Thursday, 17 April 2014

How to Get Helpful Feedback From Beta Readers

by Carla Douglas
Sending a finished manuscript out to beta readers has become a routine step in the self-publishing process. 

Beta readers can provide crucial feedback about whether your book is ready to go public, and authors know this.

It’s one thing to get readers to agree to give your manuscript an assessment; it’s another thing entirely to make the most of the precious time a beta reader spends with your material.

So, you’ve found one or more avid readers to take on the task of giving your book a first read. What next?

Read on: below I discuss how to get information you can act on from your beta readers.

How to Ask for Feedback

You’re asking your beta readers for feedback. But what does that mean? Be specific. At the very least, include a checklist so that your readers are paying attention to the kinds of things that concern you most.


For fiction manuscripts, focus on the aspects of your book that you are least confident about.
For example, if you’ve struggled with dialogue in your novel, include a question or two about it, such as, Is it always clear who is speaking during passages of dialogue? or Does dialogue successfully advance the plot and/or help to develop character?

Encourage beta readers to write their observations and comments either in the checklist file or annotate your file.


For nonfiction manuscripts, your focus will be somewhat different. People read nonfiction for information and understanding—guide your beta readers with questions about the clarity of your content and how it’s presented. You might also ask about how the book as a whole is organized.

In nonfiction, the tone of your writing is more important than you might think. The wrong tone can put a reader off early in a book—don’t be afraid to ask your beta readers about this. If you have a subject-matter expert who’s agreed to read for you, then customizing a checklist/feedback form specifically for that person is a good idea.

So, what would such a checklist look like? Below is the checklist that was sent to beta readers for Idea to Ebook: How to Write a Quality Book Fast.

For both fiction and nonfiction, let your beta readers know that they needn’t pay too much attention to things like typos and formatting. You’ll cover these items later when your book is copyedited.

Your beta readers are doing you a huge favour. Giving them a checklist to guide their feedback will help them help you.

Image by goXunuReviews

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Thursday, 10 April 2014

The 5 in 4 Rule of Marketing: How to Avoid Being a Pest

Image by John Tann
You wrote a book and you know you need to market it. You need to tell your audience about it. But how often should you do that? This week at Beyond Paper, author Sarah Tun shares a tip for staying in touch with your audience, without being a pest.

by Sarah Tun

Marketing is tricky. You have a good lead and you want to seal a deal.

How frequently is it prudent to contact an agent, publisher, customer, or client when in pursuit of a contract?

A proven effective rule-of-thumb is five times in four weeks.* If the individual or company you are targeting is interested, that frequency will bring them to an agreement or purchase. Or, if what you offer is not suitable to them, in that timeframe they will have collected enough information to know to decline, leaving you free to pursue the next lead.

Each time you contact the lead have a viable reason, some new and useful information to offer. This frequency is enough to ensure your lead remembers you but not too often as to label you a pest.

Ultimately, you want an answer from the person you are pursuing. You need to know in order to move on to the next stage in the deal or, if the answer is a “no,”to move on to the next target.

Person-to-person marketing is still a piece to the puzzle in this internet world of social networking. Be wise, be sensitive and you will be fruitful.

*Peter Skebo & Associates Inc

Sarah Tun is the founder of Larus Press: Christian-based books, blogs and literature to inspire, equip and empower. You can also find her at  at Google +.

Related Posts and Resources
Book Marketing, with Pat Flynn and Jeff Goins (podcast)
How to Keep Your Fiction Marketing Lean and Focused, by Jason Kong
The 9 Best Email Subject Line Styles to Increase Your Open Rate, by Megan Marrs

Thursday, 3 April 2014

3 Things Successful Self-Pubs Do Well — Why Not Get Mentored by the Pros?

by Carla Douglas

Welcome to the first post in a new series about how to publish a good book.

One of our goals at Beyond Paper is to help you see your book through an editor’s eyes—to point you toward the things that leap off the page and either make us cry, “eek!” or say, “yes, nicely done.”

