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ATP
08-27-2007, 01:52 PM
Would any of the members here who've previously published an NF book/s, be kindly willing to suggest/indicate what they consider to be the 'better' online and print sources for market research on NF books of all genres?

Thanks very much.

SHBueche
08-27-2007, 07:31 PM
For online sources, I'd stick with government-sponsored sites and skip Wikipedia altogether. Also, an excellent resource for fiction and nonfiction writers: PR newswire (profnet.com) you can join as a journalist, for free. Basically, you can blanket your query to as many/as few experts, as you wish. You can seek out experts in their database, which is quite extensive. Last you can request replies by phone/e-mail, the choice is yours to make.

Lauri B
08-27-2007, 08:54 PM
I usually start with .gov sites, as well as legit universities, the CDC, etc. As far as print sources go, a great way to find sources for your topic is to look in the back of other nf books on your topic at the notes and resources sections. I've found some really terrific sources (for example, old magazine and journal articles) that I would otherwise never have unearthed. Good luck!

ATP
08-27-2007, 09:20 PM
I apologise for not making myself clearer. Must be my Australian / British form of expression. Let me try again.

Let us say that you (that have published a NF book or two) are thinking about writing a NF book. Presumably, you don't start writing it based on a whim.I would assume that you would create a marketing plan. And, that this marketing plan would involve research of what other similar books are out there (eg. field/industry/sector/genre), and also sales figures.

What I am seeking from those who have gone down this route, is if you could kindly let me know what (print) books or guides etc. and what online books or guides etc. that you know of and can recommend to help with this kind of (market) research. If you know of such.

Thank you.

Lauri B
08-28-2007, 12:58 AM
Ohhh. Now I get it. What I do is come up with a few key words that define the kind of book I want to do (for example, children's nonfiction Leonardo da Vinci), and put them into Amazon. Then I go through the titles that come up and find which ones are most competitive/complementary to mine, who published them, and when. The self-pubbed ones are immediately off the list. The out of print ones are also off the list. Then I go to Bookscan (which is accessible only by subscription, so you're probably out of luck there) to check on the sales figures for these books. I suppose you could also get some sense of trade sales by calling the Ingram Automated Inventory system (the number appeared somewhere on the boards recently, but I can't remember which forum or thread). Then I start all over again with other key words that could be useful (for example, children's nonfiction inventions) and do the whole process again. It's not as time consuming as it seems, and it gives me a good sense of what is out there, who is doing it, and how well it has been received. It also helps me decide whether or not a project is worth pursuing; if the books that are selling the best in my subject area are all selling poorly or there aren't really any at all, then I know it's not a great subject to pursue.

atthebeach
08-28-2007, 07:22 AM
I posted the Ingram number :) but I cannot remember which thread either- check my posts, it was not too long ago. Or, do a google search to find the forum and thread with the answer where I got the number. As Nomad said, without a Bookscan subscription, Ingram is at least an indicator...

sgunelius
08-28-2007, 06:53 PM
Here is the link to the thread with the Ingram information:

http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=73120

ATP
08-29-2007, 03:06 PM
It also helps me decide whether or not a project is worth pursuing; if the books that are selling the best in my subject area are all selling poorly or there aren't really any at all, then I know it's not a great subject to pursue.

Based on the use of Amazon data, what is your cut-off point concerning sales? In other words, what figure or approximate figure do you consider 'selling poorly'? What do you consider a 'selling well'?

Thanks.

Lauri B
08-29-2007, 03:57 PM
You can't base anything on Amazon sales data., really I use Amazon to see what has been published, since anyone can get a book on Amazon, and then take the top 10 or so best-selling titles and check their sales on Bookscan. Selling well is a completely relative term. If I'm researching sales for a nonfiction book on national monuments for kids, for example, the sales figures will likely be far lower than for a middle grade novel. I tend to look at a category as far as sales go, rather than individual titles. So to take my national monuments example, if I see that all of the books i've researched have sold fewer than 1,000 copies to the trade over the lifetime of the book (remember that Bookscan doesn't include a lot of specialty sales, library sales, lots of independents, etc.), then these books are destined for libraries, museums, some independents, etc., and any book I might write is unlikely to do any better in the trades than these. So I just adjust my marketing plan, or my pitch, or both to reflect that I understand my market for the book.

