Tuesday, July 18, 2006
Market Research for a Novel
Hello once again from Coeur d’Alene. Sunday morning I left California to do the annual drive to Idaho (so we can have a second car here for the rest of the summer). Yesterday’s post was from Bend, Oregon, where I stopped overnight on the trip. Now I’m back in paradise, looking out at the lake as I write this.
Yesterday I received this letter from a BG:
After sending out a book proposal, I've had an agent request the entire manuscript. He also wants me to include the proposal again, and gave me a few ideas to make it even stronger. I should include the names of similar novels and what makes mine distinct. My question is, similar in what way? Genre alone? Or similar plot, or setting?
Now, as a beginner, I did things backwards. I didn't research the market before I wrote my book.
Genre is easiest to search for. My book is historical suspense. I did a search for Christian historical suspense and only one title came up. I read the excerpt and had a hard time getting through the first chapter. Do I go out and buy a book and take valuable time to read it just because it's in my genre?
Hm. This is a bit different. Usually it’s the nonfiction book proposals that require market research to see what similar works are out there. I don’t think many novelists research the market before writing their stories.
At any rate, to comply with this request, a search under “historical suspense” won’t be very beneficial. Most novels won’t be tagged this way, which is why the search only brought up one title. I suggest that this BG go to the fiction page of www.christianbook.com, where you can search novels by genre. Historical suspense would more likely be under suspense. In the suspense category (as with all categories) you can choose the search to be by publication date in descending order. This will bring up the latest releases, and some releases not even out yet. It will take a bit of scrolling and research, but from this list you can see which stories are set historically. You’ll find numerous suspense novels set in biblical times. I don’t think the search need go back past 2004.
After looking at the suspense novels, I suggest looking also under the historical category to see if any there stand out as suspense. This way you’ll be hitting it from both sides.
Mainly I think what the agent wants is a quick description of other books that have the same time/location. Once you find those, how is your book different? Reading the back cover copy should be enough. You don’t need to be buying and reading all these books.
Okay, the rest of you BGs. You know I make no bones about not being the best proposal writer around. What do you think of my advice? Do you have anything to change/add for this BG? Anyone else out there had to market research your novel?