Not every book has to have a huge market. It’s possible to sell a lot of books by targeting your work to small niche markets. You do, however, have to have a target market that, upon evaluation, has the potential to meet your sales goals.
A book about a topic that might seem to have a small audience might still be a viable project. A small hobby or interest could have hundreds of thousands of potential readers—and that’s just in the United States. If you also consider the potential of selling your book internationally, the audience grows larger.
You Need Numbers to Determine the Size of Your Market
An agent or a publisher who receives a query or proposal for a book with no discernable market, or a market that appears small, likely will send a rejection to that author—even if the idea is a good one or the writer is skilled in his or her craft. A platform and promotion plan will not save the idea. (To whom would the author promote the book? With no market, the author has no potential book buyers, no potential readers.) Remember, the publishing industry revolves around selling books. No market, no one to whom to sell the book, no book sales.
As you create your market analysis, try to be specific. Use numbers to describe your market size. Imagine if you were an agent or an acquisitions editor and received a proposal for a book about creating change in people’s lives and the author described the market for her book this way:
“In the general self-help market, a huge and ever-popular area of publishing, [Book Title], will appeal to readers wanting to improve their ability to receive their desires, to fulfill their purpose, to develop a connection with God, to raise their consciousness, or to manifest what they want in their lives. Anyone looking for a way to better themselves, move farther along the spiritual path, or improve their current conditions will find this book useful.”
What might you think? Would you be inclined to back this project? As an indie publisher, would this be enough information to make you feel secure that your book has potential buyers, confident enough to put your money into the project?
What about if the same author sent you this information instead?
“[Book Title], a self-help book, will appeal to readers interested in the Law of Attraction, conscious creation, deliberate creation, creative thought, and manifesting dreams and desires. It targets the same 70,000+ people who attended Oprah’s internet class with author Eckhart Tolle to discuss his last book, A New Earth. Additionally, the market for this book includes cultural creatives, a group of people who in the last half century have grown from 50 million in number to hundreds of millions around the world.
If this author wanted to take this further—which she did—she could also tell an agent or publisher that her book targets women. Women purchase the majority of books and make up more than half of the US population.
Use Search Engines to Find Statistics
Sometimes you may not know the exact number of people who make up a market—you may not have the statistics. Other numbers you can find will support a market for a book. This is where Google, or some other search engine, “becomes your friend,” as the saying goes. Begin inputting questions in the search engine.
No matter into what category of fiction or nonfiction your book falls, you can discover market statistics of some sort—how many people exist, or large groups of people, who would be interested in purchasing your book. If you wanted to write a book about how to grow a particular type of orchid, you could use a search engine to discover how many people purchase that particular orchid or how many people purchase orchids each year. I did just that on Google with the keyword phrase “how many people purchase orchids,” and here’s what I discovered, thanks to the University of Michigan, Department of Horticulture, Orchid Research Program:
“Orchids are currently the second most valuable potted crop in the United States with a total wholesale value of $144 million in 2005…In 2005, 18 million potted orchids were sold at wholesale, with an average unit value of $8.00 (USDA 2006b).”
Now, not all of those were sold in the U.S., and the information was not current. Yet, given that I purchase orchids and I know other people who purchase orchids, I know orchid lovers are extremely engaged in orchid growing and buying and spend a lot of money per year on products related to orchids. They also attend orchid shows. You need only glance around at any grocery store to see that orchids are a popular plant to purchase even if you don’t know much about specialty orchids. If you were writing a nonfiction book on orchids—or on one particular orchid, you could take the time to make some phone calls—such as to the University of Michigan or to the American Orchid Society or to any one of the many orchid shows around America—and get some more current sales figures as well as additional statistics that would help you create a picture of your market size (such as how many people attend the orchid shows each year).
This is how you determine the size of your market. Then you evaluate if that market will support enough sales of your book to meet your goals or the goals of a publisher.
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