else is going on around you. Get up a few minutes early, stay up a few minutes late, or steal a quarter-hour away from the holiday hoopla for a date with your notepad and pen.

Use a closet if you have to.

This creativity tip is inspired by and based on The 97 Best Creativity Tips Ever! by Dr. Eric Maisel (2011), and is used with his permission.

Reaffirm your commitment to writing and publishing by listening in to the next CONVERSATIONS Around the Writer’s Table, a free monthly education series for authors. This month’s topic is “How to Plan Effective Author Events on a Shoestring.” Learn more HERE.

5 Secrets to Getting Indie Books into Bookstores

By Patti Brassard Jefferson

Having the advantage of being both an independent author and a bookstore owner, I am lucky to be able to see the challenges between authors and booksellers from both sides. Prepare yourself for the breaking news: It is a myth that independent bookstores (or the big box stores for that matter) will not deal with self-published authors.

Then where did the false narrative start?

banner-1090830_1280It could have been from a flood of self-published authors who went to the internet, downloaded lists of bookstores, and sent out mass emails and then got very little response. Or it may have begun with authors who sent out dozens of packages to bookstores that included books and marketing materials and then never heard back from the stores. Clearly, these authors did not know the following five secrets.

Secret #1

Booksellers do not respond well to unsolicited press releases of books by authors they are unfamiliar with—especially if those books do not fit into their niche. The survival of small bookstores is, and has always been, based on creating a niche within their community and, as an author, you should spend time doing your due diligence to see if the bookstore you are reaching out to is a good fit for your genre. A good source for this information is the bookstore’s website or Facebook page. Sending your new book release information to a vintage or used bookstore is a waste of your time as well as the bookseller’s. A children’s bookstore probably will not be interested in your steamy romance and could declare you a thoughtless, lazy businessperson. Often, this first impression of you cannot be easily undone.

Secret #2

books-985954_1920Do you know what is also usually on the bookstore’s website? Submission instructions for authors! Seriously. You are not the only author interested in getting your book on their shelves, so to save time, many booksellers have created a place that outlines their policies.

Read their information and if it makes sense to you and seems appropriate for you to carry on to the next step, do so. Make sure you follow directions even if they are a challenge for you.

By the way, this is also true for Barnes and Noble. Really. Check out their website.

Secret #3

Your local bookseller is your best ally. They are part of the creative community, just as you are. They are also small business owners, just like you are. You can and should form relationships with them and support each other.

By definition, a relationship is a two-way street and this often is where authors falter. Selling a few copies of your book does not keep the bookstore doors open, so every now and then, go buy a book from them. Attend an event that is not yours. Do you think the bookstore staff is more likely to hand-sell the books of an author who is also a customer? Why, yes. Yes, they are. Aren’t relationships grand?!

Secret #4

Once your titles are in your local bookstore, be professional and friendly. If you do an event there, make sure you work with the store to promote it and drive traffic. Bring snacks for the staff. Send a hand-written “thank you” note afterward.

thank-you-515514_1280Why take these extra steps?

Because booksellers know other booksellers! If you are a great author to work with and have good sales or a successful event, you can approach other bookstores and use your local storeowner as a reference to get a foot through the skeptical door. Of course, keep in mind that if you are dismissive of the staff, arrive late or unprepared for your event, or call excessively, bookstore owners will warn their contemporaries and that skeptical door will remain closed to you. Again, that is often hard to undo.

Secret #5

Think outside the bookstore. Many non-bookstore venues may be willing to sell your books as well and often at a more beneficial split of the sale. Defining your actual target market (and no, “everyone” is NOT the correct response) will lead you to alternative options. Children’s books are often accepted at children’s boutiques, and your local garden center might be interested in your book about caring for orchids. Of course, any venue willing to take a chance on selling your book for you will thrive with the building of the relationship and your unwavering professionalism.