ATP
08-29-2007, 06:47 PM
You can't base anything on Amazon sales data., really I use Amazon to see what has been published, since anyone can get a book on Amazon, and then take the top 10 or so best-selling titles and check their sales on Bookscan. Selling well is a completely relative term. If I'm researching sales for a nonfiction book on national monuments for kids, for example, the sales figures will likely be far lower than for a middle grade novel. I tend to look at a category as far as sales go, rather than individual titles. So to take my national monuments example, if I see that all of the books i've researched have sold fewer than 1,000 copies to the trade over the lifetime of the book (remember that Bookscan doesn't include a lot of specialty sales, library sales, lots of independents, etc.), then these books are destined for libraries, museums, some independents, etc., and any book I might write is unlikely to do any better in the trades than these. So I just adjust my marketing plan, or my pitch, or both to reflect that I understand my market for the book.

I am very new to this type of research, so my questions will likely seem obtuse. Please bear with me.

i) It is suggested to use Amazon to get an idea of what categories of books have been published. Here categories are determined by keyword strings.

ii) One should then examine/cross-reference these categories in Bookscan. (or Ingram?) One pays attention to the cumulative sales figure of each such category. Correct?

iii) If the cumulative sales figure or total sales figure across all categories is less than 1000, in your mind, you consider the book project not worth pursuing.Correct?

iii) 'sold fewer than a 1000 copies to the trade' - trade here referring to...?

iv) 'lifetime of the book' - here refers to...?

Lauri B
08-29-2007, 07:01 PM
Hi ATP,
Your questions aren't obtuse, and please know that I'm only telling you how I do this. I'm sure other writers and publishers do things differently (and probably far more efficiently).
I will answer in order:


i) It is suggested to use Amazon to get an idea of what categories of books have been published. Here categories are determined by keyword strings.
I use Amazon to find books like the one I am thinking about writing. I'm using the word "category" very loosely. So yes to your question.


ii) One should then examine/cross-reference these categories in Bookscan. (or Ingram?) One pays attention to the cumulative sales figure of each such category. Correct? I use Bookscan to check sales figures for the books I've found on Amazon that are most like the one I may write, or are in the same category of the intended book. I check the sales figures of each book, not the cumulative sales figures (I don't think you can do this, actually, or why you'd want to).


iii) If the cumulative sales figure or total sales figure across all categories is less than 1000, in your mind, you consider the book project not worth pursuing.Correct? No, if I find that the sales figures for each book similar to the one I am considering are low (I used less than 1,000 purely as an example), then I will rethink the market for the project. If the sales figures are absymal, then yes--I will rethink the project altogether. But I can't put an exact sales number on when i'd pull the plug; that would be affected by other factors, too, such as when the books were published, if the topic is having a resurgence in the news, if the topic is an "evergreen" one that needs a new perspective, etc.


iii) 'sold fewer than a 1000 copies to the trade' - trade here referring to...? Trade means to traditional bookstores, chain stores, independents, etc. I think of the trade and school/library as different markets.


iv) 'lifetime of the book' - here refers to...?
The number of copies sold since the book has been in print.

What I want to make sure I stress here is that this is only part of how I determine if a book is worth pursuing. It's a good way to assess what is already out there and how the market perceives what is out there.

ATP
08-30-2007, 02:22 PM
Nomad,
Could you or other members kindly indicate how Ingram compares with that of Bookscan in terms of detail? eg. what data Ingram provides compared to that of Bookscan?

Also, do I take it then that many others here consider use of Amazon, Ingram or Bookscan as representing the best resources for undertaking such book market research?

Thanks.

Lauri B
08-30-2007, 04:27 PM
Ingram indicates the requests they receive for books--they ship books to accounts based on those requests. Bookscan reflects sales reported each week by a wide variety of stores. I don't know how well those numbers correlate, since Ingram's numbers only indicates that stores are ordering the books from them, and Bookscan's numbers indicate the sales for the week previous.

ATP
08-30-2007, 08:14 PM
Thank you very much Nomad for weighing in on this matter - it is sincerely appreciated.

I would then like to address the question to the rest of the members here.

Do you consider use of Amazon, Ingram or Bookscan as representing the best resources for undertaking such book market research?

Or, is it that the lack of weighing in by others indicates that very few utilise such thorough NF book market research? Or even none at all?


Thanks.

sgunelius
08-30-2007, 10:18 PM
I'm sure different agents probably feel differently about this, but I had an agent tell me not to bother with Amazon #s because they change constantly. She said if she was interested in the proposal, she'd look up the sales figures for the competing titles (I'm assuming using BookScan).

For what it's worth, I did sell my nonfiction proposal which included Amazon #s, but again, I don't know how useful they really are to agents/publishers.