Updated: Feb 25, 2019
| by Winter Lawrence |
Have you ever been to a book festival? If you haven’t, trust me when I say that they’re a lot of fun. In fact, I wish that I had gone to more in my younger years, when I was just a voracious reader; there’s something special about meeting a beloved author and there’s something downright magical about getting a book autographed! For what it’s worth, I think, in my older years, I’ve made up for my earlier absences and I try (as much as my schedule permits), to get to as many author events, book festivals, and writing workshops as I can. They are worth their weight in gold because as an author, you get to meet other authors. It’s pretty priceless, especially because writing isn’t the easiest profession in the world (at least according to my estimations!), so it’s wonderful to meet like-minded people who understand everything you’re going through.
It’s even cooler when you meet an author whose job entails all of the nitty-gritty of the book publishing industry and who understands the demands of beta readers. As an author, I know how vital beta readers are, so when I learned that Dedrie Marie was not only a fabulous presenter at a book festival I recently attended, but also the author of the “How to Become a Successful Beta Reader” series, I couldn’t wait to chat with her! It probably doesn’t need saying, but she has a wealth of knowledge about all things literary and she has really cornered the market with her new book series. And while the title implies that it’s more geared toward people interested in pursuing a career as a beta reader, there’s so much more! This book series is a treasure trove of information for authors too—and not only because it helps guide us to our own beta readers, but also because there are some really great tips and tidbits about the publishing industry, editing advice, and loads of information about fiction fundamentals and the writing process.
So without further ado, here’s what Dedrie had to say to a few candid questions…
(Q) Dedrie, I know that in your books you explain how you became interested in beta reading as a career, but can you share with us a little sneak peek of what inspired you to write the “How to Become a Successful Beta Reader” series today as well?
(A) Oh! I'd love to! And thank you so much for having me. This is such an honor. You know, that festival that I spoke at—where you and I met—was my first. And I was overwhelmed with the positive response from the audience and how many people are interested in this beta reading jazz, especially when they've never heard of it before.
As a reader, when I finish a book I love, I often find myself curious about its creator. Who is this fantastic writer? How'd they get to be so interesting and creative? What are their habits, and what's their life like? Then I start digging—go all Snoopy Snooperston on them. Not in a stalkery way, though. I promise!
I suppose it's the envy in me coming out. But so many authors have changed my life through their books, and when someone brings you joy and refuge and inspiration and a wealth of other emotions—well, you tend to want to give back. Beta reading is just one of the many ways that you can.
But I hadn't always known about beta reading. It wasn't until I joined an online group of other writers that the term became known to me. And it came up over and over: "You MUST have beta readers!" "Beta readers are invaluable!"
So I thought, okay, let me start beta reading then.
I'm a tad bit Type A. So I'll be honest here. The first thing I did was go to Amazon and try to find a book on how to beta read. I mean, my degree is in English and Creative Writing with a focus in fiction, but I still felt that I needed something super specific.
It did not exist.
I Googled and found some blog posts and a few funny YouTube videos, but they weren't really all that helpful—usually just a generic form to fill out or some tips to follow.
And then that great quote hit me. You know, the one by Toni Morrison: “If there's a book that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it.”
I figured I can't be the only person who'd like a bit more guidance here. And it's kind of absurd that something so high in demand has zilch in the way of standards, so…the series was born.
Sorry—long-winded, I know.
(Q) Your books are written as though you’re having a casual conversation with the reader. I loved it, and it works so well—it made reading through it a joy and there were quite a few turn of phrases that made me laugh out loud. Does writing in this style come naturally to you or did you consider writing these books with a more technical feel to them?
(A) I appreciate you saying that. Because honestly, the last thing I wanted was to write something akin to a textbook. I feel passionate about this skill, and for me to bore someone else to bits who's trying to learn it—well, wouldn’t that just be one big fail on my part. The books were fun to write; the work is fun to do; my goal was to convey all that fun-ness to the reader.
(Q) You mention Stephen King’s On Writing and a ton of other great reads and references! How did you go about choosing them all and which are your favorites?
