Last time we talked about the need for a variety of support systems in order to surround oneself with a strong writing community. This included large organizations like Inscribe and others, perhaps a genre specific group or collective that has a narrower focus, a small local or online writing group where you really get to know the members, and finally at least one other person to whom you are accountable. Now we’re going to go on to building some ‘teams’. I find this especially important for published authors, those on the brink of publication, or those whose goal is to get published.
Often forgotten, this is an important first step, especially for new writers. Basically, an Alpha reader is the first person you allow to read your work. This could be your accountability partner, a friend, or even a family member. More experienced writers may not bother with this step, but for the writer feeling especially vulnerable, a kind, trusted Alpha reader can help in getting past the first stages of insecurity. I remember when I did this for the first time. My Alpha reader was my then fourteen-year-old daughter. I had never trusted anyone to read my words before, and although she wasn’t ecstatic over my book, she did give me honest feedback and it gave me the courage to move on to the next steps in the process. For some people a developmental editor will be their Alpha reader.
Beta readers are people that agree to read your work pre-submission, looking for plot holes and inconsistencies. I don’t bother with an Alpha reader anymore, but just move right to this stage. I find my Beta readers function similarly to a developmental editor in that they are looking for big picture stuff. You do want to give them the best copy you can, but expect – even covet – criticism. This group need to be well read and honest, because you’re actually looking for feedback, not just kind comments and praise. I love, love, love my Beta readers for exactly these reasons. Sometimes they are brutally honest, but I want to know the truth about what works and what doesn’t before I submit to a publisher or publish it myself.
I fully admit that I gleaned this idea from Shelley Hitz, guest speaker at 2017’s Fall Conference. I had not thought much about a Prayer team before listening to her, but as a Christian writer, this may be the most important team of all. These folks may also be part of one of your other teams, but not always. Their job is to specifically pray for you as a writer. You should send periodic updates with prayer requests and answers to prayer. (You can get the recordings from the above mentioned event at: https://inscribe.org/product-category/downloadable-content/ )
Sometimes called Street Teams, these are the folks who commit to helping you launch your work into the world. They can do this by sharing on social media, hosting an interview, attending your events, and very importantly, reading your book and putting up reviews. It’s nice when Beta readers are also on the launch and prayer teams because they dovetail together so nicely, but not everyone wants to do all three.
There is a fine line between a launch team and a reading group. Sometimes they function as one and the same thing, but reading groups are usually for authors who have a substantial body of work. Members of a reading group want to read and talk about your books, possibly helping with the launch of new work, or agreeing to be on the Beta team, but that isn’t the main focus. Of course, hopefully they will post reviews, but really, positive word of mouth is one of the best ways to market. I’m in a couple of these groups for other authors that I admire and we currently meet on Facebook, but here are others ways to do it, I’m sure.
Getting People on Your Teams
The place to start is to ask. Hopefully you have a newsletter where you can invite people to join your teams. I have options on my initial sign up form, but then I also have an auto-sequence of emails that goes out to new subscribers asking them if they would like to be part of any one of my teams. (I currently do not have a reading group, just the first three.) It doesn’t hurt to ask your friends and relatives either, in person or on Social media. You will want to make sure you make it worth their while. Beta readers obviously get to read the book beforehand, and I also give a copy of the finished book to launch team members, so that is one perk, but I sometimes try to think of other random perks for all team members. I communicate to all my teams through email using my bulk email provider (I use Mailchimp but there are others) but I know many authors who also create Facebook groups for their teams.
Developing this team mentality, combined with building a writing community talked about in the previous post, is a valuable part of any authors’ support system.
Tracy Krauss, current ICWF President, has more than 20 books and plays in print and has successfully launched several titles onto Amazon’s best seller lists for sustainable periods of time. She has taught seminars using this model and hopes that what little insight she has gained can be used by others. Website:tracykrauss.com