Beta Readers for Writing Success

Below is the information you requested regarding the importance of Beta Readers:

What are beta readers and why use them?

Beta Readers are non-professional readers who read a prerelease manuscript or sample book to find and improve such items as: grammar, character suggestions, or assist in fact-checking. Beta Readers should not be used as proofreaders or editors.

Who should your beta readers be/how do you select them?

Beta Readers vary depending on genre and reading level and should be selected accordingly. The number of Beta Readers needed varies depending on the length of the manuscript. Here are examples of how they are selected based on genres:

  • Picture Book: children’s public librarian (2–3 readers), certified preschool teachers (2–3 readers), elementary school library media specialist (2–3 readers), and/or a professional illustrator.
  • Juvenile Chapter Book: children’s public librarian (2–3 readers), board certified teacher 3rd–5th grade (2–3 readers), elementary school library media specialist (2–3 readers), and genre interested readers 3rd–5th grade readers (2–3 readers).
  • Young Adult YA: YA public librarian (2–3 readers), board certified teacher 6th–12th grade (2–3 readers), school library media specialist (2–3 readers), and genre interested readers 6th–12th grade readers (2–3 readers).
  • Genre Specific Fiction: public librarian (2–3 readers), residents in the city/region of the story (2–3 readers), and genre interested readers (2–3 readers).
  • Avoid Using Relatives: Relatives as Beta Readers they are not the most objective readers.

How much time should you give your Beta Readers?

Consider the word count of your book. Manuscripts that are 30,000–45,000 words may only require two weeks to read and review. Books over 50,000 words allow  four weeks or more.

What are some ways you can get their feedback?

Be creative but focused. If the reading experience is enjoyable, then participation and feedback happen more quickly.  Here are two favorite examples:

  • Host a Party: Invite the Beta Readers to a comfortable quiet location. For the first hour allow each Beta Reader to 1 to 2 chapters and complete a questionnaire. The next hour is book discussion over pizza, pastries, coffee, etc. Take notes on the beta readers conversation.
  • Invest in ten (10) POD (Print On Demand) Sample Books: Use these to test consumer appeal and get Beta Reader feedback. Mail copies to the beta readers to comment inside the book on cover image, book summary, interior errors, and favorite sections. Use a few samples to get consumer feedback without reading the book.

What types of questions should you ask your beta readers?

Beta Readers‘ time is valuable. Asking specific questions regarding their interest level to character development is important. Not only ask for the negative parts of the book, but also items that are strong. This helps an author build on the weak sections and recognize writing strengths. These are questions to consider:

  • Would they like to receive a complimentary book upon release?
  • Would they like to provide an endorsement quote for this book?
  • Would they like to participate in future beta reads for this book series.
  • Reader Name and Reader Profession/Title: a professor of professional beta reader’s endorsement could boost sales.
  • Address, State, and Zip: is important when mailing a complimentary book or personal thank you.
  • Email Address: is important for contacting the beta reader to read future books in the series.
  • Content: ask that the beta reader please rate each area from 1–10 (10 being excellent). Also ask them to provide any suggestions or accolades regarding each section: Editorial, Design, Front Cover, Back Cover, and Spine.

While Beta Readers are reviewing the manuscript, compare similar books in the manuscript genre using these techniques:

Free Reader Comparison:  Place your book with books of similar content at the public library. Lay three books including yours on a table or face out on a book shelf. Sit far enough away to observe and not look like a stalker. Take notes. Do library patrons overlook, preview, read, or check out your book? Feel honored if your book reach the circulation desk.

Bookstore Comparison:  Visit your local book retailer. Ask for the top three books in your genre. Find a comfortable corner and critique your book. Don’t mark in the bookseller’s books, only your own. Is your writing professional (typos, misspellings, etc.)? Does your layout follow industry standards (margins, text flow, etc.)?  Do your illustrations/photos match or exceed the professionals? Place your book on a bookshelf next to the competitors. Which book is most easily read from twelve feet away? If your book is week in any area, make adjustments now!

Education Considerations:

1.  Readability Score: Use the Readability-Score.com text scoring tool to tell you how easy a piece of text is to read and if it is grade and/or reading level appropriate.

2.  Sight Words:  vocabulary words for age appropriate grade levels

3.  Historical and Scientific Facts:  topics that are specific to readers of a certain age woven within the story line

4.  Nationalities:  character diversity within stories

5.  Human Geography:  the incorporation of financial, environmental, and industrial cause and affect on the success of cultures.

