Welcome back to another entry into Bestseller Quest! If you’d like to check out the full series, go here. Or, if you just want to freshen up on the previous entry, go here.

Now that we’ve got the process mapped out, it’s time to delve into market research. Much of the information in this post is stuff I learned from reading Chris Fox’s book, Write to Market (affiliate link). If you haven’t read it yet, I highly suggest doing so.  You can also listen to Chris explain the basic principles in this Self Publishing Podcast episode if you want a preview first. To bring you up to speed for our purposes, here’s the basic premise:

  1. Find a genre and sub-genre you enjoy writing in that is underserved (Chris explains in detail how to identify these in his book, but basically you look at the balance between the top 100 books in that category compared to their overall sales ranking on Amazon).
  2. Identify the tropes in said genre and include a number of these tropes in your book. (This doesn’t mean you still don’t include our own flavor and spin on things, just that you choose and follow some conventions as well).

Obviously, there’s more to it than that, but that will get us started.

Actually, let me emphasize something: it’s vital to choose a genre you’ll actually enjoy writing in (surprise, surprise). Chasing what’s hot just for the money is a bad idea. If you don’t know/enjoy the genre you’re writing in and it will show in the quality of your book.

My focus for this project will be New Adult Fantasy, while also including elements of Young Adult Fantasy and “Dragon” books. Now, full disclosure upfront: since I started this project, New Adult Fantasy has grown until it definitely isn’t undeserved anymore. That being said, I believe my premise of gryphon riders also fits well into dragon books, specifically those about dragon riders (The Inheritance Cycle, Dragonriders of Pern, etc.) which is a much smaller niche that I can take advantage of. My launch time tactics will focus heavily on marketing to fans of dragon books.

YA Fantasy and Coming of Age fantasy obviously aren’t underserved markets (Harry Potter or Hunger Games?) BUT I believe that my books will also sell well there, even if they aren’t as competitive in the rankings. Here’s a few points that will aid in the crossover:

  • The trilogy begins with my protagonist at 17 and then progresses to her in her early 20s. I chose 17 because it places our heroine at a sort of crossover age between being a teen and adult. I wanted to capture the younger audience while still satisfying the conventions of New Adult later on, which is why she’ll end the trilogy at 20-21.
  • There is a small romance in the story. It’s definitely a subplot, but still important. Many New Adult Fantasy books ARE romances, but that’s not me. I recognized, however, that I couldn’t omit romance and worked to include it throughout the trilogy outline in a small capacity.
  • Thematically, the heroine deals with New Adult issues such as understanding and progressing into adulthood, navigating through relationships and increased responsibilities and answered the question of “who am I and what do I stand for?” She also is faced with YA themes earlier on like fitting in, succeeding in school-type environment, etc.

With my genre in mind, I began my research by reading books in said genres and getting lost in the equally wonderful and infinite TV Tropes website. (BEWARE: TV Tropes is the ultimate rabbit hole. One wrong step and you’ll find yourself sucked into the void for hours, nay — years! When I finally extracted myself, here were some of the big takeaways:

When I started reading, I chose a mix of both YA and New Adult titles. In addition to books I was already familiar with, I used the KindleSpy tool to take a look at several fantasy sub-genres, providing me information on how many copies each book is selling as well as some category information and rough sales numbers. Here’s a sample screenshot taken from New Adult & College Fantasy Top 20 list  to show what this looks like:

Here’s a short sampling, including the specific reason why I chose THAT book:

  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (link goes to TV tropes page): I will be using a similar structure to kick off book one: regular girl learns she is part of a special community, leaves her homes to train and become a part of this community.
  • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (link goes to the TV Tropes page): Tied in with why I read Sorcerer’s Stone, but the main reason for this was to examine how Rowling handled the darker issues found in Chamber of Secrets and to also study how she deftly recaps the previous book in the series without losing reader interest.
  • There’s one other reason I studied the early Harry Potter books: Rowling’s masterful use of foreshadowing and seeding future plot points. Since I’m writing all three books at once, I wanted to take extensive advantage of this. Here’s a huge list of examples in the Harry Potter series, also known as the Chekhovs Gun device.
  • The Shattered Sea Trilogy: I am a huge fan of Joe Abercrombie and love his author voice. I chose this series because of the diverse YA/NA characters. Abercrombie also presents his characters with real-life adult issues — nothing sugar coated. This was the sort of tone I aimed for with Gryphon Riders: hold back the language and sex, but throw in all the challenges readers in these age groups face.
  • Enchantress: This is a constant bestseller on Amazon in the NA and YA genres. I studied this for character but also to see how the author developed a high-concept magic system that plays a heavy part throughout the book/series. James Maxwell nails the tropes.

UP NEXT: Part VI – With a foundation down, I actually had to arrange all of these tropes into a familiar yet unique story.