After you’ve narrowed the topic for your book, the next step in the writing process is to research other books in your area of expertise. Before you start writing, you want to make sure the topic is one that people want to read about. It may be counter-intuitive, but you don’t want to pick a topic that has no competition. If other authors are publishing books about your topic, it means that topic has already proven itself to be marketable. By studying other books in the market, you can also get an idea of how well your book will sell.
There are several ways to tackle market research. Start with your own library. If you have built expertise in a particular area, chances are you’ve purchased several books as part of your learning process. You can also browse your local library or bookstore. My favorite way to do market research for books is Amazon. Not only can you complete the research at your convenience, day or night, Amazon gives you access to book sales info you won’t get from your library or book store.
Amazon is one of the largest search engines in the world and they keep lots of statistics that will help you position your book. I recently completed research for a client’s book project. She was writing a book about using your personal style to reflect your business brand. To start the research, I entered the keywords ‘beauty’, ‘style’, and ‘grooming’ one at a time and analyzed the results. I looked for best sellers in those categories. If the results don’t seem pertinent or if there are no recently published books, you may have to refine your keywords. I also noted the books that showed up in the ‘customers also bought’ section. Once I was happy with my search results, I created a spreadsheet with:
- The title of each book
- The format (hardcover or paperback)
- The problem the book proposed to solve
- The number of pages in the book
- The retail price
- The book dimensions
- The year it was published
- The Amazon categories
While you’re in Amazon, select each book. If it offers the ‘look inside’ feature, click on it and browse the table of contents. How could you improve upon the the topic by providing a different point of view or filling in gaps the book doesn’t cover? Another good source of research are the book reviews. In particular, read the three star reviews. Those reviewers liked the book but felt there was something missing. You might be able to address their concerns in your book.
In the early stages of your project, you’re using the research to hone in on your topic prior to completing your mind map. Later on, you’ll use the other information to help position your book’s retail price, determine the best category to assign, and to find potential book reviewers.
Finally, make note of the cover design of each book. For my research, I did a screen shot of each cover and provided that to my client as part of the research. We used it later on in the project when we were discussing the cover elements for her book.
After completing the research, you’ll know your topic is marketable, you’ll have a good idea of the other books competing for buyers in your space, and can confidently go on to the next step in your book writing project.