Friday, January 16, 2009

Market Research

Charles here.

Those of you playing along at home know that I eke out a humble living as a copywriter at Dixon Schwabl. Naturally we come up with brilliant ideas every day, just like you see in the movies. One of the things we do to ensure that we’re delivering nothing but the best to our clients is field-test our creative endeavors. That means we assemble a focus group of non-industry types and other average folks and present our ideas. We listen carefully to what they say and tweak the creative to address any gaps in messaging or trash the whole concept and start with something new. I tell you this because I’d love to try this with the book I’m writing.

Imagine a dozen readers giving the feedback about a book in progress (which would actually be done at that point, but they don’t know it). What they liked, the sections they didn’t, what they thought about the character development and the writing style – tons of details that would let me know what worked and what didn’t. Who wouldn’t want that kind of information?

They do this all the time with movies, sometimes re-shooting the end to make it more marketable. And bands often pre-release a song and then refine it based on the reaction it gets. I’m sure that avid readers would have much to say about my new book and I’m curious what it would be.

Then there’s that whole “Book as Art” concept – that it has to be my vision and that no good art is ever produced by a committee. These are strong arguments. But then there’s James Surowiecki’s book The Wisdom of Crowds which explains why mass decisions are almost always far better than those made by individuals.

So this is the concept. What do you think? Do I work out a way to field test my manuscript with a bunch of strangers or do I trust my gut and wait to see what the New York Times says in its review?


Cheryl Kaye Tardif, suspense author said...

Great article! I think there are definite pros and cons to having input from others. Of course, the goal is for the author to stay focused on her plot, characters and reason for writing the story.

I actually plan to do a milder version of "market research", more in the plot creation of a new work.

For my novel Finding Bliss, I will be using polls to ask readers to determine the outcome of some of the events. This novel has been in the media a lot lately because I'm writing it on my iPhone. I can't wait to really get working on it. I am finishing another editing project first.

It would be interesting if we had a "private viewing" room first...but then I guess that's what our advanced readers (if you have any) and our editors are for. :)

Cheryl Kaye Tardif,
bestselling author of Whale Song

Rick Blechta said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Donis Casey said...

You may actually have a money-making idea, here.

Rick Blechta said...

I see nothing wrong in 'test driving' a novel. Isn't this what we're doing when we ask someone(s) to read what we've done?

You're right, Charles. Why not take it that extra step and have a focus group? Your employers do it and Hollywood does it, because they want their work to be more successful than it might otherwise be with zero feedback. I always tell people that I'd rather be good than right. To achieve that, you must have feedback.

Beethoven rewrote his music almost until the conductor's downbeat at the premiere performance. Why? Because he wanted it to be better. That's good enough for me, regardless of how it's achieved. I figure that if I had all the answers, I would be writing to you right now from one of my dozen or so houses all around the world, while drinking Chateau Couvert de Toilette 1959.

Messi said...

While people may have different views still good things should always be appreciated. I think you have some money making ideas. Yours is a nice blog. Liked it!!!

Laura said...

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