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The Value of Undertaking Research Before Writing A Book

August 4, 2012

Are you in the midst of writing a non-fiction book? Perhaps your topic is related to science, spirituality, parenting, or some other timely subject.

It’s not uncommon for authors to launch into writing a book without first doing preliminary research. In point of fact, the more information the author can gather about their potential target reader, the more successful the book campaign can be in the long run.

Jan B. King, a publishing executive  wrote,  “The more clearly the author can understand the target reader—and identify their precise needs—the better the author can write a book and create sales pieces that address those needs”.   It’s a valuable exercise for authors to consider the group of individual readers who will draw benefits from the content of the book. Depending on the topic the target readers will run the gamut.  I know an author and educator, Anne Dowling who writes books to benefit parents of reluctant students. She offers tips for parents to motivate their kids to excel in academics. As an educator, she realized her books would appeal to parents, teachers, school  and leadership personnel.  As a result, she made the content of her book especially relevant for those audiences.

Authors who undertake speaking or teaching on a regular basis have an advantage in identifying their target audience, but they may need to survey those audiences to get insight on the numbers of a particular target reader and in turn use the information to mention to a potential publisher in a book proposal.  Undertaking target research is not difficult but it is important to try to identify characteristics of target audiences to get insight into their particular needs. Using  statistics  can further offer valuable insight into how many of these folks are out there and where they live geographically.   This information can guide the author to write a niche and targeted blog to help answer the reader’s questions or help address their problems.  To gather more information authors can use search engines such as Google to find  material such as reports or press releases generated by private research groups or universities who generally undertake primary research and are often valuable sources of information.

For example, you may want to  define specific questions regarding demographics, geography, and characteristics such as How many women over 45 have been downsized from management positions in New York?  An author can do a Google search using the Boolean search method and trying a combination of keywords. The system requires the use of words OR, AND, and NOT between search words. By this method research is more efficient in the sense that you maximize the number of relevant results.   Non profits who address the needs of specific groups of people such as our previous example -women over 40 who have been downsized from management jobs may already have undertaken research about that group, and authors will want to access those organizations.  To find non profits relevant to the group you are researching The Foundation Center is a great resource:   The Census Bureau is an excellent resource for demographic data as is The Bureau of Labor Statistics which provides insight on employment trends. The news section of  features press releases on the latest demographic, economic,, and cultural tends. This is a gold mine for author researchers as the press releases are often linked to raw data broken down by geographic region and include contact information for specialists. When in doubt, seek out your local reference librarian.

The key to efficient research is for the author to gain a clearer picture about the target readers characteristics and needs. By knowing these particular needs, the author will be able to create content that helps address those needs and thereby offer solutions.

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