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The Betterreads Project > Introduction and Guidelines

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message 1: by Richard (last edited Nov 07, 2014 01:13PM) (new)

Richard | 490 comments Mod
Introduction.

Put two books side by side on a table: the first, from a mainstream publishing house, has a cover designed by a professional who pays the rent doing nothing else; the back-cover blurb was written by someone who used to be a copywriter in an ad agency; the text inside has been proof-read and copy-edited to within an inch of its life. The second book, from an indie author, has a homemade cover done by someone with no artistic ability whatsoever; both blurb and text are riddled with spelling mistakes, bad punctuation, bad grammar...and so on...

That may be an exaggeration, but out there in the rest of the world indie authors and their books do have a dreadful reputation - many readers won't go anywhere near them - and the idea here is to try to get each indie-produced book to at least the reviewing stage looking indistinguishable from the publishing-house ones. In fact, this is a second attempt at an idea first tried by Jen Warren in a Goodreads Group called 'The Source'; that project ground to a halt in the end, but the idea was a good one and worth another go. Like the original, this one is in two stages. In Stage 2, books become available for review and stay on the 'For Reviewing' thread until they've received five read-and-reviews. Stage 1 is to get them there in as good a shape as possible - by screening out, sending back, anything not yet up to scratch. That means, first and foremost, the basics: front cover, book blurb, spelling, punctuation, grammar and formatting. In addition, though, the idea is also to evaluate as much of the plot, characterisation, readability and so on as you can do from a dozen-page sample of text - a bit like peering through a keyhole, it's true, but even a sample will give you some idea.

Stage 2 is really just an extra incentive, a reward for authors who do their fair share of evaluating other peoples' books in Stage 1. But Stage 1 is where the real benefits lie. First, you'll get some feedback about your own work; someone seeing it fresh, for the first time, will immediately spot all those errors which over-familiarity prevents you from spotting yourself - and here you'll get half a dozen fresh pairs of eyes. Most important of all, though, spending time critiquing other authors' work will sharpen your own authorial eye - so that your next book (and then the one after that) will be better all round.

Betterreads is a small project, just a few dozen authors. But word gets around quickly on Goodreads and, if it works, the idea will spread to other Groups, perhaps even beyond Goodreads - and then it really would begin to make a difference. You've got to start somewhere, after all, and it might as well be right here.


message 2: by Richard (last edited Nov 08, 2014 01:59AM) (new)

Richard | 490 comments Mod
Guidelines.

Stage 1, Books For Appraisal:

Please post your books in the 'Books For Appraisal' thread first. If it accumulates five thumbs ups, one of the Group's MODs will then move it on to the 'Books For Reviewing' thread where it will stay until it has received five reviews. If it accumulates five thumbs downs, it goes back to its author with its tail between its legs. The author is welcome (in fact, encouraged) to try again though, later, with an improved version of the same book.

Only one book per author at a time please. When your first has gone completely through the system (i.e. stages 1 and 2 and received its five reviews at the far end) then, by all means, post your next one.

When appraising other authors' books: no personal abuse, obscenity, or anything potentially litigious. Criticism, though - constructive criticism - is fine (one of the things we're after here in fact).

Assess as many books as you feel like (the more everyone does, the faster your own book will move along the conveyor belt too!); don't (obviously) appraise your own book though! At the moment we're relying on everyone pitching in and doing their fair share of this, rather than penalising those who don't. As for giving a thumbs up/down to a book you may already have read some time ago, there's no rule on this either - but how about letting it go through under its own steam, and only weighing in yourself if it gets bogged down? (there's some discussion about this below, message 5 onwards).

The sort of thing we're looking for:

- The front cover: is it eye-catching? Relevant to what's inside? Are the title or author name too big, too small, a bad colour, in a bad font? Overall: does the cover look amateurish, homemade?

