Books: Market Research

When writing a book, it’s good to think about your intended audience. The absolute best way to do this, is to ask. 

I am lucky to have four children. Whenever I start a children’s or tween book, I ask their advice. To help my fellow authors, here is what my children said what they like about books.

Remember, I did not coach them or help them with their answers. I just asked a simple question: “What makes a good book?”

Zach Knight (Age 9):

* Short chapters.

* Main characters tells us about their lives.

* The story should be interesting.

* The title should be interesting.

* I do not like big pictures in the book, but if the picture tells about facts, then that is okay.

Kayci Knight (Age 10)

* Funny characters.

* Short chapters.

* Scary titles.

* A lot of pictures.

* At least 200 pages in the book.

Samantha Knight (Age 11)

* Characters must be crazy!

* Chapters should be short.

* The book should be at least 200 pages long.

* The pictures in the book should be “sketchy.”

* The stories should be mysterious.

Kiana Knight (Age 12)

* Short chapters.

* Characters should be funny, goofy, and act their age.

* The story should be filled with action, mystery, and humor.

* The story should keep moving and makes me want to turn the page and never put the book down.

* I prefer books that are between 200 and 300 pages long.

Thank you kids!

What did I learn from asking that simple question? Well, look at the pattern:

* Every child said, “Short chapters.” I bet if you ask adult readers, they would say the same thing. I’ve talked about short chapters in my last blog. It’s what the audience wants!

* “Story should keep moving.” Authors, you might as well write books with a fast pace. This is what readers of all ages want.

* I noticed that the kids like books with about 200 pages. Most authors who write for ages 9-12 may think that a 100 page book will be better for them. Not so. Kids want a challenge!

* I saw the word “mystery, interesting, humor.” Children like suspense, great plots, and they want to laugh. 

*  Of course, even children in middle school like to see some pictures. I believe that books which have at least one illustration for every five pages, makes a big impact on the kids. For you adult fiction writers, don’t be afraid to add some illustrations at the beginning of your chapters. Visual art is powerful!

* Notice that kids look at the title. When you come up with your title, ask others. Study their reaction. Remember, when someone picks up your book for the first time, you have 11 seconds to sell them. After 11 seconds, if the customer is not convinced, they will not purchase the book. What is the first thing they look at? The title.

Well, the kids are on Spring Break and I get to spend time with them and take my break from writing. But hey, nothing wrong with a little market research while their home…

Just for fun, I asked the kids this other question: “What is the hardest thing about your father being an author?” Here is what they said:

Zach Knight: “I have to always give dad ideas.”

Kayci Knight: “Dad makes us read all the time. Wherever we go, dad makes us bring a book.”

Samantha Knight: “I always bug him about words in my book that I don’t know.”

Kiana Knight: “When I write stories for school, dad is always hard on me when he looks over what I wrote.”

If you are going to be an author, ask others what they like about books and what makes a great story.

Ron Knight

Author, Reader, and Co-Founder of UP Authors

Ron Knight

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  1. I’m excited that a novella of mine, The Blue Bicycle, has now been published on Kindle. It’s had a significant amount of professional editing, and I’ve had a NY agent interested in it prior to opting for Kindle. Novellas are making a comeback of sorts, but the publishing industry’s interest in them remains more than tentative, hence my decision to go with Kindle. I had considered putting it up for free, but a couple of writer friends correctly pointed out that the time, effort, and training in creative writing which are put into such intellectual property deserves compensation.

    The Blue Bicycle was written in various points of view and in a collage of tenses, each of its four parts able to stand alone as lengthy but connected short stories.

    Here’s the blurb for the book:

    By age eight, Artie Royal knows that for a few minutes he can escape his parents’ conflicts through exhilarating rides on his hand-me-down bike. At age seventeen, the bike now an outgrown shambles, he takes comfort in girlfriend Sandy. With the loss of great-grandfather, Merle Jongleur, Artie’s ties to his family and the blue bike seem to be severed, and he seeks refuge in a naval career. But this choice proves problematic. Back home in North Carolina, he finally seems settled in a mundane career and a comfortable life with wife Katie – until Sandy calls. Once again seeking emotional relief, he jumps at an offer of a trip to Nova Scotia to meet Merle’s Acadian relatives and settle a family estate. There, events bring unexpected results and new family ties.
    The old bike traces a continuous thread though Artie’s life as it passes to him, then to others, but in the end this is a tale of the individual spirit’s ability to renew itself through solitary hope and ever-changing human relationships.

    I hope you’ll check out the Blue Bicycle – – The Kindle software can be downloaded for free on any desktop or laptop, and with that in place, you can also download a rather lengthy sample of the text for free. And the complete text is available on Amazon for $6.95.

    And I’d like to ask a favor: whether you’re interested in buying the complete Kindle text, please pass this e-mail on to any and all folks you think might like The Blue Bicycle. Comments, ratings, and reviews on Amazon would also be appreciated and would help me make the most of this adventure in alternative publishing.