Editing Books:

Fire Up Your Fiction: An Editors Guide to Writing Compelling Fiction, Jodie Renner

Captivate Your Readers: An Editors Guide to Writing Compelling Fiction, Jodie Renner

For more information about Beta Readers visit Gina Edwards’s blog and listen to the Around the Writer’s Table Radio Show Interview with Mark Wayne Adams.

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Staff Book Picks: November

POSP 3D-book

Written by Irina Gonikberg Dolinskiy and Illustrations by Mark Wayne Adams
Hardbound ISBN:  978-1-59616-017-0
Pages: 32
Retail Price: $14.95

The parts of speech come magically alive as they participate in a colorful New York City Parade! Each presents and defines itself as it marches down the street and through a child’s imagination.

 

Written by Linda Smigaj and Illustrated by Mark Wayne Adams
ISBN:  978-1-59616-034-7

Paperback Retail Price: $9.99

History with a Twist Makes Learning Fun!

Welcome to the world of Linda Smigaj’s books. Educator and juvenile fiction author Linda Smigaj, aka Professor Fuddy-Duddy, captures the imagination of readers, ages 7–10, through stories of historically accurate events told from a unique perspective. Come travel through early American history with these adventurous flies.

 

Written by Crystal White and Illustrations by Mark Wayne Adams
ISBN: 978-159616-028-6
Pages: 32
Paperback Retail Price: $9.99

Franny Finds a Home! is a beautiful children’s book complete with vibrant illustrations and educational resources for both parents and teachers, not to mention an exciting and heartfelt story.

Franny is a former stray who was relieved to be saved from the streets. But her rescuer, Trishalou, simply can’t keep her. Franny encounters nice workers at the rescue shelter, but she misses her friends. Shy, and not the cutest critter in the place, will Franny ever be chosen for a forever home?

At the end of the story the author (a 20-year reading teacher) has included resources for teaching or review of text features. These activities can be used with any text.

“What advice would you give yourself fresh out of college?”—Anna Faktorovich, PhD Interview

Faktorovich: If the young you, fresh out of a BFA program, strolled into your office today and asked you for advice on managing his coming illustration, animation, and writing career, what advice would you give him? What has been the biggest problem on your path you wish you could have avoided? Has there been an opportunity you now wish you had taken?

How to Win Friends & Influence PeopleAdams: I’d give him the best advice I’ve ever received from a stranger. I met her on a flight returning from Los Angeles. She recommended I read these three books: The Greatest Salesman in the World, because we all want to give up. Love is Letting Go of Fear, we all have a personal obstacles to overcome. How to Win Friends and Influence People, because you’re not a people person until you learn to listen.

When the student returns after reading these, I’d recommend, The Graphic Artist’s Guild Handbook of Pricing and Ethical Guidelines. And I’d recommend he select two fields of illustration. The first being his focus; the second an alternate income stream. Next I’d recommend seeking out the ugly books in the world and being a better illustrator than the publisher’s existing illustrator.

My greatest problems were not understanding my value and not having a mentor/support system. My first illustration clients took advantage of my inexperience by underpaying and not sharing profits through royalties. I also invested thousands of dollars displaying my portfolio along with hundreds of other illustrators. I also joined organizations that charged to critique my portfolio.

IMG_2307Through trial and error, I learned good clients want to share their success; hanging with publishers is more profitable than hanging with illustrators; and non-paid critiques from professionals are genuine. The opportunities I would have taken sooner, are joining a publishing organization like IBPA (Independent Book Publishers Association); cultivating a professional mentor relationship with an illustrator—not as a crutch; and starting my business fresh after graduation.

If I started again from college graduation, I would purchase a building with two storefronts in a small town for the price of a house. One unit’s rent would cover the mortgage. The second unit would serve as my business/studio. The upstairs would be converted to my loft/home. My clients would be found at large conferences where publishers and authors congregate. Technology makes small businesses into global business.

Who says being 20-something is a requirement to start a business. I might retire at 50 and start something new!

Read the complete interview with Mark Adams, Award-Winning IllustratorAdams-Author Bio Photo-mwa.company-template with Anna Faktorovich, PhD

“Can you summarize what you would tell students on the first day?”—Anna Faktorovich, PhD Interview

Faktorovich: If you were teaching a class on beginner digital illustration for children, can you summarize what you would tell your students on the first day of class (after you cover the syllabus etc.)? They are eager to get going with making a great illustration and hope for some practical advice, having some basic drawing skills under their belt.


