The E-Book Experiment: Know Your Customer

* If you don’t know what the customer wants, then you aren’t going to find a customer base for your product.

For a business to function and survive, it must sell product. That means it all comes down to the customer. Who is the customer? What are their details? What do they like? How much are they willing to pay? The questions are endless.

Big business is constantly doing market research of all sorts. Data collection, surveys, analysis of data, following trends in sales, and other things. The time and trouble are for several reasons, but the big reasons include: to know how to sell existing products better, and find niches to fill with new product.

After all, it’s all about ultimate profitability with a large market share so the company has a future.

The publishing industry has been described as “throwing a lot of books at the wall and hoping one of them sticks“. And until they know which one sticks, forget about much, if any, marketing dollars going into the project.

Wow, think about that.

Not knowing who you are selling to. Don’t market. Wait for lightening to strike.

Time to cringe.

Now, it is true that reader preferences can be more difficult to know. However, only following the latest fads and celebrities without also supplying your other market demographics is just bad business.

Business likes sure things. So, in that sense, yes, following what is currently the ‘hot’ markets looks and sounds wise. But that market is hot NOW, and you are now scrambling to follow it? By the time you get there the market will most likely be gone. You better be looking for and actively promoting products to fill other niches, as well, in hopes you’ve stumbled on the next hot market.

Yet, the publishing companies focus on only what is ‘hot’ while ignoring their mid-list or new content. Do a Google search for “publishers marketing dollars spent “best seller” midlist” and see what comes up. Lynn Viehl said this about one of her best-sellers: “To my knowledge there was no marketing campaign for this book; I was never informed of what the publisher was going to do for it (as a high midlist author I probably don’t rate a marketing campaign yet.)”

This means that new or mid-list books have a high chance of sinking into oblivion, and the author is stuck not being able to sell anything because of bad sell-through. Vicious circle and it means the loss of great stories, great authors and great variety.

And sorry, big traditional publishers, but your lack of market research and market attention shows.

In a big way.

I’m a voracious reader.

I’m a market not being provided for.

Why? Because the traditional publishing industry has forgotten about me, and doesn’t even KNOW me. Because they aren’t doing any research into it. Because they have viewed the bookstore as their customer for so many years and not the reader. Because the traditional publishing industry has not been publishing books I have wanted to read in years. I cannot recall the last time I bought a fiction book at full price. Only used or books people give me. And even among them very few are ‘keepers’. I read, perhaps enjoyed (far too few) and then gave away.

No money to a bookstore, no money to the publisher, and no money to the author.

And I know I’m not the only one.

According to R.R. Bowker’s annual look at book industry statistics, new titles declined about 5% from the largest trade houses. One of the biggest drops was in adult fiction.

Which just happens to be what I read the most of. Which I can’t find new books I like that I can afford in the various genres I like. (and yes, there is a lot of other info in that report that could be pointing in so many other directions.)

Yes, part of this can be explained away by the recession and the publishing industry tightening their belts, which means they are buying fewer books. However, recessions also usually mean fewer vacations so that means more at-home entertainment. That includes books. Which leads to the pricing part of the equation (Explored in a later post).

So, I don’t view the economy as a good excuse. This is a great time for books. If you proceed wisely. If you have done your market research. If you know what your customers want. If you know who your customer is.

  • They do not research their market, and as such, do not realize who their true customer is for each book.
  • Because they do not know their customer, they don’t know where to market or who to market to.
  • Because they do not know their customer, their marketing effectiveness is limited.
  • Because they see that their marketing has limited effect, they are shrinking marketing budget, putting more and more on the author (at the author’s expense).

Traditional NY publishers: Big fail.

I don’t like the status-quo as a reader.

Do I really want to be involved in it as an author? As a content producer? I write what I want to read and can find little (or nothing) to buy. Would a traditional publisher even look twice at my novels?

I’ve been told I write good old-fashioned science fiction.

Not dark, not ‘edgy’ (ug, I hate that word. I automatically avoid anything described as such like the plague), not ‘real life’ (have enough of that IN real life), not gloomy, not depressing, not ultra violent, not ultra sexed, not utterly depressing with all-hope-is-lost endings. And so many of those things are in vogue right now.

I love a sense of wonder, adventure, great characters, a plot that makes sense, exciting locals, escapism, and, heaven forbid, upbeat endings.

Perhaps this is a niche that is too small to supply? Well, there again, without market research, how can you know? Only way to know that is to get a few of those kinds of books out there and track sales and buying habits.

So, my odds aren’t good. There is a chance, but it would like winning the lottery. A lottery with a lot of added baggage to it that tends to suck the enjoyment out of the entire process. Oh, and dealing with an industry that right now doesn’t know its customers: the readers. The people who ultimately have the money to spend.

Doesn’t sound like such a great deal to me. Or for me.

To end this off on a nice note:

Readers: What kind of books do you want to read but have trouble finding? Please comment!

Authors: Do you have a specific market in mind when you write?

_______________________________
“The E-Book Experiment” chronicles the business and creative side of an experiment with the business opportunities new technology and creative outlets now afford content producers. Will if fail? Will it succeed? The only way to know is to approach it with a solid plan and try. No regrets!

I hope the details of this journey will be a help to other authors. As the process proceeds to selling the final products I will also share hard data that might be useful in the decision making process of other authors who recognize that only they can take charge of their careers. For a listing of all the posts in this series, please click here.

