Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Hard part #2

By Joe Moore

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


Now comes hard part #2: getting ready to sell it to a publisher. Even before you start your search, 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.

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, ethnic, 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 has 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.

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.


shield-cover-smallTHE SHIELD by Sholes & Moore is now available in print and e-book.

“THE SHIELD rocks on all cylinders.”
– James Rollins,New York Times bestselling author of THE EYE OF GOD.


  1. It's certainly important to determine where your book falls in the marketplace. To pitch or query an agent or editor, an author needs to understand the key words they are listening or reading your query for, to either keep listening or reading, or switch off & say "Sorry, we're not looking for more cozy horror romance." If an author writes a cross genre story with elements of romance, mystery, & suspense, it may not be wise to say the book is a mystery in a saturated market for mysteries. Bundling the package in an enticing package, relevant to the market, is definitely key. Thanks, Joe.

    1. Excellent additional tips, Jordan. Thanks.

  2. Great checklist, Joe. And these same questions should be asked by someone looking to self-publish. They ought to put their book through a "grinder" that is every bit as tough as what a publisher would put it through in assessing the merits.

    1. Agreed, Jim. Most new writers dream of a traditional publishing route first. But the tips apply to indie as well.

  3. Love JSB's comment above!

    On the market research notes, your means of publishing makes an enormous difference. Publishers are only going to be willing to put out money for books that they think will generate substantial early returns. An independent has much more flexibility as they can identify an under-served niche that is not profitable for a major publisher but can be for a small and nimble writer/publisher.

    A case in point - my first book, Finishing Kick, has been out a short time and will start to show a profit late this summer. It is a book highly unlikely to be considered by a major publisher due to subject matter. Girl’s cross-country teams aren't going to compete with paranormal paramours.

    Where it does fit, and where I focused effort, was in the running community. Running Times magazine carried my book as one of three in its Summer Reading list. It was a small blurb unlike the other two but, for a rookie writer on his first book, absolutely huge. I sent the book out to exactly two publications. It was very targeted marketing.

    And I love Joe’s comment about finding cross-marketing opportunities. A natural tie-in for me is to approach running stores to see about book signings there (the letters are already on the way!)

    I also promote the sport with a blog dedicated to the kids – I’ve joked it’s my “surefire blog for losing money.” The blog itself is relatively cheap but the time requirements are pretty substantial. The payoff comes when the kid’s parents thank you for bringing a modicum on recognition to their son or daughter. And some of those people will buy a book or two and spread the word.

    The plan is to build all the elements gradually – unlike traditional publishing, I have loads of time to recover sunk costs since I used my day job to finance the project. My timeline for each book actually extends to years for the marketing.

    Disclaimer: I enjoy the marketing aspects nearly as much as the writing.

    1. My old mentor always said, "even a bad plan is better than no plan." Paul, you have a great plan. Congrats on being so focused, and best of luck with FINISHING KICK!

  4. Thanks for the great checklist, Joe! As Jim says, all of these tips also apply to anyone wanting to self-publish.

  5. Thanks Joe. Your blog is exactly where I'm at - I've finished and ready to send to agents. At least I thought so. I will now go over the manuscript answering the questions you posed.
    - Stephen

    1. Glad the tips help, Stephen. Best of luck.

  6. As the Queen said to Alice, "It it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place."

    1. “Alice came to a fork in the road. 'Which road do I take?' she asked.
      'Where do you want to go?' responded the Cheshire Cat.
      'I don't know,' Alice answered.
      'Then,' said the Cat, 'it doesn't matter.”

  7. These are all good points, although I'd do them before putting my fingers to the keyboard for page one. It helps if you know your market at the outset. That's not always desirable if you're writing the book of your heart, though. And definitely begin to have a presence on the social networks. Editors will look for your online platform.

    1. Useful additional tips, Nancy. Thanks.

  8. Boffin: Basil continues to be unavailable for comments at TKZ because he has been busy talking to himself in the closet, or as he calls it “recording”.

    Boffin: I heard girls voices in there with him, yesterday night.

    Berthold:He’s just making an audiobook for Mr. Gilstrap.

    Gnillii: I heard girls voices too, and kissy sounds.

    Berthold: No, no, that’s just him making girl voices for the book.

    Boffin: Really? Well he was talking awfully sweet to himself.

    Gnillii: And there’s the kissy noises, and giggling.

    Muses: And I noticed the muses been sleeping awfully late every morning the past few days.

    Berthold: Uh…I think this is getting too personal.

    Boffin:I’m just saying, you know how those muses can be, appearing all of a sudden, smiling sweetly, batting those eyelashes…

    Gnillii:…smelling nice, brushing their soft hands on your cheek …

    Boffin:…making tingly feelings go up and down your spine as they whisper in the ear.

    Gnillii: …sunlight filtering through gossamer gowns, hypnotizing by the shadowy feminine curves, setting your senses to flight among clouds of ecstasy.

    Fillii: Gulp….

    Berthold: No! You dirty minded leprechauns! He’s just trying to make the text sound relevant and real for the audience, the way Mr. Gilstrap wrote it!

    Boffin: Maybe so, but Mr. Gilstrap doesn’t write kissy scenes in his bookses.

    Gnillii: And I distinctly heard kissy noises.

    Fillii: Sigh….I wish I had a muse.