Beta Readers, Copyrights & Facebook Like for Likes: #AskMeAnything Week 1

Burning questions answered and more.

Question 1

I’ve got 4 Beta Readers and they give me exhaustive notes and check my spelling. Do I still need to hire an editor?

— Brenda P., via Facebook

OK, settle down, this will be a long one.

Beta readers and editors have completely different roles. Beta readers are a snapshot of your market. They tell you how like-able your story is, how relate-able your characters are, how memorable the plot twist is, what they like about your book and what they don’t — just so you can fine-tune your book for a specific audience. Beta readers are necessary, irrespective of whether you aim to get traditionally published or whether you’re looking to self-publish.

An editor ensures your work is ready for said audience. Editors check for how your story develops and helps you with re-writes, specifically looks for plot holes, helps with grammar, spelling, continuations (if copy-editing is in their scope), redundancies in your writing style and helps your voice shine through the manuscript. Whether you need an editor, depends on how you’re going about publishing your work.

If you’re looking to self-publish, then I can’t repeat this enough, so I’ll do it again: Yes, you need a professional editor.

As a self-publishing author, there are no exceptions to this rule. You cannot take a chance at releasing your book without having had a professional editor look over it. A manuscript that hasn’t been professionally edited will have more errors and plot holes and a badly developed story, to turn readers off. Even the best self-publishing authors out there from Amanda Hocking to Jenna Moreci, have editors and work closely with them to perfect their manuscript. Which is what you should be doing.

LOL

Those of you who are looking to get traditionally published, will be wanting to either query agents or start approaching indie publishers directly. In these cases, the necessity of an editor can vary case by case. Many agents do not accept manuscripts that haven’t been professionally edited, in which case you will have to be aware of which agent prefers what. Other agents, the more seasoned ones, prefer manuscripts that have been self-edited well — this is mostly because they prefer to identify an author’s raw voice and know that bigger publishers will always want to have their own editors work on the manuscript. There is a bit of debate on this, in the industry.

“Recognizing raw talent is an agent’s business, but that’s no excuse for submitting raw material.”
— Lisa Poisso

Whereas, on the other hand, one of the most respected members of the industry, Jane Freidman, says,

“When writers ask me if they should hire a professional editor, it’s usually out of a vague fear their work isn’t good enough. They believe or hope that it can be “fixed” by a third party.”

Sarah Davies from Greenhouse Literary doesn’t think that expensive editors are necessary at the time of querying, especially, if the writer is confident in his or her skills and mastery over the story and language. Here’s a short interview with multiple agents who weigh in with their opinions on the subject.

In general, keep these points in mind regarding hiring professional editors (if you’re looking to get traditionally published):

  • Your confidence in your work counts. And be honest with yourself here. How positive have your beta readers been about your story? Do you like being mindful, if not OCD, about grammar and spelling and sentence structure? Do you have a strong hold over the language? Is your research thorough about the publishing industry? Have you read books that are popular in your genre? Have you read books that have similar plots as your book? Positive answers to these few questions may mean that you may not require an editor before querying.
  • If your query is getting you in the door, but your chapters/pages are not getting any requests, and you’ve already queried over 40–50 agents, it might be time to get a developmental editor.
  • Agents keep asking you to resubmit or re-write your story, may also mean that it’s time to hire a professional editor.

Question 2

Is my work copyrighted, when I share it over the internet?

— JakeCN, via Twitter

Obviously, I’m no lawyer, so if you’re seriously concerned about your work being stolen (it’s not an uncommon issue), you would need to consult a lawyer.

By popular practice your work is already copyrighted to you, whenever it’s in a tangible format (on paper, email, somewhere over the internet etc). It is also protected under U.S. copyright law.

The problem however, arises when your work is actually stolen. At that point of time it becomes difficult to prove your ownership and is basically, a ton of hassle (you’ll have to pull out all the dates and times of when you posted something, prove that the email or social media accounts are your own, keep records of your works that you emailed to yourself, or scans of your writings). In order to be fully protected, so you can sleep in peace, you can officially registers your work with the Copyright authority of your own country. There will always be a fee, but that’s the cost of peace.

