The Story of BookHive

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We asked Jennifer Bowen, of BookHive to provide us with more information about her service and why B. B. Cockrell was chosen as Author of the Month. She prepared a great response. So here it is, in its entirety, for the benefit of other interested writers.

BookHive offers online research for finished manuscripts in target markets. What that means in regular human speak is we test Adult Fiction, Young Adult/Middle Grade and Memoir with 10-12 targeted Test Readers via an online survey. We have a standard survey that answers most of the big picture questions an Author wants answered. The survey is in two parts, quantitative questions (on a scale from 1 to 5 how much did you respond to the main character, the ending, etc.) as well as qualitative free-form questions (do my first 10 pages hook people, how is the pace, what is confusing? etc.) We also add 2-3 personalized questions to the survey per the Authors input. This feedback results in a 25+ page report. The Author receives the full report of feedback, along with a 2-3 page analysis of it from a BookHive representative.

We do our best to carefully vet our Test Readers, recruiting them via online ads, social media, word of mouth, and Book Fairs. Test Readers are matched up to projects that we hope will have the best possible outcome for the Author.

BookHive came about when I wrote my first YA novel. I’d been working on it for about a year with a writers group with people like me in their 30’s and 40’s. But I was curious what a fifteen-year-old girl would think. It wasn’t a perfect Test Group of teenagers I first selected for a few reasons. Asking someone to read your book, and someone wanting to read your book is two different things. That’s why at BookHive we work with Test Readers who want to work with us, who are hungry to read and give thoughtful feedback. But, even with the few teenagers who did give me feedback, the results were quite surprising. The main example of this I give is there is a love triangle in my book. All of the adults who read it (and myself included) picked one guy at the end, the guy who I hoped they’d pick. But all the teenagers picked the other guy, and thus were disappointed when my main character didn’t end up with him. This was eye opening. It also affected the direction of my edits the next year. When I re-tested it a year later, a lot of things that I was worried about were now tracking well.

From that experience, I teamed up with a consultant and we spent a year and a half defining how we could help Authors with this research tool and recruiting and vetting Test Readers. We  soft launched June 2014.

So far, the BookHive reports have been primarily a great editing tool to help guide the Authors in how to strengthen their manuscript. But we also think it could potentially be a great marketing tool if the results are positive. One Author we worked with recently who had a high rating is hoping to encourage her agent with the results. In the future I hope BookHive can be a trusted validator of engaging and must-read-now manuscripts. Also, we plug the highest rated Author-Of-The-Month to our database of Test Readers and Authors to build some momentum for them.

Fall of 2014 will see us attending the Boston Book Fair in October, and the Self-Publishing Expo in NYC in November, so think that will be great opportunity to meet new Authors.

I think most writers think of getting feedback in one of three ways: close friends/family, a writers group, and an editor. I see BookHive as the step after working it alone or with a writers group and before going to an editor. We’re answering broader editorial questions. Personally, I like getting a consensus of 10-12 people vs. only one, especially at an earlier stage of development. The Test Readers at BookHive have an unbiased eye that ones friends/family, and even ones writers group, just doesn’t have. I spoke to an agent once who said she never likes to actually meet a potential client before reading their manuscript, because it would color the experience for them. I think that logic applies to why BookHive can offer something unique.

Primarily we’re focused on Adult Fiction, YA & Memoir. We’re staying away from testing non-fiction, including self-help, after a testing recently that came back inconclusive. We say we test ‘finished’ manuscripts and by that we mean at least a completed first draft. We always read manuscripts before we officially sign them up. This is for two reasons. First off, we want to make sure we have the right Test Readers for each individual project. Also, we want to pass on the 300 page Nazi manifesto, if you know what I mean.

The reason we selected B.B. Cockrell as our August 2014 Author-Of-The-Month is because her novel THE PICARDY ALLIANCE had the highest rated scores (both quantitative and qualitative) by our Test Readers. I even had one Test Reader reach out to me about what was happening with the book days after the survey ended. He loved it that much. B.B. Cockrell in plain terms is just a good writer. Her descriptions are vivid, her characters are full of depth and detail, and she knows how to keep the pace up with a well devised plot structure. I think she’s the perfect example of how BookHive can be effective for an Author. From the testing, she was able to know she was certainly on the right track. But she also received some collective feedback that if she integrates in her next edit, can bump up the book from 4 out of 5 to a 5 out of 5, in my opinion. Also, since being our Author-Of-The-Month, she’s stepped up in developing her platform as an Author. This is key for any kind of success, whether traditional or self-publishing.

To learn more about BookHive, please visit our website: www.book-hive.com and take a look at the following videos for more:

https://vimeo.com/97656469
http://vimeo.com/98736271
https://vimeo.com/99756844

 

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