Fiction Blog, Musings & Bookish Things, The Desertera Series

How Books Connect the World


How lucky are we as bookworms today?

At any given moment, we can jump on Amazon (or another website), buy a book, and read it seconds later. Or, if you’re a paperback purist, all you have to do is wait a couple days for shipping or take a quick trip to your local bookstore or library.

That’s all it takes. In a few seconds or a few days, you can dive into a novel’s world. You can learn about a historical event or philosophical theory. You can have a connection with an author and readers whom you may never meet, from nearly every corner of the world.

As the great Stephen King wrote: “Books are a uniquely portable form of magic.”

While perusing books on Goodreads and browsing through #bookstagram accounts, I’ve found myself in awe of these communities. Readers from all around the globe have joined together to celebrate the books they love. It’s so cool to hear other people’s thoughts on books I love, or to discover a beautiful photo of a book in an exotic location.

So, you can imagine my surprise (and delight!) when my friend sent me this photo of The Cogsmith’s Daughter. Unbeknown to me, she had taken a copy on vacation to the Cayman Islands. While reading on the beach, she found this grungy old machine and snapped a photo. Awesome, right?

It got my author brain thinking: I wonder how far the Desertera series has traveled?

A quick email to my Reader List, and I now have a decent idea. The map below shows the countries where I know readers have enjoyed The Cogsmith’s Daughter and/or The Courtesan’s Avenger. (If you don’t see your home represented, let me know in the comments – I’d love to add it!)


For a little-known (read: almost invisible) independent author with only two novels to my name, this map makes me really proud. My greatest joy (outside of writing, of course!) is connecting with other book lovers. To know that I’ve done exactly that on five out of seven continents stuns and humbles me.

I’ll definitely be referring back to this map as I continue writing the third book in the Desertera series. Writing is a solitary process, and sometimes I feel like I’m sending my words out into a void. But this map proves my inner critic wrong. My words are flying around the world – offering escape and entertainment to people everywhere (okay, a lot of places!).

If that isn’t a dream come true,  I don’t know what is.

Where do you call home? How have your favorite books connected you to new friends and fellow readers? Share in the comments!

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!

Author Business & Publishing, Fiction Blog, Musings & Bookish Things, Writing & Publishing Articles, Writing Craft & Tips

Genre Monogamy: Are Readers Really Faithful to One Genre and Should Writers Be Genre-Exclusive?

Over the past six months, I have done a lot of writing and publishing research. One of my go-to resources is The Rocking Self-Publishing Podcast, hosted by Simon Whistler. Simon’s podcast and its independently-published authors have taught me countless valuable lessons. I’ve learned that the best way to market your book is a second book, that your social media following is a huge consideration for traditional publishers, and that books truly are judged by their covers. However, there’s one piece of advice that keeps coming up, and it troubles me every time:

You should only write in one genre, because readers only read one genre.

The first time I heard this, I thought it was ridiculous. As a reader, I don’t only read one genre. My bookshelves are full of literary book-67049_640fiction, contemporary romance, fantasy, supernatural, poetry, young adult, nonfiction, etc. On my Goodreads account, I don’t even list favorite genres, because I can’t possibly narrow down my creative interests so sparsely. Am I alone in this?

Moreover, out of every single friend I have who I would classify as an avid reader, I cannot think of one person who is genre-exclusive in his or her reading. My husband’s favorite genre is crime fiction, but he also loves nonfiction and comic books of every kind. Another friend of mine reads a lot of historical romance, but she also adores new adult and paranormal fiction. Are we anomalies? Are all the other bookworms out there really so monogamous?

Of course, I cannot only view this advice through the mind-frame of a reader. I must also consider its implications for me as a writer. And the more it pops up in the podcasts and blogs I frequent, the more I begin to question myself.

Most writers I’ve encountered seem to hold the same, general opinion. For instance, several guest authors on The RSP Podcast, most recently Mimi Strong, have discussed how to handle writing in multiple genres (or even whether to do it at all). The most common advice seems to be to write only in one genre — especially a genre that sells. And if you must write in multiple genres, use a different pen name for each genre.

Now, look, I’m all about treating writing as a business. I agree that writing in genres that sell (ie: contemporary romance) is a great way to put yourself on the map and boost your funds. However, I also believe that you should write what you want, and if you market it well, you will find a niche in which it will sell. And maybe, just maybe, if you write in multiple genres, you will pick up a wider range of readers, as opposed to some genre-exclusive club.

9804763243_5aa2952f17_zI mean, why pigeonhole yourself into one genre? Yes, your first novel will set a genre-tone for your writing catalog. If you burst onto the scene with a science-fiction novel, your readers will probably expect your second novel to be sci-fi, too. But is this expectation created by the readers, because they only read one genre? Or, is it created by publishers and traditional writers, who force writers into one genre-box so they are easy to market and make profit?

Think about it. Especially think about traditionally-published authors. My favorite example is Nicholas Sparks. Now, while I own every single one of his books, I don’t know much about Mr. Sparks, personally. For all I know, the only genre he wants to write is romance. However, let’s say, for argument’s sake, that Sparks wrote a thriller. And let’s say, for argument’s sake, that his publisher actually allowed it to go to market. Would you be shocked? Obviously. Would you read it? And more importantly, why or why not?

Would you refuse to read this novel, because you know Nicholas Sparks is a romance author, and you don’t trust him to leave his box? If so, you’re feeding into this advice that I so dislike.

Would you read this novel purely out of the morbid fascination of seeing if Sparks could pull off a thriller? If so, you should really think about what I’m saying here.

Would you read this book simply because you are a loyal fan of Sparks? Or simply because you like thrillers (whether in addition to or independently of romance)? If so, you make my point.

When we force writers into a single genre, we limit their creativity and create undeserved mockeries of work they do outside of their genres. True fans will read an author’s work, no matter the genre, because they like the author’s style and themes. Casual readers will read whatever they like.

And you know what? I bet they like more than one genre.

Do you only read or write in one genre? Or are you a promiscuous genre-hopper like me? Has writing in multiple genres helped or hindered your career? Let me know!