1. Crystal Parney
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    Crystal Parney Member

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    How to study the market....

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by Crystal Parney, Nov 13, 2012.

    I've been thinking about the market lately. As a writer I usually write what I am inspired to write, which I am sure many writers do. But what may inspire me or another writer may not have marketability. Through my research in the literary world I often come across the advice to study the market. I understand what that means, but I wonder exactly how to go about it. When I walk through the bookstore (or the grocery store because all of the bookstores in my town have gone out of business) I look at what is selling, but I think what is selling today may not be getting book deals tomorrow because they've already been done. I ask myself how do I come up with an idea that is fresh and new that hasn't been overdone. Any thoughts about studying the market? I am curious to how other writers study the market.
     
  2. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think writers make a mistake trying to write to the market. As you said, what's hot today may not be in the 1-2 years it takes to get your book on the shelves. Plus, trying to follow the market could mean trying to write in a genre that you don't really care for, which will show.

    Write the story you want to write, in the genre you want to write in, and write it/revise it to the very best you can.
     
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  3. JamesOliv
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    JamesOliv Senior Member

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    Some writers study the market. Some folks study the stock market. My uncle John has a system that never fails when he plays roulette.

    You can look at what sells. You can also look at market surveys. You can attempt to trend the historical sale of books by genre and sub-genre based in historical sales. Publishers trend the market just like any other business. For this, they employ marketing analysts who review survey results, sales history, and other correlated factors.

    It all comes down to a guess.

    If you are an analyst for a big company, you can make a very well educated guess. You will have access to those surveys, focus groups and detailed market data. A individual could potentially do the same, but you would likely find your market research becoming a part-time job all on its own, leaving you little space for writing.

    Even educated guesses sometimes fall flat. But I have seen writers claim to track markets using (easily manipulated) data sources like amazon top seller ranking. At best, they are naive.

    The best thing to do is to try to avoid bubbles. If everything in the shelf is about vampires, you can bet that there will be a lot of vampire related manuscripts hitting publishers right around then. After a while, vampires will die down and it will be on to something else. But never fear! Vampires have a proven track history of ebbing and flowing in the marketplace.

    But it is impossible to tell what the next big wave is or when it will hit. Even if we could predict it, I don't think writers should try to "write for the market." If I write about werewolves, it should be be because I like to write about werewolves and I write about them well, not because werewolves are "in."

    T is worth noting that most of the next big thing books came at a time when the market would have indicated otherwise. Some of the bestsellers of all time came about from writers and publishers taking a chance on something different, new and unique.
     
  4. Crystal Parney
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    Crystal Parney Member

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    Hi shadow and james, thanks for the feedback. I agree that studying the market could become a part-time job. I wouldn't want that. I think it is about guessing and luck. No one would have even thought 50 Shades would have become one of the biggest selling books of all time, which was first published by a POD publisher. I agree with you James about bubbles and vampire novels. I think book ideas/plots come in and out of style just like clothes. I heard a man, probably in his 50s, say the other night...in the 70s and 80s zombies were so popular and then you didn't hear about them for years, now that's all you see are zombies.
     
  5. DanesDarkLand
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    DanesDarkLand Senior Member

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    Its the readers who make the markets. 50 shades quenched a thirst of sheltered people who wanted to see into the alternative lifestyle world from the safety of their homes. Some things that don't seem like they should be popular have gone nuts, like 50 shades and the sparkling vampire series, can't remember as I've never read them, but really good books that have substance and meat usually get overlooked in markets. I would love for what i write to be popular, and wouldn't mind selling out of all copies as they are printed, but that just wishful thinking. My series could be a complete bomb, but I had fun writing it. Since it was my first completed title, it will always have that special place in my mind as The Story. I have a few other irons in the fire, such as an erotic horror complete with fantasy styled creatures, and a romantic thriller complete with a twisted love affair that could end up in the death of both main characters or a sacrifice of one for the other. Still haven't figured out the final details, but if I enjoy writing it, I hope others enjoy reading it. Markets be damned.
     
  6. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I think being fresh in the world of literature is in finding something that hasn't been
    done in a while and filling the gap. When Harry Potter was published - magic wasn't in
    style - J.k. was picking up a trend that had always been on the outskirts
    of ya fiction and hadn't really been done in ages - unless you count a failed
    80's series called Private School based on a magical boarding school.

