Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Secret to Success: The Writing Phase

Dreaming of becoming the next best-selling author? Hoping to move thousands upon thousands of books on your own? Before putting that pen to paper, do some research! Success at any level is determined long before the book is written.

It is said that a fiction author writes out of passion while a non-fiction author writes with profit in mind. While this is not the case every time, non-fiction writers tend to possess a target audience or marketing strategy before they begin. Their research is based on a perceived need. So, before we pour our heart and soul into a project, we need to confirm that an audience awaits our work.

Two factors determine most book purchases- author reputation and subject matter. Most readers are faithful to a handful of authors, which places an unknown at a distinct disadvantage. A new author stands a better chance when the subject matter is the primary concern. However, he or she will still face competition. The writer must possess the necessary expertise to stand out from other masters in the field.

The first step in determining marketability is selecting a genre. The Book Industry Systems Advisory Committee lists forty-six major categories and numerous subcategories. We must locate a genre that fits our proposed book, or perhaps several general categories. It is one thing in this industry to appear unique, but a book without a genre will only die in obscurity.

Now we must determine if our genre possesses an audience. This requires that we research the book industry, both online and physical. We must discover the current trends and confirm our editorial niche. Who is our competition? Which authors and publishers boast similar works? We must ascertain if we possess the required expertise and can produce a book that falls within the word count of our genre. This step is vital, because we can’t prepare for battle if we don’t understand the enemy.

Ultimately, we must consider the marketability of our work. How many books are currently available on the topic? Is our niche too big or too small? A book that teaches cats how to dance might have little appeal beyond the country’s crazy cat ladies! Our subject must attract a reasonably sized audience, but we can’t make the appeal too broad. No one has ever written a book every wants! The wider the audience, the more difficult it will be to focus our promotions. It is better to stay with a target market that is clear and defined.

Once we’ve established a market for our book, we need to create a reader profile. Basically, who are these people? Determine details such as age, gender, location, income bracket, and lifestyle. We may find our book has a regional appeal or is more apt to be read by women than men. A reader profile fills in these little details.

One of the most important aspects is the recreational activity of our audience. Where does our potential reader shop? What magazines does this person read? What websites or blogs does our audience visit, and do they frequent social sites? Our books must be available where our readers shop, both on and offline, and this does not always entail a bookstore. These details are vital if we want to reach our target market. Our promotional efforts need to focus on these items and specific locations. Why waste time with interviews or articles if they do not reach our target audience?

Not all book sales are created equal, either! One market we need to consider is large-volume sales to businesses. Will our book tie in with an organization or non-profit group? Would it make an excellent gift or sales incentive for a business? Could our book be required reading at an academic level? Selling 5000 books to one group is easier than selling the same amount of books to 5000 individuals. Explore this option in depth, especially if the work is non-fiction. A large pre-publication sale would be quite comforting indeed!

We cannot overlook the power of endorsements, either. Create a list of individuals or businesses that might endorse the book. Look to other experts in the field. We should not be afraid to approach qualified professionals in our field of work- we’ll never know unless we ask! Consider authors of the genre as well. Endorsements and blurb from these experts will add to a book’s appeal, solidifying our credibility and ultimately boosting sales.

The writing phase is the best time to consider possibilities beyond the initial book, too. We need to think long-term! Will there be magazine excerpts? Do we foresee foreign rights and multiple translations? Perhaps even a movie or television event connected with the book? These situations may appear larger than life, but even possibilities as simple as an E-book, book on CD, or the potential of a continuing series should be considered. A great idea often spawns other inventions or tie-in products. The money created outside of the actual books by a certain wizard series should be motivation enough for the rest of us to think beyond our initial book!

The final item to consider is our publishing path. Most author hopefuls complete their book and then wonder what to do next! Before we finish our masterpiece, we should decide if we want to submit our work to a publisher or do it on our own. Those seeking publication should form a list of presses currently accepting our genre. Explore the Literary Market Place or Writer’s Market, and visit each publisher’s website for submission guidelines. Those intending to self-publish need to read every publishing and promoting book on the market and conduct extensive online research. Regardless of our chosen path, we need to understand the book industry if we hope to be successful.

To a writer, there is no greater joy than the act of writing. We can’t forget the big picture, though! Without a marketable product, a target audience, or a publishing plan, our creation will never see the light of day. If we do the research first, we’ll give ourselves a better chance for success.

Article contributed by Author & Professional Speaker, L. Diane Wolfe,,

Please leave any comments for Ms. Wolfe below.


L. Diane Wolfe said...

Thank you for allowing me to appear here today, Carol! I hope this helps somebody out there...

L. Diane Wolfe

Elizabeth Bennett said...

Very informative information. Thanks so much for taking the time to share this. Have a good week.

Take Care,
Elizabeth Bennett

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Great post. Very informative. Thanks for sharing.

Joan De La Haye

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