The Science Behind Book Covers

Book Cover Design
Pic from ClipArt.co

Though things have changed a bit over the past decade, there are still indie authors who refuse to take their book covers seriously.  I still see book covers that look terrible or don’t fit their genre and the sad thing is, some authors are still designing their own covers.  Some do it out of necessity, while others are just plain cheap and stubborn.  Ask any cover designer and they will tell you that there is a science behind what they do.  There are trends to consider as well as standard formats.  We all know what a typical romance novel cover looks like, but imagine if someone tried to use that same format for a mystery.  It would probably get mocked.  In fact, there are several websites and blogs that do just that.

Color Me A Bestseller

Consumers don’t have time or the cash to evaluate an unproven product but they do judge the packaging.  In fact when it comes to color many corporations pay good money for data as to which colors to use in their product packaging.  Colors are so important that they can make a product look trustworthy or shoddy.

In a study done by Joe Hallock, the least favorite color by both men and women is orange because it was said to look cheap.  The most favorite color by both genders was blue, because it’s said to represent authority, truth, and tranquility.  That could explain why Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr all use blue in their logos and web design.  Here are the top 5 colors favored by customers:

  • Blue (Authority, Integrity, Peace, Tranquility)
  • Green (Freshness, Earthiness)
  • Purple (Luxury, Spirituality)
  • Red (Love, Passion, Danger)
  • Black (Formality, Death, Rebellion)

When it comes to unexpressive colors like black, white and grey men tolerated these better than women.  However when it came to tints (a mixture of colors), women preferred softer colors like pastels while men preferred brighter ones.  This makes sense because the romance genre is filled with pinks, lavenders, and baby blues while the mystery genre is dominated by gray, red and black.

Faces Are Just As Important

It’s been proven by science that ads which feature attractive people sell more and that’s because beautiful faces excite a part of our brain which bypasses the parts for reason and logic.  (Think low risk impulse buys.)  Advertisers have known for generations that consumers can be subconsciously trained to buy something they don’t necessarily need.  So if you were thinking that all those romance covers with attractive people in sexy poses is cheesy, you’re wrong, it’s classic advertising.  This is why indie authors should study the books in their genre and see how they’re packaged.  Usually there is a pattern and if you can crack that code, you’ll have a competitive edge.

Genre Specific Trends

Every genre has its trends and some of them have endured for decades while others like the YA girl in a fancy dress have come and gone.  Here is a small list of trends in the four main genres, I only listed successful indie authors.

Romance:  What is typical for the romance genre is an attractive couple embracing or kissing but there is also a lot symbolism of romance like hearts, flowers and beautiful scenery.

Authors to study: S.C. Stephens, H.M. Ward, and Jessica Hawkins.

Mystery:  One thing that most mystery novels have in common are their dark backgrounds with bright forefronts or fonts.  Another thing included was usually a person in action as well as weapons, and urban surroundings.

Authors to study:  Mark Dawson, Chris Simms and Liliana Hart

YA:  The most common theme was an attractive female looking sad or indifferent.  Another popular theme was a female in a romantic pose with a male like a romance novel.  The color scheme often include pastel tints like lavenders, blues and pinks.

Authors to study:  Kristy Moseley, Shelly Crane, and Tarryn Fisher

Sci-Fi: The obvious thing you’ll notice about sci-fi covers are the backgrounds of outer space with spaceships.  However there are covers with models in warrior poses or in space suits ready for action.  The colors schemes are often dark backgrounds with bright forefront images.

Authors to study: Hugh Howey, Bella Forrest, and Michael Anderle.

Following Your Gut

A few years ago, bestselling indie author H.M. Ward, wrote a blog post discussing how her personal preferences almost tanked her book’s sales.  In the post she gives an example of how her original artsy, cover for Scandalous didn’t sell much.  After investigating, she realized something and that is you can’t give people what YOU want.  Trends and standard formats exist for a reason, it’s what the readers are responding to.  It’s been said, that people tell you what they want all the time and all you really have to do is listen.  So save yourself the stress and listen when readers talk.

