A Low-Cost Tool for Assessing New Books

January 2003
by Thomas Woll

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To identify promising areas and subjects for new books as well as areas that may be over-published and subjects to avoid, I recommend a simple technique.

Drop into four or more local bookstores–both chain stores and independents–and look at books on the subject or subjects you’re considering. Visit online databases such as Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com and review listings there for subjects that interest you. Go to the library to examine relevant categories in the Subject Guide to Books in Print and the Spring and Fall Announcements Issues of PublishersWeekly. Study catalogs from relevant publishers. Organize the information you collect by using a simple Comparative Book Template, like the sample below, so that trends will become visible.

In essence, what you want to know is what titles are selling now. Be sure to look at older books, which have “shelf life” because people keep buying them; their longevity means they have become essential backlist. And as you look at new titles, see if you can figure out whether a trend is beginning that you can publish into, or whether there are already too many books on that particular subject to allow for easy entry of another one.


Create a different Comparative Book Template for each subject category you want to focus on, and use as many pages as you need. As you work on each template, you’ll identify a variet…IBPA Members – Click here to view the full article (login required).

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