Sure, you've heard about beta readers, but why do they help improve your writing so much? And what's the best way to utilize (and organize!) their help?
Join Autumn and two special guests, Pam Burleson and Paul Kilpatrick from Betabooks, as they talk about how beta readers can be such an asset, how best to use and find them, and how they created Betabooks to help authors learn to ease into the intimidating realm of asking people to read your book.
PLUS, grab the 25% off coupon on Betabooks! Use AWF when you enroll in a paid plan on Betabooks at https://betabooks.co/.
Check out the articles Paul mentioned on How to Run a Beta Read and How to Find Readers who will Love your Book. And don't forget to check out Pam's Beta Jam (PBJ) and submit your book if you'd like to have it considered!
Tune in for new episodes EVERY single Monday.
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Read the full transcript below. (Please note that it's automatically generated and while the AI is super cool, it isn't perfect. There may be misspellings or incorrect words on occasion).
Narrator (3s): You're listening to The Am. Writing Fantasy Podcast in today's publishing landscape, you can reach fans all over the world. Query letters are a thing of the past. You don't even need an literary agent. There is nothing standing in the way of making a living from writing. Join two best selling authors who have self published more than 20 books between them now onto the show with your hosts, Autumn Birt and Jesper Schmidt.
Autumn (31s): Hello, I'm Autumn. And this is episode 135 of the am writing fantasy podcast. And today Yesper is off on vacation in Denmark and having hopefully a lovely time. And instead I have with me two very special guests. We have Pam and Paul from beta books. Welcome to the podcast.
Pam (55s): Thank you. It was great to be here.
Autumn (58s): So I, I, I sent this in an email when I asked if you wanted to join me, that a, my niece actually is responsible for having found you and introduced me and I've set up an account and started playing around. But I have yet to understand the full breadth of beta books. So I'm looking forward to hopefully of crash course, but first, please, please introduce yourselves and a little bit about, you know, how you found or you writers. I didn't even find much information on beta books and your backgrounds other than a really cute blur up at the bottom of the website that made me want to desperately reach out to you.
Pam (1m 36s): Yeah. So my husband, Andrew is the third, have our little triumvirate here. He's a programmer and Paul and Andrew and I are all friends and Raleigh, Andrew wrote a book and had trouble getting anybody to read it. And then when people did read it to beta or whatever, he had trouble finding all the feedback. He was tired of that. So we decided to build it all so that he wouldn't read Andrews' book until Andrew build the thing. And so he did all right. I know, but at work, I'm not sure of Paul wanted it to work, but it did. Yeah. We've been going since then.
Pam (2m 17s): And the reason the books exist is to make it easy for writers to run their beta, to send their, their documents out securely, to, to readers because of the document doesn't even go out, its all on one side. So there's no PDFs or other documents floating around the feedback has all their in one place for it to be sorted and mark and yeah. So the idea of their just to make and easy way for, for all authors to do that. So I M right now I handle the customer support and we Paula and I have done or conferences together and not this last year, obviously, but no, we did.
Paul (2m 60s): We did it. We did at digital conference together. We did an online conference. That's pretty much it. I mean, technically speaking, a, one of the big headaches for Andrew was that when you did find a group of people, he just emailed them a word doc. And then he heard back from a number of people saying, oh, I can't open this. And so we sent it in a different format and then he started getting feedback via a series of emails, each person sending their own kind of email thread. And then he began making corrections and he sent out a new drafts to some people. And he ended up in this situation where he couldn't figure, he couldn't Colgate all this feedback from all of this emails, figure out who had, which draft and figure out what feedback he'd already used in making revisions in his draft.
Paul (3m 45s): And he said, well, this is a, this is a data flow issue. And that's kind of what software is ideally suited to solving. So I bet I could do this. And we were sitting around at dinner and he said, does that sound like a good idea of Paul? And I said, that sounds like a fantastic idea. In fact, I won't read your book until I can read it on the software. So I didn't just get asked to read a book and say, know, make me a better tool to do it.
Autumn (4m 10s): I absolutely adore that, that your husband is like, I had a problem and solve that because as it is definitely a problem that author's have of, especially as Yesper And I, as you heard it from the intro, you know, as we've come out with more books last summer, we released three NonFiction's and we were doing them all at the same time with different teams of beta readers, you know, 40 here, 30 here, 70 they're. And to get the feedback and to do the, all my life, I thought I was just going to go insane. Cause I'm the format or of the two of those. I'm the software person and our side of the business. So yeah, I was just, I think it must have ooze out to my family that my niece was like, Hey, have you seen this platform?
Autumn (4m 59s): And as soon as I saw that, yeah, it's like people come to you and you know where they are so that you don't do formats one day and then two days later, someone else, since you something else, and you've done so many edits, you can't leave. You're like, did I do this, this error they found? Or did I not? Oh my gosh.
