Conventional thinking would have you believe many things about the Western market, or indeed any market, but with the advent of market research, it becomes easier to make decisions that result in the sale of product. Decisions that would not have been made through the use of conventional thinking. You see, more than ever before we have the critical information to make informed decisions about the way we present our product and release our product and market our product. These insider tips have been held closely to the chest of those who market Westerns, but for the first time I thought I would share a few of these concepts with you, the author or the reader.
To begin with one of the great new horizons at two of the leading Western publishing companies has been the market research teams developed to find out what readers really want. This research has been conducted in complete secrecy, and has illuminated the way forward. Their first task was to tackle the problem of covers—what do we now know about Western covers, and the readership?
Unique Covers? Reader Buying Habits Say No.
While the average author wants to believe the readership are drawn to unique covers for each release, the research actually shows this can hinder success. Market research has shown that readers prefer being able to pick out a series based on a certain design. This was proven by D.M. Haggard and William H. Joiner, Jr. earlier this year. They have used the same cover with updated titles for each of the books in their series. The result? Fast climbing new releases as readers recognise the branding.
To test the other side several authors were given unique covers for each book in their series. This was found to blunt the effectiveness of the series. We will continue to mix and match this market research but as of now—similarity sells.
Pace of Release? Too Fast, Too Slow?
The average author believes that the first book in a series must be left alone until it has peaked before a sequel is released. What has been found through market research is that the quicker sequels are released the higher the combined sales are as the reader rips through a series. This is why the 35,000 to 40,000 word release has become so popular. Authors can pour releases out and excite the readership, rather than letting the readership read and wander off to find a new favorite author.
It was always the belief that it didn’t really matter about your character as long as he was part of the West. This has proven to be untrue. The profession of your character has proven to be either a sales boom or a sales bust. With certain jobs leading the way it makes no sense to go against what the reader wants. Remember if you have given your character an unusual job—you can always turn him into a retired marshal.
The Great Need For Paperbacks
“Readers want paperbacks,” I was told once by an author with conventional thinking. The fact was that when readers were asked if they preferred paperbacks or kindle books they came back and said paperbacks. Yet, few paperbacks sell. When I scheduled calls with readers to ask about paperbacks they said that although they preferred paperbacks they tended to get Kindle editions. Why? Well, for much the same reason everyone pretends they love the high street—they didn’t want to go against the herd and herd thinking says paperbacks are great. The reality is paperbacks are useful but Kindle books are where the action is, and market research says clearly that more, and more readers are getting kindles to read their books on. Who can blame them? You don’t have to store your books, you can increase the font size and the kindle library is quite amazing in both depth and stature.
And there you have market research displayed against conventional thinking. While the argument will continue for some time about the best ways to present product to the readership—the readership will always buy what it wants from the privacy of their own home and castle.