How do you get someone to read a 100K word book?
I write long books. Never intentionally. I’d like them to usually be somewhere between sixty and eighty thousand words, but so far, of the four novels I’ve managed to write, only one, the first , was “around” sixty thousand words. Even then the pitch to a beta reader is a tough sell.
The primary issue is time. How do you ask someone to take, what is likely their leisure time, and spend it reading something that may or may not be any good. What we really need is a beta reader that engages just a level above the casual reader. So we are asking someone to take their reading time and put on a critical hat and give us quality feedback, AND by the way, I’ll need a hundred thousand words worth of your time.
It’s a tough sell. Even with a really good book, let alone whatever dross our work in progress might be.
Would it be better if there was like a league of beta readers that you could call on to tear your book apart? I think most amateurs looking for beta readers the first time, find friends and family. Mostly this doesn’t do us any favors, so perhaps it would be better to toss our manuscripts to throngs of strangers on the internet. Would that get us a more honest response? Its hard to say. I’ve had reviews from strangers. It seems like there’s always a part of me, a jealous part, that wonders if this strange online entity is our to sabotage me.
Family and friends might sugar coat it, but I have to say that positive reactions, real or just kind, can be much more nurturing to the baby author then the cold hard truth that we need to improve.
Approaching friends and family for beta readers can still be the first brush with the terror of the real world. I know that I went into the process assuming that everyone I knew would, of course, be excited to read this thing I’d spent years working on. Getting your first “no thanks” from a friend or family member can be more than heartbreaking. It’s paradigm shifting.
It reminds you that you need to think about your audience when your writing. Not just the people that you can convince to read your novel but all those people down the road who pick your novel out of the sea of others. It reminds you that your readers are all in some kind of relationship with you. The transaction between reader and author involves some kinds of sale of an idea first, and the physical book after. It’s a reminder that writing the book is only first step in the long trail of trying to get people to read it.