Before you invest your valuable time in writing a book, it’s wise to research your market place first.  It could save you a lot of time, editing and rewrites.

These are some of the key questions that will guide your research.

Which section would you expect your book to be in a bookshop – or categories it would be listed under in an online book store?

Knowing where your book sits will make it easier to research what’s already available in the category.  It’s important to know where people will be looking, both in a bookshop (or in your local library) and also online.  This is where people will find your book when they’re looking at other books in this category and so have already established they have an interest in this subject.

Which publishers are already publishing books similar to yours?

Not all publishers publish all types of book; some specialise in business or non-fiction, others in fiction or romance.  If you plan to write a book and you are looking for a publisher, you need to pick the right one.  If they haven’t already published your type of book they will either not be interested or be hard to sell your idea to.

How recently have they brought out a book in the same category?

This is the flipside of the coin.  If a publisher has brought out a book that is a direct competitor to yours – or is planning to – you’ll find it harder to get them to publish yours alongside the existing book.  However, if you’re willing to be flexible about publishing dates, this may not be a big deal.

If you’re planning to self-publish this is less of an issue.  However, it’s worth knowing what’s in mainstream publishers’ catalogues so you’ve got an idea what you’re up against.

Which authors write books similar to yours?

Knowing your genre is really important so your book isn’t just the same as someone else’s.  People with an interest in a particular subject will buy several books on that subject, but they don’t want to read the same thing twice.  You need to have your own spin on the subject.  Knowing what’s already out there is important.

Given your intended publishing date, do you know what other books will be competing with yours?

Know your competition!  Publishers have catalogues that tell you what’s being published and when.  This can be a useful source of information to ensure you don’t launch your book at the same times as a well-known author’s next project comes out.

Which books do you admire – and why? 

What has attracted your attention?  Is it to do with the actual content or is it the tone, the layout, the length, the humour or something else?  If you are self-publishing you’ll be in the driving seat when it comes to how your book looks.  If you have a layout or cover style you particularly like, it will make life much easier for your designers.  Even if you have a contract with a publishing house who will do all this for you, it’s sensible to tell your liaison about your preferences so you don’t end up with a book you hate the look of.

When it comes to content, you need to develop your own style, but we are all influenced by others, not to copy, but to guide our own efforts. 

Who will read your book?  Where do you find groups of people that fit your reader profile and how will you attract them to want to read your book?

This is important – whether you’re self-publishing or have a publishing contract.  You need to actively market your book if you want to see it gain any momentum.  If you have followers on social media that’s a great place to start, but you also need to start thinking about where your target audience hangs out – online and offline – and have thought about how you let them know about your book.

Don’t expect your publisher to do this kind of marketing – most won’t.

What is your book’s WOW factor? 

When people ask ‘what is your book about?’ describing the subject category isn’t exciting.  When you know what the WOW factor is – you can say that and they’ll be much more likely to go out and buy it.  It’s also what sets your book apart from the competition and makes you stand out from the crowd.

Make sure you craft your book’s WOW factor statement before you even think of submitting it to a publisher – it may be the deciding factor that gets you that contract!

For more information on writing and publishing your book, check out the Author Guides section