Paul (5m 16s): So it is. And so you just described exactly, essentially the S the, the, the work flow issue that Andrew had in that we set out initially to solve. And then over time, we were in basically in a, sort of a semi open beta for over a year, just inviting authors and telling authors they can invite their friends. And that's when we began to get more and more feedback about, oh, I have this problem and all have this problem at some, like, the formatting issue was a very interesting one for us. I know we've talked to a bunch of people, but we wanted to make reading books easy on a phone and on the computer. And so we basically said, this is pre formatic. This is a prepress tool. So we do dynamic formatting on pretty much everything.
Paul (5m 58s): Cause we have so many people reading on phones. I think over it's over 90% of beta readers are doing at least some of their reading on phone. So that was really important for us.
Autumn (6m 9s): Wow. That always impresses me partially because I have bad eyesight. I've had M PRK, which is like LASIK done, but, and I starting to see it starting to phase out just a little bit, but it's been a decade. So I mean, I can, I used to only be able to see literally three inches and then the world was blurry. So I'm happy to have 25 20 is fantastic, but I cannot read on a phone to save my life. I get an important email and I'm like, where's the computer. I just need computers. But it is amazing that people, you know, they're they got younger eyes, I suppose. I know, but so good. No, go ahead. And do you think a lot of things, well, I think a lot of people that are also
Paul (6m 50s): Are busy, so their reading, while they're waiting to pick up their kids on there and you know, they're like, oh, we need something new and you finish the book you have in your car. You're like, oh, I'm a Bader waiting for so-and-so. I can just pick it up. I'm waiting in a waiting room somewhere. I'm in line at the grocery store. So we hear a lot of stories like that from people saying, oh, wait, this is so easy. I can read a little bit here. Like, like using any of your e-readers as well.
Autumn (7m 11s): Oh yeah. He just stuck at little league practice for the next hour and a half or something. So you're kind of whipped out the book. If we just know I'm taking fixers, honey really is what I'm doing. We were all good. Parent's at heart. Oh. And this sneaky one, but that is fantastic. So you've mentioned that it, you know, you are in beta testing and everything for a while. So when did you, when did this happen? Where did it? And Andrew have this book in this idea and he started developing it. Oh, wow. So, yeah, but not that, no, that's fantastic.
Paul (7m 45s): And when did you move? So we,
Pam (7m 49s): We left and 2017 left Raleigh in 2017.
Paul (7m 52s): So it was 2016 when we started.
Pam (7m 55s): Right. And I think we, we launched
Paul (7m 58s): Into like the public and then in 18.
Pam (8m 0s): Yeah, yeah, yeah. Wow.
Autumn (8m 2s): I see. I love stories like that because I think being on the computer and I have, my dad was into computers. My nephew is a coder and I dabble enough to break things and fix them on my own. And so I think it's important for people just like with writing a book. So many people don't realize, you know, some authors. Yeah. They seem to be able to whip them out. And like five days, I know that's probably an insane, but you know, you know, it seems to be a month or two, they released 12 books a year. And for others it's over a year. I mean, I know I've had people ask my first series, which literally they all talk all day. Every single book took me or it took me a year of those a year of my life. And they asked for free and you are like, Hey, it was a year of my life.
Autumn (8m 45s): So I think that's fantastic to know, you know, how to code this website. And it looks, it is look very lovely on the surface, which is fantastic. That takes a lot of it's that takes design skill. It takes coding skill. You've got to be able to click a button and it actually does something without breaking. So a couple of years' seems so incredibly reasonable to me.
Paul (9m 8s): And how much, like a lot of authors, I mean, we were both working our regular jobs and this was something we did on the side and this is still a fairly small kind of operation. It's something we do because we're passionate about the community and the role that we think finding beta readers and connecting with readers plays and kind of an author's journey. Yeah.
Autumn (9m 28s): Do you want to get into the beta readers and you can finish what you're about to say, Pam, but I also want to talk about is so used to, or not authors. I have to know how you met. There is a story. They're how you got sucked into the reader universe, which is a wonderful place to be. Yes.
Pam (9m 44s): So goodness. So we, we met because we lived next door to each other. I mean, I have missed calls my mom from him. I met his mom, Melissa, and we became friends and then I was hanging out at her house and this is how I remember it. Well, and then I met you and then we were going to the same church. So Andrew met Paul and I was over at Melissa's house a lot with my kids and Paul, you, you have a history in the publishing business. So,
Paul (10m 18s): Okay. So I worked in publishing right into college and I did a co-write some stuff. And so I work in film production and then all sorts of theater a lot. So I've actually written plays and produced plays. So writing is been a big part of stuff that I've done. I'm not like a spot, an aspiring author. Let's just not really one of the things that is a passion of mine. I have I'm in the fourth book of a non fourth draft of a nonfiction book. And I mean, it's really more kind of, of venting exercise for me, I've realized over time and then probably ever gonna be for people. Pam is leaving out of that. I think eventually we found out that we both like similar books, then we started lending each of their books.