(A) Favorites? Geez. Like asking me to pick a favorite wine! That's really a tough question to answer because each book was selected for a unique purpose. One thing I've learned is that writing is like no other job on Earth. It takes so much more than just a creative idea or the knowledge of how to structure a story. It's—well, hard as hell. Because to access that creativity, you need a certain mindset. And finding that mindset and keeping it until The End—and then even far past The End to get that book sold—is probably the hardest part of the gig. Once you've made it to writing The End, a whole other round of nerve-wracking commences: having your book critiqued and edited, publishing the book, marketing and figuring out how to sell the dang things! So much is involved and required of the author these days.
Most people who struggle to write to completion (or take a stab at a new career…like beta reading) are not lazy or undisciplined. They are struggling with doubt of some kind that masks itself as procrastination or writer's block or time-management issues or whatever. So I tried to incorporate books that would help the beta reader, one, understand the mechanical process of writing, two, understand the emotional process of writing, and three, understand how to interact with the writer with both these things in mind. The goal was to tap into that empathy center we all have and sometimes neglect, especially when critiquing a project (beta reading) or even when self-reflecting (struggling to build a beta reading business). So books were selected to inform the beta reader of ALL the necessary skills needed to write a novel, critique a novel, sell a novel, sell your services to someone who writes novels, and how to have the confidence to pull all that off.
I'll pick two books out of the seven that I recommended. What I found is that “The Lie That Tells a Truth” by John Dufresne is really about writing ﬁction—about writers, writing, literature, and just the essentials of what makes a good book, not so much an A-Z or formulaic guide. Dufresne’s candor and wit and enthusiasm are contagious, and I found it a truly enjoyable read. So if you love to read about how stories get crafted as much as reading the stories themselves, this is a great book.
The other book I'll talk about is a Jen Sincero book. The one I recommended is the first in her Badass series. It's a mindset book with an upbeat and funny personality. I'm all about the woo-woo; I really am. I'm a meditator and mantra chanter—the whole shebang. But I need humor in my life as much as possible. I want to be inspired and happy and fired up to tackle my goals. And I can't do that if I'm so serious about it all.
Her books shove you into action and make you snort laugh here and there along the way. I picked this book to help the beta reader who needs that nudge to put themselves out there. A lot of readers are introverts. This gig does cater to them somewhat—you get to work in your PJs hidden behind a computer if you want. But you still have to go out there (virtually) and find clients. That can be tough and scary. “You Are a Badass” by Jen Sincero can help you get past that scary factor.
(Q) I had the absolute pleasure of attending one of your presentations. Do you offer those often and do you have any upcoming events you’d like to share? And how can readers find all (or maybe just a couple) of your wonderful tutorials?
(A) Well, like I said, that was my first speaking event. I was PETRIFIED to do it. But it turned out quite nicely. My personal goal for 2019 is to step out of my comfort zone and do one event quarterly. I've been contacted by someone else who has asked me to speak for their group. We are still discussing the details, but I'll certainly share them via social media once I have something nailed down. If anyone is interested in following me, you can find my social media handles at www.DedrieMarie.com.
Regarding tutorials, I have a premium online course that is launching Jan 1, 2019. It's set up for those who want someone to walk them step by step through the entire process—learning the fundamentals of fiction, mastering the beta reading skill, establishing a business—all from scratch. There are no prerequisites, no degree needed, just a love of fiction and a desire to help authors.
It's set up a bit differently than any course I've ever attended. And I've taken a ton of online courses in editing and publishing. You always feel informed, but you rarely have anything tangible to show for completing the course (sometimes a certificate…which earns you what? in the real world). This course will have students taking action from Day 1, and by the end, if you've completed all the modules, you'll have the knowledge, experience, and an actual business launched with an author clientele portfolio in the works. After that, all you'll need to do is keep going. If you are interested in this course, Becoming Lit-Lucrative with Beta Reading is open for enrollment.
If you are totally new to the concept of beta reading, I'd say check out my free video training series. It's more of an overview but can give you some info to get you up to speed, in the know, and started ASAP with nothing more than a time investment!
(Q) To help authors and beta readers alike, you offer or recommend a ton of amazing templates, worksheets, and apps—and not only ones that pertain to the actual “job” of beta reading; there is also a nondisclosure agreement and a bunch of “tracking” worksheets that are super helpful for writers. Did you draw upon your own experiences as an author to create these, or did you consult other authors and reference materials?
