Done with Betas, back to playing the solicit-the-agents game

I’m crossing the “test the manuscript with Beta readers, absorb their responses and react accordingly with public-test revisions” step off my list and getting back into the game of finding an agent.

I picked five agents last night that looked various levels of promising, dusted off the query and fired it out there. Two of the agents I’d grade “A,” which means they struck me as perfect fits for The Murder Plague. Two I graded “B,” meaning they’re pretty good looking fits, but I have my doubts. The fifth was a “C”, I’m not sure, but I don’t see any reason why she wouldn’t like it.

And bam, just like that one of them makes the next move. Marlene Stringer of Stringer Lit (one of my B choices) set a new record by sending me a rejection letter in less than a day. In 19 1/2 hours I got an e-mail that begins, “Thank you very much for your query, which we have read with interest. Unfortunately…” Then it goes on to explain that it’s only a form letter. Really, why send a reply that starts sincerely then declares itself a form reply?

But I digress. I must share with you readers that the Beta step didn’t go as well as I had hoped. The lesson here is to not get your hopes up on volunteer Betas.

My Betas include several professional editors and writers, plus three or four who are not wordsmiths, but whom I consider excellent readers. Yes, all are friends and relatives. I think that was a mistake, considering they apparently didn’t feel any urgency. The responses came back very slowly.

Everyone who responded said they really liked the story, which is praise I don’t need and am not looking for. What I wanted, and explicitly requested, was deeper analysis on what worked, what didn’t, what needed more, what needed less, where the holes are, etc. Only one Beta provided that kind of insight. Another spoke of my writing style, stressing some suggestions, which was good. Otherwise, mostly what I got was notations on typos. It’s important to catch and fix the typos, but I was seeking bigger-picture thoughts.

Several Betas never got back to me at all. Two of them, I think, went into hiding. Not a good sign. But I’ll count the non-responses as neutral, until they give me reason to be less optimistic.

Just so long as they don’t send me form responses that begin, “Thank you so much for your manuscript, which I have read with interest. Unfortunately…”

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