Know Your Market Like an Expert

Earlier this month, we talked about knowing your audience, and why it’s important to think about the flesh-and-blood people you want to read your book.

A similar, yet separate, idea also crucial to your book’s success is knowing your market—which means thinking about the consumers who you want to buy your book. Whereas considering audience means thinking of the needs, desires, and reactions of real people, knowing your market means understanding the mechanics of the publishing industry, specifically the categories your book fits into and how your book differentiates itself within them.

The simplest distinction to make is to know whether you’re writing fiction or nonfiction. That's easy enough. From there, things get thornier.

For fiction, is your historical romance more likely to thrive when pitched as history, romance, or literature? Is it a “cozy” novel, a pure romance, or erotica? Within those categories, does it have a special focus or slant—Gothic, time travel, or paranormal? Are there hints of suspense, mystery, spy, or thriller novels? Are you pitching a standalone book or a series? Does it share the qualities of any recent best sellers? Is your selected genre or subgenre a hot seller?

For nonfiction titles, is your book about alcoholism a self-help title intended to help others heal or a psychology title meant to help people understand addiction? Is your book of essays about your childhood satirical or scholarly? Would you consider it autobiography or personal memoir? (There is a difference, and did you know that you generally don’t want to market your book as a memoir to agents and publishers?) How have recent similar titles fared in terms of sales, and what indicates that your book could match or exceed those numbers?

Then there are other factors: Do you have a strong social media following? Are you a leading voice in your industry? Are there obvious outlets and avenues to sell your book based on your biography, personality, connections, or platform?

Your answers to those questions become the factors in a complex equation that helps publishers decide whether to take on your book. Determining your market is as much science as art, and there’s always fresh, interesting data coming out that sheds new light on preconceived notions about selling books. But whatever the inputs, publishers use such formulas to:

  • Determine your book’s competition from similar authors or titles.

  • Forecast potential sales.

  • Model media engagement.

  • Form your book’s marketing and promotions plan.

It’s critical to remember this: Book publishing is a risk management enterprise, driven by data and dollars, just like any other for-profit industry. Publishers may love your book, but that’s not enough for most to take a chance on publishing it at a possible loss. That calculus can feel a little cold, especially when it’s your manuscript being considered, and these concerns may not be at the top of your mind when writing your book. Nor should they necessarily be, especially in the early stages. But as with considering audience, if you want people to actually find and read your book—and if you want someone else to take the chance on publishing it—then you’ll have to put serious thought into how you’ll get it into people’s hands.

A certified ghostwriter is your partner who can successfully determine your ideal market placement and champion your book to industry professionals, allowing you to share that important data with agents, editors, and publishers who’ll be thinking more about their bottom line than your creative endeavors. Our market research, assessment of competition, and detailed marketing and promotions plan are part of the book proposal, which is included with all full ghostwriting projects or can be completed as a standalone service.

For a free consultation to learn more about how we can help your book find its market niche, call (800) 717-3314 or email

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