Beta Readers Can Save You from Embarrassment—Guest Post by Chandi Wyant

beta readersAs a professional freelance editor, I encourage every writer I work with to use beta readers. Most fiction writers know this is an important step, but did you know it is equally important when you write nonfiction? You’ll do yourself a huge favor by gathering your posse early in the process to learn what works and what doesn’t in your manuscript.

Author Chandi Wyant, who is working on a travel memoir about her solo forty-day pilgrimage in Italy, offers another important reason to seek that valuable input.

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A beta reader is a not a professional editor, but rather, a volunteer who reads your manuscript to provide feedback before you publish it, or before you submit it to agents or publishers.

I recommend seeking beta readers who are familiar with your genre and who are not close friends or family members.

 

Why a Memoirist Needs Beta Readers

Utilizing beta readers is an excellent idea for all genres. I’m going to focus here on why they’re essential for memoir.

Many authors in this genre write about traumatic things in their lives, and this is very challenging to do without sounding whiny.

This is where a beta reader can step in and save you from embarrassment. All authors are too close to their manuscripts and need an outsider’s perspective—and a memoirist is particularly entwined with her manuscript because it’s a piece of her life.

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I have seen twice, with my own manuscript and with a friend’s, that beta readers saved us from the embarrassment of putting our book out into the world when it wasn’t ready.

My friend (who writes nonfiction like I do) was sure her book was ready for publication, but a beta reader told her, Continue reading “Beta Readers Can Save You from Embarrassment—Guest Post by Chandi Wyant”

Join Me at "Her Headache" for a Guest Post About Becoming a Freelance Editor

Becoming a Freelance EditorI recently met author Kerry Kijewski when she visited my Facebook page, and she was kind enough to invite me to guest blog at Her Headache. I invite you to join me there to learn a few never-before-shared tidbits about becoming a freelance editor and my personal philosophies. You’ll read about my involvement with the Chicken Soup for the Soul franchise, how I began working in the editing field, why I left traditional publishing, and how I’ve dealt with, er, “difficult” authors.

How I began working in the editing field and why I left traditional publishing. #editing… Click To Tweet

Here’s a preview:


Most of the posts on my own blog are for writers about the writing and publishing, so I was pleasantly surprised when Kerry invited me to guest blog and answer some personal questions. While I’ve written about myself in terms of my work as a professional editor (as in this post), I haven’t written too much about my background or my personal philosophies. Kerry asked some great questions, so here goes:  

“I read something on your website about your involvement with the Chicken Soup for the Soul books. I used to love those when I was a kid and always dreamed of writing something and having it published in those. What was your role?”

Like most people, I’d heard of the Chicken Soup for the Soul franchise, so when I applied for an internship with their book publisher, I looked forward to learning more about anthologies in general and those books in particular. You can imagine my thrill when I was invited by to try my hand at writing back cover copy and catalog copy for several of the books in production that season—and my greater thrill when most of my copy was used!

During my internship, I tried my hand at many publishing tasks and found I was a pretty good proofreader. At first, I only did second proofs; a more experienced proofreader did the first proof pass, and I was the “clean-up” proofreader. After I finished my internship and graduated, I continued to work as a freelance proofreader for a year before I was offered a position with the same publisher as assistant to the managing editor. Over the course of those several seasons, I proofread several more Chicken Soup books as well as many others.

Several years later, the franchise was sold, and the publisher I worked for was no longer involved, but the editorial director recognized the popularity of anthologies (A Cup of Comfort was a popular, competing series) and lobbied for creating a series to replace Chicken Soup. That series became the Ultimate Books, and I was tapped to be the project manager for one of the first titles in the series, The Ultimate Teacher. Working on that first project was the epitome of trial by fire; I learned so much from putting that anthology together.

I continued to build on those skills over the next few years as I worked on several more titles in the Ultimate series and later began acquiring my own nonfiction list. The variety of jobs I handled and the skills I learned is quite varied, so I’ll save that discussion for another post, but suffice it to say I had quite an in-depth education.

“When did you start your own editing business and what made you want to try going out on your own?”

My passion has always been working with writers and their words, and sadly, the economics of traditional publishing caused my job to morph into something that left me little time to do that. My days were spent on many things other than editing, and I grew more and more frustrated.

I finally realized that if things were going to change, I would have to be the one to change them.

So I did, and I’ve never looked back. Was it scary? Yes, it was. But in hindsight, I only have one regret: I wish I’d done it sooner. Becoming a freelance editor and writer is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

Finish reading the full interview here.


