Guest Posts, Writing & Publishing Articles, Writing Craft & Tips

Guest Post: The Best Information for New Authors by Allison Conley and Annette Abernathy

Welcome back to this week’s special guest series by professional beta readers Annette Abernathy and Allison Conley of They’re offering writing tricks and providing advice on how to sell your finished book. In the last post, the beta readers talk about their top tips for new authors.

Content Note: One of the tips shared is about writing intimate scenes between adults, so best not to read at work or around the children!

beta witches guest post

Allison Conley and Annette Abernathy share some of the most blatant, consistent problems their clients tend to have.

Annette: The story begins with the first sentence. That means the first sentence has to grab the reader. People have short attention spans these days, so give them that powerful, compelling reason to invest in your story.

Allison: The most fundamental part to writing a book is the characters! No matter who they are or what they do the reader has to empathize with them. A bad plot filled with holes can be forgiven with great characters. Characters are the glue that holds the book together.

Annette: Each action of the character’s story has to build towards character growth. Don’t have a character, especially the MC, be a vegan all through the book and then she suddenly eats meat just to try it on page 100. There has to be a compelling reason why a character does anything.

Allison: This is so important! Make sure that the character has the same personality all through the story. It doesn’t make sense to have a quiet person be an introvert halfway through the book. That makes the character come across as bipolar and shows that the writer has a terrible command of the story. How is the reader going to root for the character if they are all over the place?

Allison: Also, remember that this is a book, a medium that highlights the most exciting parts of your characters. It’s not a documentary of someone’s life. Even nonfiction books don’t tell everything that’s not essential to the characters development or plot. Use the benefits of the medium to your advantage when writing your book.

Annette: Good writing can take character inconsistencies and make them a major plot point, though. Your MC may have to eat meat on page 100 or starve. That scene could add pivotal character insight that furthers the plot and the readers renewed interest in the book.

Annette: Speaking of plot points one of the most exciting plot developments in a book is a sex scene. I’ve learned from my readers that just having sex doesn’t mean a person can write a sex scene well. I can’t go into this subject too deep here, but the basics to a sex scene are:

1. Give the couple chemistry from the start.

2. Know audience expectations. I you’re writing a traditional romance don’t have the man stalk or rape the woman and have her thinks it’s passion. That’s not sexy. It’s very sick. Also write a man that a real woman would be attracted to.

3. Write the scene like real sex. I once read an intimate scene that lasted ten pages because the characters had to discuss everything before it happened, although nothing actually happened. Real sex is breathy and in the moment and no one is going to stop for a play by play! Women release oxytocin in their brains that make them want to be close to the man more during an orgasm. Men release vasopressin that makes them feel more responsible for the woman during orgasm. Know what the body does during sex and use that to make the act more real and passionate. It takes skill to make sex boring. The word sex alone makes parts of the brain react, but there seems to be a lot of writers with this skill.

Allison: When you write really intense scenes make sure there is that perfect balance of detail (invoke the senses with mood and visualization) and succinct prose to move the action along. Make it as if the action is happening in real life for the reader.

Annette: Yes! Please take that last point to heart. If you can make a reader see the story and characters while they are reading they will continue to read your book. After they finish that book they’ll yearn for more. Good TV does this, and we are living in a time where mediums are blending. The most popular TV shows have movie qualities (high caliber writing, excellent acting, stunning visuals, and real soundtracks). Movies are now series. Books are being made into movies and series more and more each year. Write your story so it can be a movie series, a TV show, and a book series all in one.

Allison: Writing a book that can stand alone is the best way to go about what Annette said. If you have a detailed, compelling novel it’ll be easier to turn it into other mediums. Think about this from the beginning of your writing process. People always say that the book is better.

Annette: Great point. A book is like a website while movies and TV series are social media. People always want the book (and the website) to be the home base of the story. So make sure that your book is a welcoming home for the reader. That means really putting the work into making it great.

We know that this is a lot of information and probably feels like an info dump, but you can put them into practice on your work in progress bit by bit and once you intuitively get this you’ll be farther ahead than the majority of writers.

Reach out to Alison and Annette at their spellbinding home or on Facebook at

About Allison

Allison Conley has a B.A. in Mass Communication and Journalism from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a minor in Sociology. She finished the Seeding Entrepreneurs Across the Midsouth (S.E.A.M) program in 2016 for her work as an entrepreneur and artist in the greater Memphis Tennessee Area.

