Updated: 9/15/21

In the past, there was no way to know if a book would sell until you published it. Today we have more technology at our hands that can show us what readers are buying and where the trends are heading. Now before I proceed there is no foolproof way to know if YOUR book will sell. There are only indicators, that’s why the post is titled: How to Know If A Book Will Sell. There are many factors that go into sales like packaging, marketing, distribution, and even the time of publication. So now that you’ve been warned, let’s get started…

Is The Book In An Established Genre?

There are genres that normally sell consistently and they include romance, thrillers, self-help, children’s, fantasy, and sci-fi. Writing in a popular genre is a smart idea because these genres already have a strong reader base. You can market these books easier than a book that is genre ambiguous. Take for example steampunk, when this genre appeared on the publishing scene, nobody knew how to categorize these books so libraries and bookstores put them in the fantasy and sci-fi category. To this day, steampunk is hard to market because it’s not quite here nor there. Even BookBub doesn’t have a steampunk category available. 

It’s not uncommon for indie authors to switch genres because they couldn’t make things work for them. In a podcast author, H.M. Ward said she switched from publishing YA to romance because “I could become the queen of YA and it wouldn’t matter.” The money for her was in romance and she’s been doing well since making that decision.  

Timing: Understanding The Patterns Of Book Trends

There are established patterns in the publishing industry and most publishing professionals know this well. They understand that during election season people are fascinated with politics and scandal. In every industry, there are cyclical trends and if you’re smart you can catch these things before they become trends. For example, every few years vampires become hot as does erotica. These aren’t just isolated trendy events, they are patterns, they are genres that people love to revisit over and over.

Can You Find A Comp Author?

Unless you’re inventing a new genre, there’s an author who’s written something similar to your book.  I wrote about comparison authors in my post: Spying On The Competition which can help you find out who your comp author is as well as figure out how they successfully marketed their book.    

See What’s Already Selling on Amazon

Indie authors who write nonfiction have used SEO to find profitable niches for years. For example, they’ll choose a topic like business and dive into the search engine results which return the subcategories; wealth management, crowdfunding, and real-estate. From there they will choose a few books that look interesting and look at the reviews as well as the sales rank to see if the sales are good. If there are no sales or reviews and the book was published a few months ago, it might not be a profitable niche.

However, if they do find a book that does have a decent sales rank and reviews, it’s time to dig deeper. They read the reviews, and see what the readers are saying. Are they complaining about something like lack of substance, or outdated information? If so, this could be something worth considering when conceptualizing a book.

Find Out What’s Trending On Google

Another technique nonfiction authors use is to find out what’s trending on Google, the largest search engine in the world. Google Trends can help you see what people are searching for right now and the history of that trend. Let’s say you’re interested in writing a book on dieting, you can see if the topic is trending upwards or down. If it’s trending down, that means people aren’t searching as much as they did the month prior, which could mean it’s a dying topic. 

As you can see the word dieting is on a downward trend now but it did peek around January (New Years Resolution time) and right around May (right before swim suit season). As I discussed earlier, there are patterns in book trends and Google just proves it here.

See What’s Trending On Goodreads

If you want to delve even deeper into what’s trending in the book world, you can look at Goodreads’ Most Read This Week. Goodreads gives you the ability to see what’s most read this week, this month, and this year. 

It would be wise to see if your book’s genre or topic is on any of those lists.   

Find Beta Readers

It goes without saying if you can’t find a beta reader to read your book, there may be a problem. You can find beta readers pretty much everywhere but if you don’t know where to start looking, I wrote a post called: How To Find Beta Readers that might help you out. Beta readers who aren’t excited about your book maybe an indicator that it’s not as strong as it needs to be.   

Go To Wattpad And Offer Free Chapters 

If you’re willing to give away your work for free then Wattpad may be a good place to start. This one may take a while but if your book doesn’t get views after a few months then it may not be profitable. Wattpad has a user base of over 90 million people, so if you can’t find someone who’s interested there, it may be a sign that readers won’t buy it once it’s published.      

A Sobering Thought:

Selling books is a hard job, just ask any publisher. If there were a way to tell that a book would become a bestseller, they would’ve found it. The techniques I discussed will only give you an educated guess at best. Most professional authors would tell you not to worry about sales and write what you’re passionate about and they’re right for the most part. If you don’t care about your work, the readers will pick up on that. Remember what Robert Frost said: “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.” Readers want passion, not only from their books but from their authors as well. If you can find that balance of writing what you love with what makes money then you have a legitimate chance of doing well in this business.  

Anyway, I hope this post helped you, if it did please like and share.