My previous posts introduced SWOT analysis and how it might help authors market their books (see links below for past posts). Though this may seem like a dry-as-dust business analytical process with no relevance to writers, SWOT offers a framework for assessing what you can do concretely to sell your books. And it needn’t be terribly complicated. To some extent, you’re probably doing it already, just not as systematically as we’re doing here.
Since, we’ve already looked at strengths and weaknesses, in the post below, we’ll think about at the remaining two factors, opportunities and threats, the ‘O’ and ‘T’ in ‘SWOT’.
Recall that unlike strengths and weaknesses which are inherent in your book and somewhat under your control (e.g. quality of writing, how you priced your book, the cover, etc), O and T are ‘external’ factors less under your control. Also, they tend to be future-looking. These factors include where the overall book market is heading in your genre, how many competing books are published yearly, etc. However, whether these are under your control or not, you still need to be aware of them and mitigate them if possible.
As for previous posts in this series, we’ll use my modern, noir fantasies as the guinea pigs for the analysis – see the following links ( https://amzn.to/2YwBgWE https://amzn.to/2GsY8Mm ). Also, the cover for one of my fantasies is shown above.
As for strengths and weaknesses, it’s important to try to be as objective as you can about your book and the environment that you’re selling it in; if you’re not clear-eyed about your book, the exercise isn’t helpful.
So, here we go…
- Platforms like Amazon may improve access to potential readers. However, see the first bullet point below under ‘Threats’.
- Potential for new platforms and distribution channels to challenge existing leaders.
- Some fantasy readers are open to new authors putting a fresh spin on this genre – if they become aware of a new book and are intrigued enough to check it out.
- Though not a high probability, a fantasy novel may come to the attention of film, TV, cartoon or other media producers. This could expand your viewership enormously.
- New web-based review sites may be more open to considering indie writers than established magazines/sites (e.g. Locus). However, these new sites come and go at the whim of their creators and often have few followers, so the benefits to you may be limited.
- Evolving technology in the distribution channels for books including Amazon (for eBooks and POD) and Ingram for POD. This is a complex issue that potentially may help indie writers (i.e. be an opportunity) – or hurt them (i.e. be a threat). The important thing is to follow what’s going on in this space.
- Modern fantasy is a very crowded subgenre resulting in significant competition from other writers. At the moment, this packed environment shows no signs of abating.
- Related to the point above, ‘big-name’ modern fantasy authors sell the lion’s share of books and get most of the attention from reviewers and readers making it difficult for lessor-know authors to be noticed let alone sell books.
- Price-sensitive market for little-known, newbie authors. Unfortunately, readers generally won’t care whether a writer has labored for months or years creating a book. They will still demand a very low list price. This trend does not seem to be improving and indeed many indie writers give away their books to drive readership (a ‘race to the bottom’).
- Fantasy can seem to be a tradition-bound genre; many readers think that they know what they want and may not be very open to reading something new.
- Rightly or wrongly, readers may be somewhat suspicious of self-published books. This circumstance doesn’t seem to be changing – witness all the impassioned Goodreads and Reddit debates on this topic.
Obviously, this isn’t an exhaustive list. You may see other SWOT factors impacting your book more than the items I’ve called out here. By all mean, have at it for your book!
Critically, you’re not done! SWOT is a reasonable place to start thinking about marketing, but now you’ll need to prioritize these factors (or others that you come up with) and develop a plan to address them. What you’re really doing here is creating a marketing plan. We’ll address this in future posts.