It’s one thing to write a book; it’s quite another to write a book that will sell. We all want to follow our passion, write our dream, and dance creatively with our muse.
But wouldn’t it be fantastic if, amidst all this creativity, we also manage to produce a best-selling book? That is, after all, the dream. This article discusses several things you can do to ensure your book targets the largest audience possible.
Finding Best-Selling Book Ideas
I know a gal who’s keyed-in to a bunch of SEO people. For those of you not familiar with the term, SEO stands for search engine optimization. These are the folks who spend their lives trying to get on the first page of Google.
Several years back, she and I were talking about how to create ideas that sell. She told me many of her SEO buddies literally write books based only on keywords and keyword strings. It has nothing to do with their passion or even what they want to write about. They focus on saleable terms, meaning phrases getting a huge bounce on Google. This may not be how you’d normally think about writing a book, but there are merits to this methodology. Here are a few things to think about while you plan what to write about:
Book focus: Where will you focus your book? What subject or theme do you want to write about? Don’t get too caught up in a set plan. Leave some room for flexibility, but do consider what’s hot right now. Your original idea may have been the starting point, but, depending on how long you’ve been sitting on it, there’s a solid chance you can update it a bit to ensure you’re responding to current market needs, or to make yourself stand out from competitive titles that hit the market before you.
Book title: This is a great place to use keyword strings, so keep an open mind about reworking your title as it gets closer to your publication date. This is also a great time for some market research, because not only should your title include hot keyword strings, it should answer a question or pique the interest of your potential buyers, and you’re often too close to your own work to be aware of hot, trending possibilities…unless you do your due diligence market research.
Book subtitle: If you already have your title, consider using keyword strings in your subtitle to help boost your exposure in searches. And consider whether you want to put your subtitle on your book cover. Leaving it off makes it a lot easier to change it on Amazon to match market needs and industry and genre trends.
Book topic: Let’s say you’re an expert in your field but aren’t sure what topic to write about. Let’s say you’re a consumer finance guru and want to write a book on this topic. Knowing what consumers are searching for in the area of finance, and what keyword strings are used most often, is a great way to home in on the immediate needs of your readers. Create a topic that’s narrower. Instead of addressing a broad area, tighten your focus. It will net you better sales. Consumers like specialized topics that help solve specific problems. And the books don’t have to be long. Once you find your market or niche, you’ll want to publish regularly for your target audience.
Some Amazon experts say a 20,000 rank indicates the book is selling five copies a day, but I find this hard to prove either way. Just know that, given Amazon’s volume, a book is definitely not languishing at that rank.
In addition to topic research, while you’re developing your book idea and trying to decide what to include and exclude, consider spending a bit of time comparing the content of other, similar books in your market. Take advantage of Amazon’s “look inside” book feature and read several pages, as well as the reviews. Readers will tell you what they want, and they’ll often do it in a review. The negative reviews with constructive feedback—those that explain what readers thought was missing or things they wished had been expanded upon—will be especially helpful.
Staying on the Short and Narrow
While full-length books will never go away, there’s a trend toward shorter, niche books—books that “own” a narrow market segment. This is also a smart strategy for stretching your knowledge across multiple products, because remember, rarely will one title help you reach your author or business goals.
When I first published How to Sell Books by the Truckload on Amazon, I was surprised at how its sales outpaced my other books. While I know the title had a lot to do with this, the book was also shorter and tightly focused on one particular area.
Keep in mind that if you do short, you don’t have room for fluff. You’ll want to be crystal clear and feature specific instructions, maybe even including step-by-step instructions or checklists, which readers love.
How short can short be? 10,000 to 17,000 words is generally acceptable. Anything under 50 pages is too short; 65 pages is a safe bet, but be cautious when you format your final contents. If your book has too few pages, Amazon’s “look inside” feature will reveal most of the content, or enough that readers may glean what they want and not buy it. This is where a thorough (and often longer and more detailed) table of contents comes in very handy, meaning that it creates a good snapshot of what’s inside your book—without giving away the store.
If you’ve finished the book and it still seems a bit too short, consider adding things like checklists, free resources, or bonus chapters from other books you’ve written that relate to the topic. Of course, don’t plump up your page count just to plump it up. Make sure you’re adding helpful, useful, relevant information. If the book is too much like a white paper instead of a book, you may end up with a lot of window-shoppers who don’t end up buying. And while short is the new long, if you do decide to write shorter books, don’t be exclusive about it. Mixing it up is the best route to success.
Penny Sansevieri, CEO and founder of Author Marketing Experts, Inc. (AME) and Adjunct Professor at NYU, is a best-selling author and internationally recognized book marketing and media relations expert. Her company is one of the leaders in the publishing industry and has developed some of the most cutting-edge book marketing campaigns. To learn more about Penny and AME, visit www.amarketingexpert.com.