If you’ve decided to write your business or self-help book, you will need to do some research to find out if there’s a readership for your book. Making sure there’s a market is important, but it can be done fast with cost-free and easily available tools.

Tracking market trends

This will give you a really good feel for how popular a particular subject is in relation to other similar topics and whether it’s a growth area.

  1. Go to www.google.com/trends
  2. Choose a keyword or phrase related to your book’s main theme/topic.
  3. Use the dropdowns to select specific geographic regions and timeframes.
  4. Separate multiple search terms with a comma to compare them directly with one another.

Finding popular blogs and topics

If lots of people are blogging on a subject and many others are interested in their posts, you’ll have a great target of well-connected influencers to give review copies of your book to when it comes to promoting it. Tim Ferris, bestselling author of The 4-Hour Workweek befriended bloggers and got their support to help make his book a huge success.

  1. Go to www.technorati.com
  2. Click the ‘Popular’ tag and see what’s hot right now.
  3. Use the tabs to further search by things like news, movies and books.
  4. You can also use the keyword search to find blogs and posts on your topic; to gauge what people are interested in; and the potential for finding connectors when it’s time to promote your book.

Gauging your book’s market size

Google provides some powerful free tools, one of which is Google Adwords. For more detail than we can go into here, buy and read the most recent edition of Adwords for Dummies by Howie Jacobson. In the meantime…

  1. Go to www.google.com/adwords
  2. Sign up as an advertiser (this will come in handy when it’s time for promotion).
  3. You now have access to tools that will show how many people searched for a particular term, phrase or topic in the last month and how many advertisers are competing for that particular word or phrase.
  4. You should have a useful number to make an educated guess on the total market and you’ll be able to see whether other people (advertisers) are making an income from serving it.

Making use of the greatest book marketing research tool

You probably use this tool every day, but you may not have thought of it as a market research tool until now. Of course, we’re talking about Amazon. You can sort by keywords and best-seller lists on specific subjects; you can sort other authors’ books by sales rank; you can uncover what’s wrong with the competition and, when you know where to look, you can even make a good guess about how many copies a title is selling.

  1. Go to www.amazon.com or www.amazon.co.uk, depending where your main target market is based.
  2. Use Amazon’s search bar to look for competitors (it ranks them by most popular by default).
  3. Check both print and Kindle versions of the book. It may help you to find out in which format other books in your niche are selling best.
  4. Also use the categories section to see what’s popular in more general subject areas.
  5. Click on books that are doing well for a similar topic/audience to yours.
  6. Check the overall Sales Rank of these books. If a book is consistently in the top 2,000 for sales rank for Kindle or print over a week or month then assume it’s selling a decent amount.
  7. If none of the books catering to your same target/topic are ranked this highly, you’ve either found an opportunity to provide something really good in this category – or there isn’t much of a market and you may need to rethink.

If you find a real star in your area, look at the following things (you might need to buy the book to do this) and be prepared to model elements of your own book on them:

  • Check out the cover – what’s the big promise? What’s the title? Does it look professional or funky? Cluttered or simple? Academic or accessible?
  • Check out the blurb – who’s the book pitched at? Novice or Advanced?
  • Check out the ‘Look Inside’ and review the Table of Contents, Reviews, Introduction, writing style and any other keys to why the book is doing well.
  • Check out the price – is it priced for mass-market appeal or is it priced for high value?
  • Is the Kindle version sufficiently cheaper than the print version to attract budget or impulse buyers?

All this competitive research will give you useful data to enable you to differentiate your book, position it correctly, and ensure your book isn’t missing any tricks.

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