Today’s post is written by Erika Liodice, a finalist in The First Ever Write It Sideways Blogging Contest. Thanks for joining us, Erika!
You know what you want to write. You’ve defined your target audience. But how do you know if your concept is saleable? The short answer is: you don’t. But your keen senses can help you find out.
1. Listen to your readers.
You’ve spent the time to define your audience, so ask them if they would read your book. Facebook, Twitter, and a sea of online communities make it easier than ever to form virtual relationships that you can leverage to test your audience’s interest. You can pose the question informally to a group and see how the conversation unfolds. Or, for a more formal approach, you can create a survey with a free online tool, like SurveyMonkey, and post it your blog or website or distribute it in an e-mail. Most readers won’t hesitate to tell you what they think of your book concept. Just make sure you are willing to listen.
2. Look at the best-sellers.
Just like painters study the masters, writers can learn a lot from best-sellers. Examine the New York Times Best-Sellers List. Pay attention to who is on it and what they are writing about. While you don’t want to create a me-too book, this observation can reveal a lot about readers’ interests and help you determine if your concept is timely and relevant.
3. Sniff out the competition.
Visit a handful of bookstores both in person and online. Locate the shelf where your book would sit and scope out the neighborhood. Will your book get lost in an already-saturated market? Or does it offer a fresh perspective, new idea or something tangibly different that will motivate people to open their wallets? If you can’t pinpoint why readers would want to buy your book over the others, they won’t.
4. Be in touch.
Keep your finger on society’s pulse by monitoring content related to your book’s subject matter. Is your topic in the news often? Is it a matter of national debate? Is anyone talking about it? What are they saying? Google Alerts makes it possible for you track relevant news headlines, blog posts and other content by allowing you to set alerts for keywords related to your book. Keeping tabs on the collective conversation can help you determine if people will be receptive to your book.
5. Taste test.
Readers’ tastes are ever-changing. How can you determine if your topic will suit their palate? A quick visit to Google Trends can give you insight into the hottest topics and search queries of the moment. Don’t see yours? Don’t worry. You can run a search, which will show you historic trends that indicate if the public’s interest in your topic is increasing or declining.
As writers, it’s easy to lose ourselves in the art of writing and forget about the business of selling books. Take it from me; I spent several years writing in the pre-dawn hours before work, devoting entire weekends to my manuscript and spending hundreds of dollars mailing query letters and sample chapters to agents. The result? Sleep-deprivation, blurred vision, debt and a pile of rejection letters that echoed the same sentiment: “can’t find a market for this.”
If your goal is to build a writing career, then salability is a question worth considering upfront, before you devote years of your life to a project that nobody wants to read.
Erika Liodice is an aspiring novelist and founder of the inspirational blog, Beyond the Gray, where she shares her journey to publication while encouraging readers to reach for their own dreams. She is a contributor to Writer Unboxed, The Savvy Explorer and Lehigh Valley InSite. You can follow her on Twitter: @erikaliodice.
Join the discussion
Barbara Forte Abate says
Super post, Erika! Great tips and suggestions, many of which I hadn’t considered before. And truly, like it or not, so much of the writing journey comes down to your final sentence:
“If your goal is to build a writing career, then saleability is a question worth considering upfront, before you devote years of your life to a project that nobody wants to read.”
Ashley Prince says
I really love this! It is so clever.
Krissy Brady says
Thanks so much Erika! I especially love the idea to use Google Trends–will definitely be using it as a research tool from now on.
Hi Erika. Nice post! Think our followers will enjoy, I will retweet to them! Best regards.
I loved this post because of the cleverness of the theme, and because all of us writers wonder whether our works-in-progress are saleable. I think you’re right that authors need to determine whether there’s a market for your work before spending years on a project. Thanks for sharing!
Great post! Much of the advice sounds easier to apply to non-fiction than fiction. I wonder whether you could expand a little on what is needed to build a fiction audience.
Let me give you an example: suppose you’ve written a YA novel but when you read the papers and blog about what interests you as an adult (say, like in this case, the challenges of writing a successful book), how does this relate to a YA audience? Teen-agers are not interested in the myriad issues of an adult’s working life…or the hurdles faced by writers in their daily writing tasks. So a blog on writing, the life of the writer, the problems in the publishing industry, the digital revolution etc have nothing to do with the interests of a YA audience.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that there can easily be a disconnect between a fiction writer and his/her online audience. How do you bridge it? By getting characters in your novel blogging for you?
Erika Liodice says
Actually, I’m a fiction writer and I’ve used all these tips to gauge the potential of the novel I’m working on. As far as building a readership, have you read Christina Katz’s “Get Known Before the Book Deal”? This book gives great advice for fiction writers who are trying to build an audience. I highly recommend it.
Thanks Erika, that’s great advice and I’ll check it out!
Elle B says
Great tips about Google alerts and Google Trends, Erika! I do believe that we should write from the heart, but keeping a finger on the pulse can guide our creativity too! –Debra
Christi Craig says
Erika, “Be in touch.” I love that. I haven’t tried Google Trends. From an inspiration point of view, there’s so much material out there, waiting for us, if we’re open to see it. From a salability point of view, all your tips are helpful to consider. I admit, I try not to be a slave to audience, only because it stunts my writing process. But I know I can’t ignore audience. Finding that balance is key. Your post has given me lots of food for thought.
florence fois says
Love this post, Erika. You have given this a great deal of thought, while so many writers never take the time to consider … who is your readership … and once you are done with the book … do you know how to find them??
Our writerly world has changed and it is our job to know all of this and still spin an entertaining yarn 🙂
Erika Liodice says
So glad you all enjoyed my article. I felt compelled to write about this topic because it’s something I wish I’d thought about when I wrote my first book. I’m happy to share my experience and hope others can learn from my mistakes!
Gene Lempp says
Excellent post, very useful for anyone with a serious desire to find a market for their writing!
This is my favorite blog by Erika!!! Andrea
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@70caaa0bdf3346e4f8ebac56d5f37da4:disqus what a great article – my favorite by far. So in touch with your senses which is what makes you a great writer. Very impressive! 🙂