Monday, February 2, 2009

To market, to market

I understand that books need to have a market or they wouldn’t be published. What I don’t understand is exactly how I’m supposed to gauge that market? I think I’ve finished my first novel. An earlier draft was assessed 'critically and favourably'. I fixed the problems they pointed out, I think, and I would have it assessed again but I don’t see the value in it unless I can find out more information on the potential market.

I’ve checked publishing trade magazines and checked bestseller lists but none of the numbers look unless it is genre fiction. So amongst this thinking-onscreen my question is: Is there a more accurate way to check marketability other than finding the novels closest to yours that made it on a bestseller list or through professional assessments?

I assume publishers do market research, so why can’t I find it? Sorry if my question is less than romantic. I’ve pretty much accepted that this novel won’t be published because apart from Ben Elton I can’t find much that resembles it.

'The market' is an enormously tricky and often frustrating issue for writers. And for agents. And publishers. If we could all guess 'the market' we could all just look for exactly the right books for it and spend the rest of the year in Bora Bora. Which is my way of saying that 'the market' is still elusive and mutable and highly subjective.

The main question to ask yourself is whether your novel has a potential readership of more than one or one hundred or even one thousand. Do you think ten thousand people would read it? If so, why? If you can answer these last two questions, you'll know not only whether you have a marketable book on your hands but also how to convince an agent and publisher that you do.

Publishers don't do a lot of market research other than looking at their sales figures every week. They can't pick the market with any certainty (see: Bora Bora above) so you can't be expected to either. And every single 'rule' about genre is abandoned when a novel is simply fantastic. So go back to those points: who is your readership and why are they your readership?

Hopefully that's answered your question. But it's late in the day and Mercury has just come out of retrograde so there's a chance I've stuffed it up - ask me again if so!

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