In Closing…

I hope this post helps as you go searching for a book cover, it’s in no way meant to be a list of commandments, it’s just a guide to help you figure out what’s best for your book.  Many authors find cover design overwhelming and confusing, which can lead to them giving creative control to someone who doesn’t understand publishing.  Remember, just because it’s pretty, doesn’t mean it’s marketable.

Should Authors Go Exclusive With Amazon in 2017?

instagram_88e1c8b741
Image via Wikimedia Commons

Several years ago, Amazon’s KDP introduced their Select program which allowed authors who published through them to give away books for free on their site if they signed a 90 day exclusivity agreement.  Thinking 90 days wasn’t much of a commitment, many authors agreed to it.  Fast forward to 2017, where Amazon is selling over 30 million books and nearly one million of those books are free on any given day flooding the market.  The numbers alone have authors questioning whether going exclusive with Amazon is even worth it anymore?

Your Goals Matter

No matter what the latest marketing tricks are at the moment they mean very little if you haven’t a clear definition of where you want to go.  It’s vital that you ask yourself before you sign any long term contract, why am I doing this?  Do I wish to…

  • Make money
  • Get more reviews
  • Build up an email list
  • Sign with a traditional publisher and go hybrid
  • Become an influencer in a chosen field
  • Build a publishing company
  • Republish a back catalog of work
  • Build a career as an author

As you can see there are a myriad of reasons why people self-publish and many of them don’t require you signing an exclusivity contract.  For example, if you want to sign with a traditional publisher then it might not be wise to lock your work up for any period of time.  If interested, a publisher may insist you take down the book and you can’t do that if you’re only 10 days into your 90 day exclusivity agreement.

Why Ask For An Exclusive?

It’s not uncommon for retailers like Amazon, to ask for exclusives, most retailers do.  It gives them the competitive edge because they offer something their competition doesn’t.  However the manufacturer or vendor (in this case you), usually gets something in return like favorable product placement in exchange for the temporary inconvenience and loss of profit.  Yet with Amazon, there is no such negotiation and instead of favorable product placement, books that are put into the Select program are put on a special list away from the paid books when they go free.  This is the reverse of favorable product placement since the paid books are the default page that shoppers are sent to.  It’s great for Amazon, who gets exclusive content but bad for indie authors who get relegated to a nebulous tab.

Amazon's KDP Select Program

The Psychology Behind it

Lots of authors believe that exclusives are done because retailers and publishers are greedy and though that’s debatable, retailers actually do it because it works.   It’s been proven that products which are available on a limited basis create a scarcity mentality in the minds of shoppers.  It triggers the buy impulse when customers believe this opportunity may never come by again.  Exclusives also make customers feel a sense of appreciation because the retailer is offering them this valuable product making them feel part of a privileged group.

Yeah, But Why Free?

In retail the competition is fierce, these days customers are much savvier and do their research before making purchases.  If they find a product at an online retailer at a cheaper price, that’s called showrooming and it forces brick and mortar stores to match that price or even beat it.  This is how Amazon kills the competition after all, what’s cheaper than free?  Even other book retailers like Barnes & Noble can’t compete with this and have begun positioning their business away from books.

Exclusivity Vs Expanded Distribution

Believe it or not, many startup companies claim exclusivity as the secret ingredient to their success.  However, it’s not the only ingredient, exclusivity should be part of a deeper marketing strategy.  Authors should be leveraging this exclusive period to collect reviews or email addresses for their lists.  Don’t just sit on your duff during this period, there is still work to do —plan the next move.  Ultimately that should mean branching out to other retailers like Kobo, Apple and Barnes & Noble.

 Authors Remaining Exclusive: A Thought

There are experts who used to advise indie authors to remain in the KDP Select program permanently.  They proposed that indies use one book as a loss leader and forgo immediate profits for long term ones.  They suggest that authors use their free book to collect email addresses and sell the next book.  However this may not be a good idea today because several indie authors now report their downloads dropping after the second or third time around in Select.  So going exclusive with Amazon will work but only for so long.  Today, we have no choice but to make our books available everywhere you possibly can because the old tricks don’t work anymore.  Another thing we indie authors have to consider is the inevitable fact that sometime in the future another company will knock Amazon off its perch and wouldn’t it be nice if all our eggs weren’t in one basket?

