The 5 Ws of Market Research - article

In order to be an effective writer and marketer, you must conduct market research in the area in which you are going to write. Even though the word “research” brings negative connotations for many, conducting market research isn’t as boring and difficult as it sounds. In fact, you’re probably already doing it somewhat without even knowing.

Let’s take a look at the five Ws of market research to learn what it is, how it helps, and why you need it as an author.

WHAT is market research?

Market research is the process of gathering information and educating yourself about the niche in which you are working. This includes things like who reads and writes in your particular genre, what topics/stories are selling in that space, which publishers and agents work in that genre, and so forth.

Pay attention to what types of books hit the bestseller lists and movies sell out every weekend. Are there any trends you notice? Are zombies or vampires big this year? Is everyone jumping on the gluten free bandwagon? People’s tastes in books and entertainment change quite rapidly, so it’s a good idea to frequently take note of what books get (and stay) on the New York Times bestseller’s list, are always checked out at the library, or receive the most attention online.

WHO does market research?

Every writer should do market research on his or her particular genre and subgenre, at the very least. Even if your ultimate goal is not to write for a living, to make a bunch of money, or to get on bestseller lists, most writers intend that someone will read their work. Since you aren’t just writing for yourself—you’re writing for others—it’s important to know who those “others” are and what appeals to them. This will help you not only write a more widely enjoyed book, but garner more attention and sell more copies.

WHERE do you do market research?

You can pull from various resources such as television, books, movies, writing conferences—anything that helps you know what is popular and will likely gain attention and readers for your book. The internet will be your best friend when it comes to conducting research, because it will allow you to see not only what it popular in your area, but what is well liked and sold across the world. You can also talk to professionals in the publishing industry to understand what kinds of books publishers are interested in buying right now.

WHY do market research?

If you want to be competitive as a writer and a published author, you have to know what other people are writing, what’s selling, and what readers and publishers want from writers in your genre. It’s not always enough to have a good idea for a book, to write impeccably, or to get it published. More often than not, a book’s success depends more on timing more than anything else. A book about a new diet or health trend will sell much better when it’s “new” than a few months down the line when there are already hundreds of other books on the topic.

You also want to make sure you’re not writing something that’s been done before. While there are some genres that succeed with repetition—romance novels, for one—most genres can easily become over-saturated. If you want to write about something that’s already been done, you need to figure out how yours will stand out. Market research will help you figure out what’s been written and see opportunities within different markets that you could potentially fill.

WHEN should you do market research?

The sooner the better. The quicker you figure out your competitive edge in the market, write it, get it published, and market it, the more likely your efforts will generate a positive return. Doing your research early can help you shape your book into something marketable that garners the attention of publishers and readers.

But if you’ve already published your book, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s too late. You can still try and think of ways that your book can stand out in the marketplace. And if you can’t, look to yourself as an author. Build a unique author brand that gets attention and stands out among other writers in your genre. In doing so, even if you don’t see immediate success with your current book, you could improve your chances of success with future books.

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