Posted in Writing
Tags: , , ,
5 comments on “The E-Book Experiment: Know Your Customer
  1. wyldkat says:

    “This means that new or mid-list books have a high chance of sinking into oblivion, and the author is stuck not being able to sell anything because of bad sell-through.”

    This sounds like something I have noticed in the world of Women’s Athletics. No promotion because they don’t sell seats; not selling seats because there is no promotion. They (the media, etc) want the fans in the seats, ready made, before they will sell the package.

    “Not dark, not ‘edgy’ (..), not ‘real life’ (…), not gloomy, not depressing, not ultra violent, not ultra sexed, not utterly depressing with all-hope-is-lost endings. And so many of those things are in vogue right now. I love a sense of wonder, adventure, great characters, a plot that makes sense, exciting locals, escapism, and, heaven forbid, upbeat endings.”

    Rather like, dare I say it, Heinlein’s so called Juveniles?

    “Readers: What kind of books do you want to read but have trouble finding?”

    Er, would you believe good, old fashioned, Heinleinesq SF? Okay, I haven’t set paw in a bookstore in almost a year, and that was to pick up a book I had seen and wanted, I didn’t ‘shop’. I also like the (what use to be called) Dark Fantasy books, but loath the new cliquish teen series that would probably be dropped in that category. ((and that hardly made any sense.)) Think F. Saberhagen’s “The Dracula Tapes” and you’ll get the idea.

    “Authors: Do you have a specific market in mind when you write?”

    Okay, I know, I am not really here yet – but I am can still dream. Since I do not feel like I could write a SF story that I would enjoy reading, I am looking more towards the Dark/Urban Fantasy. (ask me again in a year when Wings is closer to being done. )

    • JA Marlow says:

      This sounds like something I have noticed in the world of Women’s Athletics. No promotion because they don’t sell seats; not selling seats because there is no promotion. They (the media, etc) want the fans in the seats, ready made, before they will sell the package.

      Self-fulfilling prophecy of failure, isn’t it! Yes, I know it’s the ‘new reality’ but it sure stinks.

      Re: Heinlein’s Juveniles: I haven’t read that. Unfortunately I don’t care for the man himself so it’s made it hard to read any of his science fiction books.

      That said, anything else out there to illustrate the point? I need a good excuse to go to the library!

      And dreaming is good! For without a dream to shoot for, extraordinary things are less likely to happen. Write the kind of story you want to read, and that love will show through.

      But first, it has to start with the dreaming. :)

      Hmm, I think there is a blog post in that somewhere.

  2. djmills says:

    “Good old fashioned science fiction” and “I love a sense of wonder, adventure, great characters, a plot that makes sense, exciting locals, escapism, and, heaven forbid, upbeat endings.”
    As a reader I totally agree, and as an author that is what I write.
    I only took up writing because no one was publishing this type of book any more and I love to read them after a busy day working. If they are getting published then they are not getting to the bookstores in Australia.

    Another point, most readers that love this type of book are getting to retirement age where we have more money to spend and more time to read our favourite type of book. I wonder if marketing took that into account when they published the books this year or plan to publish next year.

    • JA Marlow says:

      The interesting thing I’ve found is that I’ve talked to a lot of people younger than me that would like this kind of story, as well. Oh, and I’m nowhere near retirement, myself. So, while a good part of the market might be near retirement, I think this type of book would appeal to other age-groups as well.

      Well, if they were out there.

      It’s nice to hear someone else who likes them, and is also writing them! It means I might have reading material before too long! :D

  3. Garden Lighting says:

    reading science fiction books is the stuff that i am always into. science fiction really widens my imagination ~”;

2 Pings/Trackbacks for "The E-Book Experiment: Know Your Customer"
  1. […] JA Marlow on: The E-Book Experiment: Know Your Customer […]

  2. […] JA Marlow on: The E-Book Experiment: Know Your Customer […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Newsletter Signup

Blog Subscription

imgPosts RSS

New Releases

     

Mom (A.K.A. Mother Hen) Cancer Fund

Yes, our very own beloved Mother Hen is now struggling with a GBM tumor. The family is struggling because of no insurance and we are desperate to get her the life-saving treatment she needs. If you have a little extra and would like to help out this very deserving person, please consider giving a little donation to help her along the way. Thank you!

GoFundMe Help For Mother Hen

Click Here to use Paypal

Writerly Progress

2014 Yearly New Words
24.34%  121700 of 500000
2014 Yearly Revision Words
20.6%  103000 of 500000

Archives

Free Serial: Zerralon

Wattpad

Available Ebook Formats

The works of J.A. Marlow are available in a wide number of formats including DRM-Free. Below is a list of a few of the retailers the various formats can be found at.

Mobi (Kindle compatible): Amazon, Drive Thru Scifi, Omnilit/All Romance Ebooks, Smashwords, Xinxii

Epub (Nook compatible): Barnes & Noble, Drive Thru Scifi, Google Play, Kobo, Omnilit/All Romance Ebooks, Smashwords, Xinxii, iBookstore

PDF: Omnilit/All Romance Ebooks, Smashwords, Xinxii

Palm DOC/iSolo (Palm compatible): Smashwords

RTF (Rich Text Format): Smashwords

LRF (Older Sony Reader format): Smashwords

Plain Text: Smashwords

Online Reading (HTML): Google Play, Smashwords

Dreamstime Images