Market Analysis for the Neophyte Author

When I went to Barnes and Noble in Fresno to check out the competition in romance novels and children’s books, I looked through the new lens of market research instead of Common Core Standards.

Romance Research 1rt

Most of the romance books lined one aisle filed alphabetically by author’s last name.  Commonly the bookstore displays the titles spine out.  Occasionally an author earned the right to face cover out.

market research 2RTBarnes and Noble displayed more Nora Roberts books than any  other author.  Since I had never read one of her books, I found one in another display of bargain books, a hardback book selling for $6.98, originally $27.85.  What’s interesting for the neophyte author is how many books there are, and how few of them are actually spotlighted.

Market research 3RT

It was easier to read in the children’s section, so I spent the most time in that section.  It intrigued me how few of even the spotlighted books were what I would consider “great reading.”

Market Research 4RT

I stayed three hours in the bookstore until I got hungry, and in that time read, took pictures and made notes on about 20 picture books as well as the romance books.  In that time probably three or four children came with their parents to read. A clerk stayed close by to help them find books, and she talked to me about the children’s birthday bonus I could sign up to receive.

Market research 5RTOut of the many, many children’s picture books available, only a very small percentage of authors made it to their own shelves. Many of these are books that are common household words, like Dr. Seuss, and Clifford the Big Red Dog.  One can find some classics in several different places around the bookstore. Packed into the back corner, one bookshelf housed prized picture books by age level.

Market Research 6RT

You can see Eric Carle’s books on the bottom for the very young. Next are the oldest pre-school aged books.  I read two of them, one I liked and one I didn’t.  Days later I saw a wordless cartoon telling the story of Flying Books by William Joyce.  I thought it needed words, but I had read the book.  At the very top, out of reach sat books for two year olds. My favorites were in the younger stories.  I especially enjoyed The Dark by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Jon Klassen.  This story began, “The dark lived in the same house as Laslo.”  What a catching first line, then the story unfolded from “dark’s” point of view. “Sometimes the dark hid in the closet…”  These were among the best I read.

Market Research6R

I read books from the less advertised sections.  I chose a book by Julie Andrews and her daughter, Emma Welton Hamilton because they offered an online class on writing children’s literature.  The Fairy Princess Sprinkles in the Snow had all the glitz a little girl would want.  It seemed long, but I didn’t count words.  The book centers around a spoiled little girl who wants to be in the concert but was not chosen.  It seems contrived and didactic in places to me, but Julie Andrews wrote it, so how awful could it be?

Market Research 8RC

I also noted publishers, and published dates, award-winning books.  I photographed book jacket marketing statements, and purchased my favorite books.  When I came home, I looked for my favorite authors online, and friended them on Twitter and Facebook if they were available.  Now I am a veritable expert on the market for romance and picture books.  Onward to getting ready to publish and hit the shelves.

Market Research 9RT

Oops, where’s that book by what’s her name, Marsha somebody?