Why you Need Beta Readers – Guest Post by Christina C. Jones

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sdploveseries

Happy Wednesday, All! So, today we’re all in luck because the uber talented Christina C. Jones is guest posting today about beta readers (click here to check out her post on building your author platform). And guess what else? Her latest release, Fall in Love Again, is now available! It’s the third book in her Serendipitous Love Series (check out all the books here) and if you haven’t read one of her books before, do yourself a favor and hop on over to Amazon.

I’ve said it here before but I’ll say it again: Christina is one of the most talented and prolific authors I’ve come across. Believe it or not, Fall in Love Again is her tenth release–since last year. She has an amazing work ethic so I can’t wait to share her advice with you all. Enjoy!

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In my (humble) opinion, one of the best things you can do for yourself and your book is recruiting honest, outspoken beta readers. Now, I’m not one of those people who believes in the “value” of harsh critique — let’s get that out of the way up front. I gain nothing from having my work ripped to shreds by people who are supposed to be “helping” me. So, I’m certainly not recommending you find people who will do that to you. I am, however, suggesting that you find people who can point out inconsistencies, give their respectfully honest opinion on what works — and doesn’t — for them, and ask questions about things that left them confused. That is a good beta reader to me.

My chosen genre is contemporary romance. As such, I deal with a lot of different dynamics in the relationships of my characters, which can draw some pretty heavy lines in the sand for readers. What my betas do for me is: give me their thoughts as they read — helps me discern if my words are giving the same emotional reaction I think they should, make inquiries about certain elements — lets me know that they’re engaged, interested, ready to see what happens next… or just friggin’ confused, and answer a set list of questions that I give them at a particular point in the book — usually mid-way.

I ask a lot on this list. What’s your opinion of XYZ character, can you clearly picture them in your head, do you understand their actions/reactions to this event? Are the love scenes developed organically? Do they make sense? Is there any part of the book that feels slow? Does one scene lead smoothly into the next?

These are things that I’m too close to the story to see for myself. I don’t use my betas as an idea factory, I use them to make sure that my ideas are clearly translated onto the page, because their value isn’t in telling me what to write — it’s in telling me how they feel about what I wrote.

If only one of my betas understood that I was including commentary about the next generation of our children inheriting violence in our world, by having a kid playing with a red ball at a park (get it? Ball=globe, red = blood… okay, yeah, I’m stretching it, huh? Lol!), then I know I need to rethink my words. If everybody except one understood… then maybe I still need to rethink my words for clarity. But it does tell me that for the most part, my words have been understood.

I have a team of betas who are (mostly) unknown to each other, and fluctuates in size. As of now, that number is seven. They vary in reading preferences and speeds, age, personality, etc, which is so important. You don’t want all of your betas to be just like you, or just like each other. That way, you’ll get a nice variety of opinions to sift through and pull out what works for you and your project.

stillremember

 

Every critique you receive from your betas isn’t something you should go rushing to change or adjust. Remember, it’s their opinion, but your work. Ultimately, you should always make the decision that feels right for you, your process, and your book, but it should absolutely be an informed opinion.
Several of my betas were readers that I approached, and a few approached me, but they’ve all been super valuable, especially in this last project. My characters get themselves into some messy — maybe even unrelatable — situations, and my betas reacted. Boy, did they react.

And… I got scared.

Sure did!

They were mad at the hero, mad at heroine, mad at the secondary characters, lol! All with good reason, honestly. Some things I adjusted — most I didn’t — but I ended up with a project that is as I envisioned it. I told the story I intended to tell, and my betas let me know that Charlie and Nixon’s story is beautiful, flaws and all. The helped bolster the confidence to just tell it!

It’s actually my favorite so far, and I’ve heard from several readers of the series — this book, Fall In Love Again, is my tenth release, third in a series of standalones — that this one is their favorite as well.
Do yourself a favor. Find some trusted (some authors even have their betas sign release forms and such, but I’ve never personally felt a need for that) readers in your genre, send an email, and ask!

Quanie, thank you again for having me!

 

FILAcover

Everybody knows you don’t marry the rebound guy.

And yet, that’s exactly what Charlie does. But once the husband is out of picture — kinda — she’s ready to leap forward with her life. She returns to the neighborhood she left, the business she missed, and into arm’s reach of Nixon — the reason she needed a rebound guy in the first place.

Other than rebuilding her life, Charlie has one main goal now that she’s back in the place she considers home: Stay as far away from Nixon as she can. But their long history, his magnetic charm, and a certain sense of unfinished business makes that much, much harder than Charlie thought.

Nixon is willing to own up to his part in their break up, but for Charlie, finding a place of forgiveness is going to take much more than that. She’s willing to take a chance on friendship — something they’ve had since they were kids — but falling in love again? That’s a whole different story.

 

amwriting

Christina Jones is a budding author on a mission to show the beautiful — but not always pretty — journey of love in all stages, with a focus on people of color. When she’s not immersed in writing it, Christina is an avid reader of her favorite genre, African American romance.

