Stephanie: I would like to introduce Author E.M. Powell. She is here to take part in my series about Beta Readers and has some very interesting and helpful things to say….E.M. is the author of the #1 Amazon bestseller, The Fifth Knight, a medieval thriller based on the murder of Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral in 1170. The next book in the series, The Blood of The Fifth Knight, will be published by Thomas & Mercer in late 2014. Visit her website or her facebook page . The audio version of The Fifth Knight can be purchased here: Amazon
Do you use beta readers?
Stephanie: I know of a few authors who use beta readers for different phases of their manuscript. How many do you use and in what phase of your WIP do you require them?
E.M.: I am also one of those authors! First reader is my long-suffering spouse. Many people would think that this is a recipe for domestic turmoil. But he’s extremely sensible and he knows the importance of getting things right. If he thinks something’s not working, he says so, and more importantly, why. Next is my agent, the peerless Josh Getzler. You could argue that an agent is not a beta reader but he certainly meets the definition. Again, he is completely honest and probably over-kind with some of the stuff I have put before him. He’s also brilliant with editorial suggestions. At this early stage, it’s asking them to read on a partial. Then a full. And once a whole lot of changes have been made, it’s over to my team of three other beta readers.
Stephanie: What is it that you look for in a beta reader? And what is the importance of them?
E.M.: I think the important word here is reader. None of the people who so generously help are writers. As for importance, it’s impossible to quantify just how important they are. Something that I think might be working fine in my head can get a universal thumbs-down. And they’re always right. I don’t use beta readers for grammar/spelling/typos specifically. To me that’s a different request and if they’re looking for those issues, then the chances are, they’re going to be thinking less about the characters and the story.
Stephanie: How do you choose your beta readers?
E.M.: It’s a tricky decision and one which is probably individual to every writer. I don’t have a choice about my agent seeing early versions- which is good! For me, it’s all about trust. So yes, I have chosen my spouse and three friends. But all of them know how much this matters to me and all of them understand the importance of my manuscripts working as novels. I know they won’t say things are great when they’re not.
Stephanie: What has been your experiences with them?
E.M.: All good. And when I use the word good, I don’t mean that they say everything is good. But good in the sense that I have been told where I’m going wrong. And you know what? They’ve been right. Right to the extent that I deleted 20,000 words out of the first 30,000 word partial of my current novel. Yes, it was painful, but I was weirdly happy to do it. I had a little voice in the back of my mind telling me things weren’t working. My first-round beta-readers confirmed that.
Stephanie: How often do you take their advice and what is the impact they have had on your writing?
E.M.: See above! In terms of the impact, it was about me recognizing my strengths (fast-paced action) and delivering more of that. And it’s so much more fun to write! In the ill-fated partial. I was even boring myself.
Stephanie: Do you use them for every book you write?
E.M.: Yes, I have used other writers for my unpublished novels (which will never see the light of day!). I have had tremendously useful feedback from different individuals over the years and honed my craft that way. But I think the group I have now works and I don’t want to change it. And they’re very good value for money. Only Josh sees a commission- the rest just have to help me drink wine!
Thank you, E.M.!