steps for effective market research for books

TCK Publishing has published more than 400 books, and many of them have become #1 international bestsellers.

In this podcast and blog post, I’m going to share what I’ve learned about book market research that can help you achieve your goals of becoming a bestselling author and making a serious impact with your message and story.

Three Keys to Book Market Research

There are three crucial things you must do in order to create a book that readers will buy and recommend to their friends.

  1. Understand who your ideal reader is
  2. Understand what your ideal reader wants
  3. Give your readers what they want

Market research is about creating a product that serves your customers better. If you know who they are and what they want, you can make better decisions about what to put in your book and how you position your market in the marketplace.

You can use this market research process to help you make better decisions when it comes to writing the book, branding the book, choosing the book title, designing the book cover, writing the book description and marketing copy, and marketing the book.

The reason you’re doing market research is because you want to provide more value to your readers.
—Tom Corson Knowles

As an author, you want to serve your readers better than anyone else. That’s how you become a #1 bestselling author and stay at number one year after year.

Six Steps to Book Market Research

1. Find Comparable Best-Selling Titles

Finding comparable titles, or “comps,” means you want to find similar books that are already published and selling well in your market. You want to find the bestselling books in your market so you can learn from them.

After you find comparable books in your market, you’re going to want to make a list in a program like Excel or Google Sheets that includes the book title and a link to that book’s Amazon page so you can easily keep track and do further research in the future.

Two Ways to Find Your Comparable Titles

  1. You can go to Amazon and search keywords related to the book you’re writing. So if you’re writing a vampire romance, you would go to Amazon.com and type in the keywords “vampire romance.” You’ll then find comparable books in the search results.
  2. You can use Amazon’s bestseller lists. Simply go to Amazon’s Kindle Store Categories, find your genre, and drill down until you get to the most specific category you can.

The more specifically you can identify your niche or subgenre, the more likely you are to be successful, because specific categories have less competition and more targeted readers.

If you want to save time, you can sign up for Bestseller Ranking Pro, the proprietary web-based software we developed that can help you search Amazon’s 42,000+ bestseller categories in just a few minutes.

An Amazon category is simply a virtual bookshelf in Amazon’s store. All you’re doing when you choose a category is telling Amazon what bookshelf to put your book on.

So which bookshelf should your book appear on?

And how will your book stand out from your competitors on that bookshelf?

2. Analyze Bestselling Book Covers

Your book cover is a crucial piece of branding for your book. The more you can make your book cover look similar to other books in your category, the more likely your target readers are to click on your book and read your product page. This gets you one step closer to the sale.

This is where your list of comparable book titles comes in handy. You’re going to look at the covers of the books on your list of comps. What you’ll notice is that a lot of these books have similar covers.

That’s not an accident.

Book covers should be designed to get your readers to click on your book and buy it. The best book covers speak to your readers on an emotional or subconscious level.

For example, romance book covers often feature sexy images of male or female models while books about business success often feature images of money or successful lifestyles.

When you look at the book covers in your market, pay special attention to:

  • The colors
  • The fonts
  • The images
  • The size and placement of text on the book cover
  • The emotion(s) that the cover makes you feel

You want your book to look like it belongs in the category you put it in. If your romance book cover makes it look like a business book, or your self help cover looks depressing, you’re not going to attract your ideal readers.

People buy books primarily based on emotion, so you have to make sure you understand who your readers are and which emotion(s) your cover should elicit in order to get them to pay attention and click on your book.

Book Market Research Tip: Never miss an opportunity to have an actual conversation with readers of your genre. You can learn so much from just talking to people about why they read the books they do.

3. Analyze Bestselling Book Titles

The title of your book is another crucial piece of the puzzle when it comes to marketing and selling your book.

The number one reason people buy books today is still word of mouth.

In order for a word-of-mouth sale to occur, a book title needs three things:

  1. The book title has to be memorable.

The book title has to be easy for people to remember so they can easily recall it to tell their friends to buy it.

  1. The book title has to be repeatable.

The book title should be understandable and easy to repeat in a conversation. You want to avoid confusing book titles as much as possible—being too clever can actually backfire because it can confuse potential readers. You want a book title that is easy to communicate.

  1. The book title has to be searchable.

After you’ve created a book title that is memorable and repeatable, you need to make sure it is unique enough that it will rank in the search engines online.

If you wrote a romance book and titled it Sexy, that would be a really bad choice. That’s because there is no way that your book would rank on the first page of Google with that title, unless you spend an enormous amount of money and time to optimize your Amazon product page for that keyword.

Even then, it would probably be a waste of money and time because the title is simply too vague.

The ideal book title is easy to remember, easy to understand when spoken, and easy to find online in search engines.

Using Keywords in the Subtitle of Your Book

Another thing you’re going to learn when you study the titles of your competitors is the keywords and key phrases they are using to attract the attention of your audience.

This is especially true for nonfiction books. A subtitle that clearly describes the benefit that your audience will receive from reading your book will help you sell a lot more books.

You can also use your subtitle to stand out. If you’re writing a book on investing and every book in your comparable list uses the words “low risk” in their subtitles, you don’t want to use the exact same words in yours.

You want to stand out and be different. If you look just like every other book in your genre, people who don’t know you aren’t going to want to take a chance on your book.

Studying the book titles in your target market gives you an idea of where the gaps are so that you can craft a title that sets you apart from the crowd.

