Before a manuscript goes live on platforms, there are typically a lot of pairs of eyes that are on it before it sees the light of day. My books are no different. And each project is unique. Some need more eyeballs on it than others.
For example, the dark romantic suspense I’m writing under Danielle Bannister that City Owl Press has already called ‘dibs’ on just by reading the synopsis, I finished the first draft of it a few weeks ago. And it was making me twitch. In not a good way. Something was off about it. Besides being woefully thin at only 45,000 words, there was also something bigger missing, but I couldn’t figure out what. But it was bugging me.
That’s when I would lean on a Critique Partner. For me, that’s an author who writes in the same or similar genre. They will read the shitty first draft (knowing that what is on the page is placeholders at best) and hopefully, help you figure out the sticking points you, as the author, are too close to see. For me, I had my dear friend and author Julie Cassar take a look at the steaming pile of poo. She helped me figure out what wasn’t quite working and offered up ways to fix it. That feedback will allow me to go back in during the second draft and make much-needed repairs. Not all books need this, but when they need it, they really need it.
Sometimes, a project needs a super-fan/Alpha reader feedback. A project you feel has potential, but you want to know, from your ideal reader if the draft you are working on has the potential to be great. This is an unedited first or second draft. Their job in this stage is to tell you if you’re on the right track for them as a reader. These are readers an author trusts to give them constructive criticism as a reader, (not necessarily grammatical stuff, but does the MC work for you, is the plot engaging, that sort of thing.)
Beta readers are generally used (for me) when a manuscript has gone through personal edits and BEFORE it has gone to an editor. I don’t always use beta readers, but if I do, it’s trusted readers that won’t pirate the book or just give feedback like ‘it was great!’ While that is awesome to hear, I also want to make the project the best that it can be. I WANT to hear what took you out of the story, so I can fix it. Sometimes, there isn’t time for this round of readers depending on your release schedule.
ARC Readers are those beautiful beings who volunteer to read your edited manuscript for free, in exchange for an honest review the day/week of the book’s release. They could give it five stars, they could give it 1. Ouch. Or, they could take the book and never leave a review. That happens a lot, actually. It’s a gamble authors have to take, however, because review count speaks volumes to the platform algorithm. If a new release suddenly has a bunch of new reviews the first week of its release, you can bet your bottom dollar that the platform will make sure your book is seen by more people. If you get a small handful… well, yeah. Down to the bottom you sink.
ARC readers get to read the book ahead of everyone else, and good ARC readers will let the author know if they spot a typo or formatting issue. There’s not much that can be done at this point if they point out a large plot hole or character issue. The window is just too small to make major changes in a manuscript. Tiny tweaks only at an ARC reader stage. (If you want to be an ARC reader for me, keep your eyes open. I’ll be posting a form for Vol. 3 soon.)
If you want to learn more about readers an author uses, I go into more depth on this Bound by Books Podcast with co-host Marianne Morea below.
Until next time, friends!