there is a story behind every book

Reader Focus Groups - Measuring Reader Engagement, Virality and Word-of-Mouth Potential for Your Books

What is a reader focus group?

The typical setting for reader analytics is to organise a group of readers, usually 200 to 500 individuals strong, and offer them a free ebook in exchange for their digital reading data. This can be done before a book is published, provided there is a (near) final manuscript ready for distribution. It can also be done at any time after the publication date, but then you will need to pay attention to possible exclusivity provisions of retail channels that you use, such as KDP Select (Jellybooks is technically speaking not a retailer and does not necessarily fall under some of the exclusivity provisions). One option is to organize a test reading focus group while you are conducting a promotional give-away.

Typically, 80-90% of those who sign up to participate will download the ebook (some hesitate providing their gender and age, which is mandatory in the focus groups we organise). About 40-60% of those participating will send reading data to Jellybooks. Why not 100%? Well some readers forget about the book, have other things come up or are “sneaky bastards” (a.k.a. “freeloaders”) who read on a Kindle even though we can’t collect any reading data from Kindles and clearly say so. However, like any business oriented professional you know that a certain level of “losses” and “leakage” is the cost of doing business. That’s life, but Jellybooks continues to come up with ways of minimising such “leakage” by improving the overall user experience and maximising conversion ratios. We also occasionally” shame” such freeloaders and in cases of serial abuse ban them outright form the platform.

However a 40-60% conversion ratio is more than adequate to gain some in-depth insights into your audience. One of the ways Jellybooks does this is by distilling the data we collect into key engagement numbers:

Completion Rate

This is the percentage of readers who actually finish your book. In calculating the completion rate Jellybooks only counts those who actually started reading the book (those who downloaded without reading are excluded). Participants who registered and/or downloaded the book without starting reading or sending us reading data are not included in the calculation.

The completion rate is the strongest measures of how captivating your book really is. We measure this engagement number separately for men and woman, young and old, so you can better understand what kind of reader is engaging with the book. Is more popular with younger or with older readers, woman or men, mobile phone or tablet users?

One of the key concepts is that readers who don’t finish your book, will not recommend it to others. This is an observation Jellybooks has made across hundreds of focus groups. It may sound very logical and intuitive, but is still often overlooked: you should care not just about your books selling, but also about buyers actually reading your book, because only engaged readers recommend a book to others. Buyers who don’t finish your book will not recommend it. That means no word-of-mouth and as a consequence you will have to hand-sell each book individually liked a sued car salesman.

We don’t just provide you with the completion rate, but also the completion curve. This is a graph that shows you reader engagement chapter by chapter. It allows where the decline in engagement occurs. Typically readers make up their mind in the first 100 pages and the attention decline should be in the first 100 pages, but it is possible you might be losing them later I the book because your middle part is unnecessarily long-winded? The completion curve along with survey responses give you an insight as to where and why readers give up on your book.

Recommendation Factor

This is an adaptation of the Net Promoter Score (NPS). We ask readers the question “Would you recommend this to book to a friend?” after they have finished the book. readers can answer the question with “definitely”, “possibly”, “probably not” and “ definitely not”. Those who answer “definitely” are the promoters of your book and those who answer “probably” or “definitely not” are the detractors. Those who answer “possibly” are really just sitting on the fence and hence classified as “neutrals”. Your recommendation factor is the difference between the percentage of promoters and. So 60% answering definitely, 30% saying “possibly” and 10% saying “probably not” would be a recommendation factor of 50% (60% minus 10%). A score of 100% would be heaven. It means you have hordes of raving fans who will tell their friends how fantastic your book is. A percentage of 0% means that your promoters and your detractors balance each other. Your book probably doesn’t have too much viral potential and a negative recommendation factor is outright scary. However, it might also mean that you conducted the focus group with readers who just don’t dig your genre or your book. You are basically much more niche than you thought. It is important to know who your dream reader is. He or she is the reader who will gush to friends in their circle about your books. It is better to hit a small group of super engaged and enthusiastic readers who spread the word than getting lost in an ocean of indifference.

Cover Match Factor

This is a measure of how well suited the cover with respect with to the content of your book. After they finished the book, we ask readers if the content met the expectations that were raised by the cover. We don’t ask readers if the cover is pretty or would make them pick the book (have a special form of A/B test to measure how covers influence what readers select). Instead we ask the question “Did the cover deliver what it promised”. There is no point having a cover seducing readers with the promise of romance, when the book is actually about crime. Packaging that does not deliver what is inside leads to disappointed readers and unhappy book buyers don’t rave about your book. Poorly chosen covers were a leading cause why great books did not sell in the reader analytics tests we have conducted with leading publishers. Even the professionals get this wrong! Don’t be too clever, focus on standing out without falling into the trap of “false advertising”.