I had a wonderful time last night at the February SCWBI WWA meeting. The first speaker was Amber Keyser, the author of several science and adventure books. She choose to speak on finding your niche in the marketplace.
At first I was worried this would be like other talks on the subject, but luckily, she introduced me to a few new ideas.
She herself mentioned her love of research and statistics. In fact, she seems to do most of the prep work for her own agent, lol. She spends a lot of time compiling lists of comparable titles to her current works, just like editors do for their acquisitions letters. What was so interesting was how she made these lists.
When she started out a few years back the first place that she headed was the public library. You know how they say, read everything out there. Well, she went through piles and piles of science books, only to find most of them boring and out dated. This result caused her to realize she didn't want to read just any plain old thing, she wanted to read books in a smart and engaging way. So her quest began to find more current and interesting books.
So what does she do? First, she belongs to a critique group where they each subscribe to a different literary publication such as School Library Journal, Kircus, Horn Book, or the PW. Definitely a way to save money if possible. Just going through those journals tells you what is out there and what is current.
Next, she makes a list that includes, title, subject, age level, publisher, etc of all the newer books she thinks will help her own writing. Think excel here. Her list was large. Then she looks for patterns. The easiest one to spot is publisher. Who is out there publishing the kinds of books you write? Look at the list, whose name is repeated the most?
Her next step is smart. She heads to Amazon.com and goes to the Advanced search option. Instead of entering title info, she only types in the publisher. Then she asks for current books, say 2005 and later. Up pops all the books that publisher has out. Much easier than writing away for a booklet. She is then able to compare what's been printed in the last several years and see if there is a niche for her book.
She also uses the Accelerated Reader website. All parents and teachers know of those AR tests kids take in English. Well, at the site you can type in the title of one of your comparable books and it well give you a lot of different info, from description, to word counts, to reading level. The AR site is great for finding out how to position your book in the marketplace.
Her personal website http://www.amberkeyser.com/ also lists previews talks and interviews she has given in the past. You can look up the exact same talk she gave last night if you want more details.