I'm a little tired but, in between baby enjoyment, Glynn and I managed to knock off our second, third and fourth draft of The Fifth Brother. We think it's ready for publication, however...tired or not, sick or not, it's time for me to find a beta reader for the manuscript. More than one, actually, if I'm so lucky.
I'll share my process with you. If you're looking for a beta reader, too, maybe it will help.
In the past, prior to pub, we've always found beta readers to give our words a final look. We've had some terrific beta readers, and we've always taken their suggestions to heart. We haven't always agreed with those suggestions, I'm not saying that, but some comments have led to major changes in what we've written. A good beta reader is gold.
This time, the challenge feels even harder than usual. Fifth Brother is our first sequel-to-a-sequel and, honestly, I wonder if anyone will be willing to give it a go. For this to happen, the story has to be complete in itself. That's not so easy when you're in part three of a six or seven part series. (Glynn says six parts. I say seven. Or eight. It's still under discussion.) One Bride tells of Flora's beginning and how she got into her particularly messy situation. The Sixth Brother introduces her to the brave, new world of Victorian-era Washington state, and explains what she plans to do to get out of her situation, before everything goes sideways.
In short, in order to understand the newest novella, the beta reader has to already know STUFF. So we wrote a Before the Beginning section, a bit revised from the first sequel, and offered our imaginary first-time reader an overview on what had happened beforehand. The preface doesn't explain any of the finer story details, and it's completely lacking in romance or sexual tension, but it offers a page-long guideline to previous events. If I was new to the series and read the BtB opening, I think I could dig into the new tale and follow it easily. If I liked the novella, I'd probably want to pick up the earlier stories just to know how this craziness developed. Maybe some readers will; I hope so.
Anyway, where was I? Ah, yes, today's challenge: finding beta readers.
To track down these elusive creatures, I've done one of three things in the past. One time, I paid a professional to beta read one of our upcoming novels. Because this was the first time I'd ever paid for a read, I hoped she'd provide some brilliant insights or offer some telling commentary. In hindsight, it was a completely unrealistic expectation and, no surprise, things didn't work out that way. The reader was very nice, she provided a couple of pages of commentary when she returned the manuscript, mostly pointing out how much she liked the heroine and hated the villains. She didn't offer any suggestions for changes but she caught a misspelled word. (Glynn and I have read too many British novels. We keep using their spelling.) The paid read was a pleasant experience but not a revealing one.
I found more opinionated readers after I joined the Goodreads Beta Reader Group. You can, too, if you choose -- here. Last time I checked, there were 6000+ people in the group. It's a place where writers find readers and where, on occasion, I've contacted writers and acted as their reader. This pleases me because I'm terrible in all other aspects of Goodreads. I do no promotion, I skulk in the shadows of the groups I've joined, and I even fail to post reviews of novels I've loved. But if I'm actually going to participate in anything Goodreads, it will be with the Beta Reader Group.
I've also had success visiting the beta reader board at Absolute Write. You can, too, if you choose -- here. The forum is called, "Beta Readers, Mentors, and Writing Buddies", and I've been all three at various times. Some day in the future, remind me to tell you what went wrong with my mentor experience and why both of my writing buddies went away. Back to topic, there's a sticky at the top of the AW Beta Reader forum, entitled Willing Beta Readers Volume II, and you should start your own hunt at the last available page. That's where you'll find the latest posts and the most willing readers.
Well, it's time for me to swig some DayQuil and get to work. In the next week or so, I'll let you know how things go.