Denise wants to know, “What’s really the purpose of a market analysis in a proposal? What kind of information are you looking for? It seems like the agent is the one who knows the market, so I’m not sure why an author is asked to do this.”
A market analysis serves as an advance organizer to a publisher. It helps reveal there is a market is for the new book, helps describe the potential audience, and helps the publisher think through how they could market and sell the new title. A market analysis is a way of saying, “You once published this title, and my proposed book is similar.” The author does the legwork to put this together because it’s the author’s job to create the best proposal possible. A good agent will work with you to tweak this section, perhaps recommending other titles or revising the descriptions to best fit each publishing house.
Often writers will come to me with a pitch that says, “Nobody has ever done anything like this before!” That fails to recognize the real world of publishing. Companies discover how to produce and sell certain types of books — for example, Bethany House knows how to sell historical fiction with a gentle faith element, and the folks at Mulholland know how to sell books to those who like edgy crime fiction. Imagine walking up to a nonfiction publisher and saying, “You’ve never done western novels before, so the market is wide open!” It’s stupid — that’s not how publishers think. If you bring them a new project, you need to explain the market for the book, and help them to see how they are going to succeed with it.
Generally a market analysis explains who the book is aimed at, who the readership is, lists three to eight published books that have had some success, explains each book briefly, and may subtly define how the proposed book is unique. But it doesn’t bash any current books on the market, and it should not include any over-the-top comparisons (if I see one more spiritual memoir that says, “This book is exactly like Blue Like Jazz,” I’m going to scream).
Does that help? Hey, if you’ve got a question about book proposals, let me know.