This month in #ReadySetWrite, Christy Kate McKenzie, helps you with the next step in your business plan-- market analysis...
Next up in our writer’s business plan is the section on market analysis. The market analysis section of your business plan is where you have a look at what types of books are doing well and what subgenres are marketable. But does that mean you should only write what is likely to be sold?
If there is one question we as writers can’t seem to escape, it is this…
Should you write for the market or write what you love?
It’s a tough one, and one I know many writers struggle with. On one hand, you want to make sure what you write sells, but on the other, you also want to enjoy writing it. Let’s face it; writing is a hard job. Why make it even harder? Then, of course, there’s the argument for making a living. I mean, if you want to write, you will probably need some sort of income. Unless you have given up eating…
So which market should you analyse? What’s trendy? What you read? Contemporary? Suspense? Big name publishing houses? Self-publishing?
The market you chose will depend on your goals as a writer, your priorities, and your strengths. Time to get out your notebook and get to work…
Show Me the Money
First, let’s talk about the elephant in the room… money.
We all have dreams of retiring to somewhere on the beach where we can write with our toes in the sand and a margarita in our hand, but that’s not really what we should be focused on right now. In order to get to that ‘someday’ we need to focus on one day—more specifically, today.
I think we all know by now that it is difficult to ‘get rich’ off of writing, unless you are the next Nora Roberts, of course, so it stands to reason that you are not going to be able to quit your day job for a while, if ever. Advances and royalties vary greatly from publisher to publisher and by subgenre. If you would like an idea of just how widely they vary, have a look at Show Me the Money, by Brenda Hiatt. Brenda collects information from anonymous authors and provides yearly reports on both traditional and indie publishing income. It’s a sobering report.
I don’t say this to turn you away from writing-- quite the opposite. If you truly want to write because you love to tell stories, you won’t care how much money you make, just as long as your stories get read. Notice, I didn’t say you won’t care if you get paid. Even those of you who ‘write for the sake of writing’ still need to make a little something. If not to cover costs, then at least to feel as though the countless hours spent researching, plotting, writing, and editing are worth it. We will talk about income and expenditure and meeting your overheads in a future post, for now let’s keep it simple.
The thing is, I want you to understand as you dig deeper into this business plan that writing for a living isn’t exactly easy. Unlike working at the local bank, you will not be paid by the hour for showing up and doing your job. Instead, you will show up hour after hour and work until your head is swimming and not each a single penny for those hours.
1. Taking into account the fact that you will need to meet the costs of overheads (website, domain name, computer, Dropbox subscription, etc.), what is more important to you—making a profit above overheads or getting your stories read?
If you find yourself more drawn to the money, you may want to research high performing lines, such as Harlequin Mills & Boon Presents. If the money isn’t your main motivator, you can write in any genre or for any line.
What’s more important—the money or the status? Why? Take a few minutes to consider this and write down your answer. If you are motivated by money, you may be able to find a line that suits you right away. If not, you may need to continue to the next question.
Financial reward comes in the form of advances and royalties after all of the hard work has been put in and those rewards often don’t add up to minimum wage when divided by the time it takes to write and revise a book for publication. Don’t let this be your only driving factor in your decision to write.
If money isn’t what drives you to write, you can take your pick of genres to write and publishers to submit to. In this case it’s more about what you feel comfortable writing. If you followed along last month and wrote your brand story, you probably know exactly what genre you should be writing, based on your voice and the promise you keep with your readers; if not, head over and check it out.
Have a look at each line or genre in depth and make absolutely sure it is where you belong. This is something I struggle with to this day. Maybe not so much understanding where I belong as making others understand. My stories have a touch of everyday magic which is commonly found in magical realism, but series publishers hear magic and automatically think paranormal—even if I don’t have any witches or vampire in my stories
2. Think about your stories. Do you prefer to write cosy mystery? Sexy contemporaries? Historicals? If you are new to writing and don’t know what you’ll write yet, have a look at what you read. If you enjoy writing suspense there is a good chance you will enjoy writing it as well.
3. Who are your readers? How are they likely to purchase books—in print or ebook? Where do they shop for their books?
Now that you have a subgenre, have a look at publishers who buy those books and see what kind of advances and royalties they offer. Even if you just want to write with no regard to money, you still need to make a little for your efforts.
More importantly, see how well their recent titles are preforming. We have seen a ridiculous amount of lines closing in recent months and there is nothing more heart breaking than spending weeks, months, or years on a manuscript only to find the line it fit is now closed or closing.
Traditional or Indie?
Ahhh… the most controversial question of all…
Let me start by saying I see merit in both going the traditional route and setting out on your own. Gone are the days of self-publishing being synonymous with ‘vanity publishing’. The decision of which route to go—or to go hybrid—is totally up to you.
Going traditional can mean getting your books in front of a wider audience and building a platform off the reputation of the publishing house, but it can also mean some loss of creative control, particularly when it comes to titles and artwork. And in some circles, the ability to publish traditionally and build up a backlist to create income can be seen as the way it should be. There are still a few opinions here and there that self-publishing is more about getting the titles out there.
It isn’t always about paying your dues versus instant gratification, though. Sometimes an author just wants to have the complete creative control that comes along with self-publishing. Sometimes, he or she has faced rejection and decided to try it alone. Sometimes, they need the higher royalties that come with self-publishing.
The one thing you need to consider when choosing between the two though is how much you can reasonably invest into making your book a success. And by how much you can invest, I mean in time, money, and effort. If you can’t afford professional editing or cover design, it may be worth holding out for a contract. Same if you don’t have the time or know-how to promote your work.
4. Which route will you go—traditional or indie? If you chose traditional, which publishers will you submit to? What are the turnaround times for submission? Will you need an agent? If you chose indie, why? How will you ensure your book is finished to a professional standard? How will you promote it?
Just answering these questions isn’t enough to flesh out the market analysis section of your business plan. The answers are only the beginning. Now that you know which markets to research—get to it! Write up a page or so of notes and then compile them into a summary of what you have learned about your ideal market.
Until next time… happy planning!
Christy is an aspiring author, fairy tale fanatic, peanut butter connoisseur, and wannabe mermaid. For more information about her and her writing, check out her website and follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram.