Thursday, June 27, 2013

Show me the market by Terry Burns

People come up at conference interviews and tell me their book is truly unique, that there is nothing like it on the market.

Know what a publisher hears when we say that? “There’s no market for this book.”

The role of comparables in a proposal is to do just that, to show what we feel the market for the book is by saying the books we are referring to are aimed at the same readers we are writing for, and those books are selling. They serve to define and quantify the market.

So what if we do have a project that is really unique? What if we are blazing new ground?

If that is the case, we have to not only sell a publisher on the project, but we have to show them the market. We need a marketing plan that identifies the people we think will be consumers of the book, show that we have the means (or can show the publisher the contact points) to contact those readers to sell them the project.

The more unique a project is the more likely a pitch is to garner the dreaded line, “I don’t see how I could sell that.” I believe the right response is to lay the problem right on the table with a publisher and say we know the problem with a unique submission is to define the market more than with other submissions. Then I would go on to show the markets I felt were appropriate and my plan for selling to them.

Our potential success in pitching a unique project hinges on our ability to accomplish this.


Andrea Cox said...

Hi Terry!

Hartline is a new agency for me, and I was thrilled to discover they've got a Texan on board! I'm from a tiny Texas town and am excited to get to know you through your blog articles and comments.

What do you suggest for finding books that are comparable to my own manuscript? I'm an avid reader but have trouble sufficiently comparing my own projects to others. Do I base the comparison on theme, characterization, or something else altogether? I would appreciate an agent's viewpoint on this.

Thanks for your time and an interesting article, Terry.

God bless you!

Linda Glaz said...

Good take on that, Terry. When we see a new genre take off, we know someone had to blaze the trail and some agent had to really believe in the project.

Audrey said...

Terry, thanks once again for giving me something new to think about. I thought that a unique story was always the goal to strive for. I now see the importance of being able to link the uniqueness to a potential market.

Terry Burns said...

Thank you for your comment, Andrea. Some agents may see it differently, but for me listing comparables is not about finding books that are like your book but books that are aimed at the same readers you believe will be interested in your project. It is about defining your readership, not comparing your writing to other authors. If I said I write like Steven King editors would think I was nuts (besides I don't anyway) but if I said I write for the people who READ Steven King, that would be acceptable

Andrea Cox said...

Terry, thanks for answering my question. It's very helpful and perfect timing, as I'm working on that section today.