As a developer of book marketing technology solutions, our team at BookBuzzr is big on usability testing as defined by Steve Krugg in his book – ‘Don’t Make Me Think’.
Any time we build something new, we get hold of three new users to use the product and give us feedback. The process is tedious and often frustrating. We would have spent months building stuff which we think is easy to use. Then, when a user interacts with our software we realize that we’ve missed answering the most basic of questions that may run through the users head.
The idea of Reader Testing is an extension of usability testing. Rather than put your book out there and see what the market thinks, you test to see the market reaction at a much lower cost. Here’s how:
Find three people who you think constitute your target readers. These three people could be your friends, family members or just acquaintances. Give them only the first thirty pages (or first 10%) of your book to read. Wait for about a week. Do any of these three people get back to you and ask for the rest of the book?
Dig deeper to find out if they don’t ask for the next chapters.
Your goal is to have all three readers ask for the full book.
A poor response means that either you’re getting the target audience wrong or that you need to rework your book. Figure out which may be the case for your particular book. Then repeat the test with three new readers. Keep iterating with sets of new readers until all three of your readers ask for the full book.
The main goal behind this kind of reader testing is to ensure that the opening of your book (where most read / abandon decisions are made) is up to par.
But why should you enlist only three readers?
It’s much less daunting to find three readers than to find ten readers. The quality of actionable information that you get from three readers is not going to increase exponentially if you increase the number of readers to five or ten. You are more likely to do multiple rounds of reader testing if you need to keep finding only three readers at a time. And it is better to stay focussed on the biggest problems with your writing or your reader targeting than to focus on the trivial issues.
Of course, this concept can be extended to the whole book and you can simply hand out only one chapter at a time to your test readers. But in that case you’d probably be better off just hiring an editor or enlisting the help of beta readers.
As an author, you don’t know if your book is ready for prime time which is what a listing on Amazon means. And you don’t want to treat your paying readers as beta testers. The consequences could be the loss of reputation, poor Amazon reviews and lost sales for your future books. By doing reader testing you will improve your chances of putting up the right book to the right target audience with the right opening.