IMG_1726
Adams: Anna, you should invite me to speak at a local school to see firsthand. I have 3 rules for students of any age: raise your hand if you have a question; pay attention; and ask good questions. Raise your hand and use your voice, the best time to learn is now. Pay attention because the knowledge you want is in front of you. And ask good questions because you’ll get good answers. Average question: “Mr. Adams do you like being an illustrator?” Answer: “Yes.” Good Question: “Everything you’ve asked in this interview!”

Also I use the visual example that at three years old, I scribbled and my mom said “Wow!” One day I drew an obscure heart-shaped image. My mom didn’t say anything but loved on me. I kept drawing the heart and received the same response from my dad. When I arrived in Kindergarten, I showed my teacher I could write my ABC’s. She said, “One day you’ll be a writer.” From age 3 to 5, I wasn’t born an artist or a writer, but through practice and positive feedback I became one. Every person is a product of the type of effort and encouragement we give and receive.

I think this is why I’ve visited so many elementary schools. I’m not there to sell a book; I’m there to inspire at least one person to achieve their dream.
Read the complete interview with Mark Adams, Award-Winning IllustratorAdams-Author Bio Photo-mwa.company-template with Anna Faktorovich, PhD

“Which illustration guide has helped you the most professionally?”—Anna Faktorovich, PhD Interview

Faktorovich: Which software do you use to illustrate children’s books, to design books and for other components of illustration and design? Do you prefer some over others, and if so why? Which guide to illustration has helped you the most to illustrate professionally and to make your covers appealing to the mainstream market?

Adams: I use Adobe’s Creative Suite: Illustrator, Photoshop, and InDesign. Every traditional watercolor illustration is scanned and manipulated using Adobe Photoshop. Sometimes illustrations are created with Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator, upon the publisher’s request. Vector logos are created using Adobe Illustrator to eliminate the need of recreation for vector routers. All programs have unique benefits. I recommend learning the basics. Go to the program’s help menu or YouTube to learn something in a pinch.

UnknownThe Graphic Artist’s Guild Handbook of Pricing and Ethical Guidelines is for any professional or aspiring artist. Illustration is a broad term covering line art to oil paintings. I’ve used this book for over eight years as a business resource. Pricing projects and creating contracts has been profitable using industry standards found within the handbook.

Every graphic artist is unique. No two illustration projects are the same. Use the Graphic Artist’s Guild Handbook of Pricing and Ethical Guidelines to set pricing guidelines for your business. Authors, Art Directors, and Publishers can use this book to budget projects. If you need a used copy, email me. I’ll sell you mine and get the latest.

Read the complete interview with Mark Adams, Award-Winning IllustratorAdams-Author Bio Photo-mwa.company-template with Anna Faktorovich, PhD

Reading Skills PreK–5th

For productive and enjoyable lifelong reading, these recommended reading skills will turn poor readers into good readers, and good readers into great readers.

Reading Skills for 4-Year-Olds to Kindergartners

Children at this age learn letter recognition, beginning phonics, and easy Dolch Sight Words. Children learn to read simple words and short sentences, and develop a love of books and reading.

Recommended Reading:  Nicholas, That’s Ridiculous!, Jilli, That’s Silly!, and Little Miss Grubby Toes, Steps on a Bee!

Reading Skills for 1st and 2nd Graders

Children at this age become independent readers. Phonics, Dolch Sight Words, and reading fluency and comprehension are key. Building confidence and cultivating a love of books and reading continues.

Recommended Reading:  Dinosaurs Living in MY HAIR!Parts of Speech Parade, New York City, A Hand Truck Named Dolly, Jace’s Adventure in the Forbidden Forest, Jace’s Adventure at Crystal Lagoon, The Rocket Ship Bed Trip, and The Afternoon Moon.

Reading Skills for 3rd, 4th & 5th Graders

Children become skilled, enthusiastic readers. Long-word decoding, reading fluency, and strong comprehension skills are developed. Reading comprehension in both fiction and non-fiction helps children be more successful in school, and reading becomes enjoyable.

Recommended Reading:  Mayflower: Fly on the Wall Series, Voices in St. Augustine, Trouble on the St. Johns River, Adventures on Amelia Island, Ghosts on the Coast, and Lost in Boston.

Reading Resources for the above recommended reading are noted on the respective book description page.

Staff Book Picks: June

 

Written by Irina Gonikberg Dolinskiy and Illustrations by Mark Wayne Adams
Hardbound ISBN:  978-1-59616-017-0
Pages: 32

Retail Price: $14.95

The parts of speech come magically alive as they participate in a colorful New York City Parade! Each presents and defines itself as it marches down the street and through a child’s imagination.

