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Do You Want to Write a Book? Test the Market, First
by Patricia Fry

Would you like to position yourself as an expert in your field by becoming a published author? Do you yearn to share your passion for writing, cooking with herbs, manicure art, photography, a particular ethnic culture or horseback riding? Maybe you’d like to write about your experiences traveling through the Holy Land, hang gliding or raising llamas, but you’re not sure that a book on this topic would be well-received. Why not improve your odds? How? Test the market before writing the book.

Of course, one way to run a test is to write a book proposal. Practically everything you need to know before publishing a book is revealed in an effective book proposal. But you won’t actually know that there are buyers for your book until it is a book.

That’s why I suggest testing the market with a booklet or pamphlet on an aspect of your topic. With the right capabilities, you can produce a booklet rather inexpensively in-house. And, if you’re an expert or at least have a strong interest in your topic, you probably have a built-in audience.

Let’s say that you are writing a book on growing and using herbs, but you’re not sure if there’s a market for it. Why not publish a 15 to 30-page booklet featuring a few herbs you can grow in pots, a dozen or so recipes using certain herbs or simple and useful remedies you can make from herbs? Promote the booklet through the same means you planned for the book on this topic—through organizations related to herbs, herb-related websites, your newsletter for herb enthusiasts and various herb groups and shops you’ll visit while traveling.

Maybe you’re planning a book of family entertainment ideas. Produce a booklet featuring rainy day activities for kids, local day trips for families or fun finger foods children can make. Market this booklet through the same channels that you would your main book. Promotional opportunities might include a point of purchase display at local toy stores and children’s shops. You could design and write a column for a new regional parenting magazine. Obtain a mailing list of young parents and offer your booklet through mail order.

A booklet that sells well could even attract the attention of a publisher. I’ve successfully test marketed two books. About a year ago, I designed a booklet called, Young Writer’s Handbook and took it to my local business center to have it printed and saddle-stitched. I offered it for sale at my website, at book festivals and writing conferences, through articles and announcements in magazines and newsletters. Once I was satisfied that this was, indeed, a marketable product, I began showing it around to publishers. A few months ago, a publisher offered me a contract.

Island Heritage Publishing now produces my book on presenting a Hawaiian luau. I successfully test marketed this one for a year before submitting it to potential publishers.

Sometimes an experience with a test booklet will prompt you to change your focus. I know two teen brothers who produced a booklet describing how they manage their childhood onset diabetes. They sold several copies locally and then showed it to the American Diabetes Association. The ADA was definitely interested in publishing the book if the boys would revise it as a self-help book for kids with diabetes. They agreed and were issued a contract.

The concept of test marketing isn’t new, but it’s a foreign idea for authors who don’t consider their books as products. Test market your next book and you may just produce your most successful one, yet.

© Copyright 2009, Patricia Fry

Patricia Fry is a career writer, author, speaker and editorial/publishing consultant. She is the president of SPAWN (Small Publishers, Artists and Writers Network) www.spawn.org and the author of 27 books, including The Right Way to Write, Publish and Sell Your Book www.matilijapress.com/rightway.html. Visit her informative blog daily, www.matilijapress.com/publishingblog.

New book of cat stories
Patricia Fry announces her latest book: Catscapades, Tales of Ordinary and Extraordinary Cats www.matilijapress.com/catscapades.html.

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