LynneQuisition: BookHive

Interviews by Lynne CantwellFinding beta readers isn’t always the easiest thing in the world. Friends and family are the obvious choice, but Mom probably isn’t going to give you an unbiased opinion.

Enter BookHive, a service that will provide your book with its very own focus group. BookHive Queen Bee Jennifer Bowen agreed to sit in the comfy chair and tell us about it.

Jennifer, what gave you the idea for BookHive?

Jennifer: I’d been working on my first Young Adult novel. After a year of writing and getting feedback from my writers group in NYC, I was curious about what a fifteen-year-old girl would think. While the people in my group dug it, they were all in their 30s and 40s, and I wondered if I had my finger on the pulse for my target audience. I strongly believe in the usefulness of writers groups, workshops, etc., in developing a book. But when people have read multiple drafts, they lose perspective.  While my writers group continues to shape and strengthen my work, I got feedback from the teenagers that I just wasn’t getting from my writers group. I took that feedback and it truly informed my edits that next year. When I retested it a year later, it tested much stronger. That’s when I knew I might have something that could help other authors. Starting BookHive came out of this experience.

Lynne: I heard about focus groups when I worked in radio. Stations would use them to test songs they were thinking of adding to their playlists. What can one do for an indie author?

Jennifer: A focus group is a fresh set of unbiased eyes that call tell you things like if your first ten pages hooked them or if they really do like your main character. We pick eight to ten targeted test readers for each manuscript. The report can be an excellent (and cost-effective) editorial tool. Also, if a manuscript receives a lot of positive feedback, it can clarify for the author how to position their book marketing-wise. Essentially, they can know what foot to lead with based on the key positive points from the report.

Lynne: Who are your test readers?

Jennifer: BookHive currently has 700+ Test Readers from all across the US. We recruit through Book Fairs, online ads, social media, and word of mouth. The thing is, our readers come to us and want to do this because they love new books and want to be part of the creative process. When an author tries to rally friends/family to give feedback, it can be problematic. Our Test Readers aren’t necessarily telling an author how to change their work, but they will express what’s working and what’s not. I’m a writer too, and this is the kind of feedback I want. I have the skills to fix what problems I might need to, but the gut reaction from my readers really informs what I consider taking a look at.

Lynne:  Would an author be able to ask the group to look at specific problem areas?

Jennifer: We find our standard questions really cover the needs of most manuscripts. But we also offer the author the opportunity to add two to three personalized questions to the survey. I will usually offer a question suggestion as well. From my background of developing plays through my theater company in New York and participating in various writers groups, I have some expertise on what can make a better story. And that experience can help guide the survey.

Just to clarify the BookHive process, the author will receive a 35+ page report full of feedback from eight to ten test readers. The report is both quantitative (example: On a scale from 1 -5 – How hooked were you after the first ten pages?) as well as qualitative (example: What did you think of the ending?). Along with the raw data, I include a two to three page analysis, pointing out consistencies in both the positive points and critiques for the author. A BookHive representative will then go over all of the results in a SKYPE/phone call with the author and address any questions.

Lynne: Sounds intriguing. How much does it cost?

Jennifer: We charge $499 per test market. But we’re offering a discount right now. If you use the code HIVE, you can get $200 off the price. This offer is good for the next six months.

Lynne: It’s an intriguing idea, but it sounds like something folks would have to save up for. Thanks for chatting with me, Jennifer, and good luck with BookHive!

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Author: Lynne Cantwell

Lynne Cantwell grew up on the shores of Lake Michigan. She worked as a broadcast journalist for many years; she has written for CNN, the late lamented Mutual/NBC Radio News, and a bunch of radio and TV news outlets you have probably never heard of, including a defunct wire service called Zapnews. But she began as a fantasy writer (in the second grade), and is back at it today. She currently lives near Washington, DC. Learn more about Lynne at her blog and at her Amazon author page.

32 thoughts on “LynneQuisition: BookHive”

          1. If I balance everything I’ve heard, I think the case can be made that the top-of-the-line Nook has been better than whatever the flagship of the Kindle line was at the time a decent share of the time. Their store (the on-line one) … I’m considering what words I can use that won’t get me in trouble. I want to use a word that starts with an S. Maybe (not up to) Snuff. There is the B&M option. I have one about 50 miles away. In fact, I walked right past it last weekend since it is by the entrance to the mall. Good chance I’ll be back in about 6 months.

  1. Jennifer, do you have any plans for a less expensive option? Perhaps something a little less structured? I think some authors, especially more experienced ones, may not be in need of so much detail.

    1. Thanks K.S. for your thoughts.

      Great idea. We just soft launched in June, so as of now, we’re focusing on the more in-depth research approach as it’s proven to be most helpful for our first authors. But it definitely might be something we would explore in the future.

    1. Thanks Christy! It can be a great cost-effective check-in before heading to an editor. Feel free to hold onto our coupon code HIVE which takes $200 off. It is good for six months. Good luck with your writing! 🙂

    1. Thanks Melissa for your thoughts. Right now we’re finding our authors are really responding to the in-depth reports, so we will keep focusing on that for now. But we might be exploring a less detailed service in the future!

    1. I’m pretty happy with my beta reading team, too, Linda. But I can see where a service like this would be useful for authors who don’t know people who could give them useful feedback.

      1. I can also see it for an author who writes a series, and wants fresh readers each time a new installment comes out to make sure the book can stand on its own.

      2. I think you make a good point, Lynne. I live and write in Thailand on Thai subjects. I would have great difficulty in using the service as described because it’s unlikely they could find enough beta readers who could put aside their western mindset to fully understand the different cultural nuances of which I have written.

        The best example is the present coup-initiated military government. To westerners coups are always bad. Thais take a more pragmatic view. A recent poll showed an 80% acceptance.

        I use a group of Thais as a focus group but would dearly love to have some western input.

        1. Thanks Matt for your thoughts. If that is a great concern (the western mindset) – I would clarify with you in more detail about the concern. Then when I was recruiting for your testing, I would address it with those Test Readers. Are you writing non-fiction?

    1. Thanks, TD. I’ll let Jennifer expound. But I’d liken it more to a developmental editing service — someone to help pinpoint a book’s problems with plot holes, structure, etc.

    2. Thanks T.D. for joining the discussion. The BookHive report uses a broader gage on what’s working (or not working) with the book. We cover things like whether the first ten pages hook a reader, to what parts were confusing, to likability of characters, for example. BookHive is a step before an author would go to an editor or copy editor.

  2. Getting close to needing some reader feedback myself, but cost is always the sticking point. Thanks so much for a great interview. I have it bookmarked for the day that pennies no longer matter.

    1. Thanks A.C. Congrats on getting close to finishing your manuscript. I can understand that price may always be an issue. But considering the time one spends on a book (for me it’s been years!) – I think the BookHive report is a cost-effective tool to really gage if the book is resonating or not. The coupon code HIVE for $200 off is good for six months. Good luck with your writing.

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