Paul (11m 0s): And then someone gave Andrew I think, risk legacy, which is one of these board games that you play for eight months. Yes. And, and then we all started playing that Andrew and I and a couple of other friends and, you know, as risk is, it was one of those rage inducing either you love each other or hate each other by the end of the things. And most of us love, hated each other. And then we ended up and then we started playing D D and we just kinda kept doing stuff. And I'm, and then I think maybe a couple of years later, Andrew did NaNoWriMo, which his, where he wrote the book that he ended up wanting to beta through beta books.
Paul (11m 43s): Well, that's fantastic. Him and Andrew are married. So that helps. So that's how they know each other.
Pam (11m 48s): Well, why not say that? Yes, yes. Yeah. And know I am a professional musician. So I come at the creative business from a slightly different angle, but I have learned is you can't make it unless you really put yourself out there and we just need to try it. And you're going to face rejection and you're going to face what feels like failure, but artists who want to make it camp. And it really just matters that you continue honing your craft in, reaching out to find your audience. And that's what I think beta reading really is at its heart. It's finding your audience, reaching out to readers, finding the readers who love your book and will tell other people about your book.
Pam (12m 32s): So we really see beta reading, not as a transaction, necessarily the way you would with an editor or other like professionals, because beta readers, aren't professionals. They are people who love books. And I think it's something really special to, for a reader to be part of an author's process. And we've found that those readers who are involved in the process become really attached to the writers and promote their work and just, it's a very special thing. And so we encourage authors not to just say thank you for the feedback, but so can you continue to develop relationships? And for those beta readers, you know, maybe offer a free copy of the book.
Pam (13m 13s): You mentioned the mat in your acknowledgements at the very least, but treat it like, like relationship with each leader. And you'll get their reputation as a writer who is really in it for the craft, but also for the people that you're writing for. And I think that's important. And we've seen that in beta books, at least authors and readers can interact in the books themselves. So a reader can leave a comment and a writer can respond directly to the comment in that book. And so there is some back and forth their, that can lead to have some really neat interactions. Oh,
Autumn (13m 46s): That must be really cool to see on the backend to be able to see like that relationship develop, which you can have over an email, but it's, you know, like you said, is all on one platform. It makes it kind of easy and you can literally just respond as their reading instead of, you know, oh, I've got an email and into my spam folder.
Paul (14m 4s): Right. Well, we don't watch, we don't watch too much of what happens. One of the things is, is it's big for us as it is kind of people having a private workspace. So most of the workspace is very private and we only really look at something if we're asked by an author for a technical reason. Yeah. So it would be awesome to like Snoop on people, but we don't do that. We generally hear about it when an author or a reader decides to tell us that.
Autumn (14m 29s): Yeah. Just, just
Pam (14m 34s): It's very behind the scenes is sneek reading anybody's books. So
Autumn (14m 37s): I know that's probably a very ethical choice. Have you as, as a very good, what are you, what you think? I mean, I love your description of the process, especially coming from a musician because I agree it's, it is hard work. You S I see so many authors who, I mean, they say, you know, so many people will start at writing a book and if they finish their first one, that's already a huge chunk of people who don't make it to the finish at the first one. And I do see a lot of first-time authors make the mistake of just launching without beta reading or getting feedback or a content editor, which is expensive. I mean, that's where be at a reader is make a good cheap version of a content editor, but it's something to get feedback and they just put it out there and then they get disappointed and they never keep working on something new.
Autumn (15m 23s): So that is definitely, I think, where I see beta reader coming in. But what do you think has been some of the strengths that, you know, you've then you're even your husband's books. There are things you've heard from authors that why beta readers can be so important, especially for new authors, trying to learn the craft and how to write something that readers will love.
Paul (15m 44s): So I'll tell you all started kind of with the technical side and Pam, we can try him and kind of with what we're all in thoughts, but kinda from a business perspective, you know, authors should know if they wanna sell books, you need to treat it like a business. And if we were talking about software or any other thing that we would all be talking about, finding your customers or, or product fit. And so one of the things that, especially in the process of finding beta readers, a lot of authors or forced to discover his, so who is my books for, and what is it about my book that certain readers we'll like? So we were talking about fantasy, you know, there's a, there's a wealth of sub-genres, right? And you're not just going to say, Hey, this is a fantasy book for fantasy readers.