If you enjoyed reading this, please subscribe to my blog and never miss a post! It’s easy: Just enter your email address on the right side of this page. And please know that I’ll never sell, share, or rent your contact information—that’s a promise!

Candace Johnson is a professional freelance editor, proofreader, writer, ghostwriter, and writing coach who has worked with traditional publishers, self-published authors, and independent book packagers on nonfiction subjects ranging from memoirs to alternative medical treatments to self-help, and on fiction ranging from romance to paranormal. As an editorial specialist, Candace is passionate about offering her clients the opportunity to take their work to the next level. She believes in maintaining an author’s unique voice while helping him or her create and polish every sentence to make it the best it can be. Learn more here.

 

 

Competitive Titles: Step 5 of How to Write a Compelling Nonfiction Book Proposal in 10 Easy Steps

How to Write a Nonfiction Book ProposalAnyone who’s written a nonfiction book proposal will probably tell you that proposal writing is more difficult than writing the actual manuscript. After all, you’re an expert on the subject you’re writing about, and sharing that knowledge is fun, but putting on your marketing hat to write the proposal often presents some unique challenges for writers, and facing your competition is one of those.

After all, you’re an expert on the subject you’re writing about, and sharing that knowledge is fun, but putting on your marketing hat to write the proposal often presents some unique challenges for writers. Facing your competition is one of those.

Your book proposal needs to convince the literary agents you query, and ultimately acquisition editors (who decide whether or not to bring your proposal forward for consideration through several vetting steps), why this book will stand out in a sea of other books about your subject, and why you are the perfect author to write this book.

This section of the proposal shouldn’t overwhelm you. This is actually another place for you to let your book shine and show your expertise about your subject—you just need to remember a few things.

Things to Do:

  1. Research the competition and understand how your book fits in the market. Your book will be shelved next to other books in the genre; your book will come up in an online search as one of many in the genre. This section of the proposal is where you discuss the differences between your book and the others. If you’re writing about a subject that has plenty of competition to choose from, list 5−10 books, but if your subject is very niche, think outside the box a little and come up with at least two or three comp titles. Even if your book is truly unique, find and list books that are similar to yours; for example, if you are shopping a book about baking gluten-free treats for goldfish, you probably won’t have a lot of competition, but compare and contrast your book to others about homemade pet food, raising healthy fish, and food allergies in pets. Continue reading “Competitive Titles: Step 5 of How to Write a Compelling Nonfiction Book Proposal in 10 Easy Steps”

Why You Must Create a Compelling Book Description

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Question: What’s the most important piece of writing you’ll do once your book is complete?

Answer: The description of your book. No matter how well written your book is, no matter how great your author platform is, no matter how great your marketing plan is, if your promotional copy puts readers to sleep, you just lost a potential sale.

What you say about your book can be as important (and arguably even more important) that what you say inside your book.

The product description you write for Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other product pages—even your own website—needs to be the best sales copy you can create. Whether readers are just browsing for a book to read or they’re looking for yours specifically (yay!), the interest and excitement you create in that product description will influence whether you gain another reader or not.

Continue reading “Why You Must Create a Compelling Book Description”

Present Tense: Breathlessly Waiting to Read About What's Already Happened

ID-10088342As an editor, I’ve made no bones about my preference for past tense in both fiction and memoir writing. And I know I’m not alone. Yet there seems to be a movement toward writing in present tense, and there have been some passionate blogs written about the past versus present debate. In a blog titled “Does (or Did) Tense Matter?” D. Thomas Minton wrote:

“Stories in the present tense feel more urgent and immediate to me—I feel like I’m there with the characters, instead of listening to the story after-the-fact, while sitting in the cozy comfort of a coffee shop.  In contrast, the temporal distance that comes with past tense removes this immediacy, but past tense is more conducive to reflection, as if the narrator has had a chance to digest what has happened to him or her prior to telling me.”

So maybe I prefer the reflective aspect of writing? Or perhaps I’m just an old dog who doesn’t want to learn new tricks—the author of The Singularity Sucks blog suggests it’s an age thing:

Continue reading “Present Tense: Breathlessly Waiting to Read About What's Already Happened”

The Song in You by LaDonna Gatlin (book and songs!)

As the editor of The Song in You, I had the privilege of working closely with LaDonna Gatlin, and what a terrific story she has to tell! Before Larry Gatlin & The Gatlin Brothers became one of the biggest hits in country music, they toured with their sister LaDonna as The Gatlin Quartet, and in this optimistic message of hope and healing, LaDonna Gatlin shares the choice she made to embark on a different “tour”: raising her children, putting family first, overcoming adversity, and ultimately helping to inspire countless others discover their own song.

