Thursday, March 6, 2008

Hitting Your Target Market: Taking Aim

Do you have a target market for your novel? If so, you're ahead of the game. If you're scratching your head and saying, "What's a target market?", read on.

Writing a novel isn't easy, as you may know from experience. However, selling that novel once it's written can be even harder. Getting a book published can be compared to archery. If you just shoot a lot of arrows into the air without aiming at anything, you may hit something, but will it be what you really want to hit?

Just like archery, if you have a target, something at which to aim, you'll come closer to hitting it and getting where you want to be, i.e., published. Market research isn't always easy, though. Where do you begin? How do you find out who is publishing what?

A good start is Writer's Market. They have a new edition every year, and have even started issuing specialty editions dedicated to Novel & Short Story Writing, Children's Writing and Illustrating, and Poetry, among others. In addition, you can join their online website. For as little as $3.99 a month, you will have access to all the latest marketing information, including changes of personnel at publishing houses.

Another good place, if you're looking for a cheaper alternative, is to check into the individual sites of publishing houses. Many of them have guidelines for writers that will tell you how to submit (or whether you can submit without an agent). Browsing their catalogs and reading what they publish is the best way to get a feel for what each house handles. You wouldn't submit a tender inspirational romance to a publisher called Hot & Heavy, Inc., or a western to Future Worlds, Ltd. (Not unless you enjoy wasting postage, time and energy, that is!)

Once you've found your target market, the place where you aim to get published, start reading. If you (like many of us!) can't afford to buy everything they have out, go get a library card (if, by some unlikely chance you don't already have one). If the publisher has more than one line, especially in genre fiction, read at least one book in each line, preferably more. Find the line that reaches out and touches your heart. That should be your target line. Read the dedications by the authors, and the "thank you" pages. If they mention their editor by name, take note. You are seeing what an editor likes by what is published.

If a particular publishing house says they accept only agented works, don't waste their time and yours by sending them anything. You'll only be branding yourself as a novice who hasn't done your homework.

In conclusion, finding your target market may be hard, but it is definitely worthwhile. If your manuscript doesn't quite fit, you may want to consider putting it aside for a while (I know, I can hear you screaming how long it took you to write it---been there) and writing something that is perfect for the line. Once you are published, dig out that manuscript, reread it, polish it, even rewrite it if necessary and ask your editor (who by now should be your friend) to have a look at it. If you're willing to do the work, getting published should become inevitable!

Happy hunting!

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