Posts Tagged ‘deadlines’

Five Tips for Working with Beta Readers

Friday, May 4th, 2012

The first draft of my Work in Progress is now in the hands of my beta readers! I feel incredibly blessed to have a wonderful group of readers whom I trust to give me honest, objective feedback on my work. Because I’m so close to my own story, gathering outside opinions is absolutely invaluable. Here are some tips for working with beta readers, based on my own experience:

1. Choose your readers wisely.

At the beginning stages, it’s essential to show your work only to readers you trust, readers who will give you both constructive critical feedback and encouragement. While you definitely don’t want your baby in the hands of someone who is going to criticize it harshly just for the sake of being negative, you also want to make sure that your readers aren’t inclined to handle your writer’s ego with kid gloves. You need readers who will be able to see the shining spots in your manuscript and point them out to you, as well as letting you know the sections that need to be strengthened in order for your story to live up to its full potential.

2. Let them know what kind of feedback you want.

If your beta readers are seeing a first draft, you want them to look at the big picture, not nit-pick over grammar or word choices. The more specific you are about the kind of feedback you’re looking for, the more targeted their comments will be. In a previous post, I shared some of the questions that I ask my readers to answer when critiquing a first draft. The most important thing I want them to tell me is what they see as the “heart” of my story. Once I’m clear on my novel’s heart, I can carve away any elements that don’t support it.

3. Give them a deadline.

I have a love/hate relationship with deadlines. The pressure of them can cause anxiety, but they also operate as a kick in the pants to ensure I get my work done. I think readers need deadlines, too. I know everyone is busy with multiple projects, so I usually give them a month to read my draft and give me feedback.

4. Take in their feedback.

This seems obvious, but sometimes it’s hard to actually take in the feedback you’ve asked for, especially when you know that acting on a particular comment will necessitate major work for you. We all like to hear that our stories our great, but learn to see critical feedback as a gift. Your readers truly want to help you make your work better!

5. Listen to your gut.

In the end, it’s your book. You have to sort through the comments from your beta readers and decide which truly resonate with you. If more than one reader makes the same comment, definitely pay attention. But remember, you’re still the one with the final say. I once added some characters to a novel, even though my instincts told me not to, because every one of my beta readers thought my main character needed more friends. I ended up taking the characters out again because they just didn’t feel right.

Do you have any other tips for working with beta readers? I’d love to hear them!

Four things authors wish their friends and family knew

Wednesday, March 14th, 2012

I’m now nearing the end of my third month as a published YA author, and I’m realizing that there are a few things that I, along with many of my author friends, wish my friends and family knew:

1. We’re not ignoring you.

The writing life consists of several phases, one of which I call the Manic Phase. During this time period, we’re so caught up in meeting deadlines and/or racing from event to event that we simply don’t have time to go out for coffee. Or chat on the phone. Or even answer your emails. We don’t want to ignore you, we just don’t have a choice. We can’t wait for things to slow down so we can give you the attention you deserve.

2. Don’t tell us you loved our book. 

Well, actually do tell us you loved our book – we thrive on positive feedback. But don’t stop there. If you really want to help us, please tell other people you loved it, too. Facebook it, tweet it, review it on Amazon and/or Goodreads, shout it from the rooftops!

3. Don’t ask us how sales are going.

Casually asking us how sales are going is like asking a terminal cancer patient, “So, how many days you got left?” In most cases, we don’t know exactly how many books we’ve sold. Unless we’ve made it onto the New York Times bestseller list, in which case, we’d let you know. If sales aren’t going well, answering that question is just, well…awkward. A better question might be, “So, are you having fun writing your next book?”

4. We appreciate you!

We know we don’t say it often enough, but we appreciate you. Thank you for supporting us in reaching our dreams and loving us through the great times and the crazy times. We couldn’t have done it without you!


Panic Management

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012

My life is about to go into overdrive. In the month of March alone, I have four high school visits, two bookstore events, and a library event – each of which requires preparation and promotion. This, of course, is on top of my regular teaching jobs, my push to finish the first draft of my novel, my duties as YA Expert Guide for the CBI Clubhouse website, and preparation for the big SCBWI WA conference in April. All I can say is…yikes!

Every time I look ahead in my calendar, I go into stress mode. My heart rate revs, and I break out in a sweat. I’ve always been a good time manager, so that isn’t really the issue. What I need right now is a plan for panic management.

Here’s what I’ve come up with so far: First, I will avoid thinking too far ahead. I’m aware of all the things I need to get done, and I know the dates I need to complete them by. So I can let go of anxiety about things that are set to happen in April and instead focus on preparing for the first event in my queue, which in this case is a presentation at my stepson’s high school. I seem to breathe easier if I can work on one thing at a time instead of trying to have my fingers in every pie.

