December 17, 2018

Beta Reader Book Club

My writing group had their annual holiday party this past week. I’m one of the few writers out there who is somewhat extroverted, so I love going to social events—especially if I can talk about writing and books!

The part of the evening that I was most looking forward to were the pitches for the beta reader book club. In 2018, we had our novel-writing small groups, and I was happy to learn that my group members had all finished their manuscripts and were ready to share their books with others. They all made pitches for their novels, and everyone signed up to read the books which they were interested in. I did my best not to sign up for every novel. It was hard. I may have overcommitted myself.

I’m not new to beta reading or the beta reading process. I have been fortunate enough to have some great people beta read my books and have also read early versions of other writers' works.

What is Beta Reading?

So, what exactly does it mean to be a beta reader? After a writer gets a manuscript as good as they possibly can on their own, they need someone unfamiliar with the work to look through it and point out any holes. Generally, writers are too close to their work to identify parts that may not make sense to readers, and it’s best to have all these issues taken care of before publishing.

Beta readers are the people a writer recruits to read their work before sending it along to an editor or agent. These readers can be other writers, friends and family (which I don’t actually recommend), fans of their genre, extra-terestrials, sentient cyborgs etc. Some authors even pay professional readers to go through their manuscripts. And paying someone doesn’t mean they’ll give glowing, sugar-coated feedback—instead, it ascertains that these are individuals who can finish reading and critiquing a book on a strict deadline.

While reading the book, a beta reader provides feedback. They should point out anything they find confusing, plot holes and inconsistencies, and parts of the story that they liked, along with sections that need more work. These comments help the author edit their manuscript and get it in its best form. From there, the book is ready for submission to agents and publishers, or for an editor for writers who self-publish.

How do I Become a Beta Reader?

I stumbled upon beta reading when an internet stranger reached out to me suggesting we exchange manuscripts. I enjoyed reading his story about e-sports, while he informed me that the ending of my book sucked (it did).

I follow a number of writers on social media, and that’s how I’ve stumbled across every book I’ve had the opportunity to beta read. And although I’ve offered to beta read other people’s work, none have taken me up on it yet. I’m not sure how to become a professional reader other than just being lucky enough to have an author offer you money.

Why Would I Want to Beta Read?

I do my best to leave a review for every book I read (and I challenge you to do the same), but there’s something fundamentally different between writing a review and providing beta feedback.

Once a book is published, it’s pretty static. You can read it and form whatever opinions you want and share them with the world. But no matter what happens, the story isn’t going to change. This is one of the prime reasons I enjoy beta reading. My comments on the story make a difference. All the confusing bits and plot holes I point out gives the author a chance to fix them so the final novel will be even better. And of course, I always feel good about helping a fellow writer out.

Other than encouraging you to beta read a novel if the opportunity arises, I also wanted to share all of this to let everyone know that if I post fewer book reviews, it’s not because I’m not reading anything, but instead because I’m reading cool stuff that hasn't been published yet.

I know I haven’t touched on beta reading from a writer's perspective, but that’s a topic for another post.

December 10, 2018

What to Look for in an Editor


To those of you reading, I’m Josiah Davis, Beth Martin’s editor. Just to give a bit of background on myself, I’ve been working in the editing industry for the last five years now, and during that time I’ve done around 250 novels and worked with just over 80 authors. I had stumbled into the career back a while ago, but transitioned to full-time work two years ago and absolutely love it.

Beth asked me to write a guest post on the blog this week, and I’m incredibly thankful for the opportunity to share some of what I’ve learned over the last several years with you all.

This is a discussion I’ve had with a number of my clients. I posed the question: “What is it that draws you to one particular editor instead of another.” I want to go through a number of the more common responses that I received, in the hopes that it assists you in any future search you have for someone to edit your work.

The most resounding answer I received was: “Make sure they have a website.” (Here's Josiah's website!) This one definitely strikes home for me, because when I was first getting started as an editor, all I was using was my Reddit account and my .edu email box. I could definitely tell that people were a bit apprehensive about working with me when they found out I didn’t have a site. After all, if I’m not willing to invest in my business, why should someone else invest in me? A website shows that they’re willing to put in the time and money to establish who they are and what they do. (Here's Josiah's website)

The next thing people told me is that they look for an editor who is: “Personable and easy to reach.” No author wants to feel like they’re just a number. If it seems like the editor is just treating you as one of the slots of the assembly-line, then they’re most likely not going to be pleasant to work with. You want someone that you feel like you can talk with, even about topics that aren’t specifically the comments within your book. If you have a question about publishing or marketing or whatever, if the editor just makes you feel like a number—and not a human—then I doubt they’re going to be someone you’ll be eager to ask for advice and help when needed.

