Receiving reader feedback on your manuscript before you publish might be the most valuable step you can take toward producing a successful book. You can obtain this information in a variety of ways depending upon how you choose to write your book.
In fact, you can get early feedback even before you write your book. This type of test marketing saves you time and energy in the long run—and avoids producing a manuscript that might never sell.
The goal of getting early reader feedback on your book idea or manuscript is simple: produce the best book possible. You will ask for feedback and then incorporate the valid suggestions into your book.
The following five strategies provide the means to get beta readers or reviewers for your ideas and your work. Each has a different set of benefits, and each is useful at a different stage. Choose one that suits your style, your point in the book production process, and the work at hand.
1. Blog Your Book
The main benefit of blogging a book, purposefully writing your book post by post on your site, comes from the author platform you build by doing so. As you produce the first draft of your book on the Internet, you gain loyal blog readers and subscribers. They are your potential book readers or buyers even though they have already “bought into” reading the first draft of your book right on your website.
Your blogged-book readers are highly likely to engage with you and your book. They might leave you comments about your book—especially if you ask them for feedback in a call to action at the end of each post. They also might provide you with their experiences—anecdotes you can use (with permission) in the final version of your book. All this information can be used to improve (or to write) your manuscript.
If your blog readers don’t leave comments (or if they do), you can poll or survey them. Ask pointed questions about what works or does not work in your book and what they would like to see more or less of. They will be happy to tell you what you’ve left out, how you need to improve your manuscript, and what they like or dislike.
Additionally, your blog statistics program gives you targeted information on what parts of your book are well received—or not received at all. You can watch as your visitor, pageview, and time-on-site statistics go up and down based on what you write and publish on your blog. For example, you might notice that when you published the 10 blog posts that comprised a particular chapter you had fewer readers than when you published a similar number of posts that comprised another chapter. A drop in readership is a clear indication that that chapter was not a big hit with your readers, and you need to take another look at it prior to publication.
A blogged book is a test-marketing experiment. If your book idea is a good one, and if you carry it out well, your traffic grows. If you haven’t targeted your market or written your manuscript well, you won’t find a readership. Either way, you discover if you have a marketable book idea.
2. Blog on the Topic of Your Book
If you don’t want to blog your book, blog about the subject of your book. This strategy provides another way to test market your book idea.
Based on visitors, pageview, and time-on-site statistics, you can determine if anyone in your target market has an interest in your book’s topic. Look at individual blog posts to see which subjects have the most interest to your readers; as you write your manuscript, focus on these.
Again, you can evaluate reader comments and use them to help you decide how to write your book and what to include in your manuscript. You also can employ polls and surveys to get specific feedback from your blog readers about what they might want to read in a book on the same topic as your blog.
If your site traffic and reader engagement grow quickly, you have the knowledge you need! Write a book like your blog! (You may even be able to “book your blog” by repurposing some of the content you have published already.)
3. Ask Beta Readers for Feedback
The classic way to get early feedback on a book idea or manuscript involves asking a select group of people to read your manuscript and offer suggested improvements. This group of readers receives a “beta” or an early version of your manuscript, which may be your final version prior to sending it to an editor or press. However, it’s still a beta—untried—version. The beta readers “test it” by reading the manuscript. Then they tell you if it has any glitches or bugs. They also tell you what parts work well.
Your loyal blog readers, such as those who leave comments frequently, will be happy to serve as early readers of your work. They will be thrilled to give you feedback. Then incorporate this into your work in progress.
Like blogged book readers, beta readers have a huge amount of buy-in to your book. After all, they’ve had a sneak peek! Therefore, they are likely to purchase the book once released and to provide reviews of your book either before or after release.
Note: The next two strategies apply only to nonfiction books.
4. Use Your Manuscript as the Text for a Course
If you offer online courses, or if you plan to provide a course related to your book, obtain early feedback on your manuscript from course registrants. To do this, make your draft manuscript required reading for the program. Stipulate in the registration documentation that those in the course must give revision notes on the course “text.”
Those who use a book—or a manuscript—as a resource in a learning environment tend to put the information to use. They study your words, complete the exercises, and consider all your suggestions and act upon many of them. Therefore, these early provide valuable and applicable suggestions for manuscript improvement.
Like other types of beta readers, your students are inclined to provide you with book reviews or blurbs.
5. Use a Course as the Basis of a Book
You also can reverse the process posed in the previous strategy. In this case, you run a course to determine if anyone in your target market has an interest in your book idea. You don’t provide a beta version of your manuscript but rather ask students what they would want to see in a book on the same topic as the course. Or ask for feedback on the course content and structure, which, hopefully, you modeled after your book idea.
With your student’s suggestions in mind, write your book. Then use strategy #3 or #4 to get additional feedback once you complete the manuscript. If you opt to use strategy #4, include your new manuscript as the text for the course.
If you have trouble getting people enrolled in your course, you probably may not want to pursue this book idea. Lack of registration equates to a failed test-marketing experiment.
Get Feedback from a Book Coach or Editor
Of course, you can work with a book or author coach, who will provide feedback on your concept. Or hire a book editor who reads your entire manuscript at once or chapter by chapter as you write. These professionals’ opinions, however, are not the same as those that come from consistent readers of your blogged book or registrants of a course on the same topic.
Pick the strategy that works best for you and your book project. If you are just starting out and have not written a word, test your idea with a course, a blogged book or a blog. If you have a manuscript, give it to beta readers, blog about your book, or create a course around it and use it as the required text.
No matter what strategy you use, by obtaining early readers and feedback, you’ll improve your final manuscript. And the insight you gain will help you craft a more marketable book.
Have you received—and used—early reader feedback for your book? Tell me in a comment below. And please share this post with another writer or blogger.
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