What are these things that can make or break a book? They vary, depending on genre, purpose for writing, audience, and so on, but things like tone, originality, usefulness, and design would be on most lists. They may reveal themselves early on during a manuscript evaluation, or after a book has been published, when it’s being reviewed. Some of these are big topics, others warrant just a mention. Most are difficult to explain or describe in isolation.

In a recent post on the Smashwords blog, Mark Coker says, “The most successful indie authors are mentoring the next generation of authors. Indie authors act like a vast publishing collective of writers helping writers.”

It’s true. Successful indies are stepping up and showing others the way. And what better way to learn how to do this right than to watch those who are not just doing it right, but doing it exceptionally well? If it’s true that you learn to write by reading (and I think it is), then it’s also true that you can learn good publishing techniques by keeping one eye on those self-published authors who are at the top of their game.

So, why not look to the pros for mentorship and guidance?

That’s what I’d like to do in this new series—look at a variety of recent books by the pros, and point out three things they’ve done really well. This doesn’t mean, of course, that they’ve only done three things well—these just happen to be the things I’ve fastened on.

First up: Joanna Penn’s How to Market a Book: For Authors by an Author, First Edition

In the world of self-publishing, this book is not exactly “new”—it was released in July 2013. But it covers some of the most current information available to help authors in this most difficult area of self-publishing. You'll find it on any list of recommended titles for showing self-pubs the ropes of marketing.

So, what is Ms. Penn doing right?

1. Visual Presentation

She makes it easy for readers to move quickly through her content and find the key information they're seeking.

For 21st century readers, especially readers of non-fiction, you will do them an enormous favour by improving your book’s readability. When reading information-based non-fiction, readers are not hanging on your every word (sorry!). Rather, they’re looking for content, answers and solutions, springboarding from section to section, picking up a fact here and a keyword there.

You can help readers navigate your book more easily by including effective visual elements: boldface print, headings, subheadings and ample white space.

Here’s an example:

Ebooks—with variable fonts, text sizes and other options—allow readers to customize their reading experience. Adding visual features improves the reading experience even further by letting readers quickly pick up the key points and move on. Choose any page at random from this book, and you'll find you can move through the material with remarkable ease.

2. Tone

Tone is usually defined as the writer’s attitude toward both the reader and the subject, and it can often be expressed in a single adjective: serious, direct and authoritative are three examples. Tone also positions a writer in relation to his audience—he might appear formal, distant, or even patronizing.

In How to Market a Book, Penn masterfully achieves a tone that is direct (no mincing words, here), but also pleasant and sincere, with a frequent touch of dry humour thrown in. Example: “Don't use a painting that your child did or that you did yourself” for your cover.

Joel Friedlander sums up Joanna Penn's tone best in his front-of-book blurb: “charming and well-informed.”

Why does this matter? The right tone allows readers to fully engage—to trust both the writer and the information she’s imparting. The wrong tone, on the other hand, can make a reader put down a book before she's reached chapter one.

3. Generosity

This is more an impression than a category, and it has to do with tone, integrity of content and sincerity of purpose. It’s exemplified in How to Market a Book by Penn's many references to community and her willingness to share—not just her own recommendations and advice gained through experience, but also the readiness with which she points readers toward her many expert colleagues in the self-publishing field.

It says, “I know something about this, but if you want the real goods, read what my colleagues have to say.”

In other words, it’s cooperative rather than competitive—and who doesn't appreciate that?

Nicely done, Joanna.

Image: Flikr: TheCreativePenn's Photostream

Related Posts

How to Write a Quality Book Fast
Scrivener Cheat Sheet: Start Using Scrivener Now
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What Tone Are You Aiming For?

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Getting Started With Jutoh: A List of Resources and a Cheat Sheet

by Corina Koch MacLeod

In a previous post, I wrote about Jutoh, an inexpensive piece of software that allows you to convert Word docx files to mobi or epub formats. In fact, I even used Jutoh for the latest book published at Beyond Paper.

