Study the Market

book-market

What is the best way to find out what is successful in the current market?

This is a good question because while as an author, you don’t want to chase the market, you also don’t want to write books that are so far off from the current market that they have no chance of selling. First and foremost, marketing advice from any source assumes that authors submit their best, most polished, highest quality work. Just because vampire novels enjoy popularity now, doesn’t mean publishers will acquire just any novel with a vampire. The novel must sparkle to sell to a publisher and then to readers. I don’t recommend chasing nonfiction trends either, because one or two popular authors can quickly saturate the market on any given topic. Or as Steve Laube says, “If you are asking what’s hot…you are too late.” Although some topics are evergreen, as a rule the market can only absorb so many books on a topic. Writing about a tangent of a popular topic won’t help because then the book is in danger of being too narrow to sell to a large audience. It’s then a niche of a niche.

How to Choose

I recommend choosing a topic, setting, and story that stirs your passion. If you don’t feel passion for your work, readers will know. A friend once told me of an aspiring writer who tried to imitate Anne Rice because he went into a book store and noted the popularity of vampires. He went home and wrote a vampire book and hoped to hit the big time. I’ve yet to see the writer in print. My guess? He wrote only for money so his story was bloodless.

The Time Factor

Unless you’ve been in publishing awhile, you may not realize the amount of time that transpires from an author typing The End on a computer screen to a book appearing in print can be a year or more. (See our previous blog “How Long Does It Take to Be Published”) Multi-book contracts keep authors writing certain types of books several years. Consider that by the time you see a particular genre in the store, it’s possible that the publisher acquired it years ago. That means that as far as acquisitions, the publisher may have moved on to a different interest. Another possibility is that the house now has its author in that genre and is not looking to acquire more.

Striking the Balance

In my view, the best way to strike the balance is to read. A lot. If you are hoping to break into a market with set rules, such as genre romance, learn what those rules are and don’t break them. Yes, a select few authors may be able to bend the rules but a new author must write within the genre confines. Period. Once you have read in your selected genre, you will see joy in the challenge of remaining within the genre’s rules while still being fresh and creative. Trade books might offer a bit more flexibility and certainly length, but you still need to read many of the type of trade books you want to write. When you are buying and reading current books, you are naturally studying the market and seeing firsthand the type of book that is successful in the current market. Then write the type of books you enjoy reading. Don’t imitate a famous author. Stick with your own voice, but polish every word so your book’s awesomeness cannot be denied.

What to Do with Your Awesome Book

Once you feel you’ve struck the right balance of market potential and awesome writing, let your agent be your guide. The best agents talk to editors all the time and keep their level of knowledge high by reading industry news and attending business meetings and events. Your agent is able to direct your work to the editors who will give your work serious consideration. We always appreciate writers who work with us to perfect marketable manuscripts.

Your Turn

What other tips can you offer writers hoping to break into the market? What are you doing to break into the market?

This post is in response to an excellent question posed on last week’s blog.

 

 

 

 

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News You Can Use – Oct. 18, 2011

Ten Ways to Irritate an Editor or Agent – I have to admit, this made me laugh and then cry because some of these have happened to me too!

What is it Like to be James Patterson’s Co-Author? – Perspective by Ned Rust.

Ebooks Don’t Spell the End of Literature – Jonathan Jones on Art.

Shiny: The Firefly Guide to Creative Content – If you know what “Firefly” is, you are in unique company. If you don’t? Don’t worry about it. You probably didn’t like “Tron” either.

Is it B.C./A.D or C.E? – The debate rages over dating continues. Make sure you know your publisher’s “house style” ahead of time. Do you agree with this writer or disagree? I personally do not like using C.E. or “Common Era.”

10 Google Chrome Apps (Extensions) that Can Make You a Better Writer – Good reviews by Easily Mused.

Digital Reading: At the Intersection of Reading and Retail – Great insight from Anne Kostick.

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Say it in a Sentence

Can you present your book idea in one sentence?

Can you present that idea in such a way that the reader is compelled to buy your book?

What motivates someone to spend money on a book? It is the promise that there is something of benefit to me, the reader.

