VOF general header

Update, 19 January 2015: This call has been answered. I do not need new beta readers unless someone drops out. Thanks so much to everyone who responded–it was great to have so many people step up!

Original Article:

I am now in the editing phase of my new book, The Valley of Forever. That phase may continue for quite a while–the writing of the book itself took over five years–but in the meantime, I’d like to get some feedback on it, so I am putting out this call for beta (test) readers. I’ve done this kind of call before on this blog, and it’s been pretty successful, so I’m reaching out to you, my readers and fans, to see if you can help.

The Valley of Forever is probably best described as speculative fiction, or maybe “soft” science fiction. It’s about the nature of time, its strangeness, its intricacies and its ubiquity in human consciousness. The story takes place mostly aboard a crippled cruise ship and involves two people who never meet: Jerusha, a 44-year-old mother of two who’s running away from her failed marriage, and Ronan, a disturbed young man struggling to come to grips with the trauma of his past. In remembering their own lives, the two characters begin to experience time in a very unusual and transformative way–which takes them both to the farthest limit of human consciousness and possibly the universe itself.

This book is pretty unusual. It’s a non-linear narrative, jumping back and forth in time, and it has no less than eight different endings. Thus, it’s not your run-of-the-mill genre fiction. The length of the book is approximately 110,000 words, so it’s a bit on the long side as well.

There is something in it for you if you volunteer (see below), but before we get there, I’m looking for particular kinds of people to help me on this project. Here are the parameters I’d like to observe.

1. You don’t know me face-to-face.

The best feedback comes from people whose judgments won’t be colored, one way or another, by personal considerations. If you don’t like the book, it should be no matter for you to tell me that bluntly. So, I want to limit beta readers to people I don’t know in real life and don’t have long-standing or deep personal friendships with online. Sorry, Robert Horvat!

2. You haven’t read any of my books before.

Similarly, it would be best if your opinions are not affected by reading any previous book of mine. The Valley of Forever is significantly different than anything else I’ve written, especially the horror novels, but I’d like to avoid any associations with my previous work if possible.

3. You are not a writer.

This is the most important exclusion–sorry, fellow authors, I’m going to insist on it. Some people have asked me why I have this rule. It’s because writers tend to give feedback based on how they would have written the book if it was their own, rather than how a reader will react; it’s also virtually impossible to stifle this impulse voluntarily. The way I look at it is, beta reading is product testing. If you’re product-testing a new toy, you don’t give it to a fellow toy maker or an expert on toys–you give it to a kid! Thus, no writers please. Bloggers are fine, but if you write fiction, especially novels, or have ever done anything like NaNoWriMo, I’m not going to be able to use you.

4. You can commit to giving me some feedback within a couple of weeks.

I know life is always busy with jobs, kids, spouses and real life events. But if you’d like to read The Valley of Forever, I could use your feedback within a few weeks, maybe early February or so. I will likely give you the book in some electronic format (probably a .PDF), and we’ll correspond by email.

What’s in it for you?

If you want to do it, I’ll give you an electronic or print copy of whichever of my new books (Doppelgänger, which comes out February 3, or Zombie Rebellion) you’d like. If it’s a print copy, I’ll autograph it for you!

If you’re interested (and eligible), you can email me at seanmunger@fastmail.fm, or hit me up on Twitter and we’ll exchange info. I’m looking forward to hearing some feedback on the book, and thanks, as always, for reading!

The header photo at the top of this article incorporates (with changes) a photo by Wikimedia Commons user Bjoertvedt, which is used under Creative Commons 3.0 (Attribution) license.