There are several steps involved in studying a catalog:
- Look first at the overall content to see what kinds of books they publish. Would you be comfortable having your book included in this catalog? Some writers are uncomfortable in a catalog that carries books on other religions or religious points of view; others consider their book to be “salt and light” in such a catalog. You must determine your own comfort level.
- If it’s a catalog you’re comfortable with, look for the section or for other books that deal with your proposed topic—let’s say marriage. Does the publisher do a good number of marriage books? If so (and you want one that does), do they have another book on the same aspect of marriage you plan to cover? If so, cross this publisher off your list. You are looking for one that has several books on marriage, but not one on the same aspect. Typically, a publisher will not publish a book that is in direct competition to one already in their line.
- When you find those publishers who have a slot for your book, go to a Christian book store to continue your research. Find the section on that topic and see which publishers have the most books on the shelves; those should be at the top of your list. Check out the books for those and any other publishers on your list and evaluate them from a visual standpoint. Which ones are most appealing, as far as covers, design, type-style, etc.? Make notes on both positives and negatives.
This is also a good time to find and make a list of books on the same topic you are considering. Ask the book buyer which ones are most popular, or do they recommend. If you don’t have access to them elsewhere, buy the top two or three to read. Unless you know what is already available, you won’t know whether there is a need for your book or if it has already been written.
While you’re in the store and talking with the book buyer, ask some additional questions. Which publishers would you think of in relationship to my topic? How do those publishers rate as far as getting books to the store or the distributor when you need them? As well as any other questions specific to your project. Book buyers are very knowledgeable and will be happy to share their expertise.
A book store is also a good place to go if you have an unusual product and you are not sure which publisher might be interested. Maybe you are thinking of a gift book with several gifts products to go with it. In a bookstore you can look for other books with accompanying products and see who has put them out. Just be sure your topic area is different than what they already have.
By now you should have a pretty good idea of which publishers you want to target with your book proposal. But first ask yourself—very honestly—Does the world need another book of this type or on this topic? If your answer is not a resounding Yes, then move on to another topic and repeat the same steps.
Obviously the above steps are going to take a commitment of time and energy, but like any other business, marketing must take a good portion of your time if you are going to be successful. To ignore it, or treat it as an after-thought will almost guarantee failure. The good news is that once you master these steps, they will become almost second nature. And as you become well acquainted with the publishers you have chosen to target, they will soon feel like old friends. May those friendships be long and prosperous.