When you’re working on your book, it’s always nice if you can start with a built-in audience. And it’s always good to get feedback on your book before you launch it. That’s where pre-readers come in.
Pre-readers are a small audience that you give early access to your book. It’s a key step in the launching your book, and you’ll want to make sure you plan to have some pre-readers help out in a couple places in your publishing plan. Let’s take a look at the two ways a pre-reader group can help you and how to make the most of your wonderful early readers.
Pre-Readers Before Editing
This type of pre-reader is also commonly known as test readers or beta readers. These people are here to help you look for story flaws or other things about your book that you can make better. Does this story make sense? Is this character coming across? What could be more exciting? Test readers are invaluable for making sure your book is worth marketing before you even begin to market it.
Here are five things you can do to make the most of your test readers.
Ask them to focus on key points
Give your readers a specific thing you’re looking for help with. Does the villain feel realistic? I’m not sure I captured the feeling of downtown London well. Does my couple seem like they would really fall for each other?
You might only give some of your pre-readers specific things to look at, depending on their areas of expertise. Since test readers are often your friends, it’s usually pretty easy to ask certain people for feedback on certain things.
Don’t give them a focus
It sounds contradictory, but you might get better feedback by just handing your pre-readers the book and getting out of the way. Take whatever they give you without biasing them toward looking at one specific or another. You can get an overall reaction to the book and whatever they noticed.
Provide a deadline
Sounds simple, but you will get better results if you tell your test readers that you need their feedback by a certain date. Don’t rush them by allowing only a week to read and process your book, but don’t give them so much time that they procrastinate and forget to read it. A few weeks is plenty to read a typical-sized novel and provide feedback.
Work through the feedback with someone you trust
Let’s face it: dealing with feedback is tough. You’re going to get notes on darlings to murder and plenty of things that don’t work along with the positive best-book-ever stuff. Take a deep breath and bring those notes to another person to help you sort through them. They can help you figure out what feedback can be ignored and what is truly a problem. This is a great place to bring in your editor if you’ve hired one to help you with story tightening.
Keep in touch
Assuming they enjoyed your book, your test readers are now this book’s first fans. And that means they are excited for when you publish this book they just enjoyed. Take advantage of that by letting your test readers know when you’re going to press, when the release date is, showing off the cover to them early, offering them a free copy of the final book, and maybe even letting them have a copy or two to give away to friends.
Pre-Readers After Editing
Now, after the editing pass, you can look for a different kind of pre-readers. These are the people who are an exclusive pre-launch group that gets a free copy of the book early in return for writing reviews. This type of group can be incredibly helpful during your book’s launch, making your book spread far and wide, depending on the number of people who are in your pre-reader group. And you’ll also have the potential to launch with a bunch of reviews already posted on Amazon from day one. I did this for my recent, very niche book launch and ended up with five reviews posted on Amazon in the first couple of days—before anybody actually bought the book!
Here are seven ways to make the most of a pre-reader group.
Get a lot of them
A lot of authors balk at the idea of giving away so many copies of their new book. But this is not the time to be stingy! Remember that the more people you get on your list, the more potential there is for your book to spread extra far to more people who might buy it.
Let your mailing list and followers know about the pre-reader program
Give your biggest fans a chance to sign up and get a free book. They will love you and be thrilled to accept a free copy in exchange for doing a review. Bonus tip: Include a P.S. in your e-mail encouraging your fans to forward the announcement to others they know who might be interested. You might pick up some more pre-readers that way!
Cap the number you’ll accept
Pick a high number, slightly bigger than the number of pre-readers you think you’ll get, and use that as the limit on how many people you’ll accept into the group. This makes your group a scarce commodity, which means it has more value. If you say, “I’m sending out free early review copies to the first 50 people who sign up,” that’s more effective in getting applicants than saying, “I’m sending out free early review copies.” Now it’s a race to sign up first and get in on this great program you’re running.
Give a deadline
Just like with your test readers, you want to give your pre-readers a deadline. The release date of your book works well for this. That way, you can make sure the pre-readers have their reviews posted ahead of the launch, and they’ll also know when the Amazon page is live so they can go post a review there.
Remind them of the deadline
Life is busy and people can forget things, especially when those things are e-books that are invisible. That’s why you should send out reminders to your pre-readers when the deadline is coming up. I’d recommend sending one reminder a week before the deadline, then following up with a final reminder on the day of the release so your pre-readers can go post reviews on Amazon.
It helps a lot to put all of your pre-readers on a separate mailing list so that you can easily send out reminders. Some mailing list services will even let you schedule out e-mails, so you can do all the work of writing reminders ahead of time and then just let the software automatically send them when it’s time.
Share your pre-readers’ reviews
In your final reminder e-mail, make sure you ask your pre-readers to send you a link to their reviews. Then, especially if they’ve reviewed your book on their blog, share a link to the review. You could do a round-up linking great reviews on your own blog, or you could just share the links on social media over a week or two. This serves as a nice way to thank your pre-readers for reviewing your book, and it also gives you a bunch of stuff to post about during your book launch. Win-win!
Don’t expect everyone who signs up to follow through
So you don’t get discouraged, remind yourself up front that you’ll have more people sign up than will actually post a review. That’s okay. This is part of the reason you’re signing up a lot of pre-readers. The more you get to sign up, the more you’ll have actually post a review.
Plus, to give you a positive spin on this, sometimes the late pre-readers will eventually follow through and post a review. Don’t expect it, but be gracious if somebody sends you a link to their review a month after the deadline.
Pre-readers are a fantastic way to both get feedback on your book before you release it, and an even better way to organically spread the word about your book when it’s time to launch it. Make sure you incorporate pre-readers into your publishing plan.