Writing a book is an exciting and consuming task.
It’s easy to get caught up in the process of creation without thinking carefully about the commercial prospects of the work.
Not every book needs to be written with a purely financial motive. After all, there’s nothing wrong with creating for the sake of doing so. On the other hand, the time and money spent on creating a brand new book are in no way insignificant. After pouring your heart and soul, not to mention many months or even years of your life into creating something special, it’s great to have your efforts validated with significant sales.
So how do you give your book the best possible chance of success?
It’s essential to think from a marketing perspective before you write your first word. The first stage in the marketing process is market research. The basic purpose of market research is to make sure there is demand for your idea, and that you have a chance of offering something better than the existing books on your idea.
Assessing demand and competitive potential can be achieved either manually or through the use of specialist software. We’ll now take a look at both approaches.
Researching Your Book Idea
A common piece of advice offered to writers is to ‘write what you know’. While it’s definitely important to have knowledge and enthusiasm about your chosen subject matter, it’s not enough to guarantee that your output will be well-received.
It’s important to ensure that a market exists for your book and people will be served by the information or story you provide.
Google and Amazon are two of the most useful places to assess the demand for your book idea.
Using the free tool KWFinder, you can put search phrases related to your book idea into the tool, and it will return ideas on the types of related topics people are actively interested in, along with relative demand levels, as seen below.
As we can see from the above image, ‘learn to play guitar’ is a more popular search topic than ‘guitar lessons for beginners’. If you were thinking about writing a book of this nature, you would already have a clearer idea of what people really want.
While checking for demand on Google isn’t exactly the same as checking on Amazon, it still indicates the extent in general that people are interested in your topic.
Publisher Rocket is software which allows you to check out a wealth of data related to your book idea.
As seen below, after you enter an initial phrase related to your idea, Publisher Rocket will provide a list of relevant topics that people are searching for on both Google and Amazon. In addition to showing the demand on Google, Publisher Rocket also estimates the level of demand for your idea on Amazon.
The benefit of estimating the level of demand on Amazon is it helps to ensure that people are actually willing to pay money for your book idea. After all, there are a lot of topics which would interest people enough to search for on Google, but not to spend money on to buy an actual book.
This process of research can also help your creativity. By checking out what people are looking for on Google and on Amazon, you may be pointed in a slightly different direction than you had assumed.
Whichever way you decide to carry out your book research process, doing so gives you the peace of mind to proceed with writing, safe in the knowledge that people are legitimately interested in what you have to offer, and are ready to spend money on it.
Researching The Competition
If you’re thinking of buying a book, the odds are you don’t impulsively click ‘buy’ on the first book that seems slightly relevant. After all, the online book marketplace is so vast, there are almost always multiple books related to any given topic.
Instead, book buyers are likely to consider the various upsides and downsides of the books on offer to them and choose the most appealing option.
Some of the factors that affect the competitive appeal of any given book include the –
⦁ Book Cover. Readers DO judge books by their cover, so if you spot only awful looking covers on your competitor’s books, you know exactly where your potential competitive advantage exists.⦁ Reviews. Book buyers will consider the number of reviews, the overall review score and also the quality of the reviews, such as whether they are verified or written in an authentic way.⦁ Subtitle. A book’s subtitle can drive home the message of what a book is about, and also help it show up in the search results for certain phrases. Finding competing books with poor or nonexistent subtitles is a great area of opportunity.⦁ Book Description. Chances are, if a book looks appealing, a potential buyer will take the time to read its description. The enticing and well-presented book description is an effective way to convert an interested browser into a definite buyer. If the competing books have badly written or ugly descriptions, you know how to gain an advantage.
Just as with your initial idea search, your competition research can be carried out either manually or using Publisher Rocket.
To carry out the process manually, spend some time browsing around Kindle, or your online bookstore of choice, and open all of the books which would potentially compete against yours in new browser tabs.
Make notes on the relative strengths and weaknesses of each of the books, and note down opportunities you have to beat out your rivals with a better offering.
With Rocket, you are able to quickly and easily see the following competitive data related to your book idea –
⦁ Age of book⦁ If your chosen keyword is in the book’s title and subtitle⦁ How many reviews a competing book has⦁ The review score of any competing book⦁ The book’s sales page⦁ Competing book covers
This allows you to carefully find a competitive angle without having to go through the laborious manual process of endless browser tabs and notes.
Regardless of whether you choose to carry out manual research or instead opt for Publisher Rocket, you need to answer the following simple questions when researching your competition –
⦁ Is it realistic for my book to compete with those already on offer?⦁ What are the strengths of my competitors?⦁ What are the weaknesses of my competitors?⦁ What is the smartest approach for my own book?
If you find the competitive situation for your book is too strong to overcome, think of going for a more nuanced and niche approach to your initial idea. Narrow down the focus of your book, and you may well find a more appealing competitive reality.
Book Market Research Final Thoughts
We’ve now seen the two most important aspects of book market research. To recap, you should always –
⦁ Make sure people are interested in your idea, and willing to pay money for it⦁ Check whether you stand a chance of competing with existing books⦁ Assess specific ways that your book can outdo the competition⦁ Consider finding a more niche or narrow book idea if the competition looks too difficult
Have you had any personal experience in carrying out the market research process for books? What’s worked well for you? I’d love to hear your experiences in the comments.