Another thing that a few clients of mine expressed was: “They need to respond in a timely manner.” This one is especially important, due to the nature of deadlines when publishing. If you’re trying to reach an editor and they take multiple days to respond, or turn around a sample days after they said they would, then it doesn’t bode well for you with future projects. No, they’re not going to be on-call for you 24/7 because they (sometimes) have a life outside of their work. But you need to know that if you have a question or concern or inquiry that you’ll receive a response sooner rather than later.

The final point may perhaps be the most important one. Nearly everyone said: “Make sure their testimonials and experience back up their prices.” Take this one to heart, because it’s an issue you’ll see consistently when you’re looking for an editor. You’ll see a number of individuals out there who decide, “I want to be an editor. What’s the union rate for editing?” and they’ll go to the Editorial Freelancers Association page and set their prices based on that. Issue being, they’re using the prices of someone who has 10+ years’ experience, when they themselves are just getting started, and don’t have the reviews/testimonials to back up their work. Just as with any job, people who are just getting started need to prove themselves before they can charge what the veterans do. Make sure that anyone you work with has the reputation and volume of work to support their pricing.

Hopefully this is helpful to anyone who’s looked for an editor or is currently in the process of searching for one. If there are any other things that you personally keep an eye out for on the editor hunt, shoot me an email and let me know, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Thanks again for taking the time to read the blog, and thanks to Beth for giving me the chance to write for you all!

December 4, 2018

#Indiecember Reading Challenge

A fellow indie author, Megan Tennant, put together a reading challenge for the month of December. Basically, the challenge is to read great indie books, write some reviews, and win prizes.

Yes, prizes! As of writing this, more than thirty authors have added their books and merch to the prize pool, and there's over $150 in cash prizes. (And if you want a free book right now make sure to read to the end.)

Participating is easy. All you need to do is post reviews this December for indie books you've read and haven't yet reviewed. The set up is a lot like Bingo--fill in a square for each review you post to get five in a row, or fill in as many squares as possible for each review and try to cover the entire grid. That's the basic idea, but check out the rules for all the details.

Book Recommendations

You don't need to read all the books this month, just post the reviews. However, if you haven't read a ton of indie titles, I've put together a list of books which will help you win the challenge.

The Moonborn: or, Moby-Dick on the Moon by [Lovett, D. F.]Moonborn by D.F. Lovett
When Ishmael lands on the Moon to ghostwrite the autobiography of Adam Moonborn, first man born on the Moon, he learns the job is not as straightforward as it seemed. They soon embark on a mission to destroy all of the Moon’s rogue robots, whom Moonborn holds responsible for the death of his family and the impending downfall of civilization. A tale of hubris and redemption, The Moonborn reimagines Melville's Moby-Dick, on the Moon, in the future.

Stellar Detective Tales: The Hunt for the Living Shadow by [Markley, Scott]Stellar Detective Tales: The Hunt for the Living Shadow by Scott Markley
In the year 2073, Earth, suffering from overcrowding, energy shortages, and planetary disaster, sent 8 million people aboard a colony ship towards Proxima Beta, the nearest habitable planet. For 100 years this ship, the NEW YORK, better known to its inhabitants as ‘The NAWK’, has traveled in relative peace. But with 900 years to go, cracks are beginning to form in the perfect society. It is into the warm pot Detective Leslie Flynt finds himself thrust into the life of Officer Samuel Teegs, becoming a member of the thin blue line in a century he’s never even imagined.

Quality DNA by [Martin, Beth]Quality DNA by Beth Martin
In 2059, every person’s DNA is recorded in the Genome Database. Even though Annette’s perfect baby girl was the product of a one night stand, she knows the database will give her the name of the sexy stranger who fathered her child. Instead, her baby’s DNA matches that of a man she’s never met who died several years ago.

Irene works at the Social Department and is assigned Annette’s case. When more and more instances of births that don’t make sense and babies who shouldn’t exist cross her desk, she realizes there’s something deeper going on. Her investigation sucks her into a sinister organization with a single goal in mind.

Misguided matchmaking. Deranged medical experiments. Outright terrorism. All in the name of finding one elusive thing: Quality DNA.

Outliers (The Outliers Trilogy Book 1) by [Pearce, S.M.]Outliers by S.M. Pearce
Everybody knows that Earth is an uninhabitable wasteland. The last of humanity has lived on Mozaan--a healthy, domed chunk of land suspended above Earth--for almost two hundred years. Renee thought life on Mozaan was good. It had been, until the night they came.

