Finding Your Early Readers

This is the last post in this thread that uses The Lean Startup, by Eric Ries as the jump off point. If you haven’t already done so, I recommend that you buy a copy of the book or get it from the library. There are examples from Ries’ life as an entrepreneur, as well as other business owners he’s interviewed about getting their product or service into the hands of customers, that are invaluable.

By now you’ve written a short story in the world you’ve created or repurposed the first chapter of your book as a short story. Your next step is to find your early readers who are willing to give you feedback on what you’ve produced. Remember, this isn’t about changing everything, or even anything, about your book to fit the whims of your customers. This is to see how potential customers feel about your writing style, your world building, and your story-telling capability. If they point out things you agree with, you can decide whether it is worthwhile to incorporate the suggestions into your story or to leave the lessons learned for later books. This doesn’t mean you won’t be called out for a bad product. But if the suggestions significantly call for changes to your book, you must figure out if they are applicable to the current book you’ve created.

Finding your readers is a combination of making the product easily available for purchase and publicizing your product. That means before you make it available, you should spend some time thinking about what the best strategy will be. Since we’re talking about a short story, I think the best bet is for it to be available only by download. That cuts down on the amount of venues selling your story that you must keep track of. I’d recommend using a service like Smashwords since you need only upload your book once for it to be formatted for the major online distribution venues. There are other service companies like Smashwords out there too;  explore your options and ask other writers for recommendations.

After making your story available for download, next comes publicizing the early product. It’s a fine line you’re walking. Since this is an early version of your product (not the full book), you don’t need to launch a full-scale campaign to get word out. But in order to reach readers, you do need to spend some time developing your strategy. I recommend using social media at this stage. Keep in mind, though, your budget will have a direct impact on what type of social media campaign you want to launch.

There are two kinds of campaigns that I’ve found to be particularly effective: Facebook ads and Twitter themed tweets. Effective Facebook ads are ones that are well designed (remember, the picture is only thumbnail sized) and well-written. Facebook has plenty of advice on how to create an effective ad; I heartily recommend that you read about them here and here before you launch your campaign. Twitter has information on both promoted tweets and Twitter for Business. Decide on how much money you’re willing to budget for your campaign and what your time frame is. Look at who downloads your book, what feedback they can offer, and what, if any, can you use to improve your product.  Then decide if your product is worth launching or if you need to improve it before it hits the reading public. Be ready to write another short story or use the next chapter of your book to repeat the process if you’re not comfortable with launching the book as is.

Next week I’ll be looking at a new book: Imagine: How Creativity Works, by Jonah Lehrer. I first read about it in the WSJ and the premise is creativity can be learned. This is especially important for writers since I often hear about writer’s block and lamentations of a muse gone AWOL.

2 thoughts on “Finding Your Early Readers

  1. I look forward to continually reading your posts. I appreciate the importance of treating writing as a business. Another important aspect for a writer’s career is to be able to say to others, “I’m a writer.” Belief in ourselves is essential. Thank you!

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