Becoming An Amazon Bestseller: The Stats

instagram_197add1ce5
Pic via Pexels

Before I get started, I wanted to let you know that this isn’t one of those, why you’ll never be a bestseller type articles, it’s an article about mathematical odds.  The odds about Amazon’s KU program and the amount of competition you’ll face on just Amazon alone.  There’s this prevailing notion that it’s simple to become a bestseller on Amazon, after all they make it so easy to publish that it seems success is inevitable, right?  Yet what a lot of indie authors don’t understand is that we need to know the industry before we publish.  For example, how saturated is the market?  Should we bother creating an audio book?  What are the odds for authors published through Amazon to actually make it to the bestseller’s list?

Using Amazon’s own numbers, I’ve put together some facts that will either confirm your suspicions or utterly shock you.

How Many Books?

It’s estimated that Amazon holds 65% of all new online print and digital sales in the U.S. and that percentage is expected to go up as Barnes & Noble (their second biggest competitor) changes their business model which will now focus less on books.

(These numbers are from Amazon.com as of January 12, 2017):

They sell over 33 million books on their website which includes:

  • 19 million Paperback
  • 6 million Hardcover
  • 8 million Digital
  • 305,000 Audio
  • 500,000 Large Print

That means if you have 1 book, your odds are 1 in 33,000,000 and the more books you publish, the better your odds get. Now I know these sound like astronomical odds but when you consider that most major publishers and indie authors don’t market their books at all, your odds improve ever so slightly.

On a side note, your odds of winning the lottery are around 1 in 13,000,000.   Just thought I’d throw that in.

Is Going Exclusive The Ticket To Exposure on Amazon?

In 2011, Amazon created a program called Amazon Select that would help self-published authors get better visibility on their website.  For 5 days you could set your book’s price at free, but as you can imagine there was a catch, authors had to agree to a 90 exclusive period.  That meant no selling your book at any other retailers.  This seemed like a no-brainer and many authors signed away but it’s now 6 years later and Amazon’s website contains over 912,000 free ebooks as I type this (January 12th 2017).  Some of these books are permafree while most are enrolled in Select.

Kindle Unlimited

I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t mention the most controversial program in self-publishing history and that’s the Kindle Unlimited program.  It’s Amazon’s subscription service where readers can read, or listen to an unlimited amount of books and magazines for a monthly fee of $9.99.  As of today, Amazon boasts of 1 million titles in that program.

amazon-kindle-unlimited

 

So How Do We Stand Out From The Others?

If you’re feeling demoralized after reading all these stats don’t, selling books was never easy just ask any publisher.  Yet as we speak the barriers that once prevented indie authors from getting into libraries and major chain stores are slowly disappearing.  So it is truly the best of times and the worst of times for the publishing industry.  Now begs the question what do we do about it?  Here are a few suggestions for improving your odds:

  • Create a reasonable business plan and make yourself accountable.
  • Build a platform
  • Publish during popular shopping holidays; Thanksgiving, Christmas, Halloween, etc.
  • Make your book available at retailers and libraries.
  • Network with influencers and other indie authors
  • Have a marketing budget because effective marketing costs money.

It goes without saying that the earlier you start the better, this way you can pivot and maneuver in case of a catastrophe.  Just this past year alone, several sites like All Romance Ebooks, Ellora’s Cave, and Pixel of Ink closed their doors for good, citing Amazon or the market at large as the reason for their closing.  Needless to say, this forced some authors to scramble and find alternatives.

The Moral of This Story

The moral of course is that success comes in many forms not just bestseller lists and awards.  For some of us, just being able to make a living doing what we love is more than enough validation.  And though the competition is tough, it is possible to break through with a lot of hard work, smart marketing strategies and of course, perseverance.  However we still need to be realistic about what we’re willing and able to do because honesty is the foundation of any great career.

