Coming up with a book idea that will actually sell and succeed in today’s crowded book market is challenging. As an aspiring author, I’ve learned this lesson firsthand through trial and error. Over the years, I’ve poured my heart and soul into book ideas that ended up flopping once published. The frustration of spending months writing a book only to have it languish with no sales is demoralizing.
But then I discovered the power of validating my book ideas before writing them. Book idea validation involves researching factors like market demand, profit potential, and competition to assess if a book concept is viable. While validation can’t guarantee a book’s success, it can minimize the risk of pouring effort into a doomed project.
In this article, I’ll share my personal journey with book idea validation. You’ll learn:
- The key ingredients of a marketable book idea
- My step-by-step process for validating book concepts
- Tips for researching book ideas on Amazon and with other tools
- What to do if your idea fails validation but you still want to write it
- How book idea validation has evolved my approach to writing books
Now let’s dive in!
Why Validate Your Book Idea?
When I first started writing books as an unknown indie author without a built-in readership, I made a critical mistake. I would fall in love with an idea without properly validating its market potential first.
I wrote books on topics I was personally passionate about. I assumed that if I poured my heart into a book, it would magically find readers once published.
This naive approach resulted in four failed book projects in a row.
That’s right. Four.
These experiences taught me a tough lesson. Passion alone does not make a viable book idea or guarantee sales. Without understanding the target market, demand, competition, and profit potential ahead of time, I was playing literary roulette.
My fifth book project was when everything changed. I researched keywords, made sales projections based on top books, and scrutinized the competitive landscape first.
While writing this thoroughly validated yoga book, something clicked. My sales estimates were accurate! The book attracted organic traffic from search queries I had researched during validation. It became my first real success.
This taught me the immense value of book idea validation. It gives you an objective snapshot of market realities. Valuable insights like:
- Is there demonstrated reader interest in this topic?
- What specific reader needs or questions can my book address?
- Does my unique spin offer something competitors don’t?
- Can this realistically generate a full-time writing income?
Book idea validation helps minimize risks and uncertainty before you invest months of effort into writing a dud. It’s not about strangling creativity either. Passionate ideas can still be validated and refined until viable.
Let’s explore the exact validation process that has helped me develop winning book ideas…
What Makes a Good Book Idea?
Before diving into the validation steps, it’s important to understand the core ingredients of a strong book idea. Based on my experience, a marketable book idea has these attributes:
- Reader Appeal: Will the topic intrinsically interest or intrigue readers? Is it about a subject they actively seek out information on?
- Underserved Need: Does the book address a specific reader need, question, frustration or curiosity that other titles don’t sufficiently cover? This gap is your opportunity.
- Researchable: Can you identify the target reader and their interests/questions through keyword research? If there is search volume around an idea, that demonstrates interest.
- Profit Potential: Will the idea realistically sell enough copies at a viable price to make writing the book worth your time? This is based on assessing competing titles.
- Competition: Does the book offer something unique or better than existing titles? Is the competitive landscape ripe for a new approach? Can you realistically outrank or stand out from competitors?
Not every idea will check every box. But the more attributes your concept has, the stronger its potential. Now let’s walk through my book validation process…
How to Research a Book Idea
Over the years, I’ve refined a streamlined 4-step process for deeply researching any book idea or niche before writing:
Step 1: Assess Search Volume with Keyword Research
The first validation step is keyword research. Strong book ideas target subjects people are actively searching for information on. Keyword research uncovers actual search volume data.
When I research a book concept, I leverage tools like Publisher Rocket. I brainstorm related keywords and keyword phrases, then use the tool to see monthly Amazon search volumes for each.
Keyword research also uncovers more specific concepts to focus the idea.
With no search volume, there is no built-in reader demand. The book would rely entirely on marketing efforts to try and find buyers. But search volume demonstrates Amazon sends browsers organically.
