Literary Architects, LLC works with authors to combine the quality and standards of traditional publishing with the flexibility and control of self-publishing. Literary Architects' publishing professionals specialize in selecting and partnering with committed authors to produce trade-quality books, consulting with authors to plan and execute custom sales and marketing strategies, and providing authors with fulfillment and distribution of their books.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Research Research Research

As an editor, some days it feels like I do nothing but research. On authors, their markets, their books -- it's all research. We're constantly looking at competing titles, shelving requirements, category overviews, market data, trending reports, growth numbers, and more. Why? Well, publishing is guess work. No one really knows what's going to succeed or fail in the marketing place. All we can do is try to make as educated a guess as possible -- then do everything we can to support the book in its journey. Sounds a little like parenting when you put it that way. (I guess all my analogies about finishing the book being like giving birth aren't completely off.)

The other night I spoke to a group of non-fiction writers and had to remind myself to explain research and why it's important. To the uninitiated, it's hard to understand that you don't just write a book and throw it out into the world. Writers need to know their section, genre, topic, and niche. They need to know who's doing great work and who they like. First thing? Know your space. Where is your book going to go in the bookstore? If you can't figure it out, chances are an editor isn't going to be able to either. Get familiar with bookstores. Know where your section is in Borders and Barnes and Noble. (Hint: the sections aren't the same. Some books fall in different categories at one or the other.)

Know what books are shelved and what appears to be selling. Who's popular? If you're a self-help author, you can't help but know Dr. Phil is popular! What format is most common for books in your section? Softcover? Hard cover? Mass market? Get to know what's on the store shelf versus what's out there on Amazon. Then figure out where you fit.

Know your competition, and know who's doing great work in your category. Zero in on the top factor your book will need to succeed. If you're doing non-fiction travel narratives, understand that these books shelve in the travel section (usually) and their success hinges on great writing (usually). Who do you like? Peter Mayle? Francis Mayes? If you know, you'll increase your chances for being successful. Until you do your research, you don't really know what you've got. In order to explain your book to me, you need to know how it fits in context with other books on the topic. I don't necessarily care if the book directly competes with Suze Orman or not. I do care if you don't know.

Books can be daunting. It seems like it can be discouraging. But the best way to face a large project is to tackle it in small pieces, and doing your research can help you have a better idea of where you stand -- and where you know you can fit in!


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