Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Market Research

No real Clutter Demon update because I kind of slacked off. I totally ran out of energy. But, I did hold the line instead of backsliding. I didn't get any more de-cluttered, but I also didn't get any more cluttered. That's normally my downfall. When I run out of the initial burst of steam, I give up entirely. But now I feel like I can pick up again and keep going instead of having to start all over again.

Thanks to all of you who've given me feedback on my market research project. I didn't plan to get warm fuzzies out of it, but it was a bit of a boost to my ego. Some of the feedback was also a little depressing in terms of the book industry, but it matches how I've found some of my favorite authors.

It seems like the cover design and shelf placement are two of the biggest ways people discover books, and those are two things that are almost totally out of my control as an author. I get some input on the cover design, but I'm not sure how much weight I really pull or if I've just been lucky so far that what I've had in mind has matched what my publisher had in mind. My editor and I agreed from the start that we wanted a lighthearted, fun, cartoony cover, and I really lucked out that they got a fabulous artist who's done books for people much higher in the food chain than I am (she also did the artwork for the opening credits for the movie Le Divorce). The artwork has a cartoony, fun feel, but I think is a little more abstract and sophisticated than the usual chick lit cartoon cover. I also said I wanted the cover background to be white instead of pink or some other pastel. On the cover for Once Upon Stilettos, once I saw the draft sketch, I did request one tiny change. The fairy's feet looked huge in proportion to her body, and the heels on her shoes were too low to be "stilettos," so I sent in a picture of the Infamous Red Stilettos, and they did adjust it a bit before the final cover.

But no matter how much I know about how little the cover may or may not have to do with a book, I'll admit that often it's the cover that catches my eye in the first place. I won't buy a book just because of a nice cover. The story still has to sound like something I'd be interested in. But I may not pick up a book to see if it looks good if the cover or title don't catch my eye.

Meanwhile, that catchy cover may not do any good if nobody sees it, so store placement is key. Publishers generally have to pay for that prime space on the front tables. Mine arranged for my book to be out there for the first two weeks, but after that, if the people who work in the individual stores don't decide on their own to keep it there or to keep it face-out on the shelves, the cover isn't visible to attract random bookstore browsers. After those first two weeks, you have to rely on people looking specifically for that book, which means word of mouth and bookstore handselling become primary.

And that's where I'm trying to hone my marketing efforts. It seems from the responses that I've done a good job of saturating the areas where I have access. Now, to move up and expand my market, I have to find ways to move beyond my existing constituencies (oh my, am I having agency flashbacks, or what? Next thing you know, I'll be making PowerPoint slides). I'll need to find some additional circles to move in and start raising awareness there or else hope that some of the first-degree people I've reached will move on to their other circles (and find ways of encouraging that). I feel like I've been doing a good job with paranormal romance and fantasy readers. I see those folks mentioning my books in blogs, on message boards, in blog comments, etc. It seems like response in chick lit is a lot weaker. I'm certainly not top-of-mind as a reading recommendation on the boards where I lurk or participate in a reader capacity (I don't like to jump in and recommend my own books, but I will recommend others). Then again, a lot of the people on chick lit discussion groups and message boards (the reader ones, not the writer ones) don't seem to realize that there are authors other than just Marian Keyes and Sophie Kinsella. Those are wonderful authors, but there are a lot more out there, and I'm making it a personal mission to raise their names whenever I get a chance. Maybe that'll rack up enough karma that other authors will start recommending my books.

In other news, I'll be part of an online panel Q&A session Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the Romance Divas forum. Don't forget about Blogging for Books.

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