Workshop: What is your
By Lazette Gifford
Stores use genre as a marketing tool. It
allows them to place books in groupings that, in turn, allow customers to
easily locate the general type of book that they want to read.
As writers you can now use that marketing
tool for your own purposes. Stores have done the hard work for you by
sorting the material out into easily examined sections. You can now go
through their shelves to find the right publisher for your work.
First you need to make up either some note
cards or sheets of paper with the following categories:
- Cover Art and
- Page Count
- Font Size
- Rating Likeness
Now, armed with a few dozen cards or paper
copies of this list, head to the nearest bookstore and start studying the
Publisher/Imprint or Designation
The first thing to do when you look at
these books is note the publisher and the imprint. They will be something
like 'St. Martin's Press/Minotaur Mystery' or 'Signet Eclipse/Paranormal
Romance.' Some books will list only a publisher: Roc, Onyx, DAW, etc.
Harlequin has such a vast array of imprint designations that you will want
to pay special attention to those if you're interested in that company.
Write the title of
the book. You can also note if this is part of an ongoing series.
Write the author of the book. Then make
a quick check to see how many other books there are by this author and if
they are all at the same publisher. If there is more than one publisher,
make a second card for those books.
Cover Art and Design
Don't overlook work in the proper genre
that appeals to you on nothing more than the cover art or general look of
the book. Writers rarely get any say in cover art (and that usually only
at the small press and ebook companies), so finding the publisher with an
overall good rating in book covers is a good step for writers. This is
the closest you may get to any sort of control. Give yourself a
rating system for this that you'll understand.
The length of the book is important.
If you tend to write shorter or longer than the average book, it's
important to see if your publisher of choice is printing material in that
This should be entered with either a
small or large. A book with small print and 300 pages is obviously going
to have a larger word count than a book with large print and the same
number of pages.
Have you read this book or anything else
by this author? You will be more easily able to tell how close to your
own work it is if you have. Otherwise, you will have to depend on either
blurbs or the first few pages, if it's possible to read them.
How close to your own work is this
novel? Does it have the same sort of themes, setting, style? Is there a
general similarity in style? It may be that the work is in the same genre
or sub-genre. Whatever you do, don't be discouraged if you find either
books that appear to be very close to your work, or nothing that's close
to your work at all. This is an exploratory mission.
You'll notice that the top thing on this
list is the publisher. After all, you are looking for potential markets.
Yes, a number of them are likely going to be closed to new authors, but you
need to find out if that's where you best fit before you make decisions on
where to send your material and whether you need to start looking for an
agent before you ever send anything out.
Write down the info on anything that looks
even remotely as though your book would fit into that publisher's fold.
Sometimes publishers like to find something on the fringe of their usual
work to help expand their reader base, and yet still similar enough to other
works to draw their regular buyers. It won't hurt you to note those
publishers that are marginal, but be sure to write that in your Rating
Likeness line. You can make up your own rating system -- numbers, stars,
whatever works for you. Just be consistent.
Why bother with all of this when you can
just go to the newest Writer's Market and find all the publishers for your
genre? Because you are trying to beat the odds by refining your list before
you start indiscriminately sending manuscripts to anyone on a list without
having a real good idea if you would fit, or even if you like what they
Armed with as many of these lists as you
can make, head home and start codifying the information.
Doing this work at the library is not as
wise as doing it at a bookstore. Libraries are not going to have the same
sort of selection as bookstores, and they also sometimes buy 'library
editions,' which can be printed by a different imprint.
You should, of course, check your own
bookshelves for material as well, especially anything that you bought
If you can't get to a bookstore, you can
try doing the work via places like Barnes and Noble's online store.
However, there are drawbacks to this method. You won't be able to check
print size, or examine the quality of the book itself. Seeing a book on a
shelf is far more useful than seeing it as a single offering on a page. You
want to look for books that draw your attention when looking at a huge
array. However, doing this via the internet is better than not doing it at
The more pages of these notes that you can
make, the better for your search.
Oh, and if there are other people at the
store looking at books in your area, don't be afraid to ask them what it is
about a certain book they've chosen that drew them to it.
Armed with this information, you can
prioritize where you want to send your work, and not just pull a name off of
a list and hope for the best. You'll also have a very good idea if there
are any markets that appeal to you and are open to new writers, or if) you
should head directly to agent submissions.
Such a list can be updated every time you
wander into a bookstore if you keep a few of the 'cards' on hand. If you
use a PDA of some sort, make a master list and copy/paste it into new files
each time you use it, so that you have the original with you at all times.
Market research need not be confined to
listings in Writer's Market, which are already out of date before the book
is published. Look to the bookstore shelves where you hope to find your own
book one day soon, and make the best choices that will help get it there.