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Monday, August 17, 2020

The Journey to Self-Publication, Part 5: CPs, Beta Readers, and Editors

 I've gotten quite a few questions about why I finally decided to delve into self-publishing and how I'm doing it, so I figured why not create a new blog series!

Every Monday, I'll be sharing a piece of the self-publishing puzzle---from how I came to this choice to writing, editing, marketing, sales, and everything in between. Please remember that this is simply my experience, how chose to do things. Others do things differently, and that's fine! So, your mileage may vary, but in the end, I hope seeing yet another way of tackling self-publishing will help you on your path. 

Need to catch up on previous posts? Find them here:

I'm sure y'all have heard the old adage, writing is rewriting, and I don't think that's ever been truer for me than it has been with this series. Writing the first draft of each book was fairly easy--it was everything that's come after that's been difficult. But before I dive into how I handled this part of the process, let me take a moment to define these terms as I see / utilize them. 

Critique Partners (CPs) -- This is a very small trusted group of people who see the first draft almost immediately after I finish it. They help me see the big picture issues with the plot, conflict, characters, continuity from one book to the next. They're also the people who help me brainstorm ideas, work through the inevitable road blocks I create for myself, and give me the much needed pep talks to keep going. 

Beta Readers -- This is a slightly larger group of people who see the book when it's closer to the final stages of completion, and they help me determine if the story is having the intended impact I was aiming for. Are they excited / shocked / happy / angry, etc.? Are they confused about anything? Are they misconstruing anything in a way that I didn't intend? 

Editors -- This is the absolute final person who sees the book prior to release and is a paid professional with years of experience to go through my book to catch everything I've missed, mostly grammar stuff. 

So, how do all these people fit into my writing process? As soon as I finished a draft, I sent it to my CPs, who read it while I was busy working on the next book. When I got notes back from them, I'd pause working on the next book and go back to the previous book to make revisions. Doing this allowed me to often take their suggestions and build on them throughout the series, so changes I made to one book would carry over into the subsequent book. 

Depending on how massive the revisions were, I'd ask a select few CPs to re-read the book for me, and then I'd repeat the process until I was happy with the book. Then, I'd let it sit for a little while as I continued working on the other books. 


When I finished the next book, I sent it off to my trusty CPs, and then I went back to the previous book to do a read through. During this stage, I would catch a lot of small inconsistencies, typos, grammatical errors, etc. that I'd fix. And then it was off to my beta readers. Meanwhile, I was moving on to the next book or, depending how fast they read, already getting feedback from CPs.

After collecting feedback from my beta readers, I would do another round of revisions until I was finally pleased with where the book was in terms of the content and characters. Once again, I let the manuscript sit while I moved on to the other books. Eventually, I printed the entire MS and read through it, using a red pen to mark any lingering errors that I needed to fix. 

I inputted those corrections, and then sent the book off to my editor, who did a thorough edit for me. Because I had already used so many CPs and beta readers and had done so many rounds of self-edits, I was fairly confident the book from a structural and content standpoint was pretty solid. Therefore, I hired her to do copy edits only (grammar and technical things), though she did point out content type things if she felt they were big enough to need another look.  

This is the process I repeated for each book, and when I wasn't actively drafting books, I was editing them. And let me tell you, by the time Eternal Curse was ready for pre-order, I was so sick of reading it. LOL. Sadly, though, I wasn't finished. I ordered a print proof copy and you guessed it.... I read that cover to cover, noting anything else that might have slipped by me. 

When I explain this entire process to people, I often get asked one of two questions, sometimes both at the same time. 

1. Isn't it hard to write / edit with so many people reading your book and giving you different ideas? 

Not for me. I was lucky in that almost all of my CPs and beta readers pointed out the same issues, and their reactions tended to be similar. There was only one big plot point later in the series that I had CPs majorly disagree on. Some loved it. Others downright hated it. Hahaha. (I totally kept it in the series, by the way.) 

But here's the thing about working with CPs and beta readers -- you're still the author, and ultimately, it's YOUR choice what to do with the book. If you wholeheartedly disagree with feedback you've been given, simply ignore it. Just because one reader suggests it doesn't mean you have to agree with it or make changes to the book. Learn to pick and choose what works for you and the story you're creating. 

2. Holy cow! How much did all this cost you? Editors aren't cheap!

Nothing! I have not paid a single penny toward edits. Now, I realize this is not the norm, and I am extremely blessed to have the skills and connections that I do. You're probably wondering how I managed this, and it's quite simple, really -- I traded my time and skills. 

I have longstanding relationships with my CPs, and it's a mutually beneficial arrangement. They read for me, and I read for them; or I help brainstorm or whatever else they may need my help with. Every single time I ask someone to beta read, I offer to return the favor any time they need it. 

As for my actual editor, she's a close friend of mine who has worked as a professional editor for years, and again, we traded services. For every MS of mine that she edits, I edit one of hers in return. It's been working out really well, and the money I save on edits I can redirect to other things, like swag and marketing. 

I realize not everyone has the ability to trade editing services, and that's okay. You can always offer to beta read in exchange for edits. Or, if you're good at other things -- cover design, making teasers, book formatting, marketing, etc., offer those services in exchange for edits. Having embarked on this self-publishing journey, I realize how expensive it can be, and I'm always willing to trade-off with other authors. I'm sure there are others out there like me, too. It can never hurt to ask, right? 

Be sure to come back next week. I'll be talking about working with my cover artist and how we branded the entire series. 

Got questions? 

Drop them in the comments!

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