A beta book is a completed but unpublished manuscript of a
new novel or work of non-fiction.
It is not a draft, which is a first (or second or third or umpteenth)
rough attempt at shaping a story.
Basically, in the opinion of the writer, their creation has been
polished to near-perfection and is ready to become a real book.
Except for one tiny, niggling problem...
Nobody else has read it.
The writer may have been slaving over the project for months,
years, or even decades, but he or she has become so immersed
in the story that they're no longer capable of telling if it's great,
mediocre or awful.
Sure, they could ask their partner, spouse, friends or relatives
to read the manuscript, but deep down they know that those
nice people will probably be supportive and enthusiastic about
their creation, because that's what friends do, right?
So, what should an unpublished writer do next?
Engage a literary agent?
Not yet. These professionals offer little help to unpublished writers
at this stage. (More about this at the bottom of the page)
Approach a publisher?
No. Publishers rarely talk to anyone except literary agents or
published writers, preferably those with whom they've already
worked, and especially writers who've proved to be profitable.
What about self-publishing? Only an option if the writer's
goal is reaching a tiny market.
Professional editing? An expensive gamble. At this point, the story
is of unknown worth, and the cost of editing could be wasted.
Enlist the help of alpha readers? YES!
She, or he:
• Loves reading
• Loves books
• Loves discussing books
• Is a discerning reader
• Has an instinctive sense of what makes
a story interesting and readable
• Is able to coherently share their opinions with others
• Alpha readers are very talented people
• Every beta book needs alpha readers
PAGE ONE - This is writer's last chance to make a first impression.
Did it grab your attention? Did it make you want to read on?
THE HERO - (a.k.a. the 'Protagonist') This character, male or female, is usually a goodie. But the Hero may be 'good' OR 'bad'—think 'Dexter' in the TV series—a 'bad' goodie. But it's vital that the reader or viewer cares enough about them to follow their progress. Did you care about ours?
ANTAGONIST - the bad guy\girl. This character is usually bad, hopefully so bad that he creeps you out. But is he interesting?
CONFLICT - We all know that 'love makes the world go around'. But it's conflict that spins the world of fiction. No conflict, no story. Does the tale have enough of this ingredient? Or not enough?
WHAT DID YOU SKIP? A famous writer once said, 'Don't write stuff that people skip.' Great advice, but writers need to be told where and what that 'stuff' is. Don't hold back.
ANOMALIES Events out of sequence, situations that lack meaning or reason. The writer, while trying to prune skippable stuff, may have inadvertently deleted something that should have been left in.
WAS THE CONCLUSION SATISFYING? Or did you feel flat? Bored? Meh?
Don't hold back. Please.
OVERALL IMPRESSION? This is not so much a matter of like or dislike--hh - it's more about whether the story is okay as it is, or would benefit from a little more work, or needs a heap of work.
NOTE: These questions are just examples. I'll provide readers with a proper checklist which will make the commenting process as simple and straightforward as possible.
• My grateful thanks for your time, efforts and invaluable assistance.
• Your name on the credits page (with your agreement, of course)
• The chance of having a character named after you (plot permitting)
• The satisfaction of having contributed to the publication of a brand-new book, and hopefully, to its success as a top seller.
• The chance to become part of the small team to which I'll look for advice with my next books.
• If you're not already a reader of beta books, you may find that purposeful reading is a pleasing challenge, especially the knowledge that you may have contributed to the enjoyment of other readers around the world, possibly for many years to come. In this way, I see my own part in this project more as its starter, rather than creator.
• Tangible benefits: Many excellent books are completed every day but fail to make it into print. However, due to the demands of the market, some must succeed and of those, some will earn money for their writers.
If my book earns a return, my helpers will most definitely be rewarded.
It's time we owned us
The story is set in New Zealand, London, Israel, Ukraine and Iowa, USA.
In 1994, while David Collier is attending University in New Zealand, a series of strange events result in the tragic deaths of his two closest friends, together with an inexplicable enhancement of his mental abilities.
Eleven years later, now living in London, David is the best-selling author of a series of adventure novels and screenplays.
His parents, both doctors, visit in 2005. A few days later, his mother is killed in the London Tube bombing. His grief-stricken father returns alone to Auckland and drowns himself at Piha beach.
David's pain takes the form of a hard-hitting book about religious fanaticism.
Titled 'Lies of the Land', it catches the imagination of a conflict-weary public and catapults him to elevated fame and renown.
In 2012, in Israel, he is targeted by a suicide bomber, but the blast is mysteriously diverted and he survives unharmed.
In the aftermath, he meets Elim Bechar, a Captain in the Border Security division of the IDF.
The meeting leads to a close association with the enigmatic Shimon Petras and involvement with a benign and ancient organization known as Garadein.
But David soon learns that there are other, more powerful forces at work behind the scenes—in turn guiding, controlling and misdirecting the human race for their own purposes.
As the story progresses, it becomes evident that David Collier is both a pawn and a key figure in the cataclysmic events that will change human destiny forever.
Thank you very much for taking the time to read thus far. If you're
interested in helping with my project, here are my contact details:
Please include your name, email address and a brief note about yourself. No qualifications are required other than a good command of English and a deep interest in books and reading. Full confidentiality is both offered and expected.
After we've exchanged emails I'll send you the manuscript. I'll also give you my mobile number, but please note that I prefer, where possible, communications about the book to be via email. I'll supply a form that will simplify the process.
Thank you for your interest in my project and I hope that you'll be in contact soon.
Meanwhile, if you know of other readers who might like to assist, feel free to pass on my email address.
Mike Anthony Southland, New Zealand
There are dozens - hundreds, maybe - of websites devoted to the 'pro's and con's of literary representation.' Google the phrase and you'll see what I mean. So I won't explore this area in great depth. Suffice to say that, having a 'good' agent is essential for a writer who wants their book to be published by traditional methods, thus ensuring, hopefully, that they receive the best return for their efforts.
However, there are many grades of agent: Excellent. Very good. Good. Okay. Passable. Not great. Useless. Bad. Untrustworthy. Downright shady.
And the bad news is that, even if you're lucky enough for your query or submission to land on the desk of an agent who rates inclusion in one of the first three groups, he or she is probably receiving thirty to forty inquiries per day. Yes, you read that right. Maybe four to five per hour.
So, while your agent needs your commission fees to pay their bills, they're also very selective and critical in their assessment of the constant stream of data that assails their eyeballs every minute of the working day.
That's on a good day, of course. They have problems like everyone else, and if they're not feeling well, got a ticket on the way to work, slept badly the night before, the kids are playing up, their spouse is...well, you know how it is. Everday problems. But any of these factors could mean that your submission might get even less attention than normal.
Which will probably result in you getting no feedback at all about the project on which you've spent so much passion and perspiration.
Now it's lost in the black hole of agent disinterest, and you might never know why.
What am I getting at here? Simple: If your agent is only able to devote a few minutes of their time scanning the submission, and, at the very least, extending you the courtesy of a reply, your presentation must be as engaging, interesting and as perfect as you can make it, and that's best done with the help of your peer-reviewers: your indispensable, invaluable ALPHA READERS.