Beta readers and editors

Beta readers and editors

Beta readers and editors – what’s the difference? Does it matter which one you use to help with your manuscript?

Beta Readers and Editors-Adventures in Career Changing
Beta Readers and Editors

Beta Readers

Beta readers are people who read over your work and evaluate it before it gets anywhere near a publisher. They might read for typos, spelling errors, grammatical issues, and punctuation problems, but that is not a very good way to work with them.

Continuity Checks

Instead, you want them to help you with flow and continuity. If your main character is female and 5’2″ and has a chihuahua on page 4, then she should still be female, 5’2″, and the owner of a chihuahua on page 204, unless there is some on-page reason why she isn’t. E. g.:

  • She is transgender, and successfully transitioned (with or without surgery) to male. Or the character no longer identifies as female or male.
  • The character had a growth spurt and is taller, or has osteoporosis, and shrunk, or maybe her legs were amputated (sorry, character!).
  • She gave away the chihuahua, or it ran away, etc.

The last thing you want is for your beta reader to wonder where the chihuahua went, particularly if the little dog isn’t a big part of the story.

Demographics

Good beta readers are in the demographics of the people you’re trying to reach with your novel. They like your genre or at least are willing to read in it and offer feedback. They don’t tear you a new one when they don’t like something, but they are also unafraid to tell you if something isn’t working for them.

Some questions to ask them

Ask them:

  • Are the characters believable? Are they distinguishable?
  • Do you think the situations are plausible?
  • Are the settings well described? Can you picture yourself where the characters are?
  • Do the transitions work?
  • Are the conflicts plausible?
  • Is the conclusion a satisfying one?

Also ask about genre-specific issues, such as whether your mystery was too easy or difficult to solve, if your horror story was scary enough, if the technobabble in your science fiction novel was credible, etc.

The best way to get a beta reader is to be one! Offer a trade with another indie. Usually this work is done for free. So be kind, and either recommend your beta reader friend or at least donate a little something to one of their three favorite charities.

Editors

Editors are more professional than beta readers and are generally people you hire. They will do copy editing, where they check for typos, etc., although there should be a last pass by a proofreader before publishing, no matter what.

Editors can also check for continuity, but they will mainly read with the audience in mind. They are a good enhancement to the work of a beta reader, and are a good idea before you send your work out for querying.

Researching Editors

The best way to get an editor is to do some research. Ask people you know are published. After all, an editor no longer has to live in the same city or country as you (but you will do best with someone who is a native speaker of the language your book is in). Work with the editor on a sample chapter. Do you get along? Are his or her suggestions reasonable? Are they slow?

Ans if you are absolutely, utterly stuck for funds, try a local college or university. You might be able to get an English major to help you, but be aware they probably won’t have experience and they may not be the best fit. But they may be all you’ve got.

And make sure to have a written agreement with them! This is a sample copyediting contract, and it’s pretty good. Be sure to change the contract to indicate the laws of your state apply!

The Cyber Legacy

The Cyber Legacy

What’s your cyber legacy?

Introductions

So you find a new site. You look around. And you think – this looks like a place I might like. Therefore, you take the plunge and you register.

And it doesn’t really matter if it’s Twitter, or Facebook or Able2know. If it’s big enough, it scrolls and leaps by so fast that you can barely get your arms around it. And in the beginning, that can be incredibly exciting.

However, after a while, it’s a bit too much. So if you want to hang around and have a more meaningful interactive experience than complaining about the weather, you end up finding yourself some sort of an enclave. I’ve covered this before, actually.

Life Online

You find your niche, whatever it is. And you start spending time with people. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing, be it playing fantasy sports, or comparing notes as new mothers, or trading rumors about the next season of Doctor Who. What matters is, you’ve found your peeps.

And that’s when it can get kind of complicated.

Transitioning to the In-Person Experience

My husband and I once met a fellow we had know for a few years from online. He was passing through Boston on his way home from Maine. And one thing he mentioned was – my online friends and my offline friends are pretty well-integrated. I like that.

