When it comes to books, marketing is crucial. Publish a book and neglect to tell a soul about it and you won’t sell a single copy. Sales come down to effective marketing. But for marketing to succeed, a book must be marketable in the first place.
What is a marketable book?
A marketable book is one that can be marketed. Two key questions determine whether a book is marketable:
- Does a market exist for the book?
- Is it a decent book that readers will like?
Answer yes to both questions and you’ve got a marketable book. Answer no to either, or both, and your book is unlikely to do well.
Think of it this way: if you want to get published, you need an agent and publisher to be convinced that this is a marketable book that will sell. If you want to self-publish, you need to be putting out a marketable book that will sell.
The business case for marketability
Publishers are businesses. They exist to make money. So they only publish books they can sell – marketable books. It’s as simple as that.
Self-publishers essentially perform the same role as publishers. Therefore, the self-publishing author who wants to make money from their book(s) should look at their publishing venture as a business. That means they should only publish books they can sell – marketable books. (For more on the author as a businessperson, see my article ‘Must-have quality for authors: professionalism’.)
Writing for a market
Of course, if you want to write a book for the sheer joy of the writing process and you have no interest in publishing it, or you want to get it printed just to give copies to your family, that’s absolutely fine. You can write whatever you like: no rules, no pressure, just you and the words. But if it’s important to you that you sell copies of your book, then you need to write for a market.
Writing for a market means writing for readers: knowing what they want and delivering it. That doesn’t mean you’re no longer writing for yourself. You are at the heart of the book. You need to connect to the book and believe in its worth. You need to enjoy writing it and feel passionate about every word.
Understanding the market before you write
The considered, intelligent, professional approach to writing a book is to research the market carefully before setting pen to paper (or, more likely, fingers to keyboard). Trying to make a book marketable after it’s been written can be as tricky as wrestling a tiger into a pet carrier.
Read widely in the genre in which you want to write. Where will your book fit? Is your idea suitably original? Does it fit with the genre conventions? What competition is there for your book? How will it stand out – what is its unique selling point (USP)?
Your muse, or perhaps your ego, may be clamouring for you to write a certain book, but if you can’t see a clear market for the book or you can’t see how it will stand out in the market, then it’s just not going to sell.
If you’re not sure whether your book will be marketable, consider getting an expert opinion. Editorial professionals offer author mentoring and book critiques to help you lay solid foundations for your writing.
Polishing the book to make it marketable
Remember, a marketable book 1) has a market and 2) pleases that market. By researching and planning before you write, you’ve covered the first base. Once the manuscript is written, you need to make sure the writing is good enough to satisfy the reader. That means taking your manuscript through the editorial process:
Whether you do this yourself or work with a professional editor, it’s essential. A marketable book is a book that’s polished to a high standard – publisher-level quality.