Paul (16m 26s): You're going to say, well, this is his, this urban fantasy, or is this high fantasy? Has this grim dark light, and then narrowing it down and figuring out, oh, like, do I have a reader profile or do I have multiple reader profiles? Do I have a book description from myself kind of from marketing and for understanding who I'm writing to and why I'm writing to these people. And so that's one of the things that we see authors, we see them, we encourage authors to do. And the beta reading process forces, forces you to figure out who your readers are and then to go out and look for them and find out, oh, where, where do these people congregate? How can I find them? How can I reach them? And if you don't know that before you launch a book, you're not going to be effective at say, targeting ads, even writing, press copy or blurbs or back cover matter, because you're not thinking about who the person is, that's reading it and why they're going to resonate with it.
Pam (17m 24s): It's true. And I think artistically, it's important to get over the hurdle of sharing something that's so precious to you. You know, as you've mentioned, you might have spent 12 months reading this thing, and it's not a thing, right. It's, it's just the baby. Right. And you know, it's a scary thing to send your baby out into the world. And so you should be at your right. So it makes sense to look for those people that you think will be good for your book. And to really treat it as this is something precious that I love. And I think it can be a gift to the world and to a certain community of people.
Pam (18m 9s): And it's, if it's so hard, we need to make just a little bit of detachment from your work. And I think people are scared to, to share, to share their work because they're afraid of mean people. Yeah. I will say, I think, I think most people are not mean people, you know, you can say to someone, I wrote this thing, I love it. I'd love your feedback. Please be nice. And they will, you know, so I
Paul (18m 39s): Think that this, which is it's own feedback,
Pam (18m 44s): But then most people will not read it and say, this is terrible. What are you doing? And so you have, have faced in your own work and in the people that you are initially reaching out to. And when you're doing that first foray into finding readers, it's okay to use the people in your social circle. And I think Paul and I really love the same kinds of books. So if I were writing a fantasy novel, I would ask him to be one of my first readers, because he has so much familiarity with the genre. And I have other friends who we share the same interests. So just start with people who have, you know, but how do you also share that passion with us is a good place to start. And they might know other people that you don't know who would also be interested.
Pam (19m 27s): So I think to be, to be open-minded as you, as you send your book out into the world, but it's okay to start with those people that you already trust to be sure that when you talk to you, but also you don't want to just ask if the book is good and if they liked it, because if they love you, they'll say, yeah, it was good. I liked it.
Autumn (19m 55s): And you and your readers. Yeah. That is the problem. But having family Reed at your mom's always going to love it. It doesn't matter. Okay. So I do, I, do you remember seeing with beta Ray with the beta books, you know, you could set up actually questions as you are going through like, Hey, does this scene make sense? Is this character ring true? I like being able to ask those questions because you're right. I mean, a good beta reader who maybe has, does this for a couple of different authors because with indie publishing, oh my goodness. There are some very savvy beta readers who could basically do this as a profession. That's how they get maybe three books and they are so darn good. But otherwise you have to, you, right.
Autumn (20m 36s): You have to coax them kinda of like, did this character sound right? Did I screw them up somewhere? Cause you let me know. And then you start getting the full story.
Paul (20m 46s): Yeah. That was something that we were very mindful of when we were making the software is finding there's an, there's not, there's not an overwhelming amount of customization on beta books, but there is a fair amount specifically with asking questions as one of the things we were, we were very mindful of. So you can give full book guidance in your table of contents. You can give individual specific guidance at the beginning or the end of each chapter where you ask, you know, this is the climax of the romance. Can you tell me this, this and this. And then we also kind of offer guides about asking questions. We tend to encourage people not to ask yes or no questions, ask things that are more about opinion or have an open and open answer ability.
Paul (21m 30s): I personally say it's better to ask a question at the end of the chapter. So they're not thinking about it as their going through, but some people like to have their readers focusing on something per chapter. And then we also let authors insert kind of broader questionnaires kind of as a, like an act break or at a book break as they're going through, which some people like, because they're like, Hey, we've just finished the first act. Which of these characters, or do you like the most? Why you, why do you think they're the KIRO you no. And then sometimes you run into authors. We were like, oh no, they all thought so-and-so was the main character. And I'm about to kill them or something of that nature. It's not a problem with their grr Martin.
Autumn (22m 9s): So that's, that's just part of the plot, but Dick and put it in their readers and twist it a little bit. so that's fantastic. I'd like to that you, you know, you talked about, you know, coaxing and I think that was part of the platform. You, if I remember correctly, you could see where people were. So if you suddenly saw that like 15 of the 20 people, you asked, it only made it to chapter 10, you would know, even if they weren't giving you feedback, you're like, okay, everyone stopped at 10 once, you know, my passive feedback.
