Imagine trying to sell apples to a stranger off the street. You don’t know who he is, whether he likes apples, or if he even wants apples. You don’t know how many he’ll take, what kind he prefers, how much he has in his pocket to spend on your apples, and if he needs a little left over to buy his dinner too. You don’t know whether he wants them now or later, if he has any allergy to apples, what he plans to do with them in turn (sell, eat or throw away), if he has a friend who is equally hungry for apples, or whether apples are in season in his part of the world. Heck, you don’t even know if he knows what apples are!
So would you sell him ’em apples?
As a writer, you would never work for or with someone without knowing what kind of work they do and what they are trying to achieve. It’s no wonder that “Know your market” is one of the first principles of the publishing world. But how exactly?
Knowing your market means knowing who your customers are, who their customers are (age, gender, usage habits and values they hold dear), and what needs they are trying to satisfy. It also means knowing if their business is expanding or declining, where they get their funding from, how large a subscriber base they have, what current industry trends are and what their competition is doing.
In an ideal world, every writer would have plenty of time to perform:
a) indirect market research, based on existing published information available in libraries, regional directories, exhibitions, trade fairs, even the Chamber of Commerce and Office of National Statistics; and
b) direct market research, by approaching customers, agents and suppliers personally and gathering feedback.
However, the world is far from ideal, and if writers invested so much time into researching target markets, they would never get any actual work done. Besides, there is no telling that getting market details right guarantees success. So you need to work smart to get the most value out of the least effort.
1. Subscribe to their newsletter
Businesses have online presence in the form of websites and most offer free newsletter subscriptions in return for an email address. Create a mock email address that you can use for such activities and subscribe to their newsletters to know what topics they are talking about and how they treat them.
2. Use social media
Businesses have Facebook pages and Twitter feeds which are easy to “follow” for the latest buzz. Patterns will eventually emerge to give you an idea of their likes and dislikes.
3. Read market reports and trade press
Every industry has a collation of information leaflets/pamphlets/tidbits called “market/trade news” which profile the small and big players in the field. These are goldmines of information about potential markets. For the time-pressed writer this information, delivered in a concise and precise nutshell containing the most pertinent and relevant points, is easy to scan, there’s not an overwhelming volume to digest.
For example, a popular market dipstick is Duotrope.com although this is now fee-based. Others are AbsoluteWrite.com, EveryWritersResource.com, FundsForWriters.com and WritersWeekly.com. The traditional forms are annual compilations published by the likes of Writer’s Digest and Children’s Writer.
Bonus tip: to find new markets, read new authors’ testimonials
Visit your library and pick up a book by a new author. There may a page or two of testimonials offered by various periodicals about that book or author. This is because pre-launch reviews are a great way for new authors to generate a buzz around their releases and increase sales. This list of periodicals doing the review is sure to include a few markets for your own writing that you haven’t come across before.
Once you determine what works for you, do keep a track of which method got the most results, so that you can repeat your success!
About the author:
Devyani Borade writes on the humour and pathos of everyday life. Her fiction, nonfiction and art have been published in magazines across the world. Visit her website Verbolatry at http://devyaniborade.blogspot.com to contact her and read her other work.
Also by Devyani Borade:
1. Top 5 Irritating Habits of Editors (article)
2. The Importance of Article Placement in a Magazine (article)
3. 8 Tips to Maximize Your Freelance Writing Earnings (article)
4. 12 Sure-Fire Ways to Make Yourself an Unpopular Freelance Writer (article)
5. KISS — Keep It Simple, Stupid! (article)
6. Advertising — Does a Freelance Writer need it? (article)
7. The Golden Opportunity of Advertising Yourself—for Free (article)