Working with Early Readers, Part 1: ALPHA READERS

This is Part 1 of a series for indie authors. To read the series intro, click here.

Finding critique partners or alpha readers can be scary! Your book is your baby, but you know it’s pretty rough because it’s in early-draft phase. Sharing it requires vulnerability. However, I’ve found my alpha team immensely valuable in crafting better books.

If you’re just starting out, it may work best to gather one or two trusted friends or family members (who will give you honest feedback) to be your alpha readers. Give them chapters or chunks of the book as you write it, and get their feedback.

My most faithful alpha readers at first were my sister and my mom. My sister in particular has a good eye for story issues and gave me a lot of extremely valuable feedback.

People will say, “Don’t ask friends and family for critiques! They won’t be honest!” But I say, start with what you’ve got! You’re a new author–you don’t have a fan base yet. But you do know people!

However, there are also ways to connect with other writers. I find Twitter to be an amazing writing community. (I’m @CBethAnderson.) Hop on, introduce yourself using the hashtag #WritingCommunity, and find some friends. Maybe some of them can be your alpha readers or critique partners!

Now that I have books released, I have a private Facebook group for my alpha readers. (I tried this method when I started writing, but it really didn’t work well. It was easier to build an alpha community once I’d earned their trust by publishing a trilogy they enjoyed!)

Photo by freestocks.org from Pexels

Here are the details of how I work with alpha readers:

Where can I find alpha readers?

  • At first, I invited my street team (see Part 3 of this series) to be alpha readers. I was honest with them: “You’ll be reading books in chunks, which isn’t always a satisfying way to read. It’ll be rough, with lots of errors!”
  • People joined my alpha reader group. After several months, I reached out to anyone who hadn’t given feedback to ask if they still wanted to be in the group. I took out those who decided it wasn’t for them (no hard feelings.)
  • Now, my alpha reader group is invitation-only. After I culled the inactive members, I invited a few excellent beta readers I thought would make good alpha readers.

How alpha reading works in my Facebook Group:

  • I post instructions in the group. I tell them I’m looking for “big picture” feedback at this phase, such as plot pacing, characterization, and worldbuilding. I don’t want feedback on grammar or typos; it’s too early to worry about that stuff!
  • When I’ve completed about 1/4 of a book (1/2 if it’s a very short novella), I format it as mobi (for Kindle), ePub, and PDF (print version). (Yes, you can distribute in other forms, such as Word or Google Docs, but I find most readers prefer to read on a device, and ePub and mobi are ideal for that.)
  • I use StoryOrigin to create a page where my alpha readers can download the partial manuscript.
  • I share the download link in the private Facebook group and encourage people to read and review. I tag everyone in the group when I post so they don’t miss it!
  • Alpha readers give feedback within the Facebook group. That way, we get into some good conversations. The readers often agree with each other, and sometimes they disagree. All that is helpful to me!
  • I always respond to feedback, thanking the alpha reader and usually addressing specific elements of their feedback.
  • As I write, I continue to provide the book to readers a quarter at a time. (But when I publish the second quarter, I also include the first quarter, so someone who hasn’t started reading yet has it all in one place.)
  • I use a ton of this feedback as I revise for beta readers, and sometimes I update alpha readers on how I utilized their specific feedback!

Want more step-by-step instructions and resources that will help you create a successful alpha reader group? My new book, Early Readers Catch the Worms, includes…

  • Access to a Resource Pack full of editable resources and templates to help you build early reader teams.
  • Detailed pros and cons of various formatting programs (some of them free!)
  • Suggestions for how to set up and maintain your alpha reader group.

Buy your copy of Early Readers Catch the Worms: How Alpha, Beta, & ARC Readers Can Help You Publish a Better Novel by clicking here!

Cover of Early Readers Catch the Worms

If you’re ready for more, click here to go to Part 2 of this series: BETA READERS.

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Author Resources on my website are 100% free. But if you’d like to buy me a coffee to thank me, click the “Tip Me” button at the bottom of the page!

Author Resources on my website are 100% free. But if you’d like to buy me a coffee to thank me, click the “Tip Me” button at the bottom of the page!

Working with Early Readers (Alpha, Beta & ARC): A Blog Series

Hi, fellow indie authors!

Over the course of two fiction book series, I’ve developed reliable, incredibly helpful teams of alpha, beta, and ARC readers. I’ll share these systems with you in this blog series.

Photo by Perfecto Capucine from Pexels

First, some definitions:

  • Different people use the terms alpha readers and beta readers in different ways. Here’s how I use those terms:
    • Alpha readers read my manuscript as I’m writing it, and then they give me feedback on chunks of it. Essentially they’re reading the first draft (though I do read through chapters once before moving on, so it’s more like a second draft.)
    • Beta readers read my manuscript after I’ve already done extensive revisions and polishing, and then they give me feedback.
  • ARC readers are given ARCs (Advance Review Copies) to read and review. An ARC is a completed novel, as error-free as possible, just distributed before the book is published.