Autumn (22m 54s): And hopefully someone will have at least tell you what's wrong with chapter 10, but that is, yeah, you did something is wrong. There's a usefulness then that kind of, of statistics instead of sending out those emails, like you said, and never hearing back or just getting the, oh yeah, I read that month ago. It was great. We were kidding. Anything else? Go ahead. Oh, and one
Paul (23m 24s): Of the things we found is we've helped authors when a ton of betas is yeah. That, that very thing that you just said, oh, I read it a month ago. What we've discovered is if you treat it like an important part of your process, you actually get better response and a more engaged readership because they perceive that, oh, this beta is a part of this author's business and I have a responsibility to them. So it's saying, Hey, you know, can you read this book in the next two weeks? Or the deadline for being finished is this day. And then the book is closed, which is a future we have where essentially we just shut the book and you can work with your feedback. We found that that's actually very effective. It's also one of those things, but a lot of authors are really resistant to because they feel like they're placing some strange and position on people.
Paul (24m 5s): But it's one of those ironies where when you give people a higher expectation of their importance and their responsibility, they often respond positively because they are affirmed in how important they are and how valued they are by an author. Yeah.
Autumn (24m 21s): And that probably helped weed out some of the chafe, the chaff two, you know, the people who just want the free book versus the people who are, feel like part of the team and want to help. Yeah. Yeah.
Pam (24m 33s): And I think it's important to treat your beta. It's important not to treat it as if you're asking a favor from the readers. I mean, on one hand you are, but on the other hand, you really need their health, I think, and you should want to develop those relationships. So I'm just saying in a different way of what Paul said, that you don't need to be hesitant and, you know, and as people that try it, you know, you, you can approach with some confidence because this is something that you have worked on, you see value in it and you trust that other people will see value in it as well, and that they will drive value from it.
Pam (25m 12s): And now they may say see different things and your work than you see this, as we all have their relationship with the thing that we create and then we output. But that's one of the beautiful things about, especially casting your net wider with beta readers. It's great to have M 10 20, if you can find it. So you got a nice sample size and you might see, see trends that you weren't even aware of in your own work and the things that you can capitalize or lean into in the next books and the series. If your, if your writing series M which is good, my business, if that's where your, but yeah, I think there's, there's a lot of value to be shared.
Pam (25m 53s): And it's really good to approach it with, with the idea that you are bringing something valuable into their lives. Not only asking for their help, with their little project,
Autumn (26m 4s): I like that. I think we all do better when we realize that we are taking this seriously. I mean, we have it as a hobby and something we're passionate about, but giving it that dedication, that time on our own part and the people who love reading, giving their expertise as readers is very valuable because yeah, there's a lot of things that they can catch that a careful reader that knows that they're really doing it to help the author and not just their going to, you know, our creator as being an example. I mean, their getting an advanced reader copy just to leave a review. That's great. But their not often being very cautious readers, they might be looking, they might notice a typo, but their not going to sit there and go, why did you the character do that?
Autumn (26m 44s): I don't get it. It doesn't make any sense. And who's, or that's what the beta readers are for.
Pam (26m 50s): Yeah, exactly.
Autumn (26m 52s): And I do think it was so interesting threw me off at first, but you know, you, from when I saw you, you have to bring in your own manuscript. Like you have basically almost copy and paste might be the fastest way to get a book up there. But I do see the value. I mean, I still remember I read the Twilight series. It's definitely not one of my favorite, but the, what Stephanie went through when someone took the books that she finally is taken, what five, almost a decade for her to finally release Edward's point of view from the first book, because someone took her file and started sharing it. And I mean, not all of us are going to be Stephenie Meyer and be these famous authors, but that is the problem that is this fear that when you're sending this out to the world, whether you're sending an EPUB file or just like book, book, funnel has a place where you can send out reader copies to then PDFs, how someone can take that N share it.
Autumn (27m 46s): So where were you? Don't need it to be, so this one, you, you make, it all stays right there, which has kind of have I, do you see the point to that?
Paul (27m 55s): Yeah. Yeah. I mean, and that's, I mean, even I go back and forth on manuscript theft because when it happens, it's very publicized and people have a lot of fear about it. But generally when you're an aspiring author at the risk is very low, especially if you're trying to start a business because as you know, like writing a book and selling a book is, is not the, the goal it's, it's creating a platform and having books. You exactly know, but, but there's also, there's, there's increased vulnerability that an author is kind of sharing with the readers, especially depending on where they are in the process, because some authors will beta unedited chapters. If they have a group of people that are really hungry, like for instance, there's an author.