- The book blurb: are there spelling mistakes, bad grammar and so on? Does it tell you too little? Or give away too much? Is it too long-winded? Does it give you a good impression of what kind of book this is going to be (suspense, action, humour, intellectual, etc.)? Above all, does it do its job, which is to make you want to read the book?

- The sample: are the spelling, punctuation, grammar and formatting up to scratch? Illustrations and captions clear? Characters? Dialogue? Plot? The prose itself - engaging and a joy to read, or half-strangulated, incomprehensible, just plain boring? Overall: having read the sample, could you have quite happily made a cup of tea, put your feet up and read the rest of the book at a sitting? Or was a dozen pages more than enough of that?

Overall: is this book ready to be passed on to the reviewing stage?


Stage 2, Books For Review:

Potential reviewers should contact the author by PM for a free copy. Only one book per reviewer at a time please. The time limit for completing a review is two months - and if unable to complete, please could you let one of the Group's MODs know (there isn't a firing squad or anything!)


message 3: by Richard (new)

Richard Penn (richardpenn) | 758 comments Hi there Mods. Can someone remind me of the rules on sequels. I'll put mine in the pipeline if it's OK to do so.


message 4: by Richard (new)

Richard | 490 comments Mod
The rule at the moment, Richard, is only one book per person in the system at a time - but as soon as your first has had its five reviews, post anything else you like: sequels, prequels, etc.

Like all the rules, though, we can change that if it makes more sense.


message 5: by Christina (last edited Nov 05, 2014 02:31PM) (new)

Christina McMullen (cmcmullen) | 1213 comments Mod
Hey Richard,
I think we need clarification on passing books we have already read. I had asked and was told it is okay, but then saw on another thread where we want fresh eyes. What would the official stance be on this?

Edit: this is stage one, to clarify.


message 6: by Richard (new)

Richard | 490 comments Mod
J.A. and I have been discussing this one and, although we both have misgivings, it's a question which should resolve itself in time anyway as books any of us have read-and-reviewed before go through the system and disappear off the far end - leaving only newer stuff. So go ahead.

What do you think?


message 7: by Jamie (new)

Jamie Maltman (jamiemaltman) | 156 comments Mod
I don't see any issue with giving your vote of confidence to a book that you've previously read and there weren't any issues identified for fixing before it goes through to Stage 2.

BUT, I think there's value in as many eyes as possible on these books, so how about the general guideline being: give the book a while to pass through based on new views and new feedback, but if it languishes at less than 5 then add your thumb up to help it along?

And while doing that, make sure that even if you loved the story on the inside, but felt there were cover/blurb issues, that you give that feedback through this process if you haven't given it directly to the author.


message 8: by Christina (new)

Christina McMullen (cmcmullen) | 1213 comments Mod
Jamie wrote: "I don't see any issue with giving your vote of confidence to a book that you've previously read and there weren't any issues identified for fixing before it goes through to Stage 2.

BUT, I think t..."


I like this. I will hold off on the books I've read for now.

The other reason I asked is because Lamikorda hit five a while back and the deciding vote was someone who already read. Should we put this one through?


message 9: by Jamie (new)

Jamie Maltman (jamiemaltman) | 156 comments Mod
It wasn't put through yet, right? Maybe we wait a little longer to see if anyone else wants to do the stage 1 appraisal?


message 10: by Turhan (new)

Turhan Halil | 270 comments Jamie wrote: "I don't see any issue with giving your vote of confidence to a book that you've previously read and there weren't any issues identified for fixing before it goes through to Stage 2.

BUT, I think t..."


*Like*


message 11: by Christina (new)

Christina McMullen (cmcmullen) | 1213 comments Mod
Jamie wrote: "It wasn't put through yet, right? Maybe we wait a little longer to see if anyone else wants to do the stage 1 appraisal?"

Sounds good, but if we don't see any hits in the next few days, maybe we should revisit it.


message 12: by Ken (new)

Ken Doggett (kendoggett) Need a Stage 0, to straighten out books BEFORE they get published.


message 13: by Jamie (new)

Jamie Maltman (jamiemaltman) | 156 comments Mod
Ken wrote: "Need a Stage 0, to straighten out books BEFORE they get published."

