Do Your Book Research
These days, the defining challenge of publishing a book is no longer impressing a handful of large publishing companies. Almost anyone can take an idea and turn it into a book, and even make it widely available. As a result, the defining challenge is now standing out from the vast competition that exists for nearly any book genre. Book research, even before you start writing, can help you find a path to stand out in your genre, identify your target readers, and craft a marketing campaign that will send the right message to attract those readers.
Get to Know Your Book
The first step in this book research is to understand what genres your idea falls into, and then to get a sense of what’s popular. All genres have tough competition in today’s online marketplace, but how popular a genre is will determine how much room there is for new authors to succeed within that.
To make things even tougher, this isn’t static – trends fluctuate all the time, and a super popular genre one year could become saturated and yesterday’s news by the next. But you shouldn’t simply write a book to cater to the most popular genre at the time – this likely won’t result in quality work. The trick is to take your own idea and research how it best fits into the marketplace.
So the first step is to understand your book – define your genre. General genres include fiction and non-fiction, and within that there are subgenres that go through cycles of popularity and saturation. Look at categories on Amazon, displays at bookstores, and make sure you can describe your own book in these terms. For example, Izzard’s 10 Secrets to A Bestseller is a non-fiction publishing guide geared toward independent publishers.
Again, while you want to stay faithful to your idea, you also want to give it the best chance of success possible. When we published 10 Secrets, we wanted to ensure there was a market for publishing guides geared toward serious self-publishing authors. While your idea might be a contemporary mystery novel, you might find that historical novels are wildly popular at the moment – and perhaps you could make your book more successful by giving the same basic story a historical setting. You might even find such alterations could give you fresh ideas, or solve a problem you might be struggling with.
There are a number of ways to go about this book research. You can see what’s being promoted at bookstores, and check key bestseller lists, such as from Amazon, The New York Times, or Barnes & Noble. See what genres appear most frequently on these lists.
Often, current movies and television can offer a guide for settings and subjects for fiction novels that might already be trending. And of course, the internet is full of resources.
BookBub shows how many subscribers they have in a given genre at any time.
AuthorEarnings.com releases annual reports and other information that breaks down book revenues by genre and other categories.
On Goodreads, you can see the numbers of books published in each genre.
A Google search for “current book trends” will turn up a variety of articles on exactly that – just be sure to look for the most up to date content.
Izzard’s blog publishes annual articles on rising book trends.
And of course, there are some constants in the independent publishing world. Since self-publishing took off over the last decade, genre fiction such as Romance, Sci-Fi, and Fantasy has thrived. These books benefit from tight-knit communities of readers sharing content online, and from those readers generally finishing books (and looking for more) at a faster pace than readers of literary fiction or most non-fiction.
Finding a Niche
But you don’t just want to publish another unremarkable book in a trendy genre. The ideal genre is one with rising popularity, but more limited competition. In a perennially popular genre like Romance, your challenge will be to distinguish your book from others. For example, 10 Secrets stands out from other publishing guides – it’s geared toward new authors that are serious and passionate about their projects. It focuses on bringing self-publishing to the level of quality we expect from traditionally published books, through hybrid publishing.
Making the most out of this book research is a matter of balancing your newfound knowledge of current trends with your own creativity and ideas. If you can incorporate a popular genre into an idea that’s important to you, you might just carve out your own niche of dedicated readers. If you can understand what’s unique and appealing about your book you can craft a marketing campaign that will put your book in front of the right people. And if you can bring something distinctive to a genre that’s increasingly in demand, you just might have found a formula for a bestseller.