4. Study the Book Descriptions of Your Competition

When you read the book descriptions of your competition, you’re looking for the keywords and key phrases they’re using to sell their book to your potential customers.

You want to look at the keywords, key phrases, and concepts that jump out at you as you’re reading book descriptions.

After you read the book descriptions, model what works and avoid what doesn’t work as you write the draft for your book description.

This is actually a great exercise to do before you write your book. Your book description needs to be short (less than 700 words) and yet must include enough information to get your reader to actually want to buy your book and start reading it right away.

If you can’t clearly summarize your book in a well-written book description, you need to spend more time understanding who your audience is and what makes your book different from everything else out there.

5. Study Book Reviews in Your Market

Read every single book review of your comparable books. This is how you’re going to find out what people like about books in your genre, as well as what they don’t like.

This is the most important step in the market research process.

If you don’t listen to your readers to find out what they love and don’t love about your competitors’ books, you’re likely to make the same old mistakes others have made, and your book will flop.

Have a notebook with you so you can jot down notes.

It’s important that you read every review of the comparable books in the market. The more reviews you read, the more data you will have and the better you will understand your ideal readers.

If you half-ass this market research process, you’ll miss out on important information that could make a huge difference in your sales.

As you read these reviews, you’re going to find there are patterns to what people like and don’t like. Pay attention to those patterns.

If one reader out of 20,000 mentions an issue, it may just be a fluke. But if dozens of readers mention the same issue or problem, you know there’s a theme there. Pay attention to the key themes your readers are mentioning in book reviews.

Your readers pay your bills. Pay attention to what they have to say about your work and the work of others, of they won’t pay any attention to you when you launch your book.

Knowing what your readers want allows you to edit your story based on what will serve your readers best.

Most smart authors will end up making rewrites and edits to their book after going through this market research process.

Reading reviews can help you identify gaps in the market that you can fill, allowing you to position your book uniquely in the marketplace. The more unique your book is while still delivering a compelling message to readers, the more likely readers will be to actually buy your book.

Doing market research allows you to see the world through the eyes of your readers. By understanding what your readers want and need, you will be able to serve them better than other authors who don’t do this type of research.

If you deliver more value and give your readers more of what they want, you will sell more books.

6. Research Author Websites

After you have done the market research on Amazon, go and look at the websites of the authors you’ve been researching. What are they doing on their website to market to their audience?

Do they:

  • Have a blog?
  • Have a podcast?
  • Have a YouTube channel?
  • Have an email list?

Basically, is their website a part of why they’re successful?

Some authors have websites but they clearly don’t maintain them. If that’s the case, you won’t learn much from their website since it’s clearly not very active. However, if you find an author with a very active website with tons of traffic, you should study their top blog posts and pages to see what kind of information they’re posting resonates most with their audience (because their audience could very well be YOUR audience once you launch your book).

As with all market research, consider modeling what works and avoid what isn’t working.

Look for Additional Revenue Streams

Both fiction and nonfiction authors have opportunities to create additional revenue streams by selling related products and services to your audience.

So if you’re a nonfiction author in the health space, you might sell health supplements, an exercise plan, or other health-related products to your audience.

If you’re a fiction author who writes about dragons, you might find some of the authors in your market sell dragon figurines or T-shirts.

By offering additional products and services to your fan base, you can increase and diversify your income, turn casual readers into lifelong fans, and turn a hobby into a serious business.

Tom Corson-Knowles quote

Network with Your Peers

The next step you can take if you want is to connect with other authors in your genre or category. You should do this after you’ve done your market research and published at least one book in your category.

When you connect with these successful authors, try and find a way for the two of you to collaborate. If you can build a relationship with someone who is successful in your genre, it can go a long way to building your audience faster.

It’s important that you do your research and publish your work first so that you have credibility when you contact other authors.

Questions to Ask Yourself as You Go through the Market Research Process

As you go through your research process, you’ll want to pay attention to some specific elements.

1. In which market or subgenre does your book fit?

Get really clear on which market you’re in. The more specifically you can define your market, the easier it will be to serve the needs of your audience and market to them.

2. Who is my ideal reader?

Have this question in the back of your mind as you’re reading reviews. Get as much information as you can about who these reviewers are.

  • Do they seem old or young?
  • Are they mostly men or women?
  • What kinds of careers do they have?
  • What do they value?
  • What are they afraid of?
  • What are they passionate about?

3. What do my readers love?

  • What do your readers love about life in general?
  • What do your readers love about books in your market?

4. What do my readers hate?

  • What do your readers hate about the issues or problems they’re facing?
  • What do your readers hate about books in your market?

By understanding what your readers love and hate, you can better craft a book that meets their needs.

Now that you’ve gone through this market research process, start applying it and you should see how you can make your book and your message more appealing to your audience.

Links and Resources Mentioned in This Podcast

https://tckpublishing.com/best-seller-webinar — My free webinar, which goes through the process I use when doing market research.

http://bestsellerrankingpro.com — The software I use when doing market research.

https://tckpublishing.com/amazoncategories — This link will take you directly to Amazon’s bestseller ebook categories so that you can start doing market research.

Rules of the Rich: 28 Proven Strategies for Creating a Healthy, Wealthy, and Happy Life and Escaping the Rat Race Once and For All — My bestselling book on how to create success and financial independence.

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