Click here to go to Part 1 of this series: ALPHA READERS.

This blog series is a good start for those trying to build early reader teams. but if you’d like more step-by-step instructions and resources, check out my new book, Early Readers Catch the Worms.

Cover of Early Readers Catch the Worms

Buy your copy of Early Readers Catch the Worms: How Alpha, Beta, & ARC Readers Can Help You Publish a Better Novel by clicking here!

Want to be notified every time I post an Author Resource?


Author Resources on my website are 100% free. But if you’d like to buy me a coffee to thank me, click the “Tip Me” button at the bottom of the page!

Author Resources on my website are 100% free. But if you’d like to buy me a coffee to thank me, click the “Tip Me” button at the bottom of the page!

I had a baby! (Well, a book baby)

Birth of Magic has been birthed…and it’s free!

I love this new novella, which you can pick up as a free e-book on Amazon or at various other retailers. Or snag a signed paperback copy on my website!

Here’s the down-low on this new book:

  • It’s the prequel to the Sun-Blessed Trilogy, but the story stands on its own. Read it before or after the trilogy!
  • It’s a novella, which is a short novel (about 1/3 the length of Facing the Sun.)
  • What’s it about? A brothel’s no place for a teenager, but Kari doesn’t think she has any other options. When she finally flees, the brothel owners hunt her relentlessly. They won’t stop . . . but neither will she. You’ll love this new fantasy world with captivating magic, raw emotion, and page-turning intrigue.

I hope you’ll check it out!

Author Resource: Sales and Royalties Spreadsheet

Hi, fellow indie authors!

I’m really excited about the spreadsheet I’m sharing with you. I wanted a place to track all my sales from various venues.

You might find this spreadsheet useful if you are US-based, have fifteen or fewer book titles for sale, and sell these books in any or all of the ways below:

  • Amazon KDP (e-books, paperbacks, Kindle Unlimited)
  • ACX (audiobooks)
  • IngramSpark paperbacks & hardcover books
  • Your own website (selling paperbacks, etc.)
  • In-person sales (such as book signings)

You don’t have to sell in all those ways to use this tool; just leave the parts blank that you don’t need.

I’m geeking out over what this spreadsheet does. You’ll enter your book titles once, and they’ll be shown over and over throughout the sheet. You’ll paste in data from reports (such as the downloadable KDP sales report) once a month, and the spreadsheet will add it all up for you, even making the necessary calculations to convert from other currencies to U.S. dollars!

It doesn’t do everything for you! Like I said, you still have to paste in data. If you do in-person and/or website sales, it’ll take a little more work to enter those. But most of your work will happen once a month when you download and paste in data from your various reports, and that shouldn’t take longer than fifteen or twenty minutes once you get the hang of it.

The result? Data, data, data. Monthly and annual sales broken down by book and by where the sale happened (such as US, UK, or Other.) Charts, so you can see which books are performing the best, which months you make the most money, which book formats are earning you the most, and more.

Below are a couple of teaser images from the spreadsheet.

Ready to get started?

Click here to download the Book Sales and Royalties spreadsheet.

Click here to watch a half-hour YouTube video on how to use the tool.

Feel free to share this with others, preferably by pointing them to this blog post.

Revision notes:

2-7-19:

  • Added some functionality for those who distribute both paperbacks and hardcover through IngramSpark. These are broken down separately on the IngramSpark tab but are still in “one pot” on the Running Totals tab. (And if you’re selling in person or on your website, there’s still no way to indicate paperback or hardcover.)
  • There was an error in the KDP Paperbacks formulas for January. The spreadsheet on Dropbox is now corrected.
    • Need to make the correction yourself on a spreadsheet you’ve already started using? Follow these instructions:
      • Navigate to the “KDP Paperbacks” tab.
      • Highlight all the rows containing January data: Rows 11, 26, 41, 56, & 71. (To highlight all of them, hold down the CTRL [PC] or Command [Mac] key on your keyboard. Keeping this key pressed down, click the 11 next to that row, then the 26, etc., until all five rows are highlighted.)
      • Go to Edit-Find-Replace.
      • In the “Find” field, type $Q:$Q. In the “Replace” field, type $B:$B.
      • Click “Replace All.”
      • Excel should confirm 180 replacements have been made.
      • Save the spreadsheet, and repeat if you have multiple versions saved (such as a blank version to use next year.)

Note on ACX Audiobook Sales: As of February 2020, the ACX spreadsheet has changed. To get it to fit in the sales spreadsheet, highlight Column R, right-click, and delete that column. Then copy & paste the data into the spreadsheet. (Another note: As of April 2020, this appears to be fixed.)

