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Sell More Books: 4 Helpful Marketing Research Exercises

What does JK Rowling have that you don’t? Aside from, well, I don’t know, about a bazillion dollars, a series of best-selling books, a THEME PARK and a castle. Disregarding the glitz and glamour, though, she has one thing that will help every single writer sell more books: research.

Shannon dished the details last week on how research can help your writing, but I’m here to discuss how it can also help your marketing. It’s easy to see we’re fans of planning and goal-setting here, and research is an important part of both of those processes. The exercises below may sound like kind of a pain, but — trust me — the payoff is well worth it!

1. Scope out the competition.

Find at least 5 authors who are similar to you (in both the traditional and self-publishing realms) and spy on them for a bit. You don’t even need James Bond gadgets! Surf around their website, follow them on Twitter, and check out their Facebook page. Make notes about which promotional methods seem to be working out for them, as well as notes on what you think you could improve upon.

2. Nail down your target market.

I know, I know, we talk a LOT about target markets here. But that’s just because target markets are THAT important. If you don’t know who you’re selling your book to, how are you going to convince readers to buy it? Believe us, books don’t fly off the shelves just because you put them up for sale. Take the time now to become REALLY familiar with your primary and secondary target markets, as well as the best ways to pique their interest (and generate sales).

3. Go surfing.

Book cover surfing, that is. Check out other covers in your genre and see how yours stacks up. Is it similar enough to fit in but eye-catching enough to stop a reader in her tracks? If not, it’s not working hard enough. A well-designed book cover will pay for itself dozens of times over. It’s the primary visual image everyone will associate with your book, so make sure it’s the best it can be!

4. Research blog partners.

And I don’t just mean fellow writing and self-publishing blogs (although they wouldn’t hurt). Use that target market research to find blogs where your potential readers would hang out and become a regular there, too! Make comments that add to the discussion (ask a question or bring up a new point, as examples) and, when you feel comfortable with the blog’s audience and schedule, contact the blogger to see if they’d be willing to have you write a guest post or give an interview. They could even be a stop on your blog tour!

What do you think?

The above should keep you busy for quite awhile and greatly improve the effectiveness of your marketing. What other ways have you found that research can help with marketing? Did any of the above help you? Let us know in the comments!

  • I’m always amazed so many (self-pubbed) authors ignore #3. Yes, it does make a difference. Yes, readers will judge your book by the cover.

  • Identifying your target reading is relatively easy. How do you find her/him? How does one pique their interest?

  • Merry Farmer

    I like it! Very good advice. As a History girl (who writes Historical Romance) I love the idea of research. Yes, I was the nerd who shouted out “Yes!” when we were assigned research papers in school. And I kind of like the idea of stalking, I mean observing similar writers too.


  • great tips. I’m a new author and this article was super informative.

  • Thanks! So simple yet vital for new, “Green” writers like myself!

  • This is a great article! I’m always amazed to find out how many new authors don’t do their homework and scope out their competition. Just performing the research activities you identifed will save a huge amount of time, prevent costly trial and error mistakes, and allow you to effectively position yourself AND your book in the market.

  • Great tips

    I have joined a couple of groups on Goodreads and I have mentioned my books on their fora. That’s my only tip at the moment!

  • LK Watts

    The best marketing advice I’ve ever been given is off the amazing J.A. Konrath: ‘Write your next book, then write the one after that. Repeat the process.’

  • Good post! All very important points.

  • Excellent article, well written, short and sweet, great information. Thanks for posting.