“Is there a market for my book, or should I bury it at sea?”
This was the question a prospective client recently asked me about a book he’s already written. Whether it’s the optimist, the marketer, or the passionate communicator in me, I almost always feel there’s a market for an author’s book.
Let’s be outrageous for a moment and talk about the guy who’s writing a protocol manual for left-handed Chinese goatherds. Really? With more than 1.25 billion people in China, and most of those living in rural areas, there may actually be more of a market than you’d think. But then reality sets in, and you have to ask, what is the likelihood that a million Chinese goatherds will see a need for this fella’s new book – and more to the point, that we can get word to them about the book so that they will buy it? Probably kind of slim.
OK – that’s an extreme example … but it illustrates a great point. It’s essential that you know who your audience is BEFORE you start writing your book. The most challenging place in the world for a new author is having 39 crates of books in their garage, and no one waiting to buy them.
Who is your audience?
The answer to that question will go a long way in determining how marketable your book really is. But, that’s not the only factor. A second, equally important question is:
What is your goal for your book?
- Do you want it to become a best-seller?
- Are you looking to find a niche to develop a speaking/seminar business?
- Is your goal to build your status as a credible expert in your industry?
There’s no right or wrong answer – just make sure you’re clear about the answer before you start writing your book or your marketing plan.
For example, I have a client who is working on a book about her experience living with CFS (chronic fatigue syndrome). While many books already exist on the subject, her audience is quite distinct: she’s writing to healthy people who likely have little to no accurate knowledge about the illness, with a goal of building support, research, and funding to find a cure. Although my client is putting a ton of effort and expense into this book, she readily admits that she will be happy to sell 200 copies. I think this book has the potential to sell many more than that, but my client knows her personal limitations (due to her illness), in terms of blogging, public speaking, and all the other things that would/could put the book in the hands of her target audience, and she’s fine with her small, but attainable goal.
Think about cable TV and the recent wave of every kind of specialty show imaginable. From power eating (“Man vs. Food”) to best beard competitions (“Whisker Wars”) and everything in between, the relative ease of creating video programming today is filling the cable stations with specialty shows to meet every taste.
The same is true for books – but to an even larger degree. Consumers are now aware that there’s an abundance of info out there tailored to THEIR SPECIFIC NEEDS, and they are hungry for it. The trick is to get your book with the answer to their problem into their hands. In order to do this, it makes sense to set aside the general topic that might – if the sun, moon, planets, and all the stars lined up – become a bestseller, and focus on the specialty audience.
No matter what or whom we’re talking about, from movies to chiropractors to books to financial planners, the consumer hankers after specialization.
— Susan Friedmann
Does a smaller audience mean you’ll sell fewer books? It might. But you might also spend a lot less money, time, and effort selling fewer books to an audience who has a real need for your information than by trying to make the whole world your audience and getting nowhere. Tailoring your book to a specialty group also opens up the door for you to write a second book, and a third, and a fourth… It opens the door for you to present seminars and webinars and workshops. It opens the door for you to build your expert status by demonstrating specialized knowledge on this particular subject matter.
Is there an audience for your book? Probably. How big it is and how you will reach them are the questions you need to answer before you take your next step.
We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.