Winter Kim and her sister, Rose, have always been inseparable. Together the two of them survived growing up in a Korean orphanage and being trafficked into the United States. But they’ve escaped the past and started over in a new place where no one knows who they used to be.
Now they work as digital stunt girls for Rose’s ex-boyfriend, Gideon, engaging in dangerous and enticing activities while recording their neural impulses for his Vicarious Sensory Experiences, or ViSEs. Whether it’s bungee jumping, shark diving, or grinding up against celebrities in the city’s hottest dance clubs, Gideon can make it happen for you–for a price.
When Rose disappears and a ViSE recording of her murder is delivered to Gideon, Winter is devastated. She won’t rest until she finds her sister’s killer. But when the clues she uncovers conflict with the digital recordings her sister made, Winter isn’t sure what to believe. To find out what happened to Rose, she’ll have to untangle what’s real from what only seems real, risking her own life in the process.
Paula Stokes weaves together a series of mysteries and the story of an unbreakable bond between sisters in this unforgettable high-tech thrill ride.
One of the topics I touch upon repeatedly is the issues that come with the push for diversity in lit. Namely, accuracy. I believe that if an author is going to portray a culture, he or she should do so accurately and carefully, or at least make the attempt to do so.
As a beta for this book, I can honestly say that Paula has gone to every possible measure to make this book accurate, and I’m proud to be a part of this tour. More about my opinion of the book can be found on my full review of the ARC, but today, Paula’s going to be sharing how she handled her betas for Vicarious!
Writing Outside My Culture Part 4
Utilizing Cultural Beta Readers
Real talk: I was TERRIFIED to show Vicarious to Korean readers. I mean, one of my Korean-American betas is a really close friend, so I wasn’t afraid to show it to her because I knew that even if I screwed up majorly that it wouldn’t change the way she felt about me. I knew that she’d gently inform me of possibly offensive elements and help me fix things that weren’t right.
However, this beta-reader grew up and went to high school and college in the US, so I wanted to find readers actually living in Korea to read the manuscript too. I’m pretty good at recognizing Korean names, so I actually found a college beta-reader via Twitter and a high school one via a street team contest I held for Liars, Inc. I rounded out this group with a younger Korean-American blogger from my street team and ran a few specific passages by a fifth Korean who is not a YA reader, just for one more varied opinion.
I was on eggshells for about a week wondering if all of my outside betas were going to write me the email equivalent of big red Howlers telling me I was offensive and racist and that they didn’t want to follow me on Twitter anymore. Luckily they all seemed to like the book, but they also had lots of great advice to share with me.
Here are some things I thought about while utilizing cultural beta-readers:
Beta-readers are doing work and they deserve compensation. I’ll admit I couldn’t afford to pay mine at the time, but if the book earns out they are all getting a check. I did offer each of them an ARC for completing a short questionnaire and a signed finished copy + swag for beta-reading the entire manuscript. Plus they know that if they ever want a reference for a publishing industry job they can come to me. I honestly believe it’s best to pay people upfront though, because it creates a business relationship where both parties are allowed to have expectations.
Unpublished beta-readers might not feel comfortable pointing out mistakes, especially if they are younger, strangers, or from a culture where criticism is frowned upon. This is one of the reasons I sought out both beta-readers I didn’t know and some who were friends. I knew my friends would feel comfortable saying, “I think people might find this offensive.” This is also a reason it might be better to use professional or trained beta-readers as opposed to just enthusiastic bloggers and readers. Honestly, I found that each viewpoint was helpful, so I think a small group of varied beta-readers is the way to go, but only if an author can handle dissenting opinions.
Because yeah, my beta-readers disagreed on several things. I got four totally different responses to something as minor as how to store gimbap.
- “It would never be in the refrigerator. Ever. Full stop.”
- “If it was in the refrigerator, it would be in a package that looks like…not Tupperware.”
- “If it was in the refrigerator, she would reheat it in a skillet with some egg.”
- “My family keeps it in the refrigerator sometimes. I think the text is okay.”
Personally I always kept my gimbap in the refrigerator because although I don’t like hard gummy rice, I like foodborne illness even less. However, this illustrates the problem with multiple beta-readers. What do you do when their information conflicts? In this case I decided to circumvent the issue by having Gideon make fresh gimbap, but it’s not always that easy, which leads me to:
Vicarious was MY manuscript. The final decisions needed to be made by me. My beta-readers don’t owe me 200-message long email chains where I try to reconcile minute details of my story with their thoughts, what others have told me, and what I’ve read online.
They also don’t owe me or my book an endorsement. After they gave me their thoughts, it was my job to use those thoughts to make sure the story was authentic and accurate. It’s always possible that my finished product won’t be something my beta-readers feel comfortable endorsing. This might be because I didn’t take all their suggestions, or because they thought of additional problems after the book was being printed. It might be because they changed their minds, or because someone else brought up an issue they didn’t see while reading but they now agree is problematic. That’s okay. It’s their right. They’re not beholden to me because I let them help me with my manuscript.
One final thought: I added this sentence to my Acknowledgments after thanking my beta-readers: “Any and all mistakes are mine, not theirs.” This is just a courtesy thing. All of my betas wanted to be listed fully in the back of Vicarious, but I would hate for a reader who really dislikes the book to go after any of them for failing to correct me about something that I got wrong.
Tomorrow, learn some facts about Rose Kim and read a review by Christina, my aforementioned very close friend and beta-reader :)
Thanks to Paula for sharing her beta reader tips, and for everything she’s done to research Vicarious! You can keep up with Paula and her other amazing novels on her Twitter, Facebook, Website or Goodreads, and you can buy Vicarious at the links below.
About the Author
Paula Stokes writes stories about flawed characters with good hearts. She’s the author of several novels, most recently Vicarious and Girl Against the Universe. Her writing has been translated into eleven foreign languages. Paula loves kayaking, hiking, reading, and seeking out new adventures in faraway lands She also loves interacting with readers. Find her online at authorpaulastokes.com or on twitter as @pstokesbooks.
Mon. 8/15 Introduction + Tour Schedule authorpaulastokes.com
Tues. 8/16 Writing Outside My Persepctive: Part 1 ivybookbindings.blogspot.com
Wed. 8/17 Review + Interview with Paula readingandsometea.wordpress.com
Thurs. 8/18 Writing Outside My Persepctive: Part 2 hiveretcafe.blogspot.ca
Fri. 8/19 Review + Five Facts About Winter bookcatpin.blogspot.ca
Mon. 8/22 Writing Outside My Persepctive: Part 3 www.xpressoreads.com
Tues. 8/23 Review + Five Facts About Jesse bookiemoji.com
Wed. 8/24 Writing Outside My Persepctive: Part 4 www.thesilverwords.com
Thurs. 8/25 Review + Five Facts About Rose cahreviews.blogspot.com
Fri. 8/26 Writing Outside My Perspective: Part 5 www.bookrookreviews.com