The title of this post is a question asked too late.
Please note: There is a huge difference between writing a great book and successfully publishing a salable book.
Let’s assume you have decided to write a book because the story or subject is burning inside you and it must come out! Good, write it! Now let’s assume that book is a true linguistic master-piece; vocabulary is splendid; grammar impeccable; phrasing superb. Great. Are you ready to go to print? Not really. Before you do, ask this question, “Who is going to want to read it?”
Most authors believe that because a story or subject captivates them, all others will feel the same. Sorry, that just isn’t true. People buy what interests them, not necessarily what interests you. Not only must it interest them, it must interest them enough for them to open their purse or wallet, remove cash or a credit card, and purchase your book over the thousands of alternatives they have.
Before you decide to ask a publisher to risk producing your book or you risk your money by self-publishing, wouldn’t it be wise to know who you intend to sell it to? How many folks there are in the target market? How they are going to find about your work? You can write the most wonderful book ever written and if no one is interested, it will be a published flop.
Are there times when lightning strikes and a book becomes a huge success without accessing who will buy the book? Yes, but seven figure odds are tough unless you or your publisher have a secret entrance to the mint. If you can find a publisher who will do that for you, some used to for “enhancing the literary arts,” you are indeed lucky … they are more rare than hen’s teeth in today’s business environment. It is tough to print and not sell … and stay in business.
Defining who would be interested in your book is easier if you’re writing non-fiction. People who like to bake will read books about baking. Fishermen will buy books on how to increase “their haul.” People who travel want to know things about their possible destinations. The question that will be asked is, “Why are you an enough of an authority to write about your subject?” You have to develop a platform. That can be done. Like everything else in writing it is WORK. I’ll talk about developing platforms in another post.
What about fiction? Don’t you just appeal to a genre? Not at all. Because these categories are so inclusive and the volume of books in any genre so huge, competition is overwhelming. The way most avid fiction readers pick books is by author name. Check out the prominence of the title versus the print size and positioning of established authors names on their covers. Readers are more inclined to spend book entertainment dollars on somebody they know and trust. Remember that a novel is entertainment! The name James Patterson says more than the tags lines describing the book.
So how do we know who might be interested in our book? We try to reduce the market to a segment we can entice. Writing a regional story that persons from the area can identify with is one way. Including an ethnic protagonist would be another … there are many more. An example would be a novel called “The Ghost on the Brooklyn Bridge” written after an extensive area background study was completed. See the built in niche? It is a process, not a lightning strike. Find a niche market and build on it. You’ll develop a fan base, but it probably won’t be overnight.
If you are faced with the problem of figuring how you’re going to determine who will buy your book, or worse, will anybody, you’ve learned an important lesson. When you are writing to publish, plan what you’ll write around who you can sell it to before you start!
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