You’re probably wondering what the heck Alpha, Beta, Expert, and ARC Readers are. Writers use some or all of these readers, in addition to professional editors, to help them create the best possible books.
An Alpha Reader is the first person to read the manuscript. Generally, the book is in its first or second draft and the writer is looking for feedback on story structure and character development.
For Carpe Diem, Illinois, I gave my chapters to my family who read more books in a week than most people read in a year. My favorite feedback was from my dad who wrote this note to keep track of the chapters he had.
My critique group, Chicks of the Trade, were also my Alpha Readers for both Carpe Diem, Illinois and God on Mayhem Street. The Chicks had a talent for identifying plot holes and character inconsistencies.
“Expert Reader” is a term I use to describe readers with particular knowledge or expertise in an area I know little or nothing about. I’ve never been a journalist or a man, but Leo Townsend, the protagonist in my series, is both. I enlisted Expert Readers — two career journalists and three men — to read Carpe Diem, Illinois and give me feedback on its authenticity.
For The Devil Particle, my current work-in-progress, I’m enlisting the help of all four specialty readers.
After completing my third draft, I sent the manuscript to Editor Tim Storm. As the first person to read it, Tim was my Alpha Reader. Based on Tim’s comments, I revised The Devil Particle a fourth time and am finishing the fifth revision this weekend. I know it’s good, possibly the best thing I’ve written, but it’s not quite where I want it to be so I’m enlisting the help of Beta Readers.
A Beta Reader is someone who enjoys reading books of the genre the author is writing. In my case, The Devil Particle is a young adult dystopian novel so I’m looking for readers ages 12-17 who enjoy reading darker stories (think The Hunger Games). Both my daughters are well into their twenties as are most of their friends (when did that happen?) so, for me, teenagers are scarce.
I asked my writer friend Corina Rogers, a Waunakee High School teacher, to help. She and Waunakee High School Librarian Jeannine Ramsey have recruited 10-12 student volunteers as Beta Readers. I’ll send them a copy of the fifth revision on Monday. After they’ve read it, we’ll meet for a Devil Particle discussion — I can’t wait!
I’m also using an Expert Reader for The Devil Particle. Particle Physicist Michael Albrow helped me with the pseudo-science in the book, even coming up with the scientific name for a devil particle — an agoniston (from the word “antagonist”). In my book, agonistons alter matter by combining cell receptors to produce a physiological reaction, like a reflex, that is pugnacious, combative, antagonistic. Doesn’t that sound scientific? We’ll see what Dr. Albrow says.
Eventually, I’ll enlist the help of ARC Readers. “ARC” stands for “Advanced Reader Copy”. I’ve volunteered to be an ARC Reader for Fire Captain Gregory Lee Renz‘s debut novel Beneath the Flames.
The book is complete — it’s been edited, printed, and bound. My job as an ARC Reader is to give an honest review of the book. Greg might use my review for a book blurb or post it on his website, social media outlets, or on Amazon to generate interest prior to the book’s release. I’m really looking forward to reading it.
And I’m excited to see what the students and Dr. Albrow have to say. I’ll take their comments and revise The Devil Particle and then send it back to Tim for his feedback and, you guessed it, more revising.
With the help of my Alpha, Beta, Expert, and ARC Readers, I’m confident The Devil Particle will be released by this time next year! I’ll keep you posted!
Where you can find me when I’m not revising The Devil Particle:
Just Write! An Uncommon Writers Conference 2019 – March 16 – 17, 2019, Warwick Allerton Hotel, Chicago. Great workshops on the craft of writing, plus book signings and a live lit event. I’m looking forward to teaching my cliffhanger workshop and curating the live lit event.
UW-Madison Division of Continuing Studies 30th Annual Writers Institute – April 4 – 7, 2019 Concourse Hotel, Madison, WI. Workshops on everything from craft to marketing to pitching to publishing. I’ll be on the “Celebrating Your Book: Festivals and Readings Panel” with Author Shannon Henry Kleiber, helping writers hone their pitches, running the book day events, and judging the Live Lit Event with Author Silvia Acevedo.
Authors in the Barnes – Saturday, April 20, 2019, West Towne Mall Barnes & Noble, Madison. I’ll join local authors for this wonderful meet and greet and book signing event.
Novel-in-Progress Bookcamp and Writing Retreat – May 19 – 25, 2019, Cedar Valley Retreat Center in West Bend, Wisconsin. I’ll be on a self-publishing panel with Authors Nicole Pierce and Melissa Haag and presenting my workshop titled “The Formula for Settings Agents, Editors, and Readers Love”.