Compile Marketing Info
Manuscript submission is a process that seems to baffle many beginning writers. The following free tip is about compiling marketing information to include with your submission. (If you haven't already, see "Decide on your Market.")
Manuscript Submission: Step Two
Compile Any Marketing Information that You Can
Previously, we looked at deciding on your market, which included determining who would read your book, how your book was different from those already in the market, etc. However, once you have decided on a market, it is always helpful to build up as much factual information as possible about your book's market before you even submit it to your chosen publisher.
Statistics, Statistics, Statistics--If Possible
Assuming you followed step one, you know some of the other books that are similar to your book. While it is fairly easy to find out what books are similar to yours it is not always easy to find out how well these books are selling. If you checked Books in Print, you should have been able to determine if the book is still in its first printing or if it's a later edition. It's not much but if you have no other statistics, at least it's something to give your future publisher.
One of the best sources is to call the publisher. However, this is a extremely delicate phone call. Whatever you do, do not just blurt out, "So how many copies of this book have you sold?" For that matter, don't even mention sales. Instead, say something like "I'm interested in purchasing this book, but would like to know if the book in the bookstores is the most recent release. Is this book still in its first printing and first edition? If not, what printing is this in and will there be a revised edition? If it is still in its first printing, is there another printing due out soon? Will there be any revisions in the next release?" Be sincere in this conversation. An even better approach is to go out and buy the book so you can really study it. That way, you can start your conversation with some sincere praise and say, "I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Will there be a second edition? Is the author still writing? Is it-" You get the idea.
If you sense hesitation or suspicion on the other end, hang up immediately and pull your phone cord from the wall. Well, okay, it's probably best to fess up and say you're blundering your way through marketing research for your own book and would they mind giving you a ball park sales figure.
Whether the phone call turns suspicious or not, you may want to mention that you're an author and that you're thinking about writing a similar book. Would they be interested in taking a look at it once you have completed the manuscript? Be bold, but be polite.
And that is so important to keep in
mind in this whole conversation: be as polite as
possible. You're poking around in a publisher's business,
so be delicate. Most publishers are tolerant because they
know that there is no way their book will be the
end-all-be-all book of a given market and that there is
always room for one more book. That's why you should ask
them if they would like first crack at your book when
it's done. They may or may not decline; depending on the
focus of your particular book, there may not be enough of
a market on a given topic to warrant a second book or
they may not want to publish a book that would be
competing with one of their authors. For example. If
you're writing a book about dogs and dog training, you
could approach a dog book publisher and they might be
interested. On the other hand, if you're writing a book
about a rare dog breed with a small following, and they
already have a book on that particular breed, chances are
they will not be interested in your book and would view
it as competition.
Compiling the Information
The key here is to make it simple to
read and concise. Publishers are busy and acquisitions
editors are the most harried of the lot. But first, a
little publishing secret.
In your cover letter, be sure to mention the marketing information sheet that you've enclosed. On a separate sheet of paper-not in the actual cover letter-list each book you've found that is similar to yours. Next to it, offer any statistics that you have found.
Here's an example:
Of course, any more details that you can come up with would be great. If you don't know the answer, don't be afraid to say "Unknown." The publisher certainly won't take your marketing analysis as being engraved in stone anyway. They'll do their own checking and will probably have better resources than you do anyway. (They may, in fact, know someone who published The Little Princess and be able to find out why it's not doing very well and why they had to do a second edition of a book that shouldn't have had a second edition.)
You don't need to impress the publisher with your investigative skills. The main idea is to show the publisher you're professional and should be taken seriously and also to tweak their interest. Show them these types of books do well and that will intrigue them.
Show them how yours will, hopefully, do every bit as well and perhaps even better because of an edge that you have and you'll definitely get their attention.
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