Last Quarter of the Moon Publishing
Welcome to the beginning of a new era in publishing. Whether you are looking for a publisher to shine a new light on your novel; to help you develop your plot or elevate your prose; to aid you in developing a business and marketing plan for your new creation; or perhaps, you are in the market for custom cover art; if you should find yourself in need of help in your effort to publish the next great novel, Last Quarter of the Moon is here for you.
We often start the marketing process by identifying our target audience and making sure that the product that we intend to sell will be adopted. It is for this purpose that we perform market research, and elicit professional and public opinion.
Eliciting Professional and Public Opinion
Under Editing, we introduced the 7 Content Dwarves. That last content dwarf, Smashful, is all about impact. He starts out strong and he leaves a lasting impression. Isn't that what we are looking for? The question you have to ask yourself as you are preparing your work for publication is "Does this piece invoke the emotions and dialogue that I intended?" It is more than a matter of invoking emotion; you want to be sure that you invoke the right ones! What use is a well-crafted narrative if it only serves to offend your intended audience, who then put it down or throw it out after reading the second, third, or fourteenth chapter?
Sometimes, the artist is too close to the material to be objective. Other times, the artist might not be close enough to an audience segment to understand their point of view. In these cases, as elsewhere in business, it is imperative that we perform the necessary market research. This research can be accomplished in a variety of ways and combinations.
This is often the first thing that comes to mind when we say market research. Track down the target audience and see what they are reading, listening to, or are generally interested in. This is particuarly true if you are trying to corner a specific niche. Often this type of analysis is most useful during the initial planning undertaken before a work is created; however, it can be performed at any time, so long as the artist is amenable to considering changes which might make the work more accessible / marketable to a given audience.
Once the target audience is identified, it can also be analyzed quantitatively. This allows the artist to determine the potential addressable market for their work. From this information, a marketing plan and sales forecast can be determined. We discuss sales forecast in more detail in our section on Planning.
Authors typically ask other authors, teachers, editors, literary agents, and publishers to comment on their work at various stages during its development. This is a slippery slope. You don't unnecessarily want to avoid soliciting opinions from other professionals whom you carefully select to review and comment on your work; however, you need to be selective and the terms and conditions under which they will provide comment need to be well understood.
Imagine sending a nascent draft of your as-of-yet lackluster, anemic vampire novel (anemic vampire - that doesn't sound half bad.) You sent it to get their impression of the general direction of your work before you rip it apart and whip it up into the next great American novel. Unfortunately, they misunderstand and proceed to publish a less than flattering review on their blog or in their magazine. Or worse, the more unscrupulous might take the idea and run with it, knowing full well - true or not - that they can do better than you and get it to market before you are any the wiser. When soliciting professional opinions, be careful.
Speaking of opinion, professionals tend to be overly opinionated. That doesn't make them wrong, but it also doesn't mean that you are wrong either. When receiving opinion from other professionals, be sure to be open minded. They very well could be right. However, you have to stick to your guns. If you are writing about a black, homosexual, Catholic neo-Nazi who is having an identity crisis, consider what making changes to his race, sexuality, creed, or mores would have on your story. I have heard of authors scrapping multiple chapters, hundreds of pages, on the recommendation of a friend who was previously published. Beware friends who, though well-intentioned, cause you to eviscerate your life's work. This form of seppuku is not only damaging to the memory of the work you could have had, but to the health of the author as well.
This is one of my favorite ways to solicit opinions and advice. Typically, we tend to write for audiences close to us. We often know several trustworthy individuals who could represent or are members of our target audience. Before spending a great deal of time writing and re-writing, it is beneficial to solicit their advice about what we are writing. Select a few members of your audience whom you know well and trust to provide you with their invaluable point of view. Often, I will pitch the concept for a novel to my wife, my children, fellow authors, in order to get their feedback and to build momentum. I also love calling up a fellow author and reading a verse I have just written in which I am well impressed. Having this type of soundboard helps to coalesce ideas and can be the source for additional inspiration. Again, be careful who you let into this inner sanctum. You need to be selective, and be sure that the terms and conditions under which you are sharing your concepts and under which they will provide comment is well understood.
Once you have put pen to paper or fingertips to keyboard, you are ready to market test your effort. You do not need to have completed the work or perfected it in order to market test it. You do want it to be legible. Major typographical errors should be corrected for readability. Remember, the purpose of market testing is to receive the voice of the customer. The audience that you market test needs to be a good sampling of the members of your target audience. Otherwise, what is the point? One way that I like to market test is to participate in read-ins. Several writers groups hold reading sessions each month. Often, they are associated with clubs, bookstores, libraries, schools, writing contests, publishers, or local chambers of commerce. The insight that you can gleen from reading a scene, chapter, or short narrative from your text can be eye-opening. Not only do you get the benefit of hearing yourself read the words you wrote, you also hear the words as you wish you had written them, and receive feedback from your peers and prospective customers.
What communication channels and methods will you use to reach your target audience? When it comes to promoting your work, how, what, and where you communicate with them is just as important as when.