Written by Jayne Rose-Vallee
Illustrated by Anni Mastick
ISBN: 978-0986192203

Hardbound Retail Price: $17.99

Sabrina has curly hair and a problem. Tangles and knots make her mornings difficult. Try as she might . . . To make her hair “cool,” . . . . The curls make it tricky . . . To comb out for school. At the top of her head . . . Where it’s simply a mess . . . Do creatures hide out there? . . . The answer is YES! Rose-Vallee’s whimsical rhymes combined with the beautiful watercolor illustrations from Anni Matsick make this a children’s book not to be missed! A Florida Authors and Publishers Association (FAPA) 2015 President’s Book Award Finalist for Poetry and Book Cover Design.

 

Lost In Boston 3D-bookLost in Boston
Written by Jane R. Wood
ISBN: 9780986332500
Paperback Retail Price: $8.99

The Johnson family is traveling to new places again. This time, they fly to Boston and Jennifer Johnson wants her kids to experience some of the town’s history while there. Taking a subway ride for the first time, sampling new foods, and exploring impressive landmarks—like the Paul Revere House, the Old North Church, and the USS Constitution anchored in Boston Harbor—add fun and discovery to this family adventure.

“Easy resource for youngsters to learn language.” —Gary Roen, Reviewer

Parts of Speech Parade, New York City
Irina Dolinskiy, author
Mark Wayne Adams, illustrator

“The author and artist have found a fun way to teach different parts of speech to kids. Several of them are nouns, verbs, and prepositions. The combined talents give the rules and show examples of them for children to remember how each parts of speech work together. “Parts of Speech Parade: New York City” is an easy resource for youngsters to learn language.”

—Gary Roen, Reviewer

Read more at The Midwest Book Review…

Meet Brigitte Benchimol, Award-winning Author

Born and raised in Paris, France, Brigitte Benchimol has a background in Journalism, Photography and Sociology. For the past twelve years she has lived in Los Angeles, where she has studied Early Childhood Education.

Currently, Brigitte runs Love 2 Learn Preschool & Kindergarten in Santa Ana, reviews children’s books for magazines and is the author of the award winning series: Jadyn And The Magic Bubble . Jadyn And the Magic Bubble Discovering India was first published in India and then in the U.S. Brigitte has traveled to twenty-five countries and speaks three languages fluently. Her passion for exploring cultural differences and her perspective on human nature triggered a desire to share the benefits of her experience.

Brigitte Benchimol’s Books

“It took me 2 years to find you but I did, and you helped me realized my vision and make it even better. Rizwan’s comment is exactly what I wanted. Thank you. Teaming up with you is really fun.” – Brigitte Benchimol

Meet Christa Blaney

Christa Blaney is a mother of two wonderful children who inspire her to write. She enjoys teaching first-grade to be leaders using Dr. Steven Cove’s The 7 Habits of Happy Kids. HerWallaby Series has won numerous awards. The books are part of the national AR (Accelerated Reader Program).

Christa lives in Florida with her son and daughter, Nicholas and Jillian, their funny dog, Eddie and their clever cat Rex.

Christa’s Book Awards:

Eddie, That’s Spaghetti! A Story About Being A Dog

  1. FAPA President’s Awards Gold Medalist – 2018 

Jilli, That’s Silly! A Story About Being A Girl

  1. Evelyn Thurman Young Readers Book Award – 2014

  2. Ben Franklin Award Silver Medalist – 2013

  3. FAPA President’s Awards Silver Medalist – 2013 

  4. Reader’s Favorite Award Gold Medalist – 2013

  5. National Indie Excellence Award Finalist – 2013

  6. Finalist – Eric Hoffer Award – 2013

  7. Finalist – International Book Awards (Parenting & Family) – 2013

  8. Finalist – International Book Awards (Picture Book) – 2013

    Nicholas, That’s Ridiculous! A Story About Being A Boy

  1. Florida Publishers Association President’s Award Silver Medalist – 2010

  2. Independent Publisher Award Silver Medalist – 2011

  3. Finalist – Eric Hoffer Award – 2010

  4. Moonbeam Children’s Book Award Gold Medalist – 2009

“YOU ROCK!!! Not to mention, You’re hired.  🙂  You’re truly amazing Mark. And you are right, you never sleep. I can’t wait to meet with you on Monday.” —Christa Blaney