(Here’s part one if you missed it.)
Wait, you might be thinking. Doesn’t researching start way earlier, like, before finishing? Yes, if you mean research that informs your story. In this case, though, I’m talking about market research.
And as I type, it occurs to me that in my first post I neglected to mention perhaps the most important ing of all: reading. It’s so important I was taking it for granted. You’re not gonna try to publish a book without being a reader, right? Read widely and critically. I’m with Richard Bausch on this one: there is no substitute. (Besides, it’s fun, remember?)
Here are a few things to consider when you’re reading with an eye toward the potential market for your work. If the word ‘market’ makes you feel icky, think of it as ‘audience.’
Which publishers produce the books you love?
It’s unlikely that one publisher will be responsible for the majority of your favorites, but take note if there’s a particular company or imprint that keeps coming up as you track titles. It’s an agent’s job* to be an industry expert and know the best places to pitch your manuscript, but it doesn’t hurt if you can eventually say Hey, I really admire some recent titles from Imprint X, do you think my work might be a good fit there?
Which agents represent the authors you love? Look at acknowledgments pages. Authors often thank their agents.
Who edits the books you love? Again, acknowledgments pages are your friend. Authors often thank their editors as well.
Since we’re talking about market research, you might think I’ll tell you to pay attention to trends. I will not.
Don’t worry about trends. Ask yourself what kinds of stories are missing.
Editors and agents will beg you not to try to write to catch a current trend. Keep in mind that books being published today were written some time (sometimes a LONG time) before today. The current trends will no longer be current by the time you’re sending out your manuscript. Instead, as you read, try to identify gaps. If it seems like there’s just nothing out there about Topic X, and you feel passionate about Topic X, perhaps you should consider writing The Awesome Book About Topic X.
*Yes, I know I haven’t talked about getting an agent yet. That’s coming up in QUERYING.