I found this interesting press release on msnbc.com yesterday.
Representing just 6% of the total trade book market, the science fiction/fantasy segment will grow 3.4% in 2011, reaching $578.6 million, despite the overall market’s expected 5.2% decline. According to a report published by media and publishing forecast firm Simba Information, the science fiction and fantasy categories experienced double-digit increases in title output, along with stronger ratings on the consolidated bestseller list in 2010.
This looks like a great thing for the genre. Right? And as a writer preparing to get into the fray, the initial read makes me really optimistic. More science fiction/fantasy is being bought, which says there is a growing market, instead of the gloom and doom “books are dead” predictions tossed around in some places.
But numbers can always be a little deceptive. Part of the growth is in part due to “double-digit increases in title output” mentioned in the article. Fantasy has actually grown more than science fiction, but both areas are impressive. The second part of the equation for the upward trend are stronger ratings. So essentially there are more genre books flooding the market and some of them are perceived as very good by the market. To me, this suggests that anyone wanting to break in and do it successfully is going to have to concentrate on two things to be successful: 1) visibility and 2) the “it” factor.
Visibility simply means as an author I need to work even harder to find ways for my book to be seen, noticed, and talked about among science fiction enthusiasts because there will be a whole lot more of them than even four or five years ago. I’ve studied the models for some successful franchises, including The Hunger Games most recently, and while I don’t have the resources of a publishing house, some of the approaches are quite simple to do as a one-woman show with a limited budget. One is advertising, which can be quite affordable on internet sites; you have to place your ads in front of the appropriate audience, though. For instance, I won’t spend my advertising dollars on a site for men who read mysteries when my book is targeted at female space opera fans, and indeed there are plenty of sites that fit that bill.
The “it” factor is harder to define. It’s a combination of good story, eye-catching artwork, and quality production – pretty much attention to detail. This is the same approach I take when I put in proposals for large transportation projects. I have to give people a reason to pick my story out of literally thousands of offerings. If I’ve done my part with creating the “it” factor within the book, then the people who do pick up the book hopefully will tell someone else about it, and they in turn will tell someone else. Interestingly this is aligns with the strategy I’ve employed as a successful Professional Engineer, where I’m sought out for specific design jobs rather than having to chase them. Word of mouth is the most powerful sales pitches ever. When you can stop telling prospective clients to choose you because past clients start telling prospective clients to choose you, that’s the snowball rolling downhill to success whether we’re talking about a job or a book.
In other words, the best marketing tool is doing a good job.
A graduate of Duke University, Tricia is a registered Professional Engineer who designs transportation systems as a consultant. In her free time, she shows horses and maintains a website for Star Wars EU fans that creates a safe place for women and men to discuss literature and all things pertaining to geek culture. She is currently writing her first full-length original novel, a space opera based around the heroic journey of a young woman who finds herself in the middle of a deadly terrorist attack by an invading alien force. For information on the book, please check out TriciaBarr.com.
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