Written by Wendy Keller
“Why do you think your book will be published?”
The hopeful author pauses a moment before responding to my question. “Well, I, uh. Hmm. Wait, I know! Everybody is going to buy my book!” He finishes with a triumphant flourish of his hand. The rest of the audience stares at us.
This is the wrong answer to my question about the size of the market for his general sales manual. I take out my figurative hatpin and poke it into his idea, hoping the hissing air will blast him in the face so he wakes up, recognizes publishing is a business, not a game, and takes the crucial steps necessary to win at it. I’m about to teach you what he should have known before facing down an agent.
I say, “Yes, but not everybody in this country buys books. Not everyone in the USA can read and not everyone reads English.” If he understands what I am telling him, he has a chance of being published. If he takes umbrage, he’s a goner. The ability to cogently define your market is the difference between life or death in what has become a bottom-line cutthroat business.
What’s the answer I’m hoping he will give me? I want him to say, “Sales training is a $28.9 million dollar industry annually, and I’m the first sales trainer to teach the closing technique I am writing about in this book.” Or I want the doctor to have said, “Sinus problems affect one in five Americans, and my book is the first to offer a compilation of alternative remedies to help them.” What I want is known as “marketing statistics”. I successfully sell books when I can prove the audience for the book is huge, and that people are looking for this specific information.
Knowing your market and your intended outcome before you write your book is the surest way I’ve seen to give a potential author a real fighting chance to succeed, whether they self-publish or find a literary agent and go to Random House. The solid, hard numbers are critical to everyone involved in the publishing process.
Questions you simply MUST ask yourself before you write your book are:
- Who is my audience?
- How many of them are out there?
- How can I prove they need this book?
What does my book offer that is new, different, better or more substantive than what’s available to them today?
In marketing, there are two terms that are important for authors to learn. They are “psychographics” and “demographics”. The first word refers to how people think, the second is where they live, how much money they earn and those details. The more you know about the people who will buy your book, the better you can target the book to them.
Why should you care? Isn’t this the publisher’s job? The days of new authors on 20 city all-expense-paid chauffeur-driven- limo book tours are history. Smart authors know they must take 90% of the responsibility for their book’s marketing. It’s not enough to write well. The author must also be a good marketer. If you can prove that you know your audience and have plans to reach them once your book is out, you become a highly desirable potential income stream in the eyes of publishing.
Where do savvy authors-to-be get this valuable statistical information that isolates, codifies, classifies and identifies the large numbers of people waiting around for this book? The Internet is the best place to start. The websites for the US Census Bureau, Department of Health and Human Services, Bureau of Labor Statistics, and more are waiting to share their information with you. Make sure you are precise about citing where you get your numbers!
After those have been collected, pick out the top five magazines your potential book buyers are reading. Call the advertising departments and ask for a “rate card”. They’ll send you valuable statistics on who is reading their magazine. Add their numbers to your book marketing plan and your query letter.
What associations or groups do your audience members belong to? Call their headquarters and find out how many members they have. Learn about how big their industry is. They will gladly give you this information for free.
Combine all this information to prove to yourself and your publishing peers that you know that there are adequate numbers of people out there longing to read your valuable book. This is a strong secret of success – success that can be predicted before the book is even written.
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