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Write a Book Proposal: Researching Your Markets for the Book

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Your book proposal coach

I’m often asked where to find information that will be useful in writing the markets for the book section of a book proposal, or in making decisions about the book’s tone, content, features and other aspects of the book concept.

Where to Find Data on the Markets for Your Book

My favorite source for market data is the US Census. You can extrapolate data if needed.

Professional associations often collect and share data relevant to an audience, whether it be numbers of a professionals in a particular field, numbers of people with a particular illness or condition, or numbers of members of other types of organizations. You can contact them to see if they will share their statistics. Examples include the American Medical Assocation, American Psychological Association,

If you’re still coming up dry, consider going to your local library and asking the resources librarian for help.

In my book proposal course I offer more detailed information about researching your markets.

How to Discover What Your Market Wants

One way to find out more about your market is to observe them. In our first book proposal class I suggested that those who already served a clear market (like Bonnie Leonard, a midlife women’s coach) probably knew much about their market from looking at their clients, but for others, a trip to the local book store might offer an enlightening opportunity to learn about their potential readers through the power of observation.

Tara Mardigan took up the challenge. In last week’s session, she shared about her trip to the diet section of Borders in Copley Square. She started sifting through books and then sat on a bench to listen and observe her potential readers in action.

Book Proposal Class
Book Proposal Class

“A woman in her late twenties said aloud to her friend, ‘Oh, I like that this book has recipes but there’s no way I’d have any of these ingredients in the house.'”

“A forty-five-year-old man told his girlfriend, ‘I just want to have permission to eat the stuff I want. Can any of these books help with that?'”

Want to learn more about your readers to clarify your book concept and to write the “Markets for the Book” section of your book proposal? Head to the book store.

More Ideas for Researching the Markets for Your Book

In addition, here are some other ideas for researching the wants and needs of your audience:

  • A client of mine asked members of a Facebook group she was also a member of to take a quiz (hundreds of people did so!).
  • Blogging can help you get feedback from readers. Read their comments to see what topics most engage them. Ask them about what they would want in a book.
  • Read the Amazon book reviews and see what reviewers felt was missing from other books, as well as what they liked most about the books on the market (this can help with the competitive and complementary books section as well).
  • Another client set up a focus group in her home with people from her target market.

These are just a few ideas. I’m sure you can think of more! Share them below or ask your questions on the markets for the book section (or any other parts of a proposal) as a comment below. You may also be interested in reading more about how to write chapter outlines or summaries for your book proposal, how to write the section on competing and complementary books, how to choose your sample chapters, and developing your book promotion plan for your book proposal.

Lisa Tener

Lisa Tener is an award-winning book writing coach who assists writers in all aspects of the writing process—from writing a book proposal and getting published to finding one’s creative voice. Her clients have appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show, CBS Early Show, The Montel Williams Show, CNN, Fox News, New Morning and much more. They blog on sites like The Huffington Post, Psychology Today and WebMD.

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