I soft launched BookHive about a year and a half ago. We do beta reader research for authors with Fiction, YA/Middle Grade and Memoir manuscripts. I’ve learned a lot about what makes a great beta reader and am still learning. Our results for each testing are a 35+ page report full of feedback, both qualitative and quantitative, along with a two to three page analysis of the key points of the raw data. Here’s a little insight into how we find, vet and refine our beta readers.
How BookHive Finds Their Beta Readers
I get asked this a lot. We find our beta readers through book fairs, writing conferences, online ads, social media, and word of mouth. What I like about the BookHive process is that we have a wide cross section of beta readers. There are outlets to tap beta readers out there, but then it’s just one channel. Also, all of our beta readers agree to a Terms & Conditions that keeps an authors manuscript safe from replication and distribution, which should be a concern for authors. One can ask friends and family to beta read their manuscript to mitigate this issue, but then the feedback could be biased. Or one can go and ask a few strangers online, but for me, that feels risky, and also too random.
How BookHive Vets Their Beta Readers
This really is a two step process. The first vetting comes when they sign-up on the BookHive website. We collect a lot of information: age, gender, region where they live, how many books they read a year, the types of books they read, if they are in a book club, and a writing sample. The second vetting comes when they actually test a book for us. First we are looking for reliability, do they do the survey on time. This if course is important. Then we look for specificity, thoroughness, and honesty in their feedback. Not everyone has to write a boatload in their feedback (and it varies) but we are looking for quality.
How BookHive Refines Their Beta Readers
As we are a start-up in a soft launch, we are always testing a few beta reader newbies per project to beef up our vetted beta reader database (we currently have 800+ beta readers recruited.) By the end of 2016, for most projects, we will have a balance of 80% vetted and 20% newbie beta readers per manuscript reading. We also have an internal verbosity meter where I note the style of feedback from the beta reader. One is not better than the other, the few sentences or long paragraph response. Our ultimate goal is to have a balance of all kinds of feedback style per manuscript testing.
Also when we are recruiting in the beginning of a project, we send the beta readers the synopsis of the book and they have a choice whether or not to test it. We really want beta readers to test a manuscript they would be naturally drawn to. This is better for the beta reader experience, and for the feedback for the author.
One of the cooler parts of testing manuscripts is when a few beta readers will note something nearly identical to each other, either a positive comment or some constructive feedback. When I see these consistent trends, I feel validated that this process can be really useful. While some people might ask two to three beta readers to read for them, BookHive strives for eight to ten beta readers (if not more) per manuscript. With those higher numbers, you can really get a sense of what’s working or not. I always say, research isn’t the law, but it can be a guidepost. If 80% of your beta readers don’t feel hooked after the first ten pages or that you rushed the ending, I’d tell the author to consider taking another look. Likewise, when beta readers key in on what they love, I tell authors to remember. If ain’t broke, don’t fix it. And it also could be some strong holds marketing wise as to what can hook and lure readers come promotion time.
I’m a writer and after I wrote my first YA novel, I really wondered if teenagers would dig it. From that experience of trying to reach out to teenage readers, I realized how useful it was for me, and thought – can I make this more organized and efficient for other authors? With BookHive, my attempt is to do just that.
BookHive Corp. does beta reader editorial research for authors with Fiction (all kinds), YA/Middle Grade & Memoir manuscripts.
$699 for 8-10 beta readers, $1,099 for 16-18 beta readers.
The results are a 35+ page report full of quantitative and qualitative feedback.
Jennifer Bowen, QueenBee (more fun than CEO) of BookHive Corp.