Hello friends! Early this year I started reading, editing, and reviewing beta and Advance Reader Copy (ARC) books, and it’s so fun. I can’t believe I didn’t start ages ago! Beta books are usually fully written but are 1-3 steps away from being publication-ready. Some require developmental editing, others need copy editing, and many are in the proofreading stage, which is typically the last step in the editing process.
Before I satisfy your curiosity about reading beta and ARC books, take a peek at this stunning artwork of Nalakadr, a city in Megan Haskell’s book series The Sanyare Chronicles. Nalakadr is the main setting in the first book of her upcoming series, The War of the Nine Faerie Realms, which I am currently beta reading.
Beta books can drastically change from the beta to the final version based on reader feedback. Why might this happen?, you ask. Well, let’s say a majority of beta readers can’t stand a character for a specific reason, an untenable character flaw. The author would likely alter that character attribute and rewrite the book to reflect the change. But what if that particular trait was a huge thing that was driving the story forward? Well, they would need to reconsider the plot and rewrite the story arc with an entirely different “engine.” Other book-wide edits can be prompted by simple errors spotted by beta readers, such as a character’s eyes changing color unintentionally, or a town’s name changing, part-way through the novel. We’re often too close to these books we’re writing and can’t see some of this stuff.
I’ll give you an example of a relatively minor thing an author may end up editing, or not, based on a book I’m beta reading at what I’d loosely call a light-developmental level, meaning the author is looking for story feedback. She’s sort-of between developmental and copy editing, leaning toward the developmental side. I say minor, but it could be a time-consuming edit if she got this feedback from multiple beta readers and agreed with our assessment since The Thing is woven throughout multiple chapters.
The book in question is by Megan Haskell and the working title is Forged in Shadow: The War of the Nine Faerie Realms, Book 1. i’ve gotten to know megan a bit via email over the past year–we even have the same electric sit/stand desk in our home offices–and she’s cool as heck, friends. As you can tell, it’s Fantasy–technically Adult Fantasy, but there’s nothing risqué enough to prevent a teen from reading it. This book, I’ll call it Forged, kicks off a prequel series about the events leading up to her previous series, The Sanyare Chronicles.
Many of the same locales and younger versions of some characters from Sanyare appear in Forged. Since I’ve read three books from Sanyare, plus most of the related short stories, I’m able to reflect on similarities and difference between the series/books. There’s one locale that evokes a pretty radically different “feeling” for me in Forged than it did in Sanyare, even though it seems like it’s ostensibly the same place, with the same characters, and the same purpose. “Feeling,” or maybe, “vibe,” is all I’m going to say here because, spoilers. seriously, read these darn books so we can talk. I’m not willing to fully make that conclusion and remark on it in my notes to Megan until I’ve read the entire book. I’m also going back to when the locale was introduced in the first Sanyare book to see if maybe I’m misremembering the vibe.
I mentioned way up there that I’m reviewing ARC novels, aka galley copies, which means I read them, provide feedback on any remaining proofreading issues if the author has requested that, and post reviews online. ARC books are on the threshold of publication. They’ve gone through the aforementioned levels of editing, and publishers have created galleys. Barring any issues found by ARC readers and the author’s final read through, this is the version that will be published and on shelves/in eReaders in a few months. More and more ARC books, especially from indie authors and publishers, are being offered in digital format, although some traditional publishers are still printing physical galleys.
I think this work is a natural extension of completing over 80 critical reads of novels, short story collections, and writer’s craft books during my Creative Writing MFA program. Reading these betas and ARCs is so fun, but they’re pretty time-intensive. It’s also a huge responsibility that I take seriously. Books are why I’ve been neglecting you folx. It’s always been the books. Over the next few months, I hope to post the reviews of these books here and catch up on posting reviews of the many, many books I’ve read for fun in the past 6 months or so. My plan is to backdate them to approx when I’d read them so you don’t get a barrage of things from me. When I do that, I’ll try to remember to mention it in a current version of a review post.
Oh darn, I didn’t write anything about my search for an adjunct faculty position. I’ll try to post about that soon. This thing is too long to add more stuffing.
You can purchase signed paperbacks of The Sanyare Chronicles on Megan’s site, or head here for her eBooks. Those are her preferred links, but if all else fails, try Amazon. Link open in a separate tab.