Thursday, March 22, 2018

Analyzing Your Novel for Market Value

By Jaimie Engle, @theWRITEengle

Part of the Indie Author Series

Since 2012, I’ve written 11 books and published 7 of them as an indie author and I’ve blown expectations for average book sale out of the water. The general expectation is 50-500 book sales over the lifetime of your book. In 2017 alone, I sold 987 books, mostly in face to face encounters. I’ve found two distinct ways to make an incredible living in addition to being a published author, through teaching and appearances.

But first, I had to learn the value of my book.

What does that even mean? Your books and my books provide value, but in order to know that, I had to learn how to translate that value to the right audience. And that was harder than writing or editing any novel.

During my beginning days, I had a single middle grade fantasy adventure book, so that was an easier pitch. My audience was kids in third through sixth grade. Well, it was really their parents because they had the cash to spend. That was my first lesson, I had to appeal to the kids and their parents to make a sale.

When I wrote my next two books, I realized that my genre and age group kept changing, so how was I going to capture my brand and still be able to encompass a middle grade historical fantasy, an epic werewolf fantasy, and a sci-fi novella? They all featured storytelling that dealt with elements of the supernatural, so that became my brand: STORYTELLING WITH A SUPERNATURAL SLANT, which covered all my books, including my adult short story collection (which is mostly horror, alternate history, and fantasy humor).

Then, I had another thought: supernatural tends to lend itself to demons, dark, and otherworldly beings. What about magical realism? Why did I become an author to begin with? Alice in Wonderland. That’s what I wanted my brand to trigger in a reader, so I changed it to: WHERE MAGIC TURNS ORDINARY INTO EXTRAORDINARY.

This has helped me to determine the value of my books and my audience. The value I bring to a reader is that my storytelling will turn their ordinary world into an extraordinary one, that my story will take something ordinary and make it extraordinary. This way, it doesn’t matter the genre or audience age; if you like those kinds of books, you’ll enjoy my brand.

I’ve said it before, but it stands to be said again: as an author, you are not an artist; you are an entrepreneur, a small business owner, who most likely has used their own capital to invest in their new enterprise. And that’s a completely different scenario than being “a writer.”

So how do you measure value?

Let’s start by being honest. Does your book bring a value greater than the list price to the consumer? You can’t answer that by saying, “I worked really hard on this and people should want to buy it,” or, “It’s a great story, of course, it will bring value to the reader.” While all of this might be true, how often have you purchased a product because the store owner appeared to have worked really hard to get their shop going? Probably only if you are personal friends with them. Here are some considerations:
  • Does your packaging (book cover, logo, book marks, business cards, etc.) bring aesthetic value to the reader?
  • Are you providing ongoing social media content with your fans in a way that engages, inspires, and improves their lives?
  • Do you give back to your community of fans in a unique way through your time, knowledge, or physical books at no or deeply discounted costs?
  • How much time and effort do you spend on improving your writing skills and marketing know-how?
  • Is there a platform you are building toward, and is it unique enough to secure your individual spot in a competitive market?
  • What strategies do you have in place to cultivate new readers, reward loyal customers, and encourage word of mouth viral sharing?
  • Is your story providing enough of a difference for your readers to become fans?
This should get you thinking and answering some basic questions about you and your small business.

When I started out, I was certain I had the next NY Times Bestseller in my hands. Only it was rejected by 98 different agents, who mainly told me they couldn’t connect with my story. Today, this little book is self-published through my JME Books line, where it has done tremendously well in the market, even allowing me to get into the doors of Barnes & Noble for a book talk and signing (more to come on that soon).

Were these agents wrong? No, of course not. In fact, they were absolutely correct in their deduction. The book has a tight niche market because of its local geographic connection. If it had been picked up by a traditional press, it would have bombed within the first year and been shelved forever. I’d probably never write another word and be working at a drugstore somewhere.

Instead, after that first year of bombing, I had to do some soul-searching to find my book’s value, and I discovered a beautiful message woven within the pages: BULLYING. This is my book’s unique value.

A fantasy adventure novel with dwarves and dragons teaches kids about their part in bullying.

Once my value was determined, it was easy to supply a demand. I began to contact schools regarding my anti-bullying program. They readily paid for my appearance and offered pre-order book sales to students (or purchased books for the school directly). This self-created demand was the reason Barnes & Noble reached out me, yes…reached out to ME, to invite me to sign books in their store and discuss my novels.

Suddenly, the value of my book had grown exponentially.

My book hadn’t changed, only the message I had already built into it had become the focal point to bring value to readers. I even went a step further with creating more value by:

1. Creating a teacher’s novel study guide in print and ebook formats

2. Including standards in both the study guide and my presentation

3. Providing schools with a pre-visit package to include order forms, posters, and introductory video

4. Follow up with a thank you card, exit survey, and post-visit video to thank the students

5. Created a condensed version coloring book for readers in K-3 to enjoy the story

My sales have increased tremendously and I have an income from speaking that I never foresaw in my future. My passion for kids, teaching, and writing have translated to a unique value that only I can provide. So my question to you is: What’s Your Value?

If you don’t yet know, you may be wondering why no one will ever read your book. Let’s look at some other ways to determine your book’s value.

