OK, here’s the problem. You are an unpublished author, and an editor has requested a complete manuscript of your novel. They read the manuscript, and they “just love it,” BUT they’re not sure of the market for the book. There is something a little quirky in the book that the editor likes because of its originality, but will it sell? So they take a pass rather than assume the risk on your work.
Why not head this problem off by including two additional items with the manuscript: a "Competition Survey" and a “Market Survey.”
Nonfiction book proposals have traditionally included a "Competition" segment, but Fiction submissions have never included "Marketing Plans" or "Competition" information. Here’s the difference. In nonfiction book proposals the “Competition” segment includes examples of books similar to the submission, but shows there’s nothing out there that addresses your thesis as completely and accurately. The fiction “Competitive Survey” needs to be an in-depth study showing that there is a large number of readers that have purchased novels with similar style and content to your manuscript.
My agent and I have developed a thesis is that if a debut author can accompany a manuscript with a "Competition Survey" showing that a list of authors with similar writing styles and content sold "X" number of books over "Y" time period (This being hard data), an editor can make a more informed decision concerning a manuscript. He or she can take the "Competitive Survey" to the Editorial Board along with the manuscript to support their belief in the project. The base problem is that editors do not have time to do this survey themselves, even though most publishers have the necessary data available.
What I can tell you from personal experience is that developing hard data on book sales is quite difficult for those outside the publishing houses. After a lot of time and effort I now am beginning to get the feel for computing book sales from Amazon.com Book Rankings. I’ve been told that A. C Nielsen BookScan is the best source for this data, but it is only available to publishers.
The second approach is attaching a “Market Survey” for your novel. To create the Market Survey requires that you get a sizeable demographically diverse population of readers to read your manuscript and to complete a “Market Survey Form.” Getting some of your friends to tackle your manuscript and then to report on it in glowing terms will not get it done. You will need some bookstore owners, librarians, the educated and the less educated, old and young, professional and trades people, writers and editors, and most of them should not be your friends.
I currently am running such a survey for my novel Vamonos!, and I’ve gone through the process of building an email list of potential readers. I belong to several writing oriented blogs and sites so I’ve posted a call for readers to help me by reading my manuscript. Sites like Book Marketing Network, Book Place, and here at Publishers Marketplace all have readers that are interested enough in the concept to join in the fun. I want about one hundred readers, and I’m not there yet, so here I go:
The hilarious adventures of two underachieving Texan C&W musicians who,
in the tradition of Don Quixote & Sancho Panza, strap on their guitars and ride
their Harleys into the Mexican Desert on a journey of redemption for sins of the flesh
Want More Information on Conducting a Market Survey?
Email email@example.com with your name and email address.
You will receive complete information on the Vamonos! Market Survey.
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