Her first published work was released in November 2013, and since then, she has released ten titles:

Love and Other Things
Strictly Professional
Unfinished Business
The Trouble With Love
Finding Forever
Chasing Commitment
A Crazy Little Thing Called Love
Didn’t Mean To Love You
Catch Me If You Can
Fall in Love Again


Would you Give a Fellow Author a Negative Book Review?

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I’m not sure why, but I receive quite a few book review requests. Maybe I have that “I review books” look about me. Or, maybe folks think that any gal who used to be nicknamed Tanutsi is too genial to pen a negative book review. Whatever the case, I generally don’t respond to the requests because they’re not personalized. Note to book spammers: If you’re going to take the time to reach out to me about reviewing your book, at least write Dear Quanie!

Note to other spammers: I don’t care if your great uncle left you 25 million dollars and an offshore oil rig and for some reason you’d like to bequeath it all to me, a total stranger: I will not give you my bank account information. I repeat: I will not give you my bank account information.

But I digress.

Anyhoo, the main reason I don’t review books is because of what happened to me a couple of years ago. I won’t name names (I never do!) but an author reached out to me about reviewing her book, and without knowing anything about her writing or the genre of the novel, I said yes. Below is the sequence of events that followed:

Author sends Quanie book. Quanie reads first page. Quanie faceplants.  

I felt a sense of dread as the realization hit me: if I review this book I’m either going to have to:

Write a negative review and risk ruining a relationship (because let’s face it: it’s one thing if a stranger calls your baby ugly but if a friend does it? Them’s fightin’ words).

Lie to spare the author’s feelings and write a review that’s untruthful. Never good!

Pretend I never got the book review request and act completely befuddled when the author asks me about it. “Really? You sent me a book review request? Hunh. You know, my email’s been acting kind of wonky lately and maybe that’s why I never got it…”

I ended up contacting the author to let her know that, for certain reasons, I was not going to be able to review her book. Now, I know what you’re thinking: But, Quanie! She asked you for a review. You should have read it and gave your honest opinion. Reviews aren’t for the author anyway. They’re for readers!”

But I’m a big softie, ya’ll. And if I know in my heart that I won’t be able to give a book at least three stars, I’d rather not review it than leave a negative review. I just don’t like hurting people’s feelings.

Now that I’m independently publishing my own books, I think about that situation. If an author buddy of mine reads one of my books and expresses that they enjoyed it, I’ll ask them to leave a review, sure. But otherwise, I never solicit friends for reviews. Never. Even if they have a tee shirt that reads, “I will read your book and leave a 5 star review even if I don’t like it!” Never ever never. Why not? Because there’s a good that my friends would rather pour habanero juice in their eyes than read my books. So I tread very carefully.

What about others? What would you do if a fellow author asked you to review their book and it turns out you didn’t like it? Would you feel bad leaving a “negative” review? Would you decline to review it??? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

 


Story Rehab: Fixing Plot Holes

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InsecureWritersSupportGroup

It’s the first Wednesday of the new year and you know what that means: another installment of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

This months co-hosts are Elizabeth Seckman, Lisa Buie-Collard, Chrys Fey, and Michelle Wallace! To find out more about IWSG (and to sign up), click here.

So…my husband and I are rehabbing a house. When I first saw the inside of the house, I thought to myself, “My Lord. We have our work cut out for us!” Lemme splain’ you something: if any of you kind folks saw the condition this house was in before we bought it, you would promptly call the head doctor and get yours truly the nearest appointment. Someone cut all the wires out of the house. Stole the toilet out of the hall bathroom (let’s stop here for a second and imagine someone running down the street with a toilet hoisted over their shoulder). And guess what else? We had to take out all the floors because of termite damage. And I won’t even tell you about that horrendous turquoise, cast iron sink in the master bathroom. The good news? After we’re done fixing the house it’ll be worth more than double what we paid for it (and the house won’t look like something that landed on the lot haphazardly after a tornado).

Why am I telling you all this? Well, aside from the fact that because of this house, I can now say that I actually painted something for the first time in my entire life (woo-hoo!), the house reminds me of my WIP. Because just like this house, my novel is a mess. It has loads of potential, but as of right now, it ain’t much to look at. My biggest issue? Plot holes.

A plot hole, or plothole is a gap or inconsistency in a storyline that creates a paradox in the story that cannot be reconciled with any explanation. These include such things as illogical or impossible events, and statements or events that contradict earlier events in the storyline.

Slap me, Sally. I have so much work to do on this story it’s not even funny. I think the house might be easier to fix than this mess of a novel! “Statements or events that contradict earlier events in the storyline?” Gulp. This is the novel’s biggest problem. And it stems from this: there’s a particular incident in the story (a huge incident) that I haven’t ironed out. I kinda sorta know what happened, but the details are fuzzy. So because of that, plotholes are a-boomin’.

So how am I going to fix it? Well, I’m going to have to make a definitive decision about what happened the night of the fire (doesn’t that sound intriguing???). I’ll need to decide what role each character played that night and how their actions affected the main character. And after I know this, I can start patching up those plot holes.

