August 31, 2008

Market Research

Finally…I’m Back

After a two-month hiatus, I’m finally back! What happened? In short…vacation, a missions trip to the Dominican Republic, designing an engagement ring, and proposing to my girlfriend (who said, “yes,” and is now my fiancĂ©e).

Continuing where I left off, let’s apply another business principle to our writing lives…

Market Research

You’ve defined your goals, strategies, and maybe even worked in a few tactics. For example, let’s say you’re primarily writing to entertain, but you also want to provoke thought. You’ve also chosen to write science fiction adventure stories (which is a tactic that we’ll get to in a future post). That’s your brand. Think about a brand as the answer to this question, “What do you think about (writer’s name)?” In the example listed above, we’re hoping that the answer is: “He writes fast-paced, action-oriented science fiction that will make you think along the way.”

With your core strategy and value proposition settled, it’s time for market research. How do you do market research?
  • Look at what your competitors are doing. Try to define what their strategy is.
  • See what publishers are releasing to the marketplace.
  • Determine a target audience (one that would respond favorably to your strategy and tactics).
  • Match audience demographics to published works.
All of that takes a lot of time, but the benefits are huge. You’ll know what other writers (your competition) are doing, which can enable you to differentiate and stand out in the crowd. And, you’ll be able to give publishers and your target audience exactly what they’re looking for, increasing your chances of being published. And, in the long run, you’ll increase book sales.

What are some ways to do market research?
  • Read. Books, magazines (The Writer, Writer’s Digest, etc.), websites, and everything else you have available to you.
  • Talk to other writers. Collaborate.
  • Visit publishers’ websites. Talk to editors and agents. Ask them what they like and dislike. Ask them what they’re looking for. Ask them what the market is demanding.
Market research takes a lot of time, but the benefits are worth it. I’ve had success in the past by researching what editors were looking for and then writing a story to match that. What are some valuable sources for market research?