The Necessity: Ask The Right Question
I've watched writers over the years and know they are a creative bunch. The majority of them have some idea for a magazine article or a novel or a book, sit down and crank it out. Often they invest hours in the writing process and when it's completed, they turn and try to sell that manuscript to a magazine editor or a book publisher.
Because there are literally millions of these ideas, queries, book proposals and manuscripts in the jammed pipeline, the writer waits forever for a response from some editor or literary agent. They burn a path to their mailbox or their email box looking for some response. And often when that response comes, it's a rejection. That's when the self-doubts set in for the writer.
It's like the old chicken joke which has been around forever. What came first the chicken or the egg? Where in the creation process of the writing do you begin and write something that fills a need in the market? There are three large elements with this process: Messenger, Delivery System and Market. The majority of people believe they are the messenger, the book is the delivery system and they are trying to reach the market. It's a long-shot way of touching that market in my view because not enough research has been put into discovering the need of the market.
Yesterday I was fascinated with this transparent post from Thomas Nelson President and CEO Mike Hyatt. While the writer invests vast amounts of time and creative energy in their idea, the publisher has the real "skin in the game" (as some people would say) or financial investment. The publisher has created a product and most of that creation is based on their experience and some "gut" reaction. Mike makes a case for the publisher to do more research before they produce the product. I want to take this idea a bit further and encourage the writer to survey the marketplace before they write another book proposal or another query letter.
How do you survey your market? I'd suggest you use a tool called the Ask Database. Behind the scenes, I'm using this Ask Database to compile the questions and data for my free teleseminar next week (and other teleseminars that are in the planning stages). I hope you’ve asked your question about book proposals or the publishing process because I'm eager to gather your input. Each writer should be building a list of people they can survey. It's their market and they should be connecting with their readers to find out what they want--then write something that fills a need in that audience. You communicate to your audience on a regular basis through a newsletter like my FREE Right Writing News.
This process of asking the right question and meeting a market need is more important than ever for every writer. Why? We’ve been saying there were 170,000 new books published last year--and a very small percentage (something like less than 500 book titles sold over 5,000 copies--I've heard this statistic but can't lay my hands on it--so I'm hedging) actually sold. Here's the frightening detail: R. R. Bowker who compiles the statistics have reworked their method to compile the numbers. Now they estimate that over 290,000 books were published last year--a 120,000 jump from their previously published number of 170,000.
Whether the number was 170,000 or over 290,000, it's a huge number of new books--and many of those titles are entering the market but not selling. I return to my key point in this entry: Are you asking the right question and what are you doing to get your answers?