Moral here? You can’t write a believable story if the details are fuzzy in your head. Iron out the kinks in the plot. Go through the novel with a fine-tooth comb and make sure all the threads connect. And if you don’t? Well, your story will probably be as ugly as that turquoise sink in our bathroom. Don’t do that to your readers. They deserve better!

What about others? How do you deal with plot holes? Any home rehab horror stories? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

 


Promoting Your Book Online? 3 Lessons I’ve Learned from Marketing Experts

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Happy New Year everybody! I hope that everyone got a chance to relax during the holidays and that you’re all ready to tackle 2015 and pursue all of your writing goals! Today we’re in luck, because  author and blogger Stephanie Faris is sharing some kick-ass advice about marketing. I don’t know about you guys, but I need some good marketing advice in my life!

Stephanie’s upcoming release, 25 Roses, will be available tomorrow. You can check out the book cover and blurb below and add the book to your Goodreads shelf by clicking here. And guess what else? Stephanie is giving away a $25 Amazon gift card, an autographed copy of her book, and a chocolate long-stemmed rose. Scroll down to enter the giveaway:)

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Children’s writing doesn’t pay the bills (yet), so by day, I write content for a variety of marketing firms and entrepreneurs. Part of that work involves advising small business owners on their online promotion efforts. I’ve found much of what I’ve learned in the past few years translates easily into book promotion since, in essence, authors are small business owners ourselves. Our brand is our name and our product is the book(s) we publish each year.

Whether you’ve just started your writing career or you’re launching your forty-second book, the time to build your brand is now. Here are three big online marketing lessons I’ve learned that you could put to use in making a name for yourself online.

Stop Promoting, Start Engaging

If you’re reading this, you probably have a blog and at least one social media account. One mistake I see made every single day in both of these areas is over-promotion. If every tweet or blog post is a promotion for your next book, you likely notice very little interaction. In fact, many of us are scrolling past your promotional posts in search of more interesting content. Granted, the occasional “My new book is available for pre-orders” post is great. But that post should be preceded and followed by interesting, insightful content that keeps people interested in what you have to say.

The good news is that you don’t have to create all of this content yourself. If you read an interesting article about writing, share the link with your social media followers or blog readers. Swap guest posts with friends and invite them to post on your blog occasionally. This will save you time, as well as expose your readers to more great bloggers.

Build a Platform

When an author uses her blog or social media sites to provide information about her area of expertise, that site then becomes a platform. Quanie’s blog is an example of this. Marketing tips are in high demand among writing communities, so her blog draws people in to learn as much as possible. It’s the type of content that turns a reader into a loyal follower.

When your blog contains interesting content, readers will naturally want to learn more about its author. Because your blog and social media sites consistently bring interesting content to readers, when you do have a reason to promote something, you’ll have the built-in audience to receive that message.

Give, Give, Give

When people ask me how I’ve gained such a large blog readership, they never like my answer. I read a great deal of blogs every day. I enjoy doing it. While I’d like to say that a well-crafted, thoughtful blog will naturally draw the masses, that simply isn’t the case. In order to receive, you have to give. Find blogs within your range of interest and comment on a regular basis. Soon you’ll find your blog is getting more comments than ever.

The same philosophy applies to social media. You may have a built-in following of friends and relatives on your personal Facebook page, but professional engagement requires much more work. Find like-minded individuals on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites and follow them. Regularly share status updates you find intriguing and occasionally comment on posts when you have something interesting to say. In time, you’ll find others are interacting and your audience will grow from there.

Online promotion is a great deal of work, but by sharing interesting content and interacting with others, you’ll soon find marketing through blogging and social media is not only easy but fun. Turning your name into a brand is a matter of posting interesting content and remaining true to your personal interests. If you’re having fun, others will naturally enjoy hearing what you like to say.

 

25 roses book cover

 

Mia moves from the shadows to the spotlight when her matchmaking plans go awry in this contemporary M!X novel from the author of 30 Days of No Gossip.

Mia is used to feeling overlooked: her perfect older sister gets all the attention at home, and the popular clique at school are basically experts at ignoring her. So when it’s time for the annual Student Council chocolate rose sale, Mia is prepared to feel even worse. Because even though anyone can buy and send roses to their crushes and friends, the same (popular) people always end up with roses while everyone else gets left out.

Except a twist of fate puts Mia in charge of selling the roses this year—and that means things are going to change. With a little creativity, Mia makes sure the kids who usually leave empty-handed suddenly find themselves the object of someone’s affection. But her scheme starts to unravel when she realizes that being a secret matchmaker isn’t easy—and neither is being in the spotlight.

Stephanie Faris

Stephanie Faris knew she wanted to be an author from a very young age. In fact, her mother often told her to stop reading so much and go outside and play with the other kids. After graduating from Middle Tennessee State University with a Bachelor of Science in broadcast journalism, she somehow found herself working in information technology. But she never stopped writing.

Stephanie is the author of 30 Days of No Gossip and 25 Roses, both with Aladdin M!x. When she isn’t crafting fiction, she writes for a variety of online websites on the topics of business, technology, and her favorite subject of all—fashion. She lives in Nashville with her husband, a sales executive.

Buy 25 Roses (Autographed)

Buy 25 Roses (Amazon)

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