Oh and, as a reminder, keep good records! Happy bookselling!

pbjonbooxPatti will be the next featured guest on CONVERSATIONS Around the Writer’s Table on December 21, 2016, at 7pm. Patti and Gina Hogan Edwards will discuss “How to Plan Effective Author Events on a Shoestring.

This is a FREE call in the Author Education Series and you can receive reminders and the call-in details by signing up HERE.

Patti Brassard Jefferson is an award-winning authorpreneur, illustrator, multi-medium artist, bubble-blower, amateur tiara model, and bookstore owner. She owns exactly zero pairs of socks, daydreams about tropical bike paths, and lives with her two rescued mutts and one rescued husband. You can contact Patti via:

Author Links

Website: www.pjauthor.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/pbjauthor
Twitter: @pbjauthor
Goodreads: www.goodreads.com/pbjauthor

Bookstore Links

Website: www.pjboox.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/pjboox
Twitter: @pjboox
Instagram: www.instagram.com/pjboox

Tuesday Tip: Material measurement of a final product does not equal your creative worth.

tape-measure-145397_1280It is easy to fall into a trap of human material measurement when it comes to our creative work and worth. How much did that painting sell for? How many of my books were shipped out to readers today? What is my ranking on the Amazon best seller list? The real trap comes when we apply these metrics to our worth as human beings.

Recently, I had the honor to support, in her book-publishing efforts, someone I greatly admire. I was not her editor nor her creativity coach. In fact, I started out knowing her as a fan of sorts. Melissa Dinwiddie has a marvelous podcast about creativity, Live Creative Now! Her joy around creativity is contagious, so I love to listen to her. When she put out a call for volunteers to be on her book launch team (an awesome concept that I hope to share more about with you), I jumped at the chance to serve as one of her Ambassadors.

Since August, in the final stages of birthing her book, the Ambassadors have supported her in a myriad of ways. Melissa shared with us, through emails and a private Facebook book, as well as her podcast, all of her decisions, her successes, and her angst. We advised, shared opinions, offered encouragement. It was a beautiful process of creative people uplifting one of our own.


Shortly after her book release, I awoke one morning with Melissa heavily on my mind. I thought about all that she had done to get that book written and to assure the promotion process came off gracefully and successfully. Honestly, it was exhausting to watch the way she had navigated the process, but she did it so adeptly, so expertly. It was so detailed and thought-out that, frankly, it blew my mind. But her efforts were not what troubled me that morning. What concerned me was the person of Melissa, the artist, the creative spirit.

I was driven to reach out to her that day and share what was on my mind in hopes it would further support her in the way all her Ambassadors had committed to do. I didn’t expect what happened next.

Melissa asked me if she could use my letter as the centerpiece of her final podcast on the subject of her book release. I’m sharing this with you here because the overriding message of my words was in my reminder to her not to apply our human ways of material measurement to her value as a cultural creative. Nor should any of us who offer to this world our words, our paintings, our sculptures, our dances, our music, our creative hearts and souls.

Melissa is living her passion and is thereby filling many other creatives with joy and the courage to do their art. That is immeasurable worth. As she says in her podcast, when you create, “not only will you feel more alive, it’s how YOU WILL CHANGE THE WORLD.” Thank goodness for all of us that Melissa is sharing this message and that she lives it herself!

Please, listen to Melissa’s podcast, and then GO CREATE! Listen here: http://melissadinwiddie.com/podcast/lcn084/

Effective Use of Beta Readers to Improve Your Manuscript

By Mark Wayne Adams

booksBeta readers are non-professional readers who can provide useful feedback and suggestions for your book before you hit publish or submit your manuscript to an agent or publisher. They read a pre-release manuscript or sample book to find and improve items such as grammar, character development, plot or information gaps, or to assist in fact-checking.

Using beta readers is no substitute for editing or proofreading, though. In fact, paired with your self-edits, feedback you get from beta readers can raise the quality of your manuscript beyond what you can do entirely on your own. Let’s take a look at what it takes to make effective use of beta readers on your next manuscript.

