Marketability: Selling points

The last weekend in April, I attended the Missouri SCBWI Advanced Writers Retreat. At this event, you have the opportuinty to have your work critiqued by and attend several sessions led by an editor.  This year, the editor was Mary Kate Castellani from Bloomsbury.  For the rest of the week, I will be blogging about various things that I learned at the retreat.  The first — selling points.

I’ve known for years that when I write something, I need to consider whether or not there is a market.  In part, this means that I have to be able to identify a set audience.  Next, I need to see whether or not the market is glutted.  If there are already multiple books covering my topic, it might be best to pursue something else.

While Mary Kate didn’t contradict any of this, she did ask us to consider something else.  We need to identify selling points for our work.

Good enough.  I brought a picture book about a girl who has to overcome her fears to find her place at the circus.  That gives me fear and circuses.  Two selling points.  Woo-hoo!

But . . . (you knew there was going to be a but, didn’t you?) . . . Mary Kate shook her head.  It’s marketable but not marketable enough.  What display tables would this book go on in Barnes and Noble?  There may be a market for your book, but a really strong selling point is one of these key categories that include:

  • Christmas
  • Halloween
  • Back to school
  • Easter
  • Summer reading…

Sure, there are probably more, but this gives you the general idea.  If your manuscript overlaps one of these broad categories, it will make it that much easier to sell.  This may not be a concern for every publisher, but take a look at the publisher you are interested in pursuing.  Study their catelog and you should be able to identify the selings points they want to see.  They might be Barnes and Noble displays, educational topics or religous beliefs.  Whatever they are, these are the expectations you will need to meet to sell to this publisher.