As a good writer, you have probably spent countless hours reading books on writing: how to plot, theme, arc, and publish your amazing new book. You know you must edit the book, edit it more, and then have others edit it. Polish till it shines. Then, you learned how to write the perfect synopsis and query letter. You send off a few, make changes, and receive your first full read request. While you wait, you study more books on what to expect when you get a contract, how to negotiate this contract, and you compile a list of questions you will ask your future agent and publisher, or future cover designer and interior formatter if you plan to self-publish.

So now, you have the coveted book deal or you’ve chosen to self-publish your amazing work. You have written a great book and found a publisher (even if it’s you) who agrees. This is it. The moment you’ve been waiting for. Your book is live and for sale. And when the numbers come in…you are thoroughly disappointed.

What happened?

Didn’t you write a great book? Didn’t you follow all the rules of writing? Yes, I’m sure you did. But what you need to know is that once you publish your book, you are not a famous author. Nor are you a desired speaker or best-seller. What you have become in actuality, is a small business owner.

I know, catch your breath…breathe in, breathe out.

Whether you like it or not, you are now an entrepreneur of a fabulous new company that sells a product. This product is your book. Now, if someone came up to you and said they opened a burger joint, and since McDonalds has had extreme success selling burgers, they will too, you would probably squint, twitch, and wonder what the hell was wrong with that person’s thinking. But isn’t that what most authors do? They publish a book and think, since other people have been successful in that genre, or with that publisher, or in general, they will too.

*Buzzer Sound* “Sorry, wrong answer…”

The truth is that you must hustle and sell your book, regardless of your status with a big house, small house, or self-published venue. Most businesses fail within the first year, so you have to know that you must work your business for a good year before you should expect to see a profit. Doesn’t every other business work this way? Realtors and Salesmen and Insurance Agents all work selling a product that is common and dependent upon repeat sales and word of mouth. All must expect to invest money back into their business to see it successful. All must be willing to:
  • Put in 40-60 hours a week working toward building a client base
  • Study their industry
  • Generate leads 
  • Service their clients
All must purchase sales tools such as business cards, postcards, posters, marketing freebies, and products in advance to giveaway.

Why should your job as an author be any different?

You have a product to sell to a specific target audience who has hundreds of thousands of other choices. Why should they choose your book? What have you done to close the deal and ask for the sale? Or are you sitting in your living room outlining your next book with boxes of your old book stacked beside you?

Remember, you are a small business owner, not a creative genius. You can have the best book in the world, but no one will read it if you don’t learn how to sell it!! Determine your book’s value and audience, then make sure it’s the best book to match a need in the marketplace.

If you want help, I’m here. My coaching service has worked for hundreds of authors before you, along with my FREE podcast on iTunes at The Write Engle Imaginarium.

Jaimie Engle
Jaimie Engle is the author of dark thrillers for teens where magic turns ordinary into extraordinary. She weaves history, magic, and lore into her books, which take readers on wondrous adventures, though her passion is talking to kids about writing and social issues because words have power. She loves coffee, cosplay, podcasting, and making Wick Books™ candles inspired by scents from her novels, and lives in Florida with her awesome husband, hilarious children, and the world's best dog.

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About Clifton Chase and the Arrow of Light

Clifton Chase is the latest target for bully Ryan Rivales. When he finds a mysterious arrow in his closet, he takes Ryan's bet to see who can hit the target. Ryan nails the bull's-eye, but Clifton's piece of junk arrow sails out of sight and when he finally finds it, something isn't right. Somehow, Clifton has magically time travelled to Medieval England in the year 1485, where he meets two a dwarf, a mythological bird, and two princes bullied by their tyrant uncle, King Richard III.

The Arrow of Light, carved from wood of the Tree of Knowledge and fletched with feathers from the all-knowing bird of wisdom named Simurgh, has chosen Clifton. He is led by Dane the Dwarf to Droffilic Tower where Clifton must rescue the princes, Edward V and Richard Plantagenet. And somehow, he succeeds! After a near miss rescue mission, the princes are reunited with their sister Elizabeth, and plans to defeat King Richard are set in motion. Clifton is knighted for his valor and presented with his own sword. He can't believe it. It is Excalibur. After he wakes up from fainting, the group prepares to leave the Great Hall. No one counted on a dragon showing up in the city. But, the dragon didn't know about Jasper Tudor and his travels to the Far East. He recites a chant in the bell tower, transporting them all to the safety of a waiting ship in the English Channel.

Only after Clifton learns the true meaning of friendship, bravery, and sacrifice can he help the princes escape and find the courage to face his own bully, Ryan Rivales. Befriended by a dwarf, a mythical bird called Simurgh, and a cast of comical characters, Clifton's epic fantasy adventure through medieval times is the perfect book for boys and girls of all ages, and the young at heart.

A coming-of-age historical fantasy for those readers who like Percy Jackson, Narnia, and The Never Ending Story.

This book for kids teaches about bullying through a fantasy adventure; a great way to open the door to an easy conversation about a difficult topic.

Amazon | Barnes & NobleiTunes | Indie Bound |

1 comment:

  1. Great article! I'm now pumped and primed and ready to shine as I follow all of your great tips!