Next up in our Author Profile series is Lisa Ard, author of Fright Flight and Saving Hallowe'en.

Heads up: Saving Hallowe'en will be free on Amazon on October 31st!

I enlisted help from a group of young readers in critiquing my latest manuscript. This was easy to do. I only had to ask my 5th grader's teachers to find some kids interested in reading the first 20 pages of my soon-to-be published story Saving Halloween and in answering 4-5 questions. Did I mention I offered them cookies as well?

Why did I embark on this venture? I've written of the agent critique I received at a recent conference. I ascertained two main concerns from the critique and I believed I had addressed them. However, in showing them to my adult critique group, I got a couple comments like, "I wonder what an 11-year old would think?"

Good question. I've decided to ask. Consumer product companies do this all the time - test the product. Since I shied away from this part of my business studies (marketing in general) I needed to think carefully about how to do it. I didn't want to lead my readers. I wanted good, unbiased information.

I admit, I broke my rule: Never ask for critique from someone you feed. I did mention cookies above, didn't I? Well, I'm tried getting around that by asking the readers to write down their thoughts in the privacy of their own homes - prior to our breakout session where I offered cookies.

Here's how I structured the testing:

I solicited 5th graders at my son's school and 8 responded (6 girls and 2 boys). I dropped off a packet for each that included:
  • an introductory letter from me explaining the effort,
  • a selection of book jacket blurbs,
  • the first 21 pages (4 chapters) and
  • a list of 5 questions
In addition to the questions, which had to do with the protagonist and conflict, I asked the readers to mark any area of the text where they didn't recognize the word or didn't understand the passage. Once they read the material, we met for one hour to share.

It worked. This month I was pleased to learn that Saving Halloween won a 2012 Kay Snow Writing Award for Young Readers. It's available on Kindle now!