Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Calling All Beta Readers

Documenting America, Volume 1, is coming along very well. I'm up to 26,300 words, en route to somewhere between 35,000-40,000. I have 26 or 27 chapters, planning on about 32 all together, though I may have my word count in just 30.

Before I decided to do this as an e-book, I was preparing it to be newspaper columns. In fact, as I've mentioned before, the first four were published by our local newspaper as part of a guest editorial program. I received good, if limited feedback. I stopped submitting them when the editor in charge of the program left, even though the program continued. I kept writing them for a while, accumulating eighteen separate columns, though a couple of them probably weren't really done. When it was a newspaper column, I aimed to have 500-750 words.

Now that I'm doing it as an e-book, I have no restriction on word count. What was an individual column is now a chapter. The only limit is how many words I would consider to be "history in sound-bite sized chunks." I consider that between 1000 to 1250 words. So I'm expanding those eighteen chapters to full length, as well as adding columns. I think I have seven or eight more to expand. I found, as I worked through many documents, that they deserved multiple columns/now chapters. I thought I'd do them widely separated, then decided to do them in pairs. So I'm adding chapters within the eighteen already written as well as at the end.

It's time, I think, to get this in the hands of some beta readers. I've contacted some by e-mail, receiving positive responses, but I need a couple of more people. A beta reader could be another writer, or an industry pro who has a critical eye. Or, they could come from the target audience, the people I hope to sell books to. The things I'm interested in are:
  1. Is this a sound concept, i.e. the idea of breaking USA history down into small segments as the chapters do?
  2. Is it likely to have commercial success, i.e. would you want to buy something like this?
  3. Is the writing any good? I have a very thick skin. If someone says my writing is crap, I take that as useful criticism and attempt to do better.
  4. Does the chapter complete a thought, or is the reader left hanging wondering "why the heck did he bother to write that?"
  5. Any of what we call "in-line" comments are appreciated from a beta reader, but certainly not expected. This could be anything from: identifying grammar errors; catching typos; pointing out some bad writing in the midst of otherwise good writing; pointing out incomplete thoughts, where I might have meant to say something more, was interrupted while writing, then never came back to it.
So, if anyone has any desire to be a beta reader for this project, let me know by posting a comment, or e-mailing me at norman_d_gutter at yahoo dot com.

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