 

Book Marketing Techniques That Don’t Work Anymore

Book Marketing
Pic via Pixabay

Over the past 10 years, publishing has evolved into a very profitable business with the 5 biggest publishers reporting a profit margin of 10%.  And according to Author Earnings, in 2015, self-published authors had taken 33% of the ebook market.  However the tables were turned in 2016, when self-published authors lost a little bit of their grip on the ebook market not to mention several major publishing companies actually reporting losses.  So now it’s more important than ever that we indie authors spend our time and money where it matters most.

Things will only continue to change as the market ebbs and flows and we indie authors need to be able to adapt no matter the disruptions to the market.  What worked in 2007, won’t necessarily fly in 2017, so I compiled a list of just a few of the things that used to be marketing truths but are now myths.

Post An Eye-Catching Photo With Social Media Posts

The old advice on social media was to post a nice text quote along with a photo and it worked pretty well.  Now the advice is to write your quote directly on the image itself because when you share a post sometimes the original text gets lost or relegated to tiny font at the bottom.

For example:

Pinterest

james-patterson-pinterest

Facebook

james-patterson-fb

 

Banner Ads

Back in the day, banner ads were the way to get your product noticed but now with ad blockers, nobody even sees them anymore.  Today, the click through rate of a banner ad is around 0.1% down from 50% in 2000.  Sadly places like Goodreads, offer banner ads in their expensive marketing package which can cost anywhere between $6,000 and up.  However most indie authors agree that the best places to advertise books are in discount newsletters like; BookBub, Bargain Booksy and Free Kindle Books & Tips.

Perma 99 Cents

A few years ago the advice was to lower your price as much as humanly possible which is what tons of indie authors did.  As you have already guessed, this doesn’t work anymore, the new advice is to try price pulsing.  That’s where you lower your price for a limited time and then set it back to a more reasonable one.  The feelings are mixed, many say you have to promote the lower prices but if you’re selling a book at 99 cents, promotion may not be wise if you’re on a low budget or just low on time.

Black Hat Marketing

This means anything shady like buying reviews or even buying your own book in bulk.  It’s one of the oldest tricks in the marketing business but with technology most people can easily spot a fake.  Not long ago, U.S. President Donald Trump was busted buying his own books during his campaign.  Also, several Christian ministers were found to have contracted a service that promises to help authors get on the bestsellers list by buying large quantities of the author’s book.  They might have gotten away with it too if they hadn’t used money from their own congregation to do it.

Same goes with social media, a few celebrities were busted buying fans a few years back and were exposed by a major media outlet.  To make a long story short, your money is better spent advertising or hiring a good book publicist.

You Need To Be Everywhere on Social Media

It’s old advice that’s still being repeated and it’s just not true and never really was.  Your goal on social media is to build a community which means conversations and engagement.  You can’t do that everywhere because you only have 24 hours in any given day.  So it would be wise to just pick one or a few social media sites where your audience is going to be and set up shop there.  If your book is for young adults try sites like; Snap Chat, Instagram or Tumblr, and if it’s adults you’re targeting, try Facebook, Twitter and Youtube.

Spamming Works

For those business owners who are too lazy to build their own email lists there are services who are more than willing to sell you email addresses.  Sadly, these people aren’t interested in your book and sending unsolicited emails goes against the CAN-SPAM Act which can result in a fine of $16,000.  Also, it’ll get you banned from email marketing services like Mail Chimp or AWeber.  As if that weren’t bad enough, according to law enforcement and online security firms, the average spam campaign is often a front for organized crime which is why most email filters send these emails straight to the trash bin.

I would be remiss if I didn’t address the few books out there that list so called promotional groups on Facebook and Goodreads.  I’ve personally tested them and found them to be a complete  waste of time.  If you look closely at these groups, you’ll discover that they’re nothing but spam pages with author after author dropping links and yelling “Buy my book!”  This is pointless unless, your book is for authors who desperately need to learn about marketing books. 😉

So What Does Work?

Funny enough, it’s common sense that will help you sell a book successfully.  No tricks, just hard work and persistence, oh yeah, and time.

