IVP - Andy Unedited - Market Research by Publishing Books

June 13, 2007

Market Research by Publishing Books

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.

Posted by Andy Le Peau at June 13, 2007 4:10 PM Bookmark and Share


To a lesser degree, I wonder if self-publishers can do the same thing. And, of course, the cheapest self-publishing is through blogging. Hmmmm... now you've got me thinking.

Comment by: L.L. Barkat at June 14, 2007 12:50 PM

I just ran across this article, and I must say you are absolutely right. Publish the book and see how it does. You can always update it with new editions.

Comment by: Randy at April 15, 2009 11:19 AM

Thanks, Randy. Remarkably, some people don't think the past is a very good predictor of the future. And given the upheavals of the current economy and its effects on publishing, I see why they might say that. What worked five years ago or even a year ago may not work now.

But what other choice do we have than to publish and see what happens? So since our context is so different now, we may decide to publish something new and see what happens. That gives us a "new past" on which to make decisions on the future--whether to publish something similar or not next year. So the past still ends up being one of our best windows into the not yet.


Comment by: Andy Le Peau at April 15, 2009 12:24 PM

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