(Barbie and me, we're in a mood today. Fair warning.)
Now, as you may remember from last week, I wanted to find a beta reader for our latest manuscript. The Good Witch had done a read-through, but this new book is the straightest romance that Glynn and I had ever written and we wanted someone who really knew the genre. So I did what I’ve always done, and I reached out to my fellow novelists.
I posted at the Writer’s Café, asking if anyone there knew of a good approach to finding a sensible, intelligent, and solid beta reader. The only response I received was from other writers, also wanting beta readers – any readers, even if they weren’t sensible or intelligent. No one had any suggestions for me. This was not encouraging.
So I then visited my other favorite writer’s spot, Absolute Write, and I did another post, saying:
The good news is, I've had my new mail-order bride novel read by a friend and she says it's good to go. The bad news is, this same friend liked my only other mail-order bride tale, a novella, and some readers hated that story. I disappointed them. My friend, Krista, was surprised by the response but she doesn't usually read romance.
I'm not seeking an editor or a proof-reader; the book has gone through three drafts and I feel pretty good in that regard. I'm in need of someone who loves romance to read my pages and tell me where I've gone wrong -- or if I've gone wrong, at all.
That evening, the nice S. contacted me, saying she’d take a look. I sent her the pages. (No, ‘S.’ probably isn’t her real name. It’s her real initial, though.) Three days later, a second reader jumped in. Dani B. said she’d take a look, too. At first, she said I could send her the entire thing if I wanted but she soon changed her mind. Instead, she asked me to send her three chapters at a time.
This is Beta Reader 101. When someone you don’t know needs a reader – especially when they admit that their earlier story inspired dislike – well, a three-chapter beginning seems rather… sensible. This is an intelligent approach, too, because, if those first three chapters sucked, Dani could jump from the reader-ship fairly quickly. (Last pun. Promise.) So I knew she was acting in a sensible and intelligent manner. But was she solid enough to finish the job once she’d started?
I’m telling you now, absolutely. I sent off my first three chapters and, within hours, she was in contact with me. Working from the perspective of a romance reader, she told me what worked and what didn’t, the parts she liked and why she liked them. She shared what didn’t work for her, too, but she was always pleasant and friendly in her responses. She worked her way through the novel in three chapter chunks and, when I sent her the final bits, she was kind enough to say she didn’t want the story to end. She wanted to read more.
A writer loves hearing those words. Glynn became very happy when I shared her email with him.
By the end of my beta reader hunt, I’d found three new readers beside Dani. After receiving the book, one of them never wrote back. S. wrote a few weeks later to say we’d done a good job and L., the last of the group, said she liked it too. Neither had much more to share, but we were grateful for the feedback.
But we are especially grateful to Dani and her three chapter blow-by-blow report. That was golden.