Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work; If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!” (Eccl. 4:9-10).
When writing a book, authors usually present their own ideas and support their information with Scripture and quotes from other books. However, some writers, like Joanne Kraft, have discovered the benefits of focus groups made up of people who fit their target audience.
Please help me welcome Joanne, as she shares how a focus group helped form her latest book, The Mean Mom’s Guide to Raising Great Kids.
Congratulations on your newest release, Joanne. Please tell us a little bit about The Mean Moms Guide.
Thanks so much for having me! The Mean Mom’s Guide to Raising Great Kids is my newest nonfiction parenting book. It encourages marshmallow moms (softies) to stay the course and keep loving boundaries—especially when parenting is hard.
What are the benefits of working with the focus group as you write a nonfiction book?
When I signed my contract for The Mean Mom’s Guide I knew I’d need help. With a title like “mean mom”, well, I wanted to have a lot of support from other moms. I used my social media to ask women if they’d be interested in joining “The Mean Mom Team.” I wanted to gather moms and hear what they had to say about things like technology, entitlement and how to maneuver sibling rivalry.
What are the greatest challenges in working with focus groups?
For me, the toughest part was older moms weren’t as well represented as the younger moms in my focus group. Since I drew my focus group from social media, the older generation of moms (moms of adult kids) weren’t as interested in a parenting book as younger moms were.
Each publishing house is different. You’d have to contact your editor and see what they say, or refer back to your contract for that information.
What, if anything, are authors expected to do for the members of their focus groups?
The number one thing? Communicate. I made sure these moms knew the private group they were joining was for The Mean Mom’s Guide. They knew when I asked questions that their answers were part of my research and anything they shared might be used in my book. I made that clear. When my galley copies arrived I went back to my focus group numerous times and shared each mom’s quotes and let them know which chapters they’d be in.
Why should nonfiction writers consider working with focus groups?
I never thought I must have a “focus group.” It was an organic process the Lord made into something better than I’d ever imagined. These women have encouraged me so much this year. I pray for these women and want their faith to grow deeper, just as I would if I was facilitating a ministry face-to-face in church.
In what ways did having a focus group benefit your writing process?
The better you know your target audience the better chance at providing a solid manuscript/written resource. If you struggle to know who your audience is or what they’re all about, then a focus group for your next project might be a great benefit.
What happens to the group after you complete your manuscript?
The “Mean Mom Team” became so engaged with one another over the past year that when my book came out it was natural to offer them the chance to be a part of my book launch team. I’m using my same group space on Facebook to run my book launch.
We’ve been together for over a year now. They’re helping me get the word out about my book through social media. I’m also reading through the book with them. On Saturdays we have “Prayer & Praise” where we pray for one another and rejoice in the blessings they’ve experienced, too.
When the launch is over I’ll go back to using it for ministry with these women.
Are there any circumstances where focus groups would not be helpful?
If you’re a writer who struggles with criticism a focus group may not be for you. When you open the door wide for lots of people (who aren’t writers) to tell you what they think, a focus group may not be a good choice.
Please offer our nonfiction writers a final word of encouragement.
Inspire Christian Writers was one of my very first steps toward publication. The value of being around writers weekly is immeasurable. If you’re in an Inspire group—keep going. If you’re not in a group yet—find one. If you’re frustrated over edits—keep writing. If you’re discouraged about rejections—ask Inspire friends for prayer. Whatever you do, don’t give up. If God can use me He can use anyone.
To connect with Joanne, please visit her website, “like” her Facebook Author Page, follow her on Twitter, and subscribe to her blog. And when you’re buying your copy of The Mean Moms Guide, please don’t forget to buy a copy for another mom who needs encouragement through biblical wisdom presented with delightful humor.