As a publisher, you can never rest on your laurels – just because a title has good orders initially doesn’t mean it’ll sell well in the long run.
It’s important to look at current trends. In academic publishing that means looking at what’s being taught in universities, what’s on the reading lists, and what rivals are publishing. You can go talk to academics on campus (academic calling), go to book shops, etc. Bookshops, know what are people are asking for and what’s selling.
You can design and generate your own reports, of sales figures of previous books, and do statistical analysis. If a title sells 14,000 copies a year, you need to know why and where – in case original author doesn’t want to write new editions of a textbook anymore, or if you want to do a similar book. To find out why actually ask the end user, e.g. if it’s on the reading list, ask lecturer why it’s on the reading list.
There are two types of self generated research, quantitative (closed questions) and qualitative (open questions). You can also do focus groups and telephone research to ask people to go into more depth.
In class, we broke into teams and generated our own market research. Our task was task was to evaluate if enhanced textbooks (with embedded video and hyperlinks) is something students and teachers want, what the price should be, their expectations of such a product, how they would access it, if they would still want a hardcopy, etc.
Half the class designed a survey for teachers and the other half for students. Collectively, we got a great range of responses, from both students and lecturers/teachers. Check out one of our surveys and the results.