More and more traditional publishers as well as agents request a market analysis as part of your proposal to write a book or when you’re submitting a manuscript that’s already written. So with Thanksgiving coming around this time of year, put on your chef’s hat and join in the fun! Assemble these tasty ingredients as part of your recipe for success.
Famous chefs know the importance of pleasing even the pickiest palates. The goal of a market analysis is two-fold.
- You want to show a publisher there are enough similar book titles available in the current market to validate an interest in your topic, projecting potential sales.
- You want to show a publisher how your book is uniquely different from its existing competitors, projecting potential sales.
Large and small, all restaurants have their clientele. Each publisher has its specific audience as well. There are three general categories to consider.
- Publishers in the general trade market often acquire new books with a fresh and unique angle on common topics.
- Educational publishers often acquire new books to fill holes in their list that other educational publishers might already have.
- Niche publishers often acquire new books on topics that fit into their unique approach, format, or series.
With the Internet, the Cooking Channel, and the amazing array of celebrity cookbooks, it’s easier than ever before to find the tastiest recipe. Research for a market analysis is much the same.
A typical market analysis lists three to seven book titles in the current market that could be potential competitors.
- Amazon is my go-to online bookstore when I conduct a market analysis. Under the “Advanced Search” tab I search for various keywords as well as potential titles that could be similar to mine. I also limit the search for the reader age. When the lists come up, I sort and resort the titles several times according to publication date, relevance, and customer reviews. I explore various titles, read as many pages as possible with the “Look Inside” the book feature, scroll through readers’ comments, and print out examples to track my research as I go.
- I also conduct a general Google search for keywords and potential titles. If my book is in a specific genre or niche market, I search for these keywords as well.
- I visit my local public or college library online sites (depending on the scope of my project). I do keyword and topic searches and order in a number of books to evaluate.
- I visit my local indie and large bookstores to see what titles on my topic are actually making it into the stores.
As any good cook knows, not just any recipe will do. Likewise in your market analysis, not just any competitive book title is a good title to include. Look for books to add to your list that meet these criteria:
- Books published in the last five years, ten years at the most. The exception is a classic that is still going strong.
- Books published by reputable traditional publishers. The exception is a self-published book you know is selling very, very well.
- Books with solid sales. Publishers have marketing or sales teams who have access to this information, usually via a pricey paid subscription to Nielsen BookScan. Check the sales ranking of a title on Amazon, the number of libraries that carry the same title on Worldcat.org, and the number of copies of that same title available at your own local library system.
Flour, eggs, and salt are standard ingredients in any kitchen. Most publishers expect to see standard information in your market analysis for each competing book as well. This includes:
- Title of the book
- ISBN number
- Author (and illustrator if it’s a picture book)
- Year published
Measuring the right amount guarantees a tasty result. Search for market numbers online to measure projected interest in your book. For example, if I wanted to write a picture book about a child’s trip to the dentist, I could search, “How many children visit the dentist in one year?” An article comes up that states 83% of children ages 2-17 went to the dentist in 2013. Gather solid numbers to show your publisher there is an interest and potential target audience for your topic.
Writing the actual market analysis is similar to typing up a recipe. Keep it structured, thorough, and succinct. Start with a paragraph that measures a specific interest in your topic as well as targets a specific audience. Follow this with a paragraph about each book you’re featuring in the analysis. In each paragraph, list standard information about each book you’ve chosen to include, a short summary of that book, and how your manuscript is unique from that book.
Every cook knows that the proof is in the pudding. Use the following example to guide you as you assemble your market analysis.
With nearly 140,000 page likes on Facebook and hundreds of schools participating each year in International Talk Like a Pirate Day, my middle-grade nonfiction book Pirates in History with 21 Historic Activities will find an eager readership in both educators and pirate fans alike. Competing titles include:
A Pirate’s Mother Goose by Nancy I. Sanders and illustrated by Colin Jack. (ISBN: 0807565598, Albert Whitman & Company, 2015) This picture book features well-known nursery rhymes retold with pirate-themed lyrics. For the younger set, this book does not target middle-graders who also love all things pirate.
Pirate (DK Eyewitness Books) by Richard Platt. (ISBN: 0756630058, DK Children, 2007) With stunning full-color photographs, this covers the history of pirates from ancient Greece on up through the 19th century. Targeting middle graders, this nonfiction book does not include historical-based activities.
Great cooks spend productive time in their kitchens. Equipped with these strategies and steps, you can spend time creating a winning market analysis that helps bring your project from manuscript to published book.
How about you? Have you ever written a market analysis to include in your book proposal? What tips can you share with us? We’d love to hear from you!
-Nancy I. Sanders is the bestselling and award-winning children’s author of over 100 books including the ground-breaking book, Yes! You Can Learn How to Write Children’s Books, Get Them Published, and Build a Successful Writing Career. For more information about Nancy and her books, CLICK HERE to visit her website.