I find that it takes me a while to find my way around any new piece of software I tackle, and I always appreciate it if software comes with accessible support materials. Here are some of the support materials that come with Jutoh:


Julian Smart, the creator of Jutoh has written a detailed manual titled, Creating Great Ebooks Using Jutoh. It's available as a free download in a variety of formats on his website. I prefer to access the online HTML version, and I can find answers to questions fastest if call up the manual with search terms in Google.

For example, if I key in the terms "Jutoh" and "pictures," Google will call up Chapter 11: Working With Pictures in a matter of seconds. If I'd like to read that in French, Google translate will gladly comply. I can't help but think that Smart knew what he was doing when he made the manual reachable through a Google search. Of course, if you prefer to scroll through a PDF or view it as an epub on your tablet, those options are available, too.

Video Tutorials

In addition to a manual, the Jutoh website contains two detailed video tutorials that demonstrate how to use this software. The first video, created by author India Drummond, is about twenty minutes long and will give you the fastest way in to setting up a fiction book with limited styling in Jutoh. The second video, created by ebook formatter Charles Seperaddresses metadata and many more hows and whys, and lasts for nearly an hour. I went through Seper's video twice—once to get my legs under me and again to document some of my how-do-I questions.

Dr. Julian Smart

If you've combed the available resources for an answer to a conundrum (which I did on more than a few occasions), but you've come up with nothing, don't worry. I was delighted to discover that the Doctor was indeed in. Dr. Julian Smart, that is. If you have a question that the manual and videos don't answer, you can email Julian Smart for help.

Jutoh Cheat Sheet

After viewing the videos, searching through the manual, mucking about in Jutoh, and contacting Julian Smart, I compiled a cheat sheet—a list of how-do-I questions that I can return to the next time I use Jutoh to create an ebook. While this is not a comprehensive list, I do believe that it contains some of the tasks you'll want to accomplish in Jutoh. Feel free to let me know if I've missed anything.

The items in this list are alphabetical. I'd recommend reading through the left column quickly so you know what's there, and later, when you have a question, you'll be able to find that item quickly. 

You'll understand the items in the table better if you know what Jutoh looks like when you're working in it. Here's a screenshot of the various panes:

Jutoh panes

What do you want to do?Go to…
Add an ISBNBook, Project Properties, Metadata
Change metadataBook, Project Properties, Metadata
Change paragraph stylePalette pane, Styles tab, right-click on Body Text style
Change the coverControl Panel pane, Build tab, click on the cover, Edit Cover Design
Check spellingEdit, Check Spelling
Clear formattingSelect text, Format, Text, Reset Text Formatting
Create a mobiControl Panel pane, Build tab, Configuration: Select Mobipocket, Compile
Create a new stylePalette pane, Styles tab, right-click on a style name, New, select style type, name your new style
Create a table of contents (TOC) by handPalette pane, Styles tab, Use "TOC Entry" style for each TOC entry
Create a TOC automatically (apply heading styles through document first)Book, Project Properties, Index, Run Table of Contents Wizard
Create an epubControl Panel pane, Build tab, Configuration: Select Epub, Compile
Delete pictureRight-click on picture, Delete
Find hyperlink errors after conversionPalette pane, Inspector tab, Links (watch for inserted spaces)
Highlight special characters, so you can remove themView, Preference, Highlighting
Import file from Word to JutohFile, New, work through Jutoh's file set-up wizard
Insert hyperlinkFormat, Insert, URL
Insert pictureFormat, Insert, Picture
Insert special characterFormat, Insert, Symbol
Link TOC entries to chapters in the bookOrganizer pane, TOC file, select a TOC entry, Right-click, Insert, Link to Page (this method links to pages instead of headings)
Preserve original picture format (e.g. PNG—otherwise images are converted to JPGs)Click on picture, check Preserve original format
Remove font specifications (so readers can choose the font on their e-readers)Book, Project Properties, Configurations, Generic Font Names heading, uncheck Generate Font Names
Remove internal TOC from NCXOrganizer pane, right-click on TOC file, Properties, uncheck Nav Map option
Remove Jutoh credit (default)Book, Project Properties, Configurations, under Options heading, uncheck Credit Jutoh
Remove tabs, extra spaces, etc.Book, Document Cleanup
Remove unused stylesBook, Project Properties, Configurations, under HTML Formatting heading, check Optimize Style Sheet
Set first few words in capsFormat, Change Case
Set guide types for book sectionsOrganizer pane, right-click on file, Properties, Guide type: choose an option from the pull-down menu
Set your start page (where an e-reader will open your book)Organizer pane, right-click on file, Properties, Guide type: choose "start" option
Show extra spaces, extra paragraph marks, etc. in colourView, Highlighting (F10)
Split document into chaptersEdit, Split Document

