* 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.
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.