Get it read before you publish
- Beta readers
- Print a small print run if you can
- ACR – Advance Copy Readers
“Reader’s Bill of Rights” – Daniel Pennac
- The right to not read
- The right to skip pages
- The right to not finish
- The right to reread
- The right to read anything
- The right to escapism
- The right to read anywhere
- The right to browse
- The right to read out loud
- The right to not defend your tastes
As an avid reader who completes on average around forty-five books each year (plus a few DNF’s), I’ve always loved that quote. It is why it’s so important to understand who your ideal reader is. You need to know who they are, and more importantly, where to find them.
All activities you do as a publisher are about getting your book into their hands. You want them to read it, for them to love it, and go out and tell the world about it. Get the book wrong or get it into the hands of people who won’t like it or don’t read your genre is disastrous. It’s no better than not having anyone read it in the first place.
Before you publish, it’s time to call on significant people in your self-publishing team.
By now you will have started your mailing list and have a few people who will want to read your books. Getting beta readers is a fantastic idea because they’ll read your book and give you an honest assessment of what it’s like. They’re part of the team to help get a fantastic product out there. I usually ask five to ten readers to help out with this task in return for a signed paperback once it’s published.
Scheduling-wise you need to involve them after you’ve got your manuscript back from your editor and updated that with any changes. As long as you get the manuscripts to your beta-readers before you go to your proofreader, all will be fine.
I try and get local beta-readers (in the UK) because it can be quite pricey to post a manuscript to them and pay for the return-addressed envelope. Paying all the costs is just good manners.
I send a letter with each bound manuscript highlighting tasks for them to do while they read. I need them to rate each chapter (great, good, average, or poor), and write down what they like or dislike along the way. Commenting on the depth of the characters is another thing I ask them for plus the strength of the dialogue. Finally, I ask them if they would buy the book.
Once I get all the manuscripts back, I read each one chapter by chapter and make notes of those aspects that are common across all the reader’s remarks. If one of them has made a comment or suggestion about something they didn’t like, I look for similar remarks from the others. If they all say the same thing, I will then rewrite or amend the highlighted areas. That’s precisely why you’re doing this exercise – requesting outside feedback.
People might think that this is what your editor is there for. It is not. It’s about mimicking the reader you are going to target out there. Don’t forget your editor is only there to help polish and grow your writer’s voice, and analyse your book structure.
Print a small print run if you can
Nothing beats opening a box, filled with bubble wrap, pulling the top layer of paper off and see your cover staring back at you. While we’re more accustomed to eBooks nowadays, there is nothing better than seeing your book in print.
Two ways to get paperbacks:
- Engage with a digital print company yourself.
- Use an online store to do it for you when you upload your novel, i.e. Amazon.
You will need a formatted manuscript, full cover (front, back and spine) and dimensions of the size of the paperback you want to produce from the outset.
I used to get a small local printer to print fifty novels at a time at about £4.50 per book, which was great. Strike up a dialogue with them about what the page count, page dimensions and types of paper will be. I also ask them what size the book spine width will be for the book. I need these dimensions for my designer to create the spine and back cover. This will include an ISBN barcode if you have your own, a photo of you and most importantly the book blurb. When I get this back, I send it off to the printer with the content file and order fifty paperbacks.
These paperbacks have never been for sale purposes. They are purely for marketing and giveaways. While the print cost has come down dramatically over the past eight or ten years, it’s still not worth the effort to sell paperbacks from my website – the postage destroys all the margin.
Now that Amazon has absorbed CreateSpace into its platform, I find it easier to use Amazon’s paperback creation process. They will also send you one free author copy overnight for you to check. Once your book is live, you’ll have to pay for author copies. I order five paperbacks at a time from them for gifts and giveaways to go to loyal fans.
ACR – Advance Copy Readers
These are people who you’ll give a pre-published book too, and hopefully, they’ll leave you an online review. This is especially applicable if you are doing a soft-launch.
Soft launches are when you publish online by uploading your book to whatever store you’ll be selling through, but don’t tell anyone except your ACRs. You will need to give them a deadline date so that they can be finished before the hard launch when all your promotional activity gets into full swing. When you go to market with your launch, you will magically have reviews associated with the book.
Most of my ARCs come from my email list because we already have an email-based relationship.
Note: Ask nicely for a review. Don’t harass your beta or ARCs. They’re doing you a favour so be nice. Whatever you do, DO NOT pay for reviews. That is a frowned upon activity that could see your book being deleted from an online store like Amazon.
Re-read the second page in the Publishing Tip series – Part 2 – What route to market?
Or, move onto the fourth page – Part 4 – Final steps before publishing
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