Blogger: Wendy Lawton
Anyone out there feeling like a book marketing guru? We often hear from writers that knowing the potential competition for their books is the hardest thing about doing a proposal. But reading the market is an important part of writing books that will sell. Here’s why:
- You need to know where your proposed book will sit on the shelf in a store so that you can fill a need, plug a hole or offer a different voice than everyone else out there.
- You need to know who else is writing similar novels. For novelists you need to be able to supply readers with comparables. “If you like the books of Jane Doe, you’ll probably like mine.” (And don’t worry that someone else has written something similar. Think of your own reading patterns. When you finish a great medieval historical you don’t want to leave that world. You look around for another great medieval, right?)
- You need to know who else has recently addressed your nonfiction subject and how they approached it. If Max Lucado just wrote on your subject, you might want to wait awhile before proposing this book. Remember, when someone walks in the bookstore and asks for a book on XYZ, the frontliner is going to immediately think of the A-list book on that subject.
- Or you need to know if there’s been a recent glut of books on this subject. Publishers will hold off if the category is full.
So. . . agreed, right? Reading the market is essential for authors. But how does one do it? Let me offer a few suggestions:
Talk to librarians. Nobody knows books like librarians. Granted, they may not be as current as the market is, but they know what’s out there and they know which books get checked out most.
Talk to Bookstore frontliners. Frontliners are the salespeople who work in the bookstores. They are the ones who direct readers to books. Find out what they know.
Study Goodreads and other online reading apps. There’s much information on the market tucked into these online communities.
Read magazines like Romantic Times. These periodicals are not trade magazines. They go to readers. The reviewers are avid readers.
Spend time on Amazon, Christian Books. These recent resources are pure gold for writers. Not only can they help you in reading the market and knowing what’s out there but they can help you with the “readers who purchased this, have also purchased. . .” comparisons.
Collect anecdotal evidence. This is the fun way. Always ask “Read any good books lately?” “How did you hear about it?” “Where do you buy your books?” Everyone you meet is a potential resource and everyone loves to talk about what they are reading.
Identify typical readers and separate them from professional readers. This is essential. When we hang with other professionals– publishers, editors, writers– we are not talking to run-of-the-mill readers. We need to always keep that in mind.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg. How to you keep on eye on your unique market? Do you panic if a similar book comes out when you are midway through yours? Let’s talk.