‘Know your reader’ is a great mantra for any writer, published or unpublished. In today’s hugely competitive market, it doesn’t seem to be quite enough anymore. While ‘Know your industry’ is significantly less important, the extra knowledge can be to some extent valuable in an aspiring writer’s quest to getting published.
With a bit of time and patience, you can gain some good market insight, all in your spare time, and without spending any money.
Set aside an hour a day for the next five days and follow the step-by-step guide below to increase your awareness of what literary agents, publishers and, ultimately, readers want to read next.
Decide the genre of your book and make a list of the top three all-time bestselling authors in your genre. Find out how they started, who signed them up and who published them when they were just starting out.
Make a list of as many debut writers as you can find, those who have been signed up by agents and published over the last three years, together with their titles. Here you will find the secret of what the industry expects from your book in terms of story, narrative, characters and style. Follow those authors on Twitter. Keep the list of all those agents and editors and follow them too.
Read as many online reviews real readers have left for the titles on your list. See what they loved and what they loathed about the books and imagine what they would pick on in your book.
Visit your local library and borrow one of the titles that look appealing on your list. Make notes as you read. Take a break from creative thinking and read the book through a critical thinking filter, questioning every decision the author made. For example, why would they introduce a character in a particular scene and not in another, or why would they choose a particular word over another?
Find out what’s going to be published in the next eighteen months in your genre by consulting The Bookseller and The Publishers Market and by looking at what the agents on your list sold to the editors.
At the end of the fie days, you’ll have a fairly good idea of what your readers will expect your book to deliver and you’ll also know what agents and editors are going to look for in the next manuscript on their desk.
There will be a lot of activity going on. Don’t let it discourage you and remember that the industry is always on the lookout for the next big book.
Take the weekend off to and on Monday go back to the writing desk with renewed confidence. You are now the fresh pair of eyes your manuscript needs.
Lorena Goldsmith is Literary Consultant at the Literary Studio.