Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Author Janice Lane Palko & Beta Beauties: or How Important Beta Readers Are

Hey beautiful people!

It's my pleasure today to welcome a lovely lady I met on the indie authors' loop on Facebook. She's one of those souls whom you feel you've known for much, much longer after only one email conversation. :)

Janice Lane Palko is her name, and here she is with a guest post for ye all. I had no clue what to ask her to talk about, so thank goodness she came to the rescue with this lovely topic I'll title "Beta Beauties".



Hi and Happy Halloween!

Like Blanche Dubois who in the play A Streetcar Named Desire uttered that famous line, “I have always depended on the kindness of strangers,” writers also depend on the kindness of strangers—in particular, beta readers.  For those of you who may not be familiar with the term, beta readers are not the less ambitious cousins of alpha readers but kind souls who offer to test-drive manuscripts and provide authors with valuable feedback. 

I have been published extensively, but not as a novelist.  When I decided to indie publish my first novel, St. Anne’s Day, a romantic comedy, I had to educate myself on the process of bringing a book into print.  One of the books I consulted stressed the necessity of running your manuscript past beta readers, and it advised that the best place to solicit for them was on Twitter. 

So I dangled St. Anne’s Day in the Twitter stream and fortunately hooked four betas.  One was a catch and release—she was too busy to read it in a timely manner, but the other three were keepers.  I think of these kind strangers as my beta beauties. 

St. Anne’s Day tells the story of Anne Lyons, who is forced to accept a position as a private duty nurse for an elderly spitfire, Peg McMaster, who is recovering from heart surgery.  Peg has been praying to St. Anne, the patron saint of housewives, to find a suitable wife for her son Gerry before she dies, and she believes that Anne's arrival on the Feast of St. Anne is the answer to her prayers.  When Anne, who has been burned by love, meets Gerry, an instant attraction is ignited, but she is afraid to fall for him because he goes through lovers faster than a premenstrual woman goes through chocolates.  Peg puts her matchmaking skills to the test to bring Anne and Gerry together.
To my relief, all three of the betas loved the novel, but each one of them offered valuable insight that improved it.  My first beta who had an M.F.A. in writing offered a few stylistic tips that made the prose flow better.  In the novel, one of the secondary characters is a man with Down Syndrome, whom I wanted to portray in a favorable light and thought that I had accomplished just that.  I was stunned when my second beta said she thought I had characterized him as less than human.  She said she had a relative with Down Syndrome and could just be extra-sensitive.  I went back and read the passage she cited and realized that what I had written could be interpreted her way.  It was like that picture that some will see the beautiful girl and others will see the ugly witch.  Thanks to her, I clarified any ambiguous parts.  I am a middle-aged white woman, and I discovered that my third reader was a twenty-something African American woman.  It was gratifying to learn that she felt the book had a universal appeal across cultures and age groups and not just to readers like me. 

I offered my second manuscript, a Christmas romance entitled A Shepherd’s Song, to my beta beauties a few weeks ago, and after I integrate their valuable feedback, I plan to release it at the end of November. 

I’ve never met my beta beauties in person, but the funny thing is kindness has a way of transforming strangers into friends, and I’m deeply grateful for their help and friendship. 

On that note, I’m also grateful to Zee for generously allowing me the pleasure of appearing on her site.  Thank you!  I invite you to visit my blog and to read St. Anne’s Day, which is available in paperback and in Kindle format on Amazon as well as in Barnes & Noble’s Nook store and Smashwords. 

Also, be sure to sign up for my newsletter so you can be the first to know when A Shepherd’s Song is available. 

Janice Lane Palko

Janice grew up in Pittsburgh and is the author of the romantic comedy St. Anne’s Day.  A writer for more than 15 years, she is currently the executive editor of Northern Connection and Pittsburgh 55+ magazines, where she also pens a column and contributes regularly to the magazines’ content. 

Her work has also appeared in publications such as The Reader’s Digest, Guideposts for Teens, Woman’s World, The Christian Science Monitor, The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, and The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.  In addition, her essays have been featured in the books A Cup of Comfort for Inspiration, A Cup of Comfort for Expectant Mothers, and Chicken Soup for the Single’s Soul. 

Janice has won several awards for her writing including the prestigious Amy Foundation Award of Merit, and she has a bachelor’s degree in Writing & Literature from Union Institute& University.  

Her second book, a Christmas novel entitled, A Shepherd’s Song, which will be released in November 2012.


From Mauritius with love,



Monique DeVere said...

Oooh, I love Rom-Coms and finding new authors to read. St. Anne's Day sounds very interesting! Thanks so much for sharing the importance of Beta readers, and how to find them, Janice. It was lovely to meet you.

Thanks, Zee!

Rhonda Hopkins said...

Great post, Janice! I love my beta readers. Each one has something different to offer. I couldn't do my work without them. :-)

Zee Monodee said...

Monique, I'm totally grabbing St Anne's Day asap. It looks like a gorgeous rom-com read :)

Zee Monodee said...

Rhonda, Janice hit the nail on the head - beta readers are a lifeline!

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