Paul (28m 38s): We use this site early on when we were in beta to would dictate a chapter and immediately share it to a small section, like the elite tier of his mailing list to get feedback before it even went through edits or, or copy of it because they were so hungry and such big fans, but also because they would give him good feedback. And that sounds terrible, like a terrifying thing for their ability to me. And that's one of the reasons we want to make sure that people feel that they have the control of our access.
Autumn (29m 7s): So that's really cool. So is it possible to do that, to set up different tiers like this, as I'm sharing this with just this subset group that our, my special fantastic fans, and when you're ready to get more beta, as you can have open it up to other people as well.
Pam (29m 22s): So yeah. So the way the process works as you upload you manuscript, and when you send out invitations to readers to their email addresses, and if you want them to run 20 rounds of betas with 20 different groups, readers', you could, and so you just, you invite the readers that you want and that first time, and then they're done, you can just remove them from the book and then do whatever you want. If you want to make any edits, you can, and then just invite another group and they can go through the book. And as the author, you can decide whether readers are seeing each other's feedback or not. So you can decide whether they're experiencing a clean read every time.
Pam (30m 7s): And I really think you ought to do that, but there are authors who like to build reader community by letting readers see each other's comments, sort of appreciate the books together in that sense. Well, almost like a
Paul (30m 20s): Bit is like a beta book club.
Autumn (30m 23s): Okay. Now I want to be an, a book club is going to really, and I did C so you can send out emails. I just like that. Cause, so if you already have, like, you've been doing this and you have, you know, 40 emails, you can send out an email list, but you, there are actually beta readers who are on the site. And you can like, as an author, I think for what is all you could basically go and like, look at their profile and say, Hey, would you like to try out this book? Is that right?
Pam (30m 53s): Yeah, that's right. I mean, all leaders joined at the invitation of an author at one point or another. So you don't just have people showing up. You have people invited who likely are trusted by another author. So we ask readers to fill out a reader profile if their interested, if they're looking to be contacted by new authors and we call that the reader directory and they involve, include as much information as they want their areas of expertise, genre, preferences, genre of this preferences, anything that they think uniquely identifies them as a reader home. And the database is searchable both by you.
Pam (31m 36s): You can just start at simply genres. Yeah. Anything you want. There is an advanced search you could search for roller skates and see if you come up with, as a reader and then it's searchable on our free trial. But querying readers is available only on our subscription because we wanna protect our leaders. We don't want them to get spammed. Oh, thanks. So yeah, you send out a query and the reader can decide whether or not to read. And it's just a real click, but quick button in their e-mail just accept or reject. It's also on the, on their dashboard, on the home screen. And we find that a number of our others have, I dunno at Paul, I think most authors find a few readers on the reader directory, but a lot of, a lot of people really do their own work to find their own.
Pam (32m 21s): Readers' we also have so many, sorry, go ahead, Paul.
Paul (32m 25s): Well, I mean, the director is a bit of a, kind of, it was a sneaky way that we thought that we could help authors get used to the idea of asking people to read their book. So I like that. So there's no expectation from us that you'll be able to find a group of beta readers through the directory. You might find one or two people. We encourage, we encourage the readers when they get queried. If they don't like the query to say, Hey, the reason I didn't like this query is because I list this in my preferences. And you said this, or, you know, I don't want to read my book, your book. It sounds amazing, but I'm busy, but it's really kind of a, a backdoor way to get authors used to the idea of maybe having a much softer approach where people they know we were already interested in.
Paul (33m 16s): So they can say, oh, here's my 160 word pitch to you. I know you liked this and this, let me practice how to approach someone. So that's kind of why it's there. Also a lot of people who came to this site for one author started emailing us and saying, Hey, I really enjoyed doing this. Can I feed them more bucks? And so that was when we created. And then we tried to find ways to make it a useful part of the author process. We so strongly encouraged people to go out and find their own group of readers out in the world, because that's going to be your business.
Autumn (33m 48s): Yeah. I mean, especially if you said you're sending out an email to invite them, so you have their emails. So you're creating you're newsletter list and there's a lot of people you're gonna like say, Hey, it's all out and stores. And I think that you are in it. And if we want to buy it, that'd be great. But you don't have to just tell your friends and family or anyone you think, yeah, that is how you want that author platform. Because without that, if Amazon decides that you aren't good enough and kicks you out, which is rare, but occasionally things do happen with people's authors profiles that get accused of something are break some rule and then toss out of Amazon. And that's a big deal. That's it? No matter how I'm of an wide author, I'm across everywhere, because I just think the world should have competition and should be available and open.
Autumn (34m 33s): But yeah, you know, Amazon's still is mostly the most of the eggs in the basket.
Paul (34m 40s): Well, I mean, I'm sure you've done 135 episodes. I'm sure the importance of mailing lists is something you have talked about extensively. And then that's, I mean, that's one of the reasons we tell people to find their readers, start, start building that list. Now start building that list. When you're halfway through your first draft, start thinking about who you're going to want to find. If you're going to start marketing an online community in your book, isn't Dunn, you should join the community and become a member so that when you are ready, people will know, oh, this isn't some stranger. And this is a Panda friend, 64 is asking me to read their new books. And now, you know, I've had 15 interactions with Panda friend, like let's read their book.
Autumn (35m 22s): That's true. That's where I was like pay into front. And you, you just came up with that one or is it secretly? You're all going somewhere.
Paul (35m 29s): I'm never gonna tell, Hey, everyone on a Panda buddies.com
Autumn (35m 37s): Sounds great. But then I did see how it is. It is true. So it's nice to know though, if you were an author and you are truly new, you, you, you should at least learn how to work on your marketing and like, say, how do you ask people to do this? But then you might actually get a couple of people. So if you're brand brand spanking new and you have no one to outreach for you, you might get one or two, you might get your first start. And that's always important. But I do. I love the fact that free trials, I've tried out a whole bunch of different editing software recently and stuff like that. And there was one or two that didn't have free trials. And I'm like, you've got to be kidding me even a 14 day, but you have a free level of free tier. And I'm like, there's like, you've got
Pam (36m 25s): My gosh. So it really is meant to give writers an idea of what it's like to use to use this software. And, you know, a lot of, a lot of writers are contentious. They have the one book and they have a few friends. They want to read it. But then if you do have more aspirations and a larger readership than you already know whether the software works for you. So that really was, was the goal there.
Autumn (36m 51s): We give it a whirl with book one and a couple of readers just to see how you like it. That's an example. And if you like it, you're going to come back for this, if you're really into writing.
Pam (37m 0s): Yeah. And we, we find that most, most writers will use the use data books for about a month to run their beta. And you can turn off your subscription after that. And all that means is that the readers no longer have access, but of course is retained access to your work indefinitely, whether your paid are not at that point. And yeah, I think a lot of people come to our site looking for readers and they see beta books and say, oh, these people will find me beta readers. And that is one of the reasons of among many that Paul's already mentioned that we instituted the reader directory, but we also have, I've got a book club called Pam S Beta Jam, and anybody can submit a novel of anyone who's looking to find readers can submit and I'll review.
Pam (37m 48s): And I choose pretty much any fiction genre. And I'm also looking for memoirs cause we got a lot of interest in that among our leadership. Oh, but it's, I make it available to our about, gosh, I think there are about a thousand readers that have come through PBJ at one time. And so most writers find they have two or three really dedicated readers who make it all the way through to really enjoy their books at the end of the process. So we try to make that available. That's available, whether you are on the free trial or subscribed or whatever. So that's, if you're looking for a way to find readers for free, that's a good way too.
Pam (38m 28s): So yeah. All it just requires that you upload your book and do a query at the group's homepage. And we're just getting started this summer after, after a hiatus, because a lot of people just were not, we're not writing, but I'd love to be able to send out a bunch. So anyone listening who is interested, it has a book that you need to get some eyes on it and don't know how to do it. So you submit
Autumn (38m 52s): I'm and check this out. That is an opportunity because I think that is definitely, it's not maybe the number one question I get asked by new writers, but it's probably in the top five. So that's yeah. So cool.
Paul (39m 4s): But the question being, how do we find readers or
Autumn (39m 8s): Just, you have the question being, what was, how do I find beta readers specifically? Like where do I go find them? It seems to stump a lot of people. I honestly think a lot of new authors especially get stumped by the difference between author groups, which authors are readers, but often we're so busy writing. We don't read as much as we want to. Or I know with me, I'm like currently on just like, if it hasn't won a Hugo or a Nebula award, I'm not reading it because I just want to, I want to see the top tier fiction. That just makes me go, holy crap. This is amazing. And that's just kind of like my goal for the year. So I know I've read a lot of other peoples books, so unless I'm doing edits and yeah. And then the authors to new authors, do you know?
Autumn (39m 50s): So their go to the, this author group, their asking them, Hey, you want to be a beta reader and their not going into like the reader groups and asking them if they want to be a Bader, you, it takes a little while to figure that out. I think.
Pam (40m 1s): Yeah. If, oh, sorry. Well, I'll just, if, if another writer is reading your book, but they're going to critique your craft and that's not what you need from a, a beta reader. That's very true.
Paul (40m 13s): The version of the book that they would.
Autumn (40m 16s): Yes. Oh yes. So my favorite reviews have been, well, that's not what I would have done it, so that's great. Then you write it. You are away.