One final thought: the first time I converted an ebook using Jutoh, I did everything in Word—applied styles, inserted hyperlinks, and so forth — and then exported the file to Jutoh. The second time, I created a document in Word, stripped out all of the formatting, exported it to Jutoh, and then applied all of my styling in Jutoh. I found the first method more efficient, probably due to my familiarity with Word. Both methods created a nicely styled ebook.

Related Posts

From Word to Jutoh: Ebook Creation Made Easy
How to Format Your Ebook the Simple Way: A Word to Ebook Cheat Sheet
Find the Hidden Formatting That Will Mess Up Your Ebook

Thursday, 20 March 2014

How to Write a Quality Book Fast

by Corina Koch MacLeod

There has been a bit of buzz recently about authors who can write a book collaboratively in six weeks or by themselves in nine weeks. How do they do it? 

Getting a book from idea to ebook can happen fairly quickly, particularly if you know how to create an efficient writing and publishing workflow (I wrote the first draft of the book on the left in about 10 hours and completed the rest of the process in nine weeks).

1. Have a System 

To get a book to publication quickly, it helps to know the essential steps in the idea-to-ebook process. As both an author and editor, I’ve discovered a few efficiencies that can save you time in the writing and publishing process.

Here are the steps as I follow them:

  • Collaborate (optional)
  • Brainstorm
  • Research
  • Organize
  • Draft
  • Revise
  • Edit
  • Add Images (optional)
  • Clean Up
  • Format
  • Proofread
  • Create a Cover
  • Publish

You don't always have to follow these steps in order, but if your steps are orderly and logical, it'll help you to be more efficient.

2. Use Efficiency Tools

You'll be more efficient at writing books if you use the right tools for the job. Scrivener, for example, is a wonderful drafting tool that can help you organize a potentially unwieldy book. Trust me, it's never good news to discover at the editing stage that your book's structure isn't working. If you use an organization tool like Scrivener early in the process, you can sort out any structural issues at the beginning, long before the editing stage (where they can become costly). Scrivener can benefit writers in other ways, too. (See Idea to Ebook: How to Write a Quality Book Fast for more details).

It's also worth noting that Microsoft Word is currently the best tool for the editing stage of your publishing process (I'm hoping that the creators of Scrivener will remedy that). You may not agree with me, but in Idea to Ebook: How to Write a Quality Book Fast, I think I make a pretty good case for why you might want to have Word in your writer's toolkit. I also recommend over 30 free and inexpensive tools that writers can use to create quality books efficiently.

A Caveat

It’s one thing to publish quickly, and quite another to publish well. Quality matters, and it’s important that you don’t sacrifice quality for speed. Your readers won’t care how long it took you to produce your book—but they will care whether your book is good. I believe that creating a quality book fast is within every author’s reach. Your “fast” might not be my “fast,” but there are ways to create better books faster.

Want to know more about how to create a quality book efficiently? Curious about how Scrivener and other tools can help you do that? Idea to Ebook: How to Write a Quality Book Fast is a quick read, and you'll find it on Amazon and  Kobo.

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