So what is a marketable book anyway?

What is the point of lavishing time, effort and emotion on writing a book when the chances are it is not going to be published in the first place?

I’ve been down that road before. I’ve even had an agent ask to see more of my story, only to be told that while I could certainly write, the book just wasn’t marketable. But how can I tell whether my new story is going to be marketable, before I put in the hours required to write it?

The short answer, I guess, is that I can’t. There are no guarantees. However, a little research suggests that there are a few ways in which you can shorten the odds in favour of producing a marketable book.

It’s hard to think of the process of writing a book as anything other than creative, but it is slowly dawning on me that there is a great deal of business acumen involved as well – and that it makes sense to apply these commercial skills as early on in the writing process as possible. This particularly applies to the question of book marketability. As Susan Jane says in her very helpful blog “Writing for Publication – What Makes a Book Publishable and Marketable?”:

“Publishing is a business, and the business owner needs to be as certain as they can be that the products or services they offer for sale will sell and make money for them. No matter how much a writer thinks their book deserves to be published, the Editor of the publishing enterprises they submit to are entitled to make the decision to accept or reject the “product”. It is no different from a boutique owner deciding to stock one dress style and not another – or a building contractor using the same sub-contractors because they have demonstrated a superior service in the past.”

Nina Amir explains this further in her guest blog post “How to Write Marketable Books that Feed Your Soul”.

“Your creativity, authenticity and even inspiration make it stand out from the pack,” she says, but “no matter how you decide to publish, your book, ultimately, ends up a product in the marketplace—a product for sale.”

It goes without saying that a marketable book will be well-written and compelling, with vivid characterisation and a coherent structure, but it also needs something more. Nina outlines a number of things that are common to marketable books: they are unique, have a sufficiently large target market, are deemed ‘necessary’ in that market, are successfully promoted to it and their authors are willing to participate in that promotion.

This is, perhaps, something that you can assess and use to your advantage.

In a further blog, Nina explains how to carry out a competitive analysis, to help you work out whether your ideas will fill a hole in the market and how to use your research to improve your work in the future. It sounds like a worthwhile exercise.

So I’m putting aside my creative impulses for today and hitting the internet instead. The process will either reassure me, or send me back to the drawing board: I really don’t know which. But either way, hopefully I will have a better book at the end of it…

What do you think? Have you any tips to help would-be novelists improve the marketability of their books?

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