Tuesday, July 8, 2014

You know about beta readers. Your book also needs beta holders

I -- and many others -- have preached variations of the theme that "it takes a village to make a book." Ideally you'll have a professional designer and one or more professional editors and maybe some marketing experts.

It's common to have help from friends and relatives outside the book business -- hawk-eyed, literate "ordinary people" who serve as beta readers to detect and report on what the highly paid pros have missed.

I twice learned the importance of having ordinary people hold a physical book before publication in order to judge their reactions. You need these "beta holders" in addition to beta readers.

(Beta is the second letter in the Greek alphabet and comes after alpha. Alpha and beta

are the equivalents of A and B and gave us the word "alphabet." With computer software, the "beta version" is the second version (actually it may be the 943rd version). It is almost ready for distribution to the public but probably has more "bugs" in it than the final version will.

The beta version of software is made available to "beta testers" who will use it and probably encounter problems that will need to be fixed before the software is made available to everyone. The book business has followed the pattern of the software business in having beta readers. I've never heard of alpha readers. Presumably the alpha readers are the author and editors.)

(above) My first self-pubbed book (2008) was titled with a quote from a wacky teacher I had in high school (I Only Flunk My Brightest Students). I took a proof copy to a party at a neighbor's house and passed it around to a few strangers who were sitting with me at a table. The title made sense to 'kids' I went to school with, but not to these strangers. They all assumed that the title was my quote and that I had been a teacher. I re-titled the book as Stories I'd Tell My Children (but maybe not until they're adults) and it went on to become a bestseller.

The second situation happened just two days ago.

I showed a proof of my newest book, Do As I Say, Not As I Did to a few relatives. As I hoped, they laughed at the title -- but they skipped over the subtitle to flip through the book. Last night I modified the cover to put the subtitle right below the title and in a bolder typeface and shifted my name to a lower position. I am not yet as famous as Hillary Clinton so my subtitle will probably help sales more than my name will.

I would not have caught either of these problems if I did not let amateurs hold my books. Beta holding can be a critical part of book production. Try it with your next book.

I also changed the "bestseller" text from three lines to one and combined it with the rest of the text at the bottom of the cover. NOTE: I have to make more than a hundred corrections inside the book, so if you want to buy a copy, please wait until around 7/28 to get a better book than the one that's on sale now.

But, OOPS. I later realized that my name was too far away from the "I" in  the title and the "My" in the subtitle, so it was time for more modifications.
(below) By the way, beta holding even works with ebooks that will not also exist as pbooks. Just upload a cover image to an ebook reader or tablet and let your beta holders do their work.

The original version of Anthology of Third-World Email Scams had "world" deliberately misspelled as "wirld" as a joke. Some beta-holders thought I had made a real mistake, so I revised the cover to have proper spelling and I added a quote. This book is both educational and entertaining. Click to learn more about it.

NOTE: The realistic fake covers shown in today's post were produced with MyECoverMaker -- a vital resource for anyone designing and selling books.

1 comment:

  1. Great advice, Michael. I never thought of this and will try it with the book I'm working on. Thank you!