Most writers do some kind of research while working on a story. However, have you considered doing a “market research” project? By market research, I mean reading published books in your genre that cover the same or similar topic. I’ve been working on one for my WIP, and doing so has helped me get a better idea of where my story will fit in the overall market – once it’s ready to be published, of course.
Curious to know how you might benefit from a market research project? Let me give you five reasons.
1) It Helps You Determine Where Your WIP Fits Into the Current Market
I’m not suggesting that you write to current trends. Instead, consider your WIP’s defining elements, and look for published books that are in a similar vein. Start with genre and target age group, then look for other details such as time period, setting, and subject matter.
As you read your market research books, see what patterns you can glean. How are these novels similar to or different from one another? What trends do you notice regarding subgenre, characters, and other elements? Do any novels take a unique approach? Answering these questions can give you a clearer perspective of what readers are already familiar with and where your novel fits into the big picture.
For example, when I first got the idea for my WIP (a YA epic fantasy with life-size winged fairies), I was curious to know how else fairies and the Fey had been portrayed in literature. My market research project has therefore focused on a wide range of YA and adult fantasy novels with those characters. So far, many of the books share common elements, but the diversity in how this supernatural race has been portrayed is fascinating.
2) It Shows You How Your WIP Stands Out from the Crowd
Once you’ve read several books for market research, you’ll start to see how your WIP sets itself apart from what’s already out there. This is a huge benefit for you, because your story might fill a hole that other novels haven’t. Plus, if you do a market research project before you start writing, the voids you find can be a great source of new story ideas.
So, as you develop an understanding of the market, remember to look back on your own story. How does it differ from your market research books or current bestsellers in your target genre and audience? What distinct elements or angles does it offer? Do other details like your protagonist, cast of supporting characters, or setting bring something new to the table? By acknowledging what makes your story unique, you’ll have a better grasp on its possible place in the market – and much more.
3) It Prepares You for Pitching, Querying, and All Future Steps in the Publishing Process
Crafting an in-person pitch for an upcoming conference? The results from your market research project can help! Drafting a query letter to send to agents? Again, your market research work will come in handy. Developing a marketing plan for promoting your book? Writing the jacket copy? Making a list of possible authors to ask for quotes?
See where I’m going with this? The work you do for a market research project will arm you with the information you need to promote your story, from finding comparative titles and authors to list in your pitch or query, to writing the copy that could grab the attention of literary agents, editors, and potential readers. It’s a great way to prepare yourself for the steps that come after polishing your WIP – and for when you achieve the big dream of having your story published.
4) It Exposes You to New Writers and Subgenres You Haven’t Read Before
As much as I love fantasy, I’ve read certain subgenres more than others. So, when I started my market research on fairy novels, I realized I’d be dabbling in my beloved epic fantasy as well as paranormal romance, urban fantasy, and steampunk, among others. Have I loved everything I’ve read so far? No – but I also found some wonderful surprises, and finally checked out several authors whose works I’d been meaning to read for years.
That’s another advantage to doing a market research project. It introduces you to writers and genres you haven’t read before. So, as you choose books for your market research, be open to anything that fits your criteria, including books whose content, tone, or subgenre are outside your comfort zone. This will give you a wider variety of choices for your project and expand your horizons in ways you might not expect.
5) You’ll Discover New Favorite Books and Authors!
Thanks to my fairy-novel project, I’ve read amazing novels by Laini Taylor, Juliet Marillier, Elizabeth May, and Tina Connolly, and I have every intention on checking out more of their work in the future. Maybe the same will happen to you when you do your own market research. Because, really, who doesn’t love finding more life-changing books and new favorite authors?
How about you? Have you done a market research project or something similar for one of your WIPs? Do you think you might try one in the future? Let us know in the comments below, or on social media, using the hashtag #5OnFri!
Sara Letourneau is a Massachusetts-based writer who practices joy and versatility in her work. In addition to writing for DIY MFA, she’s revising a YA fantasy novel and reviewing tea for A Bibliophile’s Reverie. Her poetry has appeared in The Curry Arts Journal, Soul-Lit, The Eunoia Review, Underground Voices, and two anthologies. Learn more about Sara at her personal blog, Facebook, and Twitter.