After all, consider some of my closest friends who I didn’t meet online. Most of them either attended school with me at some stage or another, or they worked with me. In some fashion or another, we hit it off. However, the same is true of the cyber world, is it not? You meet someone, and you hit it off with them, and you thereby become friends. No great mystery there. The only remarkable thing is that the lines are being forever blurred between people we met physically first, and people we physically met later, if at all. And we care less and less about how we met our friends, these days.

Cyber Mourning

With cyber friendships – as with all friendships – there can be loss. And we all know that it is going to happen sooner or later. A voice will be stilled, a timeline no longer updated. We may or may not know the correct or full name. We may never have heard that person so much as speak on a video or on the telephone. Yet we feel a sense of loss just the same.

I have found that, as this has happened on Able2know (and it has happened several times now, a function of both the size of the site and its skew in the direction of more elder demographics), people have wanted to rally around. It is not necessarily a formal obituary type of posting or topic. Instead, it can be a topic that’s more like a wake in its layout, verbiage and intent. There is no real template for this. You just go with what works. And recognize that there are people who grieve in their own ways. There may even be hostility (“You were never kind to him until it was too late!”) or one-upmanship (“I got to meet her in person!”).

Internet Afterlife

The If I Die app allows for a final status update once three people (you choose them) confirm to the service that you’ve shuffled the mortal coil off to Buffalo. It almost seems like a video will, where the rich uncle leaves everything to his parakeet and, while the cameras are rolling, also tells the assembled family that they’re all wastrels.

But it’s not just that. It’s also – look at the data that’s out there. What sort of a legacy are we leaving for future generations?

English: American actor George Takei at the St... cyber legacy
English: American actor George Takei at the Star Trek Convention UFP Con One in Hamm, Germany, 1996. Deutsch: Der US-amerikanische Schauspieler George Takei auf der Star Trek-Convention UFP Con One in Hamm, Deutschland, 1996. Français : L’acteur américain George Takei à la convention de Star Trek UFP Con One à Hamm, Allemagne, 1996. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A tour through Facebook reveals an awful lot of appreciation for cute cats who can’t spell, George Takei and political soundbite memes. And if future generations only look at that (which might happen, as it could very well be the only thing that survives long enough and is complete enough), they might feel we are rather shallow people indeed.

Forums Tell a Different Story

However, if they dig into communities, I think they’ll see a rather different picture. A picture of real caring. Of reasoned and impassioned debate. Or of rabid fandom. Of people who help each other by answering questions or offering advice on things like repairing a fan belt on a ’68 Buick or ridding a computer of spyware. And of some fall on the floor humor as well.

Heiroglyphics cyber legacy
Heiroglyphics

So, what footprints and fingerprints will you leave behind? And what digital fossils will await future archaeologists’ discovery? What will the people of 3017 think of us? What’s your cyber legacy going to be?

Demystifying Twitter

Demystifying Twitter

What can Twitter do for you, the independent writer?

What’s the big deal about 140 characters?

Twitter is essentially a microblogging service. You broadcast your thoughts to the ether. Some of those thoughts, to be sure, are more interesting than others.

Many of us know someone who tweets about everything in their lives. It’s dull, it’s dumb, and you want to throttle them half the time. Their cheesecake is not fascinating. Their slow bus to downtown is not riveting. You don’t much care why they didn’t buy a particular pair of sneakers.

We may also know someone who’s a lot more fascinating. I’m not talking about celebrities, who have other sources for their cachet. Instead, I am talking about people who just seem to be more interesting, or at least their tweets are. Or at least they are funny or relevant.

Guess which one you want to be like?

Two lives

On much of social media, when you are an independent author, you lead two lives. There is your personal life where you have friends and family, but there is also your professional or semi-professional life. Even if you never sell (or never want to) a syllable of your work, if you want to improve, you’re at least in the realm of semi-professional.

Two accounts?

That might not be such a bad idea. One for yourself, for your political opinions, your questions about the universe, your tweets to customer service when something goes wrong ….

The other? For writing. This can be for talking about what you’re doing, and even teasing it a bit. For reporting your NaNoWriMo progress, if you like, to your cheering section. Also, for #PitMad and #MSWL. For the hashtags #amwriting and #amediting, too.

