How to Find Comp Titles for Your Fiction Novel Using Amazon (Book Market Research Part I)

Since I’ve been revising my novel and considering self-publishing, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to things like researching reader expectations within my genre(s), copywriting, positioning a book by selecting appropriate categories and keywords on Amazon (or elsewhere), considering my book’s comp titles, and generally understanding how marketing works (and also what it is). A lot of this, I realized, has basically been my attempt to do some basic market research.

Why is this important?

Well, if you are a writer, like me, and are curious to learn how doing any of this stuff can actually help you become a better writer—regardless of whether you plan on self-publishing or going the traditional route—then you should definitely check out this first part of my video series!

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Self-Publishing: Why Cover Design & Market Research Matter

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to go to the Phoenix Comic Fest (aka Comicon), and there were a good number of authors present. Some of the books on display were very clear in their genres and what kind of audience the author was trying to reach, but my varied experiences just brought to mind why it is so important for self-published authors to not only invest in a well-designed book cover (if they aren’t a pro at it themselves) but also take the time to understand who it is they’re writing for or who their book(s) will appeal to.

A lot of people aren’t going to learn about most novels by word of mouth alone, which means your novel literally has the few seconds of a first glance to capture a potential reader’s interest. Whether they are looking for something specific or something that just catches their eye, what they see and what the entirety of the cover design communicates to them will be a huge factor in whether or not they decide to buy it. (And they expect it to match what’s on the inside.)

Granted, I met an author who had some book covers that weren’t well-designed, and she managed to sell me on one anyway by word of mouth. The point is most authors aren’t going to get that kind of opportunity with their readers.

It’s also possible to have a crappy cover design that still sells well, though chances are it’s just aesthetically lacking in the fine points but has some genre-specific element, usually artwork, that speaks to its target audience. I’ve been seeing this a lot. So it’s less about what “looks good” and more about what it communicates about your novel plus how that matches up to reader expectations.

This mirrors my experience with design in general. Good design combines both form and function. However, some people will prioritize one over the other. I’m the kind of person that will take a pass on a book if its cover (or form) sucks while others may be more willing to take a chance if there’s something that communicates it may have what the reader is looking for (function). At the same time, an ugly but functional cover could attract some of its target audience to make a purchase while alienating readers like myself who value aesthetics, just as a pretty cover with poor function (one that doesn’t accurately portray the kind of story that’s inside) could ultimately result in buyer’s remorse and negative reviews once the novel is read.

Anyway, I talk more about my Comicon experience at the event in the video—including an example of a book whose design didn’t match the story its author was trying to sell to me verbally—as well as other thoughts about doing market research, so if that sounds interesting to you then you should definitely check it out!

Are you a self-published author?

What has your experience with cover design and market research been like? Let me know in the comments!

On Finding a Novel’s Target Audience & Understanding Reader Expectations (Part II)

Last week, I mused a bit about the importance of identifying your target audience as an author and understanding reader expectations within your genre(s). This week, I wanted to follow up with some more thoughts on this as it pertains to my WIP, TEROH.

Before I get too far, I’d like to point out that a lot of these thoughts are stemming from a few things: beta reader comments I received, reviews that I read on books that are similar to mine, and also things I’ve been learning recently about selling and publishing on Amazon. Some books from indie authors are more financially successful than others—and while I don’t think things like good cover designs, good book descriptions, and the use of well-researched keywords along with an apt selection of categories/genres are the only reasons for their success, they do tend to be a substantial part of it when you look a little closer.

With the right positioning, a book can get a decent amount of hits from organic searches over time and better reach its intended audience. But if you haven’t considered the market and don’t know and understand who your intended audience is or what they’re looking for, then how are you supposed to reach them? As a writer still weighing the pros and cons of self-publishing vs. traditional, these are the reasons I’m considering all of this now.

As I see it, knowing the answers to these questions from a writing standpoint is just as important from a marketing one.Read More »

On Finding a Novel’s Target Audience & Understanding Reader Expectations (Part I)

Lately, as I’ve been pondering some of the feedback I’ve been getting on The Elementalist: Rise of Hara as well as the intricacies of publishing and marketing, I’ve been thinking about who the target audience for my novel might be because it’s very eclectic and therefore not easily categorized, in my opinion.

It never fully occurred to me until recently that this is actually a really important thing to figure out as an author—not just when you attempt to publish your novel but even while you’re getting feedback on early versions of your manuscript. (Some career writers would even say this should be considered before you start writing a novel.)

So why does this matter during the beta reader process?

Well, variety may be the spice of life and it’s very possible to learn something new from anyone you meet, but if what your story has to offer doesn’t really compliment the palettes of those you present your offering to (so to speak), then some of what you love about your story is liable to leave a bad taste in their mouths. Beyond this, every reader has his/her own standards for what they expect from a good story, and this can vary widely from genre to genre.

I think that’s why it’s important to seriously consider who your target audience is if you plan on publishing a novel so that your story is met with the best reception and financial success possible. Unless you don’t care about these things, in which case you might as well just skip my thoughts about all of this.

Different Reader Expectations for Readers of Different Genres

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