Second, I will streamline. Much as I’d like to create a custom presentation for each high school I visit, I simply don’t have the time. So I’ll come up with a general presentation that I can use multiple times. Along the same lines, if a speaking engagement doesn’t absolutely require handouts, I’ll do without them. Under normal circumstances, I’d give every gig my all. But right now, that’s just not possible.

Third, I’ll give myself breaks. Tempting as it is to try to work twelve hour days, seven days a week, I know my constitution can’t handle it. So in spite of the craziness, I’ll make time for exercise, dinner with my husband, and the occasional trash-TV binge.

Last of all, I’ll borrow Steven’s motto: “Sometimes I can do my best. Other times, my best will have to do.”

What do you do to fend off panic when life gets overwhelming?

5 Tips for Surviving Your Book Release

Wednesday, December 28th, 2011

Release week is over, FLYAWAY has made it’s way into the world, and I’m still alive to tell you about it. I’d seen so many author friends dissolve into bundles of stress as their books launched, and I didn’t want that to happen to me. Now, I’m not saying that dealing with the daily bursting email inbox and the endless to-do lists was a walk in the park, but I do think I came up with a few strategies to help minimize the stress.

1. Organize. As soon as I signed my contract, I bought myself a binder and dedicated it to book promotion. I divided it into sections labeled “Launch Party,” “Events,” “Swag,” “Blog Tour,” and so on. Then any notes, contact numbers, URLs or email addresses I wanted to keep track of went in the binder. As release time got closer, these notes included deadlines for things such as conference proposals and blog tour posts.

2. Prioritize. When there are tons of demands coming at you at once, it’s easy to lose sight of what’s most important. So each week, I created a to-do list which prioritized the most important tasks. Blog post due Monday morning? That went to the top of the list. Organizing an author event for next spring? That went closer to the bottom. This master weekly list became the basis for my daily to-do list. I found that it was important to stay flexible and be open to shifting items around as new opportunities came up.

3. Focus. Once I determined which task on my list was most urgent to tackle, I went into high-focus mode. I tried to give my full attention to the task at hand and not get distracted by fretting over the things I wasn’t doing.

4. Delegate. As in, “Could you please run these giveaway prizes to the post office for me, honey?”

5. Celebrate. I found that the biggest challenge was to actually enjoy my launch time – and I know from talking to other authors that this is common. Here you are, accomplishing a major life goal, and all you can think about is whether you should have gone with the larger size bookmark or spent more money on your trailer. Or worse, you constantly compare the buzz your book is getting to the publicity and reviews being garnered by other authors. Perhaps the most important thing you can to do make sure you survive your book release is to pour yourself a glass of wine, pat yourself on the back, and say, “I did it! I’m the author of a published book!”

For some practical book promotion ideas, check out Lisa Schroeder’s book promotion timeline for YA and MG authors and Saundra Mitchell’s Bossy Self-Marketing Timeline.

How did you manage to survive your book release?

The Zen of Waiting

Monday, August 15th, 2011

One thing that has surprised me about being published is how much waiting is involved. Of course there’s the agonizing wait for the day you finally get the news that an editor has made an offer on your book. But it’s after all the dancing and celebrating and screaming from the rooftops and that the real waiting begins.

You wait, often months, to get your contract. Then you wait again for the first part of your advance. Meanwhile, you’re waiting for your first revision letter from your editor. The publication process is, in part, a long list of things you have to wait for: line edits, copy edits, first pass pages, cover image, jacket copy. And then, there’s the longest wait of all – the wait to finally see your finished book on the shelf.

When I get frustrated with the long waits, I try to visualize what’s happening on the other end. I imagine the hours my editor must spend poring over every page of my manuscript, pondering how to make each sentence shine. I think about the design team trying one image, then another, in the quest for a perfect cover design. I picture the myriad steps, big and small, that goes into making my rough manuscript a finished book.

There are times when waiting for the next step can make me feel powerless. I’m a great time manager, if I do say so myself, and I like to feel that I’m in control of my schedule. But in publishing, control is pretty much impossible. You never know when a long period of waiting will be abruptly ended by an email from your editor or publicist letting you know they need something – a revision, say, or a bio or a list of bloggers who might want to review your novel – next week or tomorrow or today, plunging you into a frenzy of activity as you scramble to meet the deadline.

At first, the unpredictable swings between waiting and scrambling drove me slightly crazy. But now that I’ve given up trying to control the process, and, to some degree, my time, I’m finding it a little more bearable. The waiting times are perfect for forging ahead on new projects; the periods of frenzied activity are when I need to put those projects aside, buckle down, and go with the flow.

Right now, I’m waiting for FLYAWAY to release and to hear news on a submission. FLYAWAY will be out in four months. And the submission? I may get news tomorrow…or next week…or in six months. I guess in the big picture, a little bit of waiting doesn’t really matter.