There is more, of course. I’ll get to it soon. So stay tuned!

Avinash Kaushik’s Web Analytics 2.0, a Book Review

Avinash Kaushik‘s Web Analytics 2.0 – Yeah, I’m a Fan

Web Analytics Matter!

We Go Way Back

First of all, the first book that truly caught my eye and made a huge impression on me was Avinash Kaushik’s Web Analytics 2.0: The Art of Online Accountability and Science of Customer Centricity.

Avinash Kaushik's Web Analytics 2.0

As a (hopefully) former data person, I can relate to the idea of needing analytics. E. g., the measurements of how your website does. Why do you want to measure? Why, you need to see whether your message is actually going anywhere.

For e-commerce sites, the ultimate test is, naturally, whether you’re getting sales. But it’s hard to tell – particularly in a complex organization – whether the website drives sales or offline marketing efforts. And even measuring orders via these channels may not tell the entire story, as customers may see offline advertising and then come online to buy, or they may do the reverse and buy in-store after researching a product online. Or they could just be coming online to think about it and compare and mull it over and could convert to a paying customer days or weeks or months later. Or never.

What if You’re Not in e-Commerce?

And what about sites (such as my own) where nothing is offered for sale? My ultimate customer becomes, of course, someone to hire me, either permanently or temporarily. And this would mean as a consultant or a partner or a founder or a director or whatever, but that might be months away. What happens in the meantime? I might be able to dope some of that out with SEO and seeing where I am in search engine rankings, but just because people can find my site doesn’t mean they’re going to convert into hiring me or are even in a position to do so. My mother (hi, Mom!) can find my site and read it, but she won’t hire me any time soon. Unless I want to come and clean the gutters or something.

How do you or I know what’s happening?

Enter analytics.

It is, admittedly, still an imperfect science. But Mr. Kaushik breaks it down and describes the reports that you need to understand what’s happening with your site. He talks about what is essentially a Trinity strategy: experience, behavior and outcomes.

User Experience

It’s not enough to just track sales (outcomes). It’s also about user experience and behavior. This is much like in the offline world, if you think about it. Going to a restaurant is an experience and many of them are packaged as such. But it is a far different experience going to a McDonald’s or a Chik-Fil-A versus a Bertucci’s. And that experience differs from going to Legal Seafood‘s which in turn is different from Blue Ginger (celebrity chef Ming Tsai‘s restaurant). You can intake the same amount of calories. You might even be able to get in the same quality and types of nutrition. And you might enjoy a Big Mac as much as you enjoy one of Chef Tsai’s specialties. Aside from price, what are the differences?

What Sort of User Experience?

When you go to a McDonald’s, a part of the price is wrapped up in the experience. For chain entities in particular, it’s about sameness and predictability. If you find yourself in rural Oshkosh and have never been there before, you see the golden arches and you realize what to expect. For Bertucci’s, even though it costs more and there’s table service, there’s a similar vibe. You go there because you can depend upon it to be a certain way. And Blue Ginger is also dependable in the sense that it’s very upscale so you know you are going to be treated a certain way and it will look a particular way and presumably the food will taste in a way that reflects that kind of investment, both by you and by Mr. Tsai and his team.

Enhanced User Experience

Mr. Kaushik shows how understanding analytics can help you to enhance user experience.  And this, ultimately, drives user behavior. While conversions (sales) are the ultimate in user behaviors, he doesn’t forget about other valid behaviors.

Hence for the e-commerce site, product research is a valid and valuable behavior. So is printing a map to a brick and mortar store. Or comparing prices.

And for a non-e-commerce venture (again, I’ll use myself as an example), valid user (reader) behaviors are things like reading my writings and getting to know me. I put myself out there in order to be known, because that’s a piece of the hiring puzzle (why are there interviews — it’s not to know about skills, which should already be known. It’s to see if there’s a personality and a culture fit). Plus it enhances networking. Know me, think I’m worthwhile (at least, I hope you do) and you might think of a place where they might need me, or someone I should meet. And I do the same, in turn, for you. And cosmic karma gets us both into better places.

Back to the Book

But I digress. Let’s get back to the book.

