Several weeks ago I took hold of a unique opportunity – even though it made me as nervous as I’ve ever been. I allowed Book-Hive’s Focus Group Reader Service to take my latest WIP and test it. Big GULP.
Below is a snippet where the creator of Book-Hive, Jennifer Bowen, explains how the process would work:
“We conduct an online focus group of 10 to 12 test readers within an author’s chosen target market. These Test Readers are sent quantitative questions (example: on a scale from 1-5, how satisfied were you with the ending?), as well as qualitative questions (example: what did you like about the book and why?). The results are a 25+ page comprehensive report which can be a great editing tool and/or potential marketing tool.”
The concept was intriguing. I loved the idea of my book being read by, what should I call them, “real” readers? Yes, that works. Because I don’t mean my beta’s, or critique partner. I mean readers who might browse a book store one day and see my book, the ones who would, if they could, offer a writer their unbiased input, opinions, and suggestions for the story. And, what do you know? Here was a way to do just that – in a controlled environment.
This was too good of an opportunity to pass up. I almost fainted right here on the floor the day I sent my manuscript – which was in late July. Good or bad, it was better to know now rather than later just what real readers might think.
It took six weeks to get the test results, and meanwhile, I had walked away from the work, while quietly having a mini nervous breakdown. I’ve never left a ms alone for more than a week. Honestly? I can’t tell you what I did for all those weeks. Jennifer emailed me close to the end of that timeframe and said the results were almost in. My mouth went dry. Then, she shared some good news and I quote, “it received fantastic feedback for a first draft – I think you’ll be pleased!”
Mouth went drier – if that’s possible.
And she was right. I was really, really happy. When I got the report in early September, I saw that, in short, the book’s protagonist ranked a 4.4 out of 5 for likeability, the readers were hooked within the first ten pages, and that ranked a 4.2 out of 5, and hooked by 50 pages, ranked a 4.3 out of 5. The overall ranking for the book was 4.0 out of 5.
And then, Jennifer said:
“The manuscript ranked the highest for the month of August, and therefore, I would be featured as their “Author-Of-The-Month,” in their September newsletter.”
I was…speechless. Okay, not speechless, babbling. If one can babble through email. (I seem to have found a way to do it.) What did Author-Of-The-Month mean to me? Good things. For one, the newsletter that comes out once a month would feature the book, and Book-Hive also has a Facebook page and Twitter feed which would give a shout out as well.
The Book-Hive newsletter posted today:
“I’m happy to announce that Donna Everhart is BookHive’s September 2014 Author-Of-The-Month. Her novel, A BLACK WATER SEASON, begins one hot summer evening when eighteen-year-old Ruby Kemp’s parents go missing. Set in the 1970’s, in rural Mississippi, and told in alternating points of view, it’s the story of a young woman caught up in the Dixie Mafia, an illicit organization, and a ruthless killer’s obsession. It was selected by our Test Readers as the highest rated book this September for hooking them straight away in the first ten pages, for the in depth complexity of the unlikely anti-hero, the killer, and for its fast paced, tension filled story telling.
Donna grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina and has lived close to her hometown for most of her life. She currently resides in the small town of Dunn, along with her husband, and a very demanding four pound Yorkshire Terrier named Mister, a.k.a. “The Bundle.”
A BLACK WATER SEASON, her third novel, will be placed on submission by her agent in the near future.
Donna works to write the sort of stories she’d love to read, and discusses her writing journey on her blog at www.donnaeverhart.com. You can also catch up to her on Twitter. Her Twitter handle is @wordstogobuy, and she hopes the good karma of such a handle will one day make her dream come true.”
Since I received all this wonderful news, I’ve been able to take the report I received from Book-Hive and apply many of the suggested changes the readers would like to have seen. Their input has been invaluable, and I have a lot of appreciation for their thoughtful comments, their wit and humor, and mostly, for taking the time to read my story. If you, Test Reader are reading this, I just want to say THANK YOU! The time you took to read and comment meant a lot to me!
And to Jennifer Bowen, who was a pleasure to work with and who made my experience with Book-Hive awesome! A huge THANK YOU!
Now, I’m back to work on revisions – with confidence – and this experience with Book-Hive gave me that. You can check them out here. They are offering a special rate of $100 (regular $499) to test manuscripts through the end of October. While there, you can also read the interview Jennifer did with the Publicity Manager of Simon and Schuster, Meg Cassidy, which I thought fascinating. It provided an in-depth view of how publicity works – particularly for debut authors. It’s out on the “BuzzBlog.”