Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Why you need Beta Readers

Today I received my second beta reader's feedback. It made me really excited, both for the feedback itself and the fact that I'm closer to publishing "Looming Shadow".  With this feedback, I am more confident that my second book will be a success.

I didn't do the beta reading thing for A Mage's Power and because of this I didn't notice a grievous error in the manuscript.  The first chapter was disastrous. It turned off a lot of readers  and I know this for certain because such things are in several reviews. None of them like it and those that didn't dislike it only tolerated it. No one thought well of it until recently when one reviewer praised it. The bottom line is that it was a problem in the first chapter of my first book and I had no idea. I had no idea because I didn't show the book to anyone other than my parents. They're brilliant people but they are not fans of the fantasy genre and so they're not my target audience.

In the original edition of A Mage's Power, there was a section in the first chapter that involved Eric cyclying through a series of mysterious events. There's a dark mine where voices try to make him fall asleep forever, a volcano which tempts him into killing the office bully, a watery cavern that makes identity questions and other weird things. One reviewer compared it to Alice in Wonderland.

Piror to this is Tasio the Trickster talking about how he helps people and then a glimpse of a day in the hoo-hum life of Eric Watley. After the problem scene is an Urban Fantasy. The events of the problem scene never come up again and there is no context to understand them. That's why people don't like it.

It made a great deal of sense to me, personally. I thought through everything and made sure all the details were correct in the grand scheme of things. I was unaware that it would be baffling to a reader who had no context for it.

To those who are interested and read this scene before I removed it, I will explain. It was all A Secret Test of Character. It tested Eric's resolve to continue despite fear of danger, his determination to overcome obstacles in high stress situations, his problem solving and observational skills. The point was to make sure he had the bare minimum to survive in a place like Tariatla, where monsters are as common as mosquitoes.

"It was simply getting past that first initial chapter." This is a direct quote from a review. It's likely the kindest thing anyone said about this scene.  If I had sent this to more beta readers then I believe they would have pointed out this glaring problem. Then I could have removed it prior to the launch and avoided such statements in future reviews. Then I would have a higher rating and happier readers.

That is why you need Beta Readers

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