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How to research the market for your book - and why it's so important

How do you know you’ve got the right idea for your book?

How do you know people will want to read it?

In most industries product developers do vigorous market research to make sure they create a product that’s going to appeal to their audience. And yet so many authors fail to do the same.

If you view your book as a product, before you write it you should be finding out how to make your reader want to read it. And that means researching the competition.

Learning as much as you can about other books on your subject will not only help you find your unique selling point but will show you exactly what your reader wants. And the more you know about your reader, the better your book will be.

So here’s a 6-step plan for how to research the market for your book.

1. Find other books on your subject

Browsing a bookshop is great when researching your book, but there’s one place you can start from the comfort of your own home: Amazon.

Whatever your thoughts about the online supergiant, it has something you need, and that’s data. Within its pages Amazon has details of virtually every book published. That means it will show you exactly what other people have written about your subject—whether it’s a Sunday Times bestseller or a self-published ebook.

Start by typing the word or phrase that best describes the idea behind your book. That could be ‘web design for beginners’, ‘snakes as pets’ or ‘creative social media’. You’ll soon see whether you’re on the right track, as books like the one you want to write will populate the search. Now scroll down until you find a book that’s similar to your own. Expand your search by looking at the ‘Customers who viewed this item also viewed’ and ‘Customers who bought this item also bought’ recommendations. This will take you down a rabbit hole of books until you come up with a list of four or five that are closely related to your own idea.

2. Look at the package

Now click on one of the books you’ve found and bring up its book page. Hidden on this page is a wealth of information you may never have noticed, but it’s all valuable data when it comes to refining your book idea. The first thing to look at is the cover. What’s the title and subtitle of the book? Which key words does it contain? What does this tell us about the focus of the book? Is this the same as your own?

3. Read the blurb

Now read the book’s blurb—the description on the main book page that tells you what it’s about. Who has the author aimed this book at? Is that the same person as your reader or a different one? Can you pick any holes in their approach?

4. Look at the detail

Now scroll down again to the ‘Product details’ section. How many pages does the book have? When was it published? If all the books on your subject are 400 pages long, you might be able to offer a simpler solution. If all the books are ten years old, it might be time for something new. Keep looking for anything you can offer that the other books don’t.

5. Look inside

Most books on Amazon have a ‘Look inside’ function, at least on the Kindle version. Open the book and look at the contents page. What’s in the book? What aspects of your subject are covered? Is there anything missing? Would you do things differently?

6. Read the reviews

Now look at the reviews for the book. What positive things do readers say? What did they like? The more you read, the more you’ll know what your audience appreciates and the better able you’ll be to deliver those things yourself. What did readers criticise about the book? You may be able to identify a gap in the market by seeing what readers felt was missing.

And that’s what this process is all about—finding a gap in the market. The more you know about your reader and what they want, the better you’ll be able to deliver it. And the better your book is at solving your reader’s problem, the more likely you are to win in the fight against your competition.

Conducting market research is about learning from others’ mistakes, honing your idea and understanding your reader. If knowledge is power, you’ll never regret knowing how to make your book better than the rest.

If you’d like more help with researching your book, find out about my one-to-one Book Planning Day or my Book Proposal Service.

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