That's the purpose of:

- asking for cover feedback (thread started for that)
- asking for blurb feedback (thread for that)
- having beta readers (and people are seeking that out in another thread)

Pre-publication it's better to do those one at a time. :) And while you're waiting for your beta readers to get back with their comments it's a great time to do #1 and #2. :)


message 14: by K. (new)

Caffee K. (kcaffee) | 461 comments Don't forget #4 - those books that have gone through beta, that need revision. While you wait on beta comments to come back is a great time to work on the edit/revisions. (So long as you don't have the NEXT book guzzling your free time instead.)


message 15: by Jamie (new)

Jamie Maltman (jamiemaltman) | 156 comments Mod
K. wrote: "Don't forget #4 - those books that have gone through beta, that need revision. While you wait on beta comments to come back is a great time to work on the edit/revisions. (So long as you don't ha..."

Personally, I'm planning or writing my next book at that point. I don't like to edit while my book is with betas, because:
- I might edit out something they really liked
- their comments might lead to removing something I spent time editing
I collect their feedback, then do my next round of edits. Of course I've done several rounds before I hand to my alpha reader, then get feedback, then more revision/edits, then to the betas... so it's been through a lot by that point.


message 16: by Richard (new)

Richard | 490 comments Mod
<7:
Good to see that the art of compromise isn't dead, Jamie! I think you've got it exactly right too - I'll add it to the Guidelines above.


message 17: by K. (new)

Caffee K. (kcaffee) | 461 comments Jamie,
What I meant to say, and guess it got mangled in translation for my #4 was for the books that have come back from the beta readers already with comments. While you are waiting on the current book to come back is a good time to step back and work on those.

Though, pressing on with a new book is also good. Heavens know I have one book that I need to revise, but I'm hung up in the writing on the next in the series.


message 18: by Richard (new)

Richard Penn (richardpenn) | 758 comments Another thought just occurred to me. I am happy to provide a free copy of my book to anyone who is willing to consider reviewing it, but I'd suggest that those of us who can afford to do so buy our review copies by the regular route. Amazon is likely to assign more credibility to a review from a buyer.


message 19: by Jamie (new)

Jamie Maltman (jamiemaltman) | 156 comments Mod
Richard 2060 wrote: "Another thought just occurred to me. I am happy to provide a free copy of my book to anyone who is willing to consider reviewing it, but I'd suggest that those of us who can afford to do so buy our..."

There's also the reverse method, that some of my review copy readers have used: if they liked my book enough after they read the review copy, they bought a copy on Amazon... and mention that. As the author, it feels like a tip for really good service. :)


message 20: by K. (new)

Caffee K. (kcaffee) | 461 comments Crazy thought, and only hit me because I'm in the process of working up the rest of next week's schedule.

For those of us on Twitter, have you thought about tagging our reviews for books that come out of the better reads project to help get some extra visibility, and to help promote the books we're working so hard to improve?

I just checked, and the tag #betterreads doesn't pull anything up, so we could possibly claim it. Or do you think that would just invite others to hijack the tag and start pushing junk that looks like it's been approved by this process?


message 21: by Christina (new)

Christina McMullen (cmcmullen) | 1213 comments Mod
You know any tag that has to do with pushing a book will get hijacked. That's just the Twitter way. I know we said we'd come back to this topic and try to revamp the process, but it's become something of a ghost town. We might want to work on revitalizing the project first.


message 22: by Christina (new)

Christina McMullen (cmcmullen) | 1213 comments Mod
I might also want to work on making sense. Sorry about the word salad above. I'm half asleep.


message 23: by K. (new)

Caffee K. (kcaffee) | 461 comments I understood it, even if you didn't Christina. Though, yeah, it does look like the project is fizzling. I've been trying, just not able to move that fast right now.


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