The book has a lively, engaging style. It’s long but I sailed through it. And Mr. Kaushik (who is very gracious and seems to be very approachable, by the way) is clearly having fun and loves what he does. It’s a refreshing joy to read a book where the author is constantly delighted.

Read his book. Learn about analytics. Make the web a better place.

May your bounce rate be low, and your conversion rate high!

Rating

5/5

Color Theory

Color Theory

If you are interested in creating your own covers, or if you are a part of selecting your cover in your published work, you need to understand something about color theory.

Adventures in Career Changing | Color Theory | Orange
Adventures in Career Changing | Color Theory | Orange

The basics

Color theory is the associations and impressions we get when confronted with a certain color or set of colors. Color matters.

A wheel and some hex

Your computer generates colors based on combinations of basic colors. These are written in RGB (red-green-blue) or hexadecimal. Once you know the code, you can replicate any color.

Using RGB or hex is particularly important as you replicate your colors and branding across multiple platforms. What looks like pure fire engine red on my monitor may appear more like brick or tomato to you. But at least with a uniform color code, I can get it right if I need to copy the red from your page or cover.

Imaging programs such as GIMP and Adobe InDesign both have color picker tools which look like eye droppers. Select the tool, click on the color you want to replicate, and the tool will grab the correct hex or RGB coded color.

How does color make us feel?

As with a lot of the marketing issues surrounding books and book covers, a lot of this will depend upon the buyer persona or demographic associated with the most sales of your genre. Let’s say you are a science fiction writer. Then a lot of your readership is probably going to skew male, although if you write LGBT science fiction, you may find more female readers in the mix. Either way, how do they feel about colors? Furthermore, if you mainly have an American readership, their associations with colors will to differ from if your ideal readers are Canadian or Swedish.

Color matters.

Reinvention

Reinvention

Reinvention for fun and, hopefully, some profit?

Moving Onward and Upward

Reinvention is such a lonely word, isn’t it? We are so used to being one way, and the world is used to it, too. But then there we go, screwing it all up.

I mean, changing it up.

Oops, I mean, improving ourselves.

Changes

For quite a while, Adventures in Career Changing ended up somewhat stagnant. At the same time, I ran a blog for independent writers called Lonely Writer. The numbers for that other blog were not so great, and they fell off dramatically after I graduated in the summer of 2016. Furthermore, it was costing me some bucks. Hence I decided to simply not allow that URL to renew when it came up again.

Instead, I decided to combine the two works, back here, on Adventures. Because career changing, for me, has also been about writing.

Cosmetics

You may have noticed me making some housekeeping changes. There is a lot more color. The theme is considerably livelier. But beneath the surface there is another change, and it is not merely a cosmetic one. For these changes also contain adding the Lonely Writer videos, updating what I post here, and what I put on Facebook as well. And Twitter (or Twitter here). Plus of course there is still a YouTube channel, although I may eventually figure out a way to rebrand it.

Some things cannot be changed (such as the audio in preexisting YouTube videos). But for the most part, I have changed anything that can possibly be changed.

Going Pro

These transformations are folding Lonely Writer into my professional social media brand.

But please do not worry! What is free is still free! Rather, I want to introduce you to what I can do. So, that is another purpose behind this particular blog post, okay?

I can blog about virtually any topic. I can create WordPress sites, and I can develop and manage them. See, I can get you started on social media platforms. And I can help you with SEO.

As a freelance blogger, my job is to write about maritime law one day and ad retargeting the next, and then about real estate a few days later.

In the old, pre-Internet days, people like me would put out a shingle.

So here’s my shingle.

The Future of the Lonely Writer

The Future

The future? Well, more specifically, I mean the future of the Lonely Writer website.

Lonely Writer Speculating About the Future
The Future of the Lonely Writer

Wait, what?

So as some readers may recall, I started this website as my capstone project at Quinnipiac University. I needed the project in order to graduate with a Master’s in Science in Communications (social media). Well, graduation happened in August of 2016. However, I had paid for the domain until the end of March of 2017. It seemed silly to try to cancel early.

But now it’s March of 2017.

