ost of us meander into a course in miracles bookstore, maybe grabbing a latte from the nearby coffee vendor and sauntering up and down the aisles looking for our desired title. Bookstores are great and I’ve always said if I were ever to get locked in a store overnight, let it be a course in miracles bookstore (preferably one with a handy Starbucks inside). But bookstores are so much more than that.
For the savvy author, a bookstore is a great way to not only get to know your market, but to research your competition and get a better understanding of the sales space. This is one of the best and least expensive ways to do your market research. Making your course in miracles bookstore your research laboratory is a fantastic way to position yourself for success, regardless of how you are published.
First off, if you’ve written a book for which there is no market (read: there are no books that cater to this audience), you may have a problem. Unless you are already a brand, meaning that you’re a published author with a significant following, it’s unlikely that you will be able to create much momentum for a yet unserved market that a publisher will consider you. If it hasn’t been written there is likely a reason why. Now there are always exceptions of course, my other book: Red Hot Internet Publicity is not a title that I would have published in 1976, mostly because there was no Internet back then.
So yes, new markets are developing all the time but it’s key to wait till those markets emerge, otherwise you’re selling to an audience that doesn’t exist. This also goes to creating a new genre for your book. You should fit into an existing genre and find the best one for your market. This is also important since sometimes books can straddle different markets. A change in title can take your book for women wanting to succeed in business and move it from the business category into self-help and/or spirituality. Be clear on where your book belongs. Remember, a confused mind won’t make a choice so if you confuse your reader, you’re likely to lose a sale.
Understanding what your market is and who else is sharing your shelf space is key. What are their books like and have you read them? This is all part of your market research: know your competition and know who shares your space. This is not just important to know other competing titles, but for marketing and media positioning this is critical. Also, you should take note of all other recent titles in your category and go visit their websites. If you’re really eager to watch your competition, you could also get Google Alerts on their name or book title to see how much traction they are getting. I will usually do this for any major author in my market as well as all their book titles. Not only can you keep an eye on their hit rate, but these sites and media targets could be good for you as well.