About Annette

Annette Abernathy has a B.A. in psychology with a minor in Women’s Studies, and a professional certificate in photography with a background in visual storytelling.

Author Business & Publishing, Writing & Publishing Articles

Beta Readers: Who are They, What Do They Do, and How Do You Find Them?

kindle-381242_640In the comments section of my post about the different types of editing authors need, many authors chimed in about the value of beta readers as a first line of editorial defense. A few authors even stated that they use beta readers in place of developmental/content editors.

When I first began my long (oh, so long) road to learning about independent publishing, I had never heard of beta readers before. While I hope my audience is not as clueless as I was, I recognize that it may be helpful to new authors, like myself, to explain exactly what the role of beta readers is in the editing process and how one finds beta readers.

What is a beta reader?

A beta reader is someone who reads the novel after the author writes it, but before it is officially published, and offers feedback and criticism.

What feedback does a beta reader offer?

The exact nature of a beta reader’s criticism is for the author and beta reader to determine. Most commonly, a beta reader will critique developmental and/or content issues, such as noticeable plot holes, character development, setting, story arc, etc. However, some authors also ask their beta readers to help with grammar and proofreading.

Who can be a beta reader?

A beta reader can be anyone — a friend or family member, someone who falls within the author’s “target audience,” a fellow author, an unbiased stranger, an avid reader, etc. Personally, I advise finding a mixed group of readers who fall into your target audience, fellow authors, and readers outside of your target audience for a wide range of perspectives.

How many beta readers can I have?

As many as you like. However, the most common “rule of thumb” is to have 3 or 5 beta readers. Keeping the number low prevents too many conflicting opinions. Having an odd number prevents opinion “ties” on debated areas of criticism.

Should I pay for a beta reader?

Some readers do offer paid beta reading services. However, I would say no. You should be able to find people within your circles who will be willing to beta read for you for free or for a favor in return. The quality of their criticism will likely be unaffected by the lack of monetary payment.

When should I ask for beta readers?

Again, this is up to you. One common time to use beta readers is before a professional editor. This allows you to fix obvious issues with the manuscript (thus lowering the work for the editor, and perhaps your cost as the customer), and perhaps even get enough feedback to forgo paying for a content edit. Another option is to use beta readers after the novel is finished with editing, but before it is published. In this scenario, beta readers can help catch any last-minute problems and/or typos and even provide reviews for your novel before it is published.

How do I find beta readers?

Much like finding an editor or someone to date, finding beta readers can be accomplished in dozens of ways. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Ask well-read friends or family members
  • Ask your blog readers/followers
  • Ask fellow authors from online communities or writers’ groups
  • Join a critique partner website
  • Put out a call on social media
  • Search social media for people who read books like yours, then ask them
  • Ask your email newsletter subscribers (that’s what I did!)
  • Put out the first chapter on a free reading site, like Wattpad, then ask interested readers

What should I say to my beta readers?

The more detailed you can be in your request, the easier the critique will be for your beta readers. In your initial request, simply explain who you are (if they do not know you), share a brief description of your book, and give a quick explanation of what feedback you want to receive. it is also a good idea to warn them about any violent content, sexual content, offensive language, or anything else that may offend them. Of course, it is good manners to thank them for their time/consideration.

Once your beta readers accept your request, send them detailed information about the areas you would like critiqued. This may take the form of a brief questionnaire, where they can write their responses to your specific inquiries about your novel. I also advise providing them with a soft deadline and the assurance that you are happy to return the favor in the future.

A note on alpha readers:

Not all authors use alpha readers or distinguish them from beta readers. Personally, I do. An alpha reader is someone who reads your first draft before any editing takes place. For many authors, this may be a spouse who is anxious to read the “complete” story, or a trusted friend who will help with developmental issues. In the end, an alpha reader is basically the same as a beta reader, only s/he reads the book even earlier in the creation process and usually in an informal context.

That’s the skinny on beta readers. They are generous, book-loving, gluttons-for-punishment who are willing to read your unpolished rock and help you shine it into a gem. How many you gather, how you find them, and what you ask them for is up to you — but make sure you find a few to help you whip your manuscript into shape and put that author ego (whether sky-high or Marianas trench-low) in its proper place.

What other questions do you have about beta readers? Where have you found your beta readers and how do you work with them? Share your thoughts below!