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Friday, November 12, 2010

Early Feedback on Installment #1

The first version of "The Children of Sophista : The Saeshell Book of Time" that I tried to query was a monster: 248,000 words. Even targeting this novel toward gifted kids, I realized no teen wants to read a novel that big. So based on the feedback from the kind chief editor at @BrighterBooks and from my gifted 7th grade reader in TX, I split the novel into four installments and fleshed out Installment #1: The Death of Innocents, making it much more experiential and providing much more in-depth development of some of the characters. The installment is now 69,000 words long, which is pretty much dead-center on the word count target for YA fiction.

The current feedback campaign includes an older college student, a gifted seventh grade reader in TX, and a blind feedback (I don't communicate directly with the students) being conducted by a middle school librarian in CA. I actually continue to try to expand the early reader network, but it is a very difficult task.

One of the more interesting phenomena I have noticed is that the most unexpected feedback I get are from people who I wasn't soliciting feedback. These are people who just saw a feedback copy lying around (they know the person I was asking for feedback) and just pick it up and read it. The feedback, I am sharing below, is from such an unsolicited person. It was so positive that I couldn't believe it initially. So below the feedback, you will see some followup questions I asked to be sure the reader had really thought about the novel and their feedback they were giving.

Demographic: Older adult female in NY. Not in publishing or any book related activities. Not related to me. Unsolicited.

Steph let me read your book and she said that I should let you know what I thought about it. I think it is a brilliant piece of literature and I enjoyed reading it very much. I hope to read more in the future and will be keeping my eye out for your books. Thank you for sharing your talent and imagination with the rest of us mortals.

The reference she makes to mortals is from many of the characters in the book being immortal.

The followup questions:

1. So who was your favorite character?

My favorite character was Elos2 (not sure if I spelled correctly). [actually it's Elof2] He touched me as a loner and I was very interested in learning how he got to where he was.

This is very unexpected. I had been told that women would identify strongest with women characters. Perhaps this a different between teen verses adult readers. Perhaps adult women identify more with the male characters, like reading a romance novel.

2. Some people have told me that the first part of the book is a little slow.
What did you think?
As for being a slow start, I didn't feel that. It grabbed me right from the beginning. I like a good book that engages my imagination and is different than anything else I've read.

3. If you had picked up the book at the bookstore and looked through it like you normally would, would it have caught your eye?

Yes I would of bought it. Hope everything goes well getting in print.

My takeaway:

1. Eof2 is a very independent loner male (20 year old) character who is the teacher to a couple of young teen characters. Independence, complexity, and favorable interaction with kids. Perhaps that is the formula making a male character appeal to adult women.

2. The book was targeted toward gifted teens. It seems that perhaps there is a wider appeal lurking that I didn't realize. Even though most of the characters in the book are kids (Elof2, 20 yrs old, is the oldest character outside of the minor parent characters), perhaps it still has an appeal to adults (outside of the adults who like living as kids again in their imagination).

This small bit of feedback shows how these feedback campaigns unfold. The people targeted in these campaigns are typically not book reviewers. So the feedback is scanty and requires the author to carefully think about what the little tidbit handed to them means. It's almost as if you build a character in your mind to fully simulate the reader. With enough of these small feedbacks, you can tune your mental image of how your novel is received to be more inline with reality.

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