Changes

Hence I want to change things up. My life has gotten considerably more busy since I graduated. I currently work four part-time work from home jobs, all centered around various tasks having to do with blogging. I also podcast every month and I blog for that podcast and for its parent podcast. Furthermore, I still blog about social media and even about fan fiction.

In addition, I still write and still work. I always try to get more of my work published. As a result, I just plain don’t have the time for yet another domain. Most noteworthy, I’d also like to save a few bucks. This project does … okay. Yet Adventures in Career Changing does better.

Therefore, I realized: I should combine the two.

What Will Happen?

The Lonely Writer YouTube channel and Facebook groups will both live on. And the Twitter stream won’t be going away, either. They do not require as much work as a separate blog. Plus, they are also free of charge. I am only talking about this domain and the blog posts.

So, where are they going? Why, they are off to Adventures in Career Changing! As a result, the blog URLs will change, and the blog posts themselves will be removed for later re-posting. I will change them up, too, so they will be more up to date. That’s all. So don’t worry, okay? This advice and this work will not be gone. It’ll all just move down the street.

Thank you so much for reading.

Time-saving Tips from the Angels at HootSuite

Time-saving Tips from the Angels at HootSuite

Time-saving Tips? Sign me up!

Everybody’s busy.

Time-saving Tips
HootSuite Owl Van (Photo credit: Scott Beale)

Here are some time-saving tips from the angels at HootSuite. Everybody’s got a lot on their plate. Not to worry. HootSuite to the rescue, to help you manage all of those little social media bits and bobs that we all deal with, every day.

Make an Influencer List

Or just a list of important folks.  Or people who can help you succeed. Whatever you want to call it, use Twitter (or HootSuite itself), to separate the wheat from the chaff. If you’ve only got five minutes to look at your social media streams, populate this list with the people you absolutely, positively must read.

Curate Content and Auto-Schedule Using the Hootlet

It’s a little Chrome extension, and all you have to do is, click the owl, pull down on the drop-down to select the stream(s) you want to add the content to (just like in the full-blown version of HootSuite), modify the content if you wish, and either schedule manually or click schedule or Auto-Schedule.

Frankly, I’m having trouble envisioning how HootSuite could make it any easier.

Add Content at the Right Time for the Right Network

HootSuite says this so well that I’ll just quote it in its entirety –

Consider planning your posting to meet these times. For Google+ the highest engagement comes from 9-11 a.m., so maybe you can connect with a follower during breakfast. For Twitter it’s 1-3 p.m. and for Facebook it’s 1-4 p.m., perfect times to engage one or two users during your lunch break. For Pinterest it’s 8-11 p.m., and Instagram 5-6 p.m. —after work hours when you can likely spare a few minutes to interact with your following. When you don’t have time to use social media while you work, it helps to fit it in during quick breaks.”

I would add, make sure to keep these times in mind when auto-scheduling.

Share and Repurpose Great Content

This is what I’m doing right now!  In his great book, Optimize, Lee Odden advises, in Chapter 9, to adopt an “Oreo Cookie Tactic”.  That is, take content and add your own introduction and conclusion, with the content placed in between and properly attributed, of course (see page 118).

I love this tactic, not only because it is an easier way to add content (particularly when inspiration is harder to come by), but also because it promotes the Rule of Thirds, e. g. one-third of social media content should be about the content creator’s wisdom being imparted, one-third should be the content creator’s personality, and the final third should be the promotion of others’ content.

Evan Page has written an excellent article and I highly recommend that you read the original source material as well. His Time-saving Tips never seem to go out of style.

The Best Lengths for Social Media Posts and More

The Best Lengths for Social Media Posts and More

Best Lengths for social posts can seem elusive. What’s right?

The fine folks at Buffer and, in particular, Kevan Lee, have done it again and have everything you always wanted to know about social post lengths but were afraid to ask.

The Best Lengths for Social Media Posts and More
English: Red Pinterest logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In my travels online, I have seen blog posts that were under 50 words long. I have seen blog posts that were a good 10,000 words long. Tweets, of course, are limited. But there have been plenty of Pinterest pins with just an image and nothing else. Or they’ve got enough verbiage behind them to seemingly rival War and Peace. So, what’s ideal? Is there any science behind it?

