Tuesday, September 28, 2010

You can Beta me up all you want

A lot of writers starting out think "Hmmm I know I'll write a story," bang out some words and "Hey presto, done."

The truth is there's not many people that can write a kick-ass first draft that needs very little work, but for a complete novel that's even more unlikely. The phrase has been tossed around a bit about it taking a village to raise a child being the same as for writers. Well folks, they're not lying.

Writers use various review/revision techniques based on what works for them. Here's my process:

Alpha Reader: My muse, my cheerleader and "She-who-must-not-be-named" is also my Alpha reader. She reads my work as I write, badgers me for more chapters, helps pick up issues early on and offers ideas for plots and storylines.

My Alpha reader is one of my closest friends, who is also so painfully shy that I am never allowed to name her. She is a lover of books, a devourer of the written work, a bit of a grammar dork and a very interesting subject who has inspired two characters in two of the book's I'm currently working on. She has loved my work from the beginning - before I seriously thought I could be a published author for a career.  In fact, she was the one who insisted I try to get Mishca published. Up until then I wrote to get the ideas out of my head.

Friends & Family Beta Readers:
How lucky am I that my sister is a high school English teacher?! My sister, my mum and another close friend also read my work after my first draft is done. For me this is a very light copy edit and some directional advice, but mainly cheer leading to encourage me.

Critique Groups:
I'm part of what could be considered an on-line critique group through a YA writers' community called Inkpop. It's great to get some feedback from some fellow writers.  But they don't normally go through the full manuscript with you, just more a feel for the plot and some general feedback.

Serious Writers Beta Readers:
Man, how did I get so lucky again?! I ended up with three Beta Readers for Mishca who all brought something different to the table. I once read how important it is to have a Beta Editor who is a writer.  How in the world do you manage that. Well I have two through Inkpop. Wendy, who has formal writing qualifications, helped me pick up on where I needed to expand and gave me great encouragement.  Evie - who is self-taught, gave me a direct line into the mind of an American teen, which allowed me to make Mishca more universal. Katrina - who is formally qualified and a former academic in literature, helped me pull my manuscript apart and put it back together, in a much improved version.

Copy/sub Editor:
Often we just can't see our own mistakes. But if you want to send your manuscript to an agent or an editor and be taken seriously then you need your work to be the best it can be.  I was lucky that Katrina doubled as my copy editor, but if you don't know someone who is professionally trained and has the time and dedication then there are lots of firms that copy edit novels.

I know that this may seem like a scary process to some, having your work go through so many sets of hands, but the fact is that it will go through lots of hands with agents and publishers as well.

So I hope that was helpful, but in case you are a devourer of blogs and want more, here are some other sites with some great info on the process:


And one for Beta Readers themselves - http://pimpmynovel.blogspot.com/2010/06/alpha-beta-cappa-oh-hell-i-was-never-in.html

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Pre-publishing promotions for aspiring writers

I've just read the latest post on Rachelle Gardner's blog Rants and Ramblings: Life of a Literary Agent with guest blogger Sue Harrison and it inspired this post. http://cba-ramblings.blogspot.com/2010/09/good-old-days.html

Promoting before your published
I've seen how much work so many established and debut authors put into promotion for their upcoming book. Even the best selling authors who don't have to push anymore to make sales still understand the importance of connecting with readers and are active in social networking. Cassandra Clare is a good example of this - https://twitter.com/cassieclare

For me personally, I'm not at the stage of selling my work to the public, I'm still at the stage where I'm promoting my work to agents and publishers in the hope of establishing myself as a writer and getting Mishca into stores. It can be hard for Australian writers as our local market is so small. Our bookstore shelves are often dominated by international bestsellers and a high profile editor confirmed for me that we are producing less local books nowadays. But as an Aussie writer I still have a good chance of securing a publishing deal before I get a local agent (as long as my writing resonates with an editor) because:
  1. Our small market means that most local agents have a full list of clients already.
  2. Publishers in Australia have begun to open up for direct submissions, including two of the biggest publishers in Australia.
While good writing will always speak for itself, showing agents and publishers that you have the willingness and drive to promote yourself and your work can help you get a foot in the door. With just a few clicks they can research you on any web-based forum and see how you promote yourself.

Something I have done to help promote my work has been the use of a YA writer's community to promote my work. Having 700 or so positive comments from your target audience and being voted as one of the most popular stories out of thousands of pieces of work on a YA site is great market research to present to a potential agent or publisher. Especially for agents and publishers in Australia as I can show there is international interest in purchasing my work.

It's been a pretty good marketing tool for me in some respects as it has helped me attract the interest of one of the biggest publishers in Australia, who have asked me to bypass the regular submission process and send my full manuscript when I've finished my revisions (almost done - thank you Beta Readers!). However I am still on the lookout for an agent, but that is on hold until I complete my latest revisions. I'd prefer to have an agent before I submit because I know that then there is someone in the industry who believes in my work and can guide me through the process. But considered I will be querying at the same time I submitting to the publisher I can't see it happening.

I believe the promotion aspect of the business is just as important before you "make it". Blogs, Facebook and Twitter have helped a lot of people make connections. I have read of a number of cases where people's online presence has lead success outside of the virtual realm. Hello - Juno! Get you're self out into cyberspace in a positive way, cause you never know who's lurking.

Knowing how hard the industry is I haven't gotten ahead of myself to start planning Mishca's launch party yet. But I hope to emulate Paranormalcy's author Keirsten White, who has come up with some unique promotional ideas that have helped create book buzz before she even hit the shelves. http://kierstenwrites.blogspot.com/

So while my strategy of collecting market research for a fiction novel before publication has gotten me a foot in a door for a publisher, I know it will be my writing that must ultimately clinch the deal so - back to revisions I go (well to bed actually as it's 1am in The Land Down Under).

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Importance of writers conferences

Last weekend I went to my first writer's conference.  I have been to a truckload of conferences on communications and consultation, but never a creative writing conference.  I'll get into specifics of what I learnt in follow-up blogs but this post looks more generally at benefits for writers in attending conferences.

My first conference was the CYA (Children's & Young Adult) Conference in Brisbane as part of the Brisbane Writers Festival - http://www.cyaconference.com/

Immediately I noticed the comradeship - "Hey you write for kids or YA, me too, give us a hug." Okay it wasn't a big hug fest but you get the idea.  The writers there have formed a great community and they support one another.  It was great to feel part of the community.

Then the different sessions were amazing.  So much to choose from, so much variety.  There was always a session that was useful for further yourself as a writer. I have a stackload of notes to share in upcoming blogs.

The next bit is networking.  How many times have you heard it said that in the publishing world it can come down to who you know.  Agents and publishers attend conferences like this to ferret out new talent.  There are quite often pitch sessions as well where you can pay a bit extra to have one-on-one time with an editor or agent.  That can be like striking gold.  But you also get to see these professionals socially throughout the day.

So if you can get to a conference as you will get the opportunity to:
Hone your writing skills
  • Meet some kick-ass industry people
  • Make awesome connections
  • Become part of a community
  • Get your face and work out there.
There are lots of conferences and writers festivals all year round, so hopefully you can find one near you.  Check out your local writers centre as they keep details on upcoming event.