When you don't need a marketing plan

I have completed my first novel, a suspense thriller (written under guidance from a writing coach and fully edited), and am taking steps to reduce rejections as I seek a literary agent.

I am having a difficult time identifying my market demographics. I had an editor do an evaluation. Her comments: The fast pace, loads of action, and Doomsday plot lend themselves to the kind of action and events in a graphic novel or comic book. It’s to the 18-35 male set what a “beach read” is to the 18-35 female demographic. The overall tone has a comic-book quality that appeals to 18- to 35-year-old males. It would translate well to the movie screen ("A cross between a Clancy novel and The Pelican Brief).

Even with this, other than a three-page list of relevant niche markets, I still have no clear marketing plan, which I believe would increase chances for acceptance by an agent. Where do I find demographics without paying thousands to a research firm? Is there fill-in-the-blanks a book I can buy for marketing a thriller?

uh. hold on here bucko.
Why are you even thinking about marketing a novel you don't have representation for?
An agent doesn't expect marketing plans for novels.
An agent wants marketable writing.
Those are two very very different things.

What you have here is "commercial fiction". That's all you need to say. In fact that's all you should say. If you sent me a query letter saying your novel read like a comic book I'd think you were pulling my leg. I'd also lose any references to writing coaches and fully edited. That marks you as a novice even though you think it doesn't. Trust me on that.

Your writing has to rise and fall on its own. A cover letter saying it's commercial fiction, the first five pages of the work, an SASE and send it out. Trying to reduce your rejections is a waste of time and counter productive. Much like a butterfly MUST beat its way out of the cocoon to have wings strong enough to fly, a writer has to beat his/her way out of the rejection pile to improve his/her writing.


Sandra Ruttan said...

I've noticed that many small publishers ask about your marketing plan when you submit your material now. One I was considering a submission to wanted the entire manuscript, a three-page synopsis and a detailed marketing plan.

I wondered how much that would play into their decision about your material. Considering that there are usually several months between offering a contract and the release of the book, I would think you'd be better off coming up with a marketing plan once you knew the logistics, like 'when'. No point suggesting billboards with a beach towel and a copy of your book tucked under someone's arm if it's being released in January.

And shouldn't we aspiring authors be putting more energy into writing and editing our work? Just a thought...

archer said...

"It's easy, man. You get the idea, you copyright it, you hire a ghostwriter, you figure out how to finance your marketing, and you split the profits."

--A lawyer I know who drives an expensive car

litagent said...

Although I generally agree with Miss Snark, I'm going to slightly disagree on this one. While you don't need a marketing "plan" for a novel at the query stage, I think that you do need to have an idea of the potential audience and be able to articulate it, particularly if your novel is one that might be perceived as an unpopular subject/genre or, heavens forbid, a novel that cuts across genres. Absolutely, writing trumps all, but I'm always looking for those magic words that will convince an editor that they can convince the sales and marketing people that this book is worth investing in. And as much as I hate the "bestseller-novel-A meets critically-acclaimed-novel-B" comparisons, they seem to be what wins over the sales and marketing folk.

Assistant said...

Thank you, Miss Snark!

Queries that have a marketing or promotional plan get tossed quicker, because I know those writers aren't totally focused on the writing - like I am. I skim paragraphs on marketing, credits, writing teachers, and I bear down on the paragraphs about the writing.
Instead of demographics, give me your fantastic first sentence.

kathie said...

Well said, Miss Snark.

Susanne said...

One more thing....

Demographics are fine, but if I were asked to name what age group and gender reads the least, males 18 to 35 who like comic book action,(translation: the video game guys)is the group I'd pick. I can't believe naming this as your targeted audience will do much to convince anyone your book has marketability.

Also, although it takes time and research, it's certainly possible to discover the demographic appeal and genre of a manuscript without spending much money. There are plenty of books and internet sites that explain how to find the information this writer seeks. Don't be a schmuck ... do your homework.

Anonymous said...

lit agent, do you think you need to know the "market demographic" to the point where you would be "paying thousands to a research firm?" That seems ridiculous to me. If you wrote the novel, you probably know enough about it to say, "this would appeal to the type of readers who enjoy legal and military thrillers" or "Clancy and Grisham novels" or what-have-you.

Sandra Ruttan said...

IMHO, demographics are a formula for putting people and their reading habits in boxes. I hate putting other people in those boxes because I don't conform to them. As soon as somebody suggests that "I should just love this book because I'm the right age and gender for it" I've lost ALL interest. No Desparate Housewives in this house. No Gilmore Girls or Everwood or CSI or Cold Case. No Da Vinci Code. No Danielle Steel.

Nope, this B.S. grad (think specific religious studies) is watching The Wire, The Shield, Wire in the Blood, reading A GOOD DAY TO DIE.

So, you can say the demographics suggest... but seriously, shouldn't your agent and your publisher know more about demographics than you do to start anyway?

litagent said...

No, I don't think it's valuable to be paying a research firm for information that you should know or can fairly easily find out for yourself. This information is important, though, for nonfiction books. Not as important for fiction, but any information that gives a novel marketing edge is useful. It's not the way it should be. A great book should be able to stand on its own merits. Unfortunately that's not the way big business publishing works anymore. No matter how much your agent loves your book; no matter how much an editor loves your book; if the sales and marketing people don't sign off on it it doesn't get published. They need to know how they're going to sell the book and who they're going to sell it to. Smaller independent publishers have more leeway but it's still good to be able to tell them what the potential market for a book is.

Sam Adams said...

I was just offered a contract for a true crime book -- my first. My agent asked me to submit a few words about how I personally could promote the book, who it might appeal to and some current books with which mine might compete, but there was no request for a "marketing plan" as such. I can't imagine a bigger waste of time for a writer.