I’m only going to talk about one step today–early readers–because I feel it’s such an important step for the debut author (and helpful for any author). Quick recap: last week we made sure your novel:
1) Was properly edited. This includes: beta readers, crit partners, professional edits, and self-edits. (To clarify: I consider beta readers a handful of early readers who look for content/character problems–readers you KNOW are in your book demographic). Critique partners can edit for content and/or grammar problems, depending on your primary need. It’s good to have one solid crit partner whose opinion you trust implicitly when it comes to understanding your writing voice and the reason for your stories).
2) Has a kickin’ title and Amazon blurb, and has cover art locked in place.
Once you have polished these elements till they shine, you’re ready to get an Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) out to your early readers. This is a traditional publishing term, but it makes sense to me. It’s basically your book, as good as YOU can get it.
Now it’s time to:
1) Compile a list of early readers. This list can be as long or as short as you want. I will say that it’s always better to gather too many names than too few, because this means more potential endorsements and/or influencers. I approached those who had expressed interest in Viking history–specifically, fellow authors or experts in the Viking field, because I was hoping for endorsement quotes for my debut novel. For instance, if you amass thirty early reader names, you should understand that possibly only twenty will get back to you and have time to read it pre-publication.
2) Convert your book file into something readers can see on their e-readers. Before you do this, make sure your cover art is inserted onto the first page. It is helpful if your early readers have access to an e-reader, though it is possible to send your book as a .pdf attachment in your e-mail (.pdf is preferable to Word, for copyright protection purposes). You can upload files via the Kindle conversion process; a mobifile converter (which didn’t QUITE work right for me) or a .pdf file. I attached .pdf and an e-book ready file to my early readers, so they had options.
3) Plan to send your book to early readers at least 2-3 months before your release date. And give THEM a date to respond to you with endorsements. I didn’t do this the first time. I just sent out my mass e-mail with the book attached and sat by my computer, convinced I’d hear back from everyone that week…nope, didn’t work that way (although some readers were really fast!). Turns out, people are pretty busy, and authors really have to carve time into their schedules to read for you (which makes them doubly blessed!). I actually had authors ask ME for a respond-by date. So be sure to include a respond-by date in that initial e-mail.
I also tried to make it really clear that if early readers didn’t like the book, not to worry about it. I’m not going to pressure people to read/review something that’s not up their alley. Early readers actually helped me narrow down my demographic by their responses to the novel.
You can word your mass e-mail however you want, but I think friendliness and appreciation shines through, instead of a brusque business letter approach. Some authors actually create a Facebook group for early readers, where they can discuss the book. Some call early readers a “Street Team.” Doesn’t matter how you phrase it, but they’re crucial for a debut author. I’ll explain why in the next point…
4) Those early reader reviews will be the first ones to go up on Goodreads and Amazon…and the first reviews don’t budge. They show up on the screen every time someone pulls up your book. So you want to showcase the reviews of readers you trust. You can be sure your early reader’s reviews will be thoughtful, if not all five-stars. Forget five-stars. It just matters that they read your book all the way through and cared enough to write something that will help steer curious new readers. Getting a few Goodreads reviews up pre-release increases your visibility and makes it easier for authors to transfer reviews to Amazon when you launch.
5) As the endorsements and reviews trickle in, collect your author endorsements in a file. Be sure to copy/paste them to the “Editorial Reviews” section on Amazon WHEN you hit PUBLISH. You can’t do it before then. I tried. You can also copy/paste them right into those first pages of your book (“Praise for ______________”), or revise the back cover art on a softcover book to include author quotes you want to highlight.
***WHEW! I feel like we covered a lot, and I’m probably leaving out some details. Do you have any questions or ideas as related to “Early Readers,” “Street Teams,” “Viking hordes,” or whatever term you want to use to designate those helpful early readers?***