Who should your beta readers be?

Asking your parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, or closest friends to be beta readers is not a good idea. Because of their inherent biases or desire to see you do well, using family and friends isn’t likely to yield valuable feedback that can help you improve your craft.

The best beta reader groups are a mix of individuals who represent your ideal reader or target audience and other readers who know something about the craft of writing. Of course, you will want to pick readers of the right age for your work. For example, if you write middle grade fiction or young adult, recruit readers in the age you are targeting.

Beta ReaderAbove all, your readers should have the following three qualities:

  • an interest in your genre – you don’t want to ask someone who hates history to read your historical romance, or someone who has never picked up an urban fantasy in their life to try giving feedback on yours
  • honesty – someone who will be open, respectful, and forthright in delivering their feedback
  • reliability – a reader who will follow through with what they agree to do for you

Where can beta readers be found?

Seek out local or regional writing groups for members who might want to exchange assistance: they read your manuscript and you read theirs. If you do use another author, select someone who isn’t familiar with your work yet. Teachers and librarians are often willing to support writers too.

If you are a blogger or have a website set up to gather email addresses of individuals interested in your work, then reach out to them. Readers are often flattered to be asked and are willing to support someone whose work they admire already. The same applies if you have developed a social media platform and have Twitter followers, Facebook friends, or LinkedIn connections. Reach out to those people, too.

How many readers are needed and how much time do you give them?

The number of beta readers needed can depend on the length of the manuscript. A children’s chapter book or young adult novel may not need as many readers as a mainstream adult novel. New writers might want to use more readers, especially if they have not workshopped their book or never shared it in a small critique group.

ReaderAs a general guide, you may not get enough feedback to make significant improvements in your story with any fewer than three beta readers. Any more than eight could result in an overwhelming number of comments to sift through.

How much time you allow your beta readers also depends on the manuscript length, as well as the depth of the questions you ask and feedback you expect. Be reasonable and as flexible as you can within your timeline goals and be respectful of their other obligations, but also be firm about the deadline you set.

What types of questions should you ask your beta readers?

Beta readers’ time is valuable. Asking specific questions will gain you more detailed and actionable feedback. Ask not only about the negative aspects of the book, but also items that are strong. This helps you build on the weak sections and recognize your writing strengths.

Of course, gather the reader’s name, profession or title, full address so you can mail them a complimentary book or personal thank you, and their email address for future contact with them.

The questions you ask will depend on your genre and on your strengths and weaknesses as a writer. If you are aware that you have challenges around character development then ask your readers to pay particular attention to that. As an illustrator, I like to get feedback on the book’s design as well as the content.

Here are examples of some of the questions I ask:

  1. Would you like to receive a complimentary book upon release?
  2. Would you like to provide an endorsement quote for this book?
  3. [If your book is part of a series] Would you like to participate in future beta reads for this book series?
  4. Rate each of the following areas from 1 to 10 (10 being excellent). Please provide any suggestions or accolades regarding each section.

Beta Reader Notes___ Timely/Interesting: is this book’s topic timely or interesting?

___ Appropriate: is this book relevant to the target reader?

___ Entertaining/Informative: does this book entertain and/or inform?

___ Complete: does this book cover the subject well or tell a complete story?

___ Content Organization: is this story or information well organized? (This applies to both fiction and nonfiction)

___ Interior Design: is this book’s interior well executed, organized, and easy to read?

___ Font Size: is this book’s font easily of a comfortable height and serif?

Often, I ask about the front and back cover and the spine, too, which means I must design these elements before I begin the beta reader process. From these items, I ask questions such as, are they appropriate and relevant for the target reader? Does the artwork explain the subject well or tell a complete story? Is the font readable?

A few final guidelines

  • Readers NotesNever give your beta readers a draft; finish your book first.
  • Make the process easy for your readers; ask what format they prefer for reading your book—print, or an e-file such as a PDF. Ideally, ask at least one reader to read on their e-reading device.
  • Set a due date and make sure each reader is aware and agrees to it upfront; a tentative reader isn’t likely to follow through.
  • Treat your beta readers well in case you want to use them again.
  • Thank them and return the favor; put them in your acknowledgments.