Want to be notified every time I post an Author Resource?


Author Resources on my website are 100% free. But if you’d like to buy me a coffee to thank me, click the “Tip Me” button at the bottom of the page!

Author Resources on my website are 100% free. But if you’d like to buy me a coffee to thank me, click the “Tip Me” button at the bottom of the page!

Author Resource: Trilogy Rapid Release Checklist

Hi, fellow authors! When I decided to rapid release a trilogy, including e-books, paperbacks, and audiobooks, I knew I needed to do it in an organized way!

I’d like to share the spreadsheet checklist I used to guide me. You’ll need to tweak it to fit your own business.

Next to many of the tasks on the checklist, there’s an “Info” link. Click on it, and it will take you to another page of the spreadsheet with links and other info to guide you.

Here’s a screenshot:

You can download your own copy from Dropbox by clicking here. If you don’t have Microsoft Excel, just download it and import it into Google Sheets or whatever other spreadsheet program you use.

Feel free to share this with others, preferably by pointing them to this blog post.

Happy writing . . . and publishing!

Want to be notified every time I post an Author Resource?


Author Resources on my website are 100% free. But if you’d like to buy me a coffee to thank me, click the “Tip Me” button at the bottom of the page!

Author Resources on my website are 100% free. But if you’d like to buy me a coffee to thank me, click the button!

Author Resource: Word Count Spreadsheet

I’m starting a new blog series for fellow authors. I’ll share tools I use in my own writing and publishing business. (Click the menu item at the top of the page to see all my Author Resources.)

First, this is a simple spreadsheet to track the number of words your writing. (Edit: It’s updated to include 2022.) It’ll automatically add up your weekly (Sunday – Saturday), monthly, and annual totals. Just enter the number of words in the white cell next to the date, and it’ll do the work for you. There’s even a column to enter goals and another column to let you know how many words you still need in a week, month, or year to meet your goal.

Screenshot of the spreadsheet:

You can download your own copy from Dropbox by clicking here. If you don’t have Microsoft Excel, just download it and import it into Google Sheets or whatever other spreadsheet program you use.

Feel free to share this with others, preferably by pointing them to this blog post.

Want to be notified every time I post an Author Resource?


Author Resources on my website are 100% free. But if you’d like to buy me a coffee to thank me, click the “Tip Me” button at the bottom of the page!

Author Resources on my website are 100% free. But if you’d like to buy me a coffee to thank me, click the button!

Three books, nineteen months. Facing the Fire is here!

Nineteen months ago, I decided to write a book. I thought I’d probably narrate and produce the audiobook, too.

It turned into a trilogy.

And as of today, all three of my babies are out there in the world.

What a ride it’s been. It’s been joyful and stressful. Delightful and tiring. I’ve tried to balance my life and my art, often unsuccessfully. I’m learning as I go, and isn’t that part of what life’s all about?

I don’t know where this writing career will take me. But I’ve realized what a huge privilege and blessing it is to be able to pour my passion, my time, and my imagination into creating something. And I’m going to enjoy and appreciate that.

I write books.

What a wonderful thing.

*****

Oh, and just in case you don’t have your copies yet…

Facing the Sun Release Day!

Eighteen months (and a few days) ago, I started brainstorming to write my first novel.

Today…it’s here.

Check out Facing the Sun at these links:

Publishing a book isn’t a one-woman job. Thank you to all of you who encouraged, critiqued, listened, and supported in so many other ways!

Read (or listen), review, and enjoy!

It’s pre-order time! (And you get free stuff for ordering early!)

Facing the Sun will be released in 30 days, and if you pre-order, I’ll send you mail with fun freebies!

Here’s what you’ll get for pre-ordering the e-book ($2.99) or paperback ($12.99):

  • A signed Sun-Blessed Trilogy bookmark
  • A signed Facing the Sun bookplate (a sticker that goes inside your book…or wherever else you want to put it)
  • An entry to win one of 3 signed, pre-publication proofs of the paperback version of Facing the Sun. See the photo below. I’ll do one drawing on October 4, another on October 18, and the last on October 25, the launch day. The first two winners will get the book in the mail before it’s published! Order early enough, and you could have three chances to win.

How do you get these cool perks? First, order the book! Make sure you screenshot the order confirmation, or keep the confirmation email. You’ll need that to request your perks.

Ready to pre-order? Click below!

  • E-books: Amazon (exclusively)
  • The first two audiobooks are now available on Audible (click here: Facing the Sun or Facing the Gray), and you can also find them on Amazon and iTunes.
  • Paperback books: Amazon, Barnes & Noble (or request to special order from your local bookstore)
  • Signed paperbacks: Click here (and if you order the entire trilogy signed, I’ll ship them all before Book 1’s release. That means books 2 & 3 will be shipped early!)

Then, fill out this simple form.

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