Testing the Market
Pat Browning is a refugee from California, where she was a travel agent, legal secretary and award-winning reporter, but not all at once. Now retired and dodging tornadoes in her native Oklahoma, she’s writing her second mystery starring – surprise! – a small-town reporter.
Blogs, podcasts, book trailers, Web sites, talk radio – so many shiny toys to keep a writer from writing. Promotion, who needs it? Every author, that’s who. If you’ve written a book, crank up the promotion wagon and get the show on the road.
With my first mystery, Full Circle, I did it the traditional way and learned everything the hard way. Now I’m at it again, only this time I’m promoting a mystery that isn’t finished. It’s called test marketing.
At a workshop in Northern California a few years ago, literary agents Michael Larsen and Elizabeth Pomada critiqued first-page submissions. One of their handouts was titled “15 Ways to Test-Market Your Book to Guarantee Its Success.” I didn’t have a book to test market at the time but I kept that handout and I’m ready to give it a try.
The 15 ways are much too detailed for a blog, but I’m looking at No. 6.
You can test-market the manuscript for a novel or a proposal for a nonfiction book. Once you finish your proposal, use the Chicken-Soup-for-the-Soul recipe for making sure your work is 100%: Send it to 40 readers. Have them grade your humor, your anecdotes and your work as a whole on a scale of one to ten. The more specific you are in the feedback you want, the more helpful your readers will be.
Get feedback from your networks before submitting or publishing your book. If you are a speaker, make every audience a focus group for your book. Whether you’ve sold your book to a publisher or not, as soon as you integrate your initial feedback into your finished manuscript, print it single spaced, back to back and have it bound in small quantities. Call it “A Special Limited Edition.”
Sell copies at your talks and offer those who give you feedback on it an autographed book and an acknowledgment in the published edition. Keep adding changes before you reprint, and keep reprinting until your audiences run out of suggestions. The primary object of this edition isn’t to make money but to get feedback on the manuscript. After you’ve received all of the feedback you can get, reread the manuscript to see if you can find changes worth making. Then integrate the changes into the manuscript.
I’m starting small, and on the Internet. By the time you read this I’ll have a do-it-yourself Web site up and walking, with the first three chapters of my work-in-progress, a mystery I’m calling Solstice. I’m soliciting comments and suggestions. The URL is www.prairiegal.net.
Warning: It’s a cozy or amateur sleuth mystery — no steamy sex scenes, very little blood on the floor. Constructive criticism will be welcome. Destructive comments – do I need to tell you what will happen to those?
And moving right along … I’ve hit a small pothole on my road to Web site building, but at the very least, Chapter 1 will be there, with an e-mail link back to me so you can tell how why you really, really love it, or hate it. With luck, all three chapters will be up. If not, I hope you’ll keep checking back.
Meantime, take a look at the Larsen-Pomada Web site at www.larsen-pomada.com. You’ll find a lot of good tips for writers, including the famous 15 Ways to Test-market Your Book to Guarantee Its Success.
Bowing out now, with a big THANK YOU to Evelyn David for inviting me to the party.
Dear Pat, how I miss you.
Pat and I did numerous book fairs, signings, and mystery cons together. And we were in the same chapter of Sisters in Crime–all back when she lived in California.
What a great gal, loved Full Circle, and we had such fun together.
I didn’t know you were making the new website for THIS purpose. Excellent idea! It’s funny you should mention larsen-pomada. Two years ago this August, on my way out of town to the Willamette Writers Conference in Portland, I checked our Post Office box first and had a letter from them…my very first agent query rejection. But, I continued on down the road and after three days of “test marketing” my book and myself at the conference, in front of a slew of different agents, I was signed by one! So, yes. Test marketing can work. Oh, the next time you happen to talk to larsen-pomada, be sure and mention this little story to them, hehe.
Hi, Pat. I enjoyed what you had to say, but then I always do. Good luck with Solstice and the new website.
Earl Staggs – at the other end of the Chisholm Trail.
I too enjoyed what you had to say – as always!
As a lover of FULL CIRCLE and an early fan of SOLSTICE, I’m excited about your test marketing ideas. And now I’m off to check out this new website!
Thanks Pat for the tips. I also will keep up with your new website.