(A) I’d say a combination of both. When I first set about becoming a beta reader, I did find a few generic questionnaires floating around the interwebs. That's what I started with. And there was nothing for the beta reader other than that—just a worksheet. Then once I got going and I realized I wasn't really tapping into my hard-earned creative writing degree (don't you just love when we don't apply our own knowledge sometimes!), I began adding to and modifying the questionnaire. I also had experience working as a freelance copyeditor and proofreader, both for fiction as well as in the medical-legal field, and so I pulled from a few of those resources to kind of develop more of a professional approach to communicating with authors about beta reading and really getting down to what would make the process more beneficial to both them and me. And then, of course, I created just some helpful templates for beta readers to give authors. This does two things: helps the authors as well as helps the beta reader over deliver.
(Q) Last, but definitely not least, I know that you’re amazingly talented at writing non-fiction, but now that the “How to Become a Successful Beta Reader” series is complete, is there a possibility of seeing some fiction in the near future? If so, please tell us all about it (or as much as you can without spoilers!).
(A) Oooo, yes! Before the beta reading thing morphed into a three-book series, a video training series, speaking engagements, and a premium course—good golly I'm tired just thinking about all that—I was in the throes of a fiction series. I had thought at that time, “Let me just whip out a resource on beta reading right fast; then I'll get back to this story.” Ha! I had no idea what was in store for me. It's been one heck of a ride—and one that I'm thrilled is going to keep going (judging by the amazing feedback and interest I'm getting)! However, I am so excited to return to my fiction. It's been tough ignoring it, and I'm one of those that truly believes if you don't answer a call timely enough, it'll pass on by. I've been sure to keep day-dreaming about my characters so they won't abandon me!
I'll be writing under a pen name, Bebo Franklin, just to keep things focused as far as marketing and such. It's a bit dark with a working title of “Elemdale.” Here's a bit from the current website:
The Barron River is the great divide that runs through Element Dale. It separates the “regular folk” in the south from the “trash” in the north. But there are truly no regular folk in Element Dale—or “Elemdale” as the lazy tongues of its inhabitants call it. How could there be? A town spawned from the likes of mental patients and lithium-laced water?
It’s a dreadful place really. I wouldn’t recommend trying to find it. As with most dreadful places, it comes complete with secrets, lies, deceptions, and best of all…violence. “Elemdale” is a Southern Gothic Mystery that documents the life, death, and afterlife of the inhabitants of Elemdale.
The most recent events have been documented by Bebo Franklin. She’s noticed one Francis “Frankie” Bowman lurking about Caddo Flats. Seems he’s not privy to his own death and is frightening those still living. Frankie was killed when he was nineteen and took to wandering the town, and later the riverside, when he couldn’t get any of his old friends to lend an ear. Seems the living aren’t too keen on having the dead for company. Thing is, Frankie thinks his death was an accidental overdose. But it was not.
You're welcome to keep reading at https://bebofranklin.wordpress.com/tall-tales/.
I've got my author planner sitting on my desk. It's been staring me down, day in and day out. I can't wait for a few days to start planning out my 2019. It's going to be all about marketing the beta reading books and course—and writing and publishing “Elemdale!”
Dedrie, I’m so glad that you took the time to share all of this wonderful information with us! I’ve been so fortunate to have so many wonderful authors join this spotlight segment and I’m delighted to have wrapped up 2018 with you. I absolutely adore your beta reader series and I plan to use it in future writers’ workshops and I hope we’ve inspired a bunch of folks to do the same. Also—and probably most importantly—readers, if you’re interested in pursuing a career as a beta reader, get these books soon, and be sure to reach out to Dedrie with any questions, comments, or concerns you may have—she’d love to hear from you and she never minds when fans put on their Snoopy Snooperstonhats to learn more about her book series.
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Dedrie Marie is a Bibliobroad™, entrepreneur, world traveler, editor, and author. The internet knows her best for her dedication to helping book junkies turn their passion for fiction into fascinating “anywhere ya want” careers.
Dedrie’s nonfiction is her way of giving back; writing fiction under a pen name is her way of having fun.
To learn more about Dedrie’s upcoming events and her online courses and tutorials, be sure to visit her at www.dedriemarie.com! Also—and most importantly—to snag a free digital copy of the first book of the “How to Become a Successful Beta Reader” series, visit https://www.dedriemarie.com/beta-reader-book-1. I know you’ll love it!
And if you’re looking for a cool new Southern Gothic tale, be sure to visit Dedrie’s fiction page at https://bebofranklin.wordpress.com/tall-tales/.