Generally, be more aware of sharing works over public social media platforms like Wattpad, Scribd, Facebook, Tumblr etc. They’re all good platforms to find a following, but they do not guarantee safekeeping of your writing work.

Question 3

I’ve hired a cover designer. Will they format the inside of my book too?

— Maria C. Stan, client

Many do, many don’t. Just ask.

Most cover designers, who veer towards being illustrators, don’t specifically do internal typesetting for books. But those that offer a full-spectrum of design work, will take on typesetting duties. So ask upfront and be clear about costs and expectations.

Having said that, remember, if you’re self-publishing via Createspace, KDP, Reedsy, Blurb or Ingramspark and so son, you may not need a designer to format for you. All these self-publishing platforms will give you formatted templates and mock-ups, that you can download and add your work into. There are sites like DIYbookformats.com, from where you can download e-book, paperback and hardback templates, for free and do it yourself. Easy peasy.

Question 4

Is it a good idea to participate in a Facebook ‘Likes for Likes’ and how helpful is it for my platform?

— WrightrightAnn, via Twitter

First, let’s address what Facebook ‘Likes’ stand for. Or rather, what most people think they stand for.

Authors are being told to get active on social media in order to build a following, an audience of readers who would be interested in buying their books when the books are released. This is invaluable advice. A solid social media following is one of the the first steps towards sales.

On Facebook, a writer’s options include either setting up an Author Page or a Group (Open or Closed) or just using their own personal feed/wall to spread their work around.

The idea has always been: the more ‘Likes’ you have on your page (the number of people who have opted to follow your updates), signifies the size of the audience you’ve built around your book. Which would automatically lead to traditional publishers developing increased interest in publishing your book, because it would seem that you have a great author platform.

If only it were that easy.

It’s not.

Here’s the upside: Participating in a Facebook ‘Like for Like’ is incredibly satisfying, especially when you see the ‘Likes’ on your page grow by leaps and bounds. The great thing about more ‘Likes’ is that people are more likely to follow a Page that has more ‘Likes’ than one that doesn’t. If you have more than a 1000 ‘Likes’ on your page, trends show that more people will be willing to follow your feed. And that is about the only reason why participating in a Facebook ‘Like for Like’ is beneficial to you.

Here’s the downside: All the extra bit of work that you’re doing, putting up your Page link on groups and going through each other’s pages to ‘Like’ them, is going to waste.

The downside of Facebook Page Likes, is that it doesn’t guarantee sales at all. In fact, only about 5% of your followers actually get to see what you’re posting, organically. On top of that, Facebook’s recent changes in their algorithm, is geared towards restricting new posts on pages from showing up on a user’s feed. You can read more about that here. This means, whatever you’re posting on your Author Page on Facebook, will most likely not show up at all on your followers’ feeds. So much for all the ‘Likes’ that you collected.

What Facebook is emphasizing on now, are engagement and personal connections. Which means,

  • you need to get your followers to actually read your articles,
  • you need to get your followers to share and comment on your posts,
  • you need be active on groups and communities,
  • you’d be better off using your personal account to post news and statuses to get more attention, and
  • even a little paid advertising (as much as an investment of $10) could go a long way to help you become visible.

Question 5

I’m about to launch my book on KDP. What can I do to market it?

Let me start by asking you a question: Have you started marketing it yet?

I’ll quote one of my favorite writers and all-round genius on this:

“The best time to start promoting your book is three years before it comes out.”
 ―
Seth Godin, Advice for Authors

Seriously.

However, if you haven’t been aware of this, it’s not too late. There are still quite a few strategies to put in place to market your book. Check these out:


That’s all for today! If you liked this post, then please ‘clap’. I will be hosting another #Askmeanything Q&A soon in a few days, so keep your questions ready, or just post them in the comments! Feel free to subscribe here, or click on the image below, if you want to receive fresh posts on book marketing, writing and cover design, right in your inbox.

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