After you get input from your beta readers, it’s time to act on it. Evaluate each piece of feedback to determine how it might apply to your book and how you might manage the issue they raise. You don’t have to follow everything that a beta reader says, especially if you strongly disagree, but be open-minded enough to recognize that if more than one reader identifies the same issue then you probably need to pay attention to it. If you are unsure what a beta reader means by a comment, never be afraid to ask; follow up with them for clarification.

Finally, remove your ego. Focus on the book and the writing to make it great for your target readers. Beta readers want to help you get better not beat you up.

Join author, illustrator, and publisher Mark Wayne Adams and host Gina Hogan Edwards for a detailed discussion about Beta Readers: Why, When, and How to Use Them on the next CONVERSATIONS Around the Writer’s Table, Wednesday, November 16, 2016, at 7pm (Eastern).

You can listen to this free author education series from the comfort of your home. Register to listen live or to get the replay. Our 30-minute talk will be followed by 30 minutes of open Q&A.

Register now: www.AroundTheWritersTable.com/CONVERSATIONS

Mark Wayne AdamsMark Wayne Adams is an award-winning illustrator, author, publisher, and owner of Mark Wayne Adams, Inc., an independent book publishing company. He has a Bachelors of Fine Arts, has illustrated fifty books and published fifteen books, working with more than eighteen authors. Adams has nineteen years of experience in graphic design and has worked for companies including Walt Disney World Company, SeaWorld Orlando, and Sprint Print, Commercial Printing. He is also a board member and past-president of Florida Authors and Publishers Association. Mark serves as the international Readers’ Favorite Illustration Awards judge.

Beta Readers: A Bit More

Even after our previous post here about beta readers and the fabulous discussion last week on CONVERSATIONS Around the Writer’s Table with Mark Wayne Adams, some questions still linger about this topic. I also want to elaborate further on a few points.

light-bulbs-1125016lrOne reader/listener asked about the distinction between critique groups and beta readers. Authors who participate in critique groups get feedback on our work as we write. The feedback is provided by other authors who may or may not be writing in our same genre. The critique group members may have more or less writing skill than the author receiving the critique.

Beta readers provide their feedback on a completed manuscript that, ideally, you have self-edited and cleaned up to the same degree that you would before sending it to an editor, agent, or publisher. Your beta reader group may be made up of any of the following:

  • a member of your target audience or your ideal reader
  • someone who won’t tap dance around your feelings, but will be honest, constructive, and kind in delivering their feedback
  • someone who is reliable and will follow through their commitment to support you

I always recommend that authors avoid selecting family members and friends as their beta readers. On the call, however, Mark told us he uses his kids to get feedback on his children’s books. Often, children provide unadulterated honesty, so it is a point well-taken that my advice might be excepted when applied to books for kids.

measure-1509707-lrOne listener emailed to ask about payment to beta readers. Beta readers should always be volunteers. Paying someone to provide feedback automatically introduces a bias into the process. Some of my clients have provided a thank you in the way of a small gift card, flowers, or some other token after the reading was complete.

Another listener wondered about the applicability of this process for nonfiction books. Most of the same principles and practices for beta readers apply equally for fiction and nonfiction. The differences will come primarily in who you select and the types of questions to be asked.

Keeping in mind the five purposes of nonfiction (respond, instruct, inform, persuade, or narrate), your beta group will be most helpful if it includes someone who has knowledge of your topic. Someone with a penchant for fact-checking would be helpful if your manuscript includes data, citations to other works, and the like. Important note: this in no way relieves you of the task of making sure everything is accurate before giving the book to your readers.

