Friday, November 6, 2015

Which Bookshelf Would Your Book Be Sold On?

One of the things many authors are told is that when writing a query, provide some comparable authors. There are two purposes for this. The first is to give us a sense of the voice, but the second, and this is probably the most important, is to give us a sense that you know how your book would be marketed. When I take pitches from authors at conferences, I often ask authors much of the same thing, but with a slight twist.

"What bookshelf would I find YOUR book when I walk into a good old Brick and Mortar store?

This question often catches authors off guard. Sure, they had thought of comparable stories, but in many of those situations, these were authors they admired and they thought their plot was just like that one. However, when faced with the idea of thinking of their actual book on a shelf, this is harder.

For example, if you said your book was a romance, there are still a lot of different sub-categories. Yes, most book stores sort the books alphabetically, but if this is more of a Nicholas Sparks style story it may be found in the general fiction. If it had more of a literary feel, it might be on a different shelf. Maybe it is in the general paperback romances? Even then, depending on the length of the story, it might be with the Harlequin books (of course that also depends on the voice).

I bring all of this up because I see far too many authors just sending their stories out to every editor and every agent, without knowing the "market" for their books. This is even worse for the authors who are self-publishing and just sticking their book out there using terms they just attach to their novels that might not be a direct fit.

Here is an example. I have received stories where authors tell me their comparable stories are some of those big name romance/women's fiction authors: Debbie Macomber, Nora Roberts and so forth. And yet, when they describe their story and tell me the word count, they are coming in closer to one of the smaller Harlequin category lines. Their book would simply not be next to one of those authors they mentioned.

If this is a hard task for you, the easiest approach is to simply visit one of those book stores. Look around. Think of what your book would look like. Think of the size (mass market, hard back, trade paperback). Think of the size of the book (word count). Think of the cover. Now walk to that section of the store that sells that type of book. If your book would not be on that shelf, it is time to re-think your marketing.

I would also add that if there are no bookshelves for your book, that might tell you something!

1 comment:

  1. No bookshelves for my book . . . Wouldn't that be Literary? Those come in all shapes and sizes.