You don’t want to miss this fantastic memoir! (And here are several audio clips to get you in the mood while you read: http://ladonnagatlin.com/index.php/clip/audio-clips/)

You can read it all in The Song in You: Finding Your Voice, Redefining Your Life. Today LaDonna is a Certified Speaking Professional and a member of the National Speakers Hall of Fame, part an elite group of CPAE recipients such as Ken Blanchard, Ronald Reagan, Norman Vincent Peale, and Zig Ziglar.

But in this inspirational memoir, you’ll learn all about the sometime-difficult journey LaDonna has had on the way, and why she’s such a popular speaker (and now, author!).

This book has it all—including a foreword by big brother Larry Gatlin! LaDonna shares her personal story in a very transparent and often hilarious way and crafts an incredibly uplifting message. She takes readers down an inspirational path to uncovering their own potential, purpose, and passion.

Using the seven notes of the musical scale—do (do the right thing), re (realize your potential), mi (mind your manners), fa (failures can become fertilizer), sol (solutions begin with me), la (laugh), ti (time is valuable) . . . and right back to do—Gatlin uses her own story, including her dramatic personal struggles, to craft a spiritually uplifting message.

The Song in You
 contains practical, emotional, and spiritual insights gleaned from LaDonna’s experiences as part of a famous musical family, and also as a woman whose Christian faith caused her to walk away from untold riches and fame to travel the world. With a finely tuned voice, sharp wit, and engaging communication style crafted over a lifetime of performing, LaDonna ignites readers to boldly discover their passion, connect with their voice, and embrace a life of purpose and meaning.

Happy Reading!

—Candace

Update July 2013: LaDonna discusses sharing your own story: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3YXszdLG7p4&feature=player_detailpage …

Candace Johnson is a professional freelance editor, proofreader, writer, ghostwriter, and writing coach who has worked with traditional publishers, self-published authors, and independent book packagers on nonfiction subjects ranging from memoirs to alternative medical treatments to self-help. As an editorial specialist, Candace is passionate about offering her clients the opportunity to take their work to the next level. She believes in maintaining an author’s unique voice while helping him or her create and polish every sentence to make it the best it can be.

If you enjoyed reading this, please subscribe to my blog and never miss a post! It’s easy: Just enter your email address on the right side of this page. And please know that I’ll never sell, share, or rent your contact information—that’s a promise!

And if you want more great writing and publishing information, check out my Facebook page at Change It Up Editing and Writing Services, where I share all kinds of interesting articles and links.

The Song in You by LaDonna Gatlin

As the editor of The Song in You, I had the privilege of working closely with LaDonna Gatlin, and what a terrific story she has to tell! Before Larry Gatlin & The Gatlin Brothers became one of the biggest hits in country music, they toured with their sister LaDonna as The Gatlin Quartet, and in this optimistic message of hope and healing, LaDonna Gatlin shares the choice she made to embark on a different “tour”: raising her children, putting family first, overcoming adversity, and ultimately helping to inspire countless others discover their own song.

You can read it all in The Song in You: Finding Your Voice, Redefining Your Life. Today LaDonna is a Certified Speaking Professional and a member of the National Speakers Hall of Fame, part an elite group of CPAE recipients such as Ken Blanchard, Ronald Reagan, Norman Vincent Peale, and Zig Ziglar.

But in this inspirational memoir, you’ll learn all about the sometime-difficult journey LaDonna has had on the way, and why she’s such a popular speaker (and now, author!).

This book has it all—including a foreword by big brother Larry Gatlin! LaDonna shares her personal story in a very transparent and often hilarious way and crafts an incredibly uplifting message. She takes readers down an inspirational path to uncovering their own potential, purpose, and passion.

Using the seven notes of the musical scale—do (do the right thing), re (realize your potential), mi (mind your manners), fa (failures can become fertilizer), sol (solutions begin with me), la (laugh), ti (time is valuable) . . . and right back to do—Gatlin uses her own story, including her dramatic personal struggles, to craft a spiritually uplifting message.

The Song in You
 contains practical, emotional, and spiritual insights gleaned from LaDonna’s experiences as part of a famous musical family, and also as a woman whose Christian faith caused her to walk away from untold riches and fame to travel the world. With a finely tuned voice, sharp wit, and engaging communication style crafted over a lifetime of performing, LaDonna ignites readers to boldly discover their passion, connect with their voice, and embrace a life of purpose and meaning.

You don’t want to miss this one! Stop by your favorite bookstore on your way to the polls on Tuesday—the line won’t seem nearly as bad when you have a great book to read!

—Candace