One of the dirty little secrets of publishing is that publishers often do market research by publishing books.
If a publisher wants to know what customers are interested in reading or buying, doing full-blown market research can be expensive. You probably need to get professionals involved with focus groups or surveys with all manner of scientific, sociological number crunching. It can easily cost $20,000, $30,000 or $100,000 for even a modest project. Because of this, often publishers will cooperate through a trade association or other umbrella group and buy in to a project.
What is actually cheaper, quicker and more targeted, however, is to just publish a book and see how it does. In fact, not only is publishing a book often less expensive than doing research, a publisher often gets money back for his or her trouble. (In industry lingo, we call it sales.)
So, you are wondering if you can publish books on the Middle East. Don’t do a survey. Publish a good book on the topic (and, as I said in a previous blog, a book that fits you as a publisher) and see what happens. Maybe you’ve done books for pastors but never for youth pastors. Could you succeed? The best way to find out is to publish one. What you discover will be extremely valuable information.
In fact, the best, most accurate, highest quality and largest collection of market research data publishers have at their disposal is their own sales statistics from the last five or even ten years. Mine this valuable resource for gems and gold. You can look for patterns not only of what topics sell well for you but what size and what price books do well for you.
You can also see where the dross is found. You’ve never succeeded with a humor book? Odds are you won’t in the future either. So save yourself the trouble and just say no to the book now.
Obviously, not all publishing can be market research. But to try that two, three, four or five times a year can get you some of the best information you’ll ever come by.