In the game of American WrIdol, we have a lot in common with contestants on the 'other' show. Our first audition--really an audition to get an audition--is the speed query letter. Safe to say that, like the singers, we get fifteen seconds--one or two paragraphs, tops--to stand out from the sweaty herd and make the second cut: a look at the opening pages. Then, with luck, we're off to Vegas for a Live Audition--a look at the completed ms.
One aspect of AI and, better still, The X-Factor, that should be studied more closely is the importance of feedback and coaching to those who go the distance. When a hair's breadth--a hare's breath?--may separate the simply irresistible from the almost good enough, the right Beta readers may provide the needed edge.
Brad Strickland and I have decided, before we go to market, to send the first fifty pages to a carefully chosen group of five we know we can count on feedback that's clear, concise and tough. But we'll only get one chance with them. And we've got to be certain we're sending our best. What if we were to send the pages first to two pre-Beta readers with a list of simple questions: Is this clear, is it quick and compelling? Etc.
The trick hinges, I believe, in finding Betas who can groove on our goal to be one of the five in a hundred* who do not read just just like everyone else. If they've got that groove on, great. Better yet, if they can groove while helping us to raise the bar and remain true to our goal.
* David Morrell wrote that 95 books in a hundred read as if they have been cloned.