Blogs

How long should blog posts be? Buffer likes blog post titles to be six words long (oops, this blog post’s title is too long). Interestingly enough, the blog post where I got the inspiration for this blog post from also has a title that is too long.

Sometimes, six words is just not long enough.

Thanks to Buffer for this graphic.

The Best Lengths for Social Media Posts and More

Interestingly enough, Buffer says blog posts are best at 1,600 words in length. However, Yoast (the fine makers of an SEO plugin I use for my own blog posting) provides good SEO credit for blog posts that are at least 300 words in length. The two are not necessarily mutually exclusive, but one thing is for sure – those fifty-word blog posts just plain are not long enough.

Facebook

How big should a Facebook post be? Buffer says forty characters. Keep it short, snappy, and to the point. According to Lee, Facebook posts that exceed forty characters degrade in engagement as they get longer. Not to put too fine a point on it, but that 700-word screed you wrote? Better make that a blog post instead and just link to it. But if you put the whole thing on Facebook, people will scroll right on by.

Here’s a trick to get around the forty-character wall – links show the title and some text, and you can always change these. Or add an image with some text. But don’t go nuts! It is very, very easy to hit and exceed critical mass.

Google+

How long should a Google+ post be? Buffer puts the figure at sixty characters. After that, you’re hitting a second line of text. How do you get around it? The idea is similar to Facebook – you have a little room to play with images and even a short subtitle.

LinkedIn

How long should a LinkedIn post be? Buffer clocks in at twenty-five words, based upon clickthrough data.

Pinterest

How large should a Pinterest image be? Buffer’s got you covered – 735px x 1102px. These taller pins seem to stand out more, and are therefore shared more often.

Twitter

How long should an effective Tweet be? Buffer says to limit it to 71 – 100 characters, in order to provide some space for people to comment before sending out a modified tweet (MT). So keep hashtags at six characters for maximal impact. Yes, we all know that people sometimes use hashtags as a bit of wry commentary. Tumblr in particular seems to inspire hashtags like #DudeLooksLikeALady (and not just for fans of Aerosmith). Excessive hashtagging is one of the characteristics of Instagram. However, the best length hashtag on Twitter has six characters.

Upshot

TL; DR – Check out the chart, and the cited article, for more information. The research on best lengths for posts is sound, and fascinating, and the article was a hell of a find.

Lonely Writer

The Lonely Writer

Are you a Lonely Writer?

Independent writers can sometimes be rather lonely indeed. You can feel as if it’s just you in a sea of promotions, prompts, social media, and writer’s block.

Adventures in Career Changing | Green | Lonely Writer
Green

I’m here to help you. I am getting my Master’s degree in Communications (social media), and this is my capstone project. Yeah, I’m being graded for this! I might just continue after graduation. Furthermore, I can see there is a need out there, for a sharing of this sort of expertise.

I am also a published author. I write or do something regarding writing every single day. Plus, I just so happen to be a retired attorney, and I used to work in databases and even voice recognition. My resumé is rather eclectic.

Balance

I seem to have a pretty balanced brain, in that I am not too far over on the artistic side (right) or the analytical side (left). However, I tend to split the difference. Or maybe it’s just my genetics. Because my father is a retired engineer and an inventor, several times over. And my mother is a retired reference librarian. This stuff is in my DNA.

So with such an odd and varied background, I have become what you, too, need to be:

  • Organized
  • Artistic
  • Persistent
  • Legally savvy
  • Open to all sorts of possibilities

Help

I know you need some help, or maybe just a sympathetic ear. And believe me, I know! Just between you and me, we have to wear a ton of hats. Writer. Marketer. Accountant. Lawyer (or at least paralegal). Editor. Cover artist.

Fortunately, you are not alone.

And I am more than willing to share my expertise and my experience. So let’s explore, together, how to navigate the waters of being an independent (no agent yet) author, whether published or not. I’ll provide videos and cheat sheets for you to refer to, so you’re no longer in the dark.

We’re gonna make it.

We’re in this together.