Renee and her friends each have a strange ability--which they hadn't hid well enough to save them from the Takers. When Renee's life and family are destroyed, she and her friends must live in hiding if they want to survive. But, can they hide forever? The Takers are coming, and Renee is about to discover new, jarring truths about Mozaan, Earth, and herself.

Numbers Game (Numbers Game Saga Book 1) by [Rode, Rebecca]Numbers Game by Rebecca Rode
In futuristic America, everyone wears a number. Treena's as ready for Rating Day as anyone can be—she's a top contender in Level Three school and has a highly-rated boyfriend. But when her number is announced, it shocks everyone.

To get her life and boyfriend back, Treena must go undercover and expose a military spy. Doesn’t sound too hard, except that someone wants her dead. And then there’s Vance, the mysterious soldier with a haunted past and gorgeous brown eyes. Together, they discover a dark numbers conspiracy, one that shatters the nation’s future. Treena must join up with Vance if she is to survive the dangerous game of numbers—and the terrible war that rages within her heart.

Free Books

I think this challenge is an excellent idea, but I know that asking people to purchase a bunch of indie books can cost a bit of money. So if you want to participate in the Indiecember Challenge and would like to read In the Lurch or Quality DNA, shoot me an email at and I'll send you a free eBook review copy of your choice.

I'd love to know if you're participating in the challenge, and don't forget to follow #Indiecember on Twitter and Instagram. If you need help writing your reviews, check out my guide on how to write a book review.

November 26, 2018

Oh Christmas Tree

My kids woke me up at the break of dawn the day after Thanksgiving. “Mommy! We need to put up the Christmas tree!” I’m not one of those people who insist that there shall be no hint of Christmas before Thanksgiving, and in some past years, I’ve brought out all the holiday decorations in mid-November.

As we unfolded and quickly erected our pre-lit tree, my husband and I remarked how much easier it is to set up a modern tree than the kind we had when we were kids. The trees from my childhood had individual branches which had to be fluffed and arranged in a certain order according to a color band painted on the middle wire which had rubbed off. I remember plugging in strings of lights, checking each individual bulb, trying to find the dud which spoiled the entire strand and then carefully arranging those 10+ strings of lights on the tree, making sure every branch was evenly lit (yes, a tree should have that many lights).

Within a few minutes, our tree was up. I plugged it in—and then only half of the lights turned on. As I’d do with any faulty piece of electronics, I tried to fix it by giving it a good shake. A few of the dark areas lit up, but not all. Instead of painstakingly inspecting each bulb like my parents did in the past, I declared our tree a dud which will be replaced next year. I have no idea how my parents' generation survived the holidays. No wonder my mom delayed decorating as long as possible.

Of course, now that the tree is up, my kids ask all the time if it’s Christmas and if they can open presents. Perhaps I should have waited a couple more weeks to start the process.

I’ve met people who claim that white lights are the only appropriate way to light a tree and others who believe colorful lights are much better. But everyone seemed to agree that the two styles clashed. My mother-in-law is the first person I’ve met who was dumbfounded that someone would want to restrict their lights to a single style. In addition to white and colorful lights, she liked to use big bulbs and little bulbs, steady lights and twinkle lights, and even some of those bubble lights. By the time she was done stringing lights on her tree, it was a supernova of Christmas spirit.

One year when I was younger, a friend from school excitedly explained that her family would use her choice of red and silver ornaments that year. I was astonished that anyone would want to buy and give away new ornaments every single year. What about all of the keepsakes collected over time and injected with fond memories? What’s the point of even having a tree without special things to display on it? My friend was an army brat, so holding onto boxes of nostalgic items just didn’t make sense for a family that moved every few years. Her special memory was that of getting to create something new and magical every year. The collection of temporary ornaments held just as much joy as my favorite ornaments which were familiar year after year.

Only once did I have a ‘real’ tree. It wasn’t really even mine since it spent the holidays at a friend’s house. The whole picking-out-a-live-tree trip was a new experience for me and not anything like I’d imagined since this was in sunny California. I didn’t think to line the trunk of my car before putting a huge, cut plant in there, and it was covered in stubborn needles for at least a year. Getting the thing upright was non-trivial, and the needles were so pokey I had a hard time putting decorations on it. However, it smelled nice, which is the only pro I can remember. After not getting water for the entire month of January, the dried-out shrub got chopped up and burned in a barrel. Even then, it smelled nice.

With all the memories and nostalgia packed into just the idea of a Christmas tree, even seeing a pine with baubles on it or a fake plant indoors and strung with lights makes me smile. And now I have the responsibility of building those memories with my kids. Maybe one day they’ll be surprised to see a family tree that has only little white lights, few enough ornaments that you can actually see the tree underneath, or one that doesn’t have a kitty sleeping under it 24/7.

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