Books are generally purchased for one of three reasons:

Entertainment Information Inspiration

If your book idea can make me want to read it, whether it is for entertainment, information, or inspiration, then you are well on your way to making a sale.

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Writing Contests: Panacea or Waste?

At a recent conference, a lovely writer who had finaled in a contest but wasn’t chosen as the winner asked if she could still submit a proposal to me. I told her “Yes! Of course!”

Her question brought to mind the role contests play in a writer’s career. I’m asked questions about contests at least once a month. I’ll try to answer two key questions here.

Should I Enter?

When considering whether to enter a contest, think about your career goals. Does the contest make sense for the type of book you write? A quick look at past winners may give you a clue as to the value of the particular contest for you.

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News You Can Use – Oct. 11, 2011

Inside Scoop on Publishing – Three editors bring a fresh take on the subject of today’s market

Your Book Still Has to be Amazing – Literary Agent Scott Eagan makes a strong case. He is right on the money.  I quote“…this is probably the biggest change we are seeing right now in publishing. It isn’t the fact that we see the e-reader technology taking over, but a change in the way the readers are finding the books.”

Free Audio Lectures on Lit! – This is an amazing resource. Hear Tony Reinke discuss the material behind four chapters from his new book Lit!: A Christian Guide to Reading Books.

How Publishing is Like a 7th Grad Dance – Brilliant post by Mary DeMuth.

Issues Facing a Digital Transition – Excellent, but all to brief, interview with Tom Bozeman about some of the complex things publishers must deal with.

Author Philosophy 101 – Katie Ganshert asks some great questions.

15 Frequently Confused Pairs of Verbs – Are you guilty? I see this more than you care ever imagine.

Marketing for Insecure Writers – Don’t be afraid to admit you read this one.

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Who Gets Paid in Publishing?

With all the talk about Independent publishing vs. Traditional publishing and the talk about how writers can get rich if they follow a certain plan…I got to thinking. Maybe we should do a quick look at the Economics of Publishing to see if anyone is making off like a bandit. Sorry for you non-numbers people, but it is critical to understand the infrastructure (i.e. the lifeblood) that keeps your ideas in print.

The detective in the movie says “Follow the money,” so we shall. But first a disclaimer. These models are estimates based on years of reading contracts, profit and loss sheets, spreadsheets, and royalty statements. Your mileage may vary.

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Fun Fridays – Oct. 7, 2011

What is Your Favorite Candy?

Need a break from a tough week? Play the Candy Smackdown game. Then tell us both your final four and your ultimate winner in the comments below.

In case you are wondering, last year’s overall winner “Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup” has been retired from the competition (placed in the Candy Hall of Fame) to insure there are no repeat winners.

Either click the picture below or go to this link for the larger PDF file: 2011 candy-smackdown-bracket

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Conference Proposal Requests

The recent ACFW conference (attended by nearly 700 writers and industry professionals) has writers, agents, and editors in overdrive as we all attempt to follow up on conference proposal requests. Writers are working feverishly to get proposals to editors. Some are thinking, “Surely the editor who seemed so excited about my proposal is checking email at least once or twice a day looking for it. I must, must, must get the proposal out today!”

Not so fast

Our word is our bond, and we feel responsible when we promise to submit a proposal as soon as we can. Accountability is to be commended. Editors and agents appreciate conscientious writers. However, most of us are looking for a writer’s proposal under certain conditions, and those conditions are usually quite urgent in the careers of writers already established with us. From my perspective, conference requests are different. Here are a few examples:

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What Makes a Christian Book “Christian”? (Part Three)


So, there I were, surrounded by publishing professionals, faced with the question of whether or not we liked–or respected–our end consumer: the reader.

Publishing folk are a freaky bunch. They love to think and debate and share ideas and dissect and explore. Get a whole room of editors going and nothing is sacred. At the same time, everything is. At their core, publishing professionals recognize–and love–the power of words. Spoken, written, sung from the rooftops–words contain the power to create and cultivate, encourage and empower…or decimate and destroy. These particular folks also love God and His Word. So their drive is work on books that impact lives rather than books that just entertain.

So, what did they say, these learned, insightful, imaginative folks? At first, nothing. They stopped–really stopped–to consider the answer to whether or not they like the reader. Publishing pros are great at pondering.

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