Recently I had the pleasure of attending Book Expo America in NYC. BEA is squarely aimed at publishers and other service providers rather than focusing on authors directly. And that’s what I think makes so many authors attend: the chance for exposure to those publishers and service providers.
The trouble is, most of those publishers and services providers aren’t looking for new and/or undiscovered talent. They attend BEA to make industry connections, find large-scale business partners, and to generally socialize with their existing cadre of talent and peers.
Notice the disconnect? Two groups of people that should meet, but with completely different expectations and agendas. That’s not a good position to be in when you’re trying to get noticed. Yet it’s a similar situation authors find themselves in when they approach an even more important group: their would-be readers.
Yes, yes… it’s important to write what you know. And no, no… I don’t think that military history writers should jump on the mommy porn bandwagon. That’s just silly. But not doing any market research before embarking on a new project is even more so.
You must research what is selling currently. You must know not only who the key authors in your space are, but precisely what they are working on next. You need to know how the tastes and styles within your genre have changed over time. And you need to know exactly how people are finding new works in the areas in which they are interested.
How do you do this? Research. Patience. Diligence. Loads of reading. And by staying up on the tools and technologies that help you understand trends and how they change over time. Most importantly, you do it by being self-aware and not letting fate lead your next decision on what you should try and get published.
Pay attention. Become a student of your craft. Find that sweet spot that blends things you are passionate about with things people are passionate about. When you find it; write it.