Step 2: Estimate Profit Potential
The next step is assessing whether a book idea can realistically generate a full-time writing income. To estimate profit potential, I analyze competing books on Amazon:
- Search the most popular keywords related to the idea
- Record the Best Seller Rank (BSR) of the top 10 results
- Calculate each book’s estimated sales per day using a BSR calculator
- Multiply sales by price to gauge revenue, then author royalties
- Average royalties for the top 10 books to find typical earnings
For example, I researched a habit book and found the top 10 books earn $200/day on average. With 30 days per month, that’s $6,000 in royalties. This validates adequate profit potential.
With under $100/day potential, the idea likely needs refinement or more focused keywords with better earnings. Profit potential analysis prevents wasted effort on unprofitable book ideas.
Step 3: Audit the Competitive Landscape
Next I scrutinize the competition around a book idea. I first analyze factors like:
- Number of search results for core keywords (are there dozens or thousands?)
- BSR and estimated sales for the top 3 ranking books (what does it take to outrank them?)
- Quality of top-ranking book covers and descriptions (do they have an edge or obvious flaws?)
- Number of reviews and author reputation for top books (am I up against heavyweights?)
Ideally, there is demonstrated interest, but some clear opportunities to improve upon competitors. For example, after researching a book idea around lawn care, I found:
- Core keywords had 500-1,000 results – not too crowded.
- Top 3 books had mediocre covers and just okay sales.
- There was room for much more comprehensive content.
- No big-name elite authors monopolized the niche.
This validated a prime opportunity to disrupt the niche with a superior book.
Step 4: Refine and Repeat
Often the initial book idea fails validation, but that’s not the end. Now you have priceless market insight to iterate and refine the concept:
- If your idea is too broad (i.e. “healthy cooking”), narrow it down into a hungry niche (i.e. “30-minute keto dinners”).
- Combine ideas into a hybrid concept (i.e. “Intuitive Eating for Weight Loss”).
- Apply the idea to a different angle or audience (i.e. “Keto Diet for Beginners”).
Then simply repeat the validation process on the refined concept before proceeding.
With this four-step validation process, I minimize risk of wasted effort. The research provides an objective snapshot of a book idea’s viability. Now let’s discuss what to do if validation reveals your concept just isn’t a fit for Amazon…
What If Your Idea Fails Validation But You STILL Want to Write It?
Book idea validation gives you detached, data-driven insights into a concept’s market potential. But you still might strongly believe in an idea that validation declares dead in the water.
If this happens, passion may justify still writing that book, but it requires a different publishing strategy:
- Lean into your existing audience. If you have an engaged email list or social following, leverage that ready-made audience regardless of broader Amazon demand.
- Go wide. Rather than staking everything on Amazon, distribute your book across multiple platforms and channels to maximize visibility.
- Get creative marketing. Without organic Amazon traffic, you’ll need creative marketing tactics, like targeted Facebook ads or outreach to niche websites. Budget extra time and money here.
- Adjust expectations. Validation provides sales projections to set realistic expectations. Without inherent Amazon demand, you may need to ratchet down income assumptions.
- Make it a passion project. Treat the unvalidated book as a passion project or personal achievement first, rather than solely a commercial endeavor.
Book idea validation keeps your expectations grounded in reality, but doesn’t dictate your creative decisions. If you strongly believe in an idea, use validation insights to craft the smartest possible publishing strategy.
How Book Idea Validation Has Shaped My Approach
Learning to consistently validate my book ideas before investing months of writing has completely changed my approach over the past few years.
It’s shifted me from clinging to “pet” ideas emotionally to making calm, strategic decisions by the data. I’ve realized that with a bit of research, there are always more viable untapped book ideas waiting to be discovered.
Most importantly, book idea validation has helped me avoid wasted effort that leads to frustration. It’s given me the confidence to step into new niches knowing there is a built-in audience excited to buy my book.
While nothing can guarantee success, validating book ideas before writing minimizes risk and uncertainty. I hope my real-world experiences provide a helpful blueprint to set your next book concept up for success.
If you invest the time upfront into research, market analysis, and validation, you can filter and refine your ideas until the winners naturally rise to the top. Then you can pour yourself into the writing process knowing your book has already passed a critical market test.
So don’t fall blindly in love with your ideas without testing them first! Approach book concepts strategically, and leverage validation to turn your raw ideas into bankable assets. Wishing you the best of luck bringing your next book into the world!