    Being fresh actually has an element of revival to it. Like fashion. If you
    look back at ya publishing trends of about 30 years ago here's some that
    might be ripe for a revival - satire - Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Bugs
    Potter books - detective fiction - Encyclopedia Brown , Nancy Drew - Interactive -
    Choose your own adventures - anthropomorphic animal stories - The secret of Nihm, Wind
    in the Willows. Of course these are only guesses and I haven't browsed the Ya
    section in ages.
     
  7. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    I ignore the market and focus on writing an enjoyable read/watch. It's less about what has and has not been done and more about how it was done. Titanic was the second film about the Titanic to come out that year. Nobody cares how different an idea is if the writing is to the dogs.

    And studying the market is a job.
     
  8. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    When your book is completed, examine what each publisher publishes. That's your market research. You use it to select the publishers you will have the best chance with, and to decide what to emphasize in your queries.

    The most successful novels don' follow the track of what has been successful recently - they leave a prominent trail in virgin snow.

    No, that does not mean you have to create a brand new idea - you'd never write anything that way. Just don't charge off along the most heavily traveled paths deliberately. Everything you write will be fresh in its own way, but that will show up better if you follow your own muse rather than the marketing signposts.
     
  9. Crystal Parney
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    Crystal Parney Member

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    Thanks for all great feedback, everyone. I've never actually written in a way, hoping it will be the next big thing because I have studied the market. But I have wondered about it.
     
  10. captain kate
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    captain kate Active Member

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    I wouldn't say follow the "latest trend" writing wise, but it does pay to keep up with the trends of agents, and publishers to see what their changing wants/needs/desires are. I tend to subscribe to a lot of agent and publisher's blogs to hear what's said. A lot of it tells you what works and what doesn't in trying to get published. Others give writing advice. All of them are useful.

    As to your writing, well, that depends on the target audience.
     
  11. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I've always interpreted "study the market" as meaning that you should be aware of what's happening in the market that you hope to publish in, and mainly meaning that you should read read read in that market. If you want to publish a YA mystery, you should read YA, you should read mysteries, you should read YA mysteries. If you're aiming it at girls, maybe you should also read chick lit, or any other market that you can think of that's relevant.

    Not so that you can imitate whatever's successful this week, but so that you understand the market. If you understand it, you understand what the expectations are, and you can decide which ones to comply with, which ones to challenge, and so on.

    Do I have any experience with this? Not the tiniest scrap. This is just my impression from reading various advice about writing and publishing.
     
  12. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    ditto shadow walker and cog re paying attention to what's hot at the moment...

    and ditto capt kate re agents...
     
  13. psychotick
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    psychotick Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi,

    Personally I haven't studied the market and I wouldn't. I write what I read and what I like, and to move away from that would probably leave me creating a less passionate work.

    However if you want to see what sells, simply go to Amazon and start looking at say their hundred or so best sellers. That should give you some pointers.

    Be warned - you may find yourself having to write cook books!!!

    Cheers, Greg.
     
  14. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i wouldn't rely on amazon's rating system, if i were you... the ny times bestseller lists are a lot more accurate, imo, as they reflect what's sold in bookstores as well as from online merchants...
     
  15. IanLC
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    IanLC Member

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    The original post and the comments have enhanced my knowledge of the writing market. I never really thought about publishing my writing but I guess it would be neat to try. Interesting :confused:
     
  16. claire_h
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    claire_h New Member

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    I was just going to ask the same question as the OP. I am currently reading a book about various elements of writing. In the first chapter it said that if you re looking to get published you should write for the current market and not try to emulate the past. For example, if you are writing a mystery novel, be original and don't try to be the next Agatha Christie or Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I found this interesting as there was another Sherlock Holmes book published recently by a contemporary author. And judging by the amount of Poirot and Marple reruns on TV, there must be some market demand for this type of work.

    It is baffling! So I would advise to write what you want.
     
  17. Teodor Pravický
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    Teodor Pravický Senior Member

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    If you see that bookstores are closing down, do realize that these books must be just lame. Its like when you see the black and white movie from the last century, while you are fan of some from 2012. And people keeps telling you that in those times the best things were made.
    Well, in the books world its about it even right now, and thats the catch.
     
  18. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Bookstores closing down has nothing to do with books being lame. It has to do with economics.
     
  19. Teodor Pravický
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    Teodor Pravický Senior Member

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    no offence
     

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