If your book is self-help or instructional, including someone who has a burning need for the process or the methods discussed in your book, as well as someone who has overcome, successfully implemented, or moved beyond or through the topic you write about would be incredibly helpful. Both of these types of readers can provide insights on whether your process, steps, or methods are explained clearly and completely, or if they are sufficiently persuaded, depending on the purpose and approach of your book.

GemsFinally, enter into the beta reader process knowing that after your readers finish, you will need time to absorb, filter, and incorporate their feedback. I have seen authors initiate this process then wholly dismiss all the responses they received. What you do with the feedback is, in the end, entirely up to you and it isn’t necessary to heed every suggestion, but be respectful of your beta readers. If you engage in this step in the writing and publishing process, whether you act on every single comment, suggestion, and insight you receive or not, fully honor and acknowledge the time and energy your beta readers have gifted to you.

I am so grateful to all of you who have called in to listen to our Author Education Series, CONVERSATIONS Around the Writer's Table. For those of you who haven't heard yet, this is a free series that you can sign up to participate in anytime. We provide you with a phone number and the time of the live call (it occurs once monthly). Then you call in to listen to the discussion about a writing or publishing topic and participate (optional) in the Q&A session. 

If you would like to sign up or if find this resource valuable already, please share this link: AroundTheWritersTable.com/Conversations. Information about our next guest, Patti Brassard Jefferson of PJ Boox Bookstore, will be available soon.

~ Gina Hogan Edwards

Tuesday Tip: Read, Read, Read. . . . Then Read Some More.

“Read” seems like obvious advice to give writers, but I am surprised (is appalled too strong a word?) at how many individuals who claim they want to write say they do not read.

Reading is muscle-building.

We don’t expect a bodybuilder to win, or even to enter, a competition without going to the workout room daily. For correlations in the arts, we don’t expect a ballet dancer to become the prima ballerina without having watched and emulated the ballerinas who came before her, and we don’t expect painters and sculptors to create works of art without intensive study of the masters.

So how can we expect to be good writers if we do not read?

Here are just a few of the benefits writers gain from reading.

read-1593523_1280Ideas for what to write.

  • Everything a writer mentally consumes becomes fodder for their writing. Reading breeds ideas by triggering memories and conjuring our imagination.

Motivation to engage in the physical act of writing, that is, putting our butts in our chairs.

  • We read something and say, “Well, I can do that,” and then we sit and write. Or we read something else and say, “Well, I can do better than that,” and then we sit and write. Or we read a masterpiece and say, “Oh, I really want to do that,” and then we sit and write.

Expert knowledge of our genre.

  • Whether you write for magazines, are working on a sci-fi or historical novel, are creating short stories, or are writing a self-help book—whatever your market or genre—there are certain expectations for each. Reading can educate us about both the craft requirements and the business aspects of it.

To absorb language, improve vocabulary, and to witness how writing is done well (and not so well).

  • When an author looks at how other writers use the language, which words they pick, how they position the words and flow the phrases, and then experiments with them herself, she eventually finds her own voice and style.

glasses-272399_1280Learning and honing skills.

  • This may sound the same as the reason above, but rather, this is deliberate reading about the craft of writing. Many great books are available on both fiction and nonfiction writing. James Scott Bell has several exceptional books on craft for fiction authors, and William Zinsser’s On Writing Well is the definitive guide on nonfiction. These are just a couple that come to mind; there are many others (perhaps a topic for another post).

A distraction.

  • Or, in a more positive light, as recreation, a sometimes needed, necessary break from the efforts of writing.

Those of you taking in this article likely don’t need much excuse to read and probably have far more reasons of your own for doing it. I’d love for you to share them in the comments below, specifically addressing how reading informs your writing. If you’d like to offer a suggestion for a book on craft, that would be lovely too!

GinaFeel free to email me anytime with topic ideas for this weekly tip or a suggestion for a guest to be on CONVERSATIONS Around the Writer’s Table, our free monthly Author Education Series. You can reach me by going to the “Contact” button near the top of this page.

Now, go write!

Gina Hogan Edwards, Editor, Author, Creativity Coach