Do Your Homework

By Joe Moore

You’re writing a novel. Maybe you’ve even finished it. Congratulations. The hard part is over, right?


editingNow comes hard part #2: getting ready to sell your manuscript to a publisher or deciding to go the indie publishing route. Even before you start this phase, there are some basic concepts you should research first. They can prove to be costly detours on your way to finding an agent and editor if you don’t. Having the correct information by doing your homework can make for a smoother journey to publication. Some people do struggle with doing their essays, which is why some people look to getting essay writing services (such as write my narrative essay for me), but these sites are great for helping to give you some inspiration and improving your writing style.

First, you need to define your audience. It’s important that you know what type of person or group will go out of their way to find and pay to read your book. What are the characteristics of your target reader such as their age, gender, education, ethnicity, etc. Is there a common theme, topic or category that ties them together? And even more important, what is the size of your target audience?

For instance, if your book is a paranormal romance set in the future in which the main characters are all teenagers, is there a group that buys lots of your type of book? If not, you might need to adjust the content to appeal to a broader audience. Change the age of the characters or shift the story to present day or another time period. If your research proves that a large number of readers buy books that fall into that category, making the adjustment now could save you a great deal of frustration later.

Next, you need to define your competition. Who are you going up against? If your book falls into a specialized sub-genre dominated by a few other writers, you might have a hard time convincing a publisher that the world needs one more writer in that niche.

The opposite problem may occur if your genre is a really broad one such as cozy mysteries or romance. You’re going to have to put a unique, special spin on your book to break it out of the pack. Or accept the fact that the genre and your competition is a wide river of writers, and you only hope to jump in and go with the current. Either way, make the decision now, not later.

The next issue to consider is what makes your book different from all the others in your genre. Do your homework to determine what the characteristics are of books that your potential audience loves. This can be done online in the dozens of Internet writer and reader forums. And you can also do the research by discussing the question with librarians and books sellers. Once you know the answers, improve on what your target audience loves and avoid what they don’t.

Just keep in mind that you can’t time the market, meaning that what’s really hot right now might have cooled off by the time your book hits the shelves. The moment you sign a publishing contract, you’re still as much as 12-18 months behind what’s on the new release table right now. This timetable can be greatly improved with indie publishing, but you still have to take the time to analyze your audience in either case.

Another detail to consider in advance is deciding how you’ll market and promote your book. Sadly, this burden has fallen almost totally on the shoulders of the author and has virtually disappeared from the responsibilities of the publisher. Start forming an action plan including setting up a presence on the Internet in the form of a website and/or blog. Also, is there a way to tie in your theme to a particular industry? How can you promote directly to your audience? For instance, if your romance novel revolves around a sleuth who solves crimes while on tour as a golf pro, would it be advantageous to have a book promotion booth at golf industry tradeshows? If your protagonist is a computer nerd, should you be doing signings at electronics shows? How about setting up a signing at a Best Buy or CompUSA? Follow the obvious tie-ins to find your target audience.

Writing is hard work. So is determining your target audience and then promoting and marketing to them. Like any other manufacturing company, you are manufacturing a product. Doing your homework first will help avoid needless detours on the way to publication.


10 thoughts on “Do Your Homework

  1. “Another detail to consider in advance is deciding how you’ll market and promote your book. Sadly, this burden has fallen almost totally on the shoulders of the author and has virtually disappeared from the responsibilities of the publisher.”

    So true! But I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how much fun it can be. Guest-blogging, commenting at various writing sites (cough! cough!), and blogging definitely help build a network of friends and supporters.

    And don’t overlook attending writing seminars and conventions. I’ve met some wonderful folks who’ve graciously promoted my works. All you have to do is reciprocate, and word will get out you’re a resource for others.

  2. Spot on tips, Mike. And we all appreciate your dropping by TKZ and commenting. Hopefully our efforts to pass on learned-info has helped you and others get closer to your goals. Thanks you for being a loyal visitor.

  3. All good points, Joe. The work doesn’t end when the book is finished. Writing is a business, and many wannabes don’t understand that this is a long-term career choice. They think a publisher will sweep in, buy their book, send them on a book tour, and they’ll have fame and fortune. It’s a rush to sell a book, because having a publisher gives you validation. But then you have to switch hats and become a marketer.

  4. And, while doing all of this, you have to avoid trying to avoid letting all the marketing get in the way of the best promotional tool out there. Write. The. Next. Book.

  5. Wouldn’t some of these tasks, such as defining the audience and identifying how the book will be different from others in the genre, occur before writing the story? Otherwise, a writer may end up investing a lot of time and effort into a work which will be extremely difficult to sell.

  6. John, the short answer is yes. But I’ve found that first-time authors just want to jump into the deep end and write, no matter what. Many times they don’t even know what homework is needed. My post today is a heads-up checklist to those just starting out that doing the publishing research now can help avoid going down in flames later. Thanks for dropping by TKZ and commenting.

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