How To Know If Your Book Will Sell Before You Publish: Finding Out What Readers Really Want


how-to-know-if-your-book-will-sell
Pic via Pixabay

Before I begin, I have to give a hat tip to Steve Scott and his book, “How to Discover Best-Selling eBook Ideas,” which inspired this post. After reading his book, I asked myself how could I apply what I learned to the fiction market and ended up with a few surprising ideas.  And no, it has nothing to do with KDP Select, nor will it require the blood of a goat.

With the proliferation of the internet, it has never been easier to access book lovers.  I mean, they’re everywhere!  I believe if indie authors would just take the time to listen to what readers are saying maybe they could provide readers with the novels they desperately crave.  Most publishers already know which genres are in demand and make sure not to publish books that have no readership.  So how do indies find out what books will sell?  I’m so glad you asked…

Forget Amazon Rankings

Over the past few years, Amazon rankings have been used as a measuring tool for a book’s popularity and profitability.  That’s nice and all, but those rankings don’t tell you anything really important. For example, can you discern if a genre is more popular than another? Answer: No, not on Amazon. Even the New York Times Bestseller’s List isn’t a good source for that because you can only find out if a book is selling big.

How To Find The Hot Genres

When doing research for my post Cheap Advertising for Indie Authors, I stumbled across something interesting.  As I was scanning the prices for Bookbub and Kindle Nation Daily, I noticed that they charged more for certain genres like mysteries and romance, while charging less for others like, chick lit, children’s and YA.  Now why would that be? Most likely it’s because they base their prices on what sells best. This should give you a clear picture of which genres sell but there are ways to verify this information…

What Readers are Begging for: Checking the Math

To confirm what the ad prices are telling me, I went to Goodreads to find out what genres are the most popular. I did this by looking at the giveaways. Now I know what you’re thinking, “Rachel, giveaways are going to attract tons of people looking for a freebie,” but that’s where you’d be wrong. I noticed that the number of people entering the children’s giveaway contest is lower than the number of people entering the romance giveaways. Don’t take my word for it, check it out for yourself.

PicMonkey Collage
Romance giveaway on the left, children’s on the right.

P.S. I omitted young adult (YA) books even though Goodreads includes them in the children’s category because most advertisers and readers consider them two different genres.  Also, this picture represents the most popular giveaways for the day of 11/18/14.

As you can see, 2,692 people entered the romance giveaway, while only 834 entered the children’s book giveaway.  I found this pattern over and over again. The children’s books just couldn’t measure up in popularity to the romance novels.  So logically it makes sense, if you can’t giveaway a book, then why would anyone pay for it?  

More Analysis

If you want to delve even deeper into this you can look at Goodreads’ Lists, Most Read This Week, and Most Popular Categories.  These particular threads will give you a peek into how popular a specific book is, and which books readers are talking about.  To find the categories for your particular genre just go to Goodreads.com/genres and click on the one you’d like to study.  Goodreads will take you to a page that will list everything you’ve ever wanted to know about that particular genre.

If you are a wise author, you would find a few books similar to yours and look at the reviews to see what readers are saying.  What are their most common complaints?  Now do your best to omit that stuff from your book.  Next, try to find out what are they going gaga over?  Now be sure to include lots of that stuff in your books.

This type of research will give you an advantage over the competition who are just following their muse, because unlike them, you can craft your book according to the desires of the readers rather than just guessing what people want.

This can be replicated on other book centric sites like Library Thing, Jacket Flap and even Shelfari.

But I’m an Artist…

Yeah, I know you’re an artist and your muse will guide you to the work you are destined to create. However, for the rest of us who would like to make money from our books, we need to know what the market looks like.  We also need to be realistic about the odds of our book’s success. That way we don’t waste time and money promoting a book that has no fan-base.

I’m not saying don’t write the book you were inspired to write, that’s the cool thing about being an indie author, it’s not all about profit margins.  You can publish whatever you want, but you shouldn’t go broke promoting that whatever.

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One thought on “How To Know If Your Book Will Sell Before You Publish: Finding Out What Readers Really Want

  1. Great post! I’m really loving your blog, so far. I feel like I have so much to learn and you do a really great job of breaking it all down. Thank you!

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