Paul (40m 28s): Yeah. And one of the things that's, I mean, it's, it's frustrating for all authors, especially new authors. And it's also frustrating for us trying to help people. Is that a T two things I wrote into a lot of times is very naturally, you're used to asking authors for advice on how to be an author, because you've gotten great advice on how to write your book. But a lot of times what happens is they either instinctively their successful found readers kind of through luck or doing something that they were doing already kind of naturally, or they use a process maybe eight years ago. One thing I hear a lot of writers conferences is authors going, oh, well, you know, I started writing a blog and all you have to do is write everyday and then you'll get readers. And I'm like, well, I mean, when was the last time you actually read a blog?
Paul (41m 12s): I mean, it's not the same as it was and say, oh two, when people had a list of blogs, they would visit every day. Now you might be relying on your Instagram feed or a sub stack or Pinterest. So you have to find new things and, and it's always changing the best way to reach readers. And then the second thing is your early readers, that's almost like a fingerprint finding them and forming that relationship is, is going to be an incredibly unique to you, your book and who they are. And so I think you have to do some fairly systematic and deep thinking about who you are, who the book is and who you want to be reading it.
Autumn (41m 50s): Well, that's, that's a very good advice and so true. And I do think, I remember when you are right. I started on Twitter back before the second resurgence of Twitter being popular. And I loved it. And I remember someone saying is like, your first hundred followers are going to be the ones who remember and interact with the most. And I think that's true, even with beta readers, it's going to be those first ones that you, even, if they fade off, for some reason, they're going to be the ones you remember, and you are so appreciated. I have. So building that first a hundred list and just fantastic to do.
Paul (42m 24s): And you, you learn as they enjoy your book, you learn what you're doing because I mean, there's, there's so much focus on writing and craft, which I think is very important. And I feel like at, in some ways it's a dirty trick because write this book with a group of authors, you work really hard on a, you edit and then you decide, okay, I'm going to publish. And then it's a completely new skill set. It's a completely new set of expectations. And, and that's one of the reasons that we're like, okay, well you want to build a tool to make this less of a logistical headache. And that was something that as we were developing better books for their, we really found to be encouraging to all of us, which is, this is a hard process asking people to read your book.
Paul (43m 5s): When you don't have a name, you have never written a thing, involves a tremendous amount of rejection and it's awkward and uncomfortable, no matter how confident you are, no matter how strong your ego is. So just taking away the headache of you finally got someone to say yes, and then you send them a file and they say they can't open it. You feel embarrassed and you doubt yourself. And you're like, well, if I reform at this and send it, well, they even open it. Have I already blown that chance? And it going, going through that over and over just is demoralizing. So we really worked to make a tool that could remove as many opportunities for you to feel worse about yourself as we could.
Autumn (43m 47s): Well, it could almost be like your tagline, beta books will teach you marketing and this soft software. So that's so lovely. So we have to wrap up, I mean, is there any final advice or like your favorite thing or a favorite moment that has come out of working with authors? Because I know that my husband is a photographer and I was just shocked at how cruel other photographers could be on technique and composition. And, oh my goodness. So it's not like that with authors. I think there's some of the sweetest people on the planet. So any last notes that you would like to end on collecting my thoughts?
Autumn (44m 28s): That's fair enough. I'll
Paul (44m 30s): Go first. I mean, you're right. And the author community is amazingly open and they share and support each other. And an incredible way. I think one of the reasons is because it's so hard and because the information is out there and a lot of people just don't do it when they get to the hard parts and the hard part. And the hard part is first finishing your book. I mean, the stats, what's something like one in 10 people finished their book or a 10 out of 100 and something like that. But then the marketing part is, is just as challenging. People will keep writing books and won't put in the hard work of saying, okay, I'm gonna have to go out and find people that I think will like this book. And I'm gonna have to ask you a hundred to get 10, and I'm gonna have to do that over and over.
Paul (45m 11s): And authors will tell you that because it's not a secret and they're not worried about an author's just, aren't worried about people competing with them because they can't write books fast enough for all of the readers. And then, because it doesn't get talked about as much as an author. Well, I always encourage people to do something like go on YouTube and watch the Y Combinator startup school videos. You were talking about tech companies, but really the rules apply when you're talking about a customer fit. It's the same as a reader fit. And you are talking about finding your early customers is the same as finding you early readers. When you talk about honing your vision and your mission statement, like create a mission statement or a vision for your book and for your author career, and use that to guide how you look for readers.
Paul (45m 53s): The, the practice is very similar between say tech, startups and your creative startup. So if you're not finding things that are helping you in the author world, look for their field because there's a lot of entrepreneurs and that's what you are. If you're an author, and if you're serious, you're building a business as an entrepreneur. And you want to look for people. If someone so la…