  • Write a book people want to read
  • Edit professionally
  • Get a nice (industry standard) book cover
  • Start building your platform.
  • Invest in your education: Take courses and read books on marketing, publishing and editing.
  • Join a network of professional authors, there are Facebook and LinkedIn groups as well as websites like The Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi) who help educate and support self-published authors.

In Closing…

There will be more changes on the horizon in 2017, that’s inevitable but that doesn’t have to be a scary thing.  Instead of seeing self-publishing as a disadvantage see it for the opportunity that it really is.  As more and more indie success stories become common place, it will light the fire in some of us to go beyond what we’ve ever imagined.  So until next time, here’s to a creative and profitable 2017 to indie authors everywhere!

5311059950_6da084de1c_z
By Leland Francisco

SEO Keywords for Self-Published Books: Part 1

SEO Keywords for Self-Published Books 2 Pitnerest
Image via DesignFeed.io

Three years ago, I wrote an article for authors called SEO Keywords for Fiction Authors and it was one of my most popular posts.  However, a lot has changed since then and SEO has become even more important for authors. Over the past few years Amazon as well as a few other sites have changed their rules about how many keywords you can use and which ones. In fact, several authors have found their books recategorized after choosing the wrong keywords. If you don’t want this happening to you, it would be in your best interest to learn which keywords are best for books in your genre.

Why Bother?

Every major retailer has a search engine to help their customers navigate their websites. Today, the biggest search engines in the world are Google and Amazon. Yes, you read that right, Amazon is considered a search engine as is Apple, so it would be wise to learn how shoppers search if you want to position your book for better visibility.

A few years back, when indie authors everywhere were squawking about keywords and claiming to have gotten sales by tweaking the categories and keywords on their books, I wasn’t a firm believer. That was until I did an experiment with one of my free stories on Wattpad and went from having just a couple of views to a few thousand views. So SEO does matter when ranking in the search engines but as for sales, that’s another story. I do believe that SEO can be a powerful asset to a marketing strategy but in and of itself, it’s not a strategy to rely on. You still need to do other things like advertise, secure interviews, and utilize social media right along with strong SEO.

Types of Keywords Authors Can Use:

Genre: Romance, Thriller, Sci-Fi, etc.
Subgenre: Sweet Romance, Crime Thriller, Sci-Fi Adventure, etc.
Geography: Chicago, Medieval England, Mars.
Language: English, Klingon, Elvish, etc.
Topic: Social Issues, Pathologies, Special Groups.

To find your genre and subgenre go to Goodreads and check out their genre page. Click on the genre that fits your book best, and it will take you to a page with related genres in the upper right hand corner. You can find everything from Bulgarian Literature to Dragon Lance in the Goodreads genre list. When I clicked on Young Adult, I was taken to a page that listed subgenres ranging from fantasy to contemporary literature.

SEO Keywords for Authors
They kind of take out the guesswork don’t they?

If you want to find your subgenre, go to their genres list.

You can also do this also with Amazon, by going to their books section here and choosing to shop by category. When I chose Teens and Young Adult, I got not only subgenres, but the most popular categories, authors, and series. Meanwhile in the left hand margin, I got more subgenres to consider like art & photography as well as social issues.

Keywords for Indie Authors

 

Lost?

If you are totally lost and don’t know what genre to list your book, ask yourself several questions:

1. What age group is my book geared towards; adult, teens or children?
2. Is the conflict internal or external? If it’s internal, then you might want to consider labeling it literary.
3. Is the book geared towards women or men? Men’s fiction usually consists of thrillers, crime and graphic novels. Meanwhile women’s fiction usually consists of romance, chick lit, and erotica.

Even if after all this, you’re still confused just ask another author or even a beta reader what genre they think the book is. Don’t stress this too much, if you mess up, you can always go back and tweak things later.

Before I go, I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t tell you that SEO is just one part of a successful marketing campaign.  There is no magic bullet when it comes to marketing books just ask the publishers at the New York big five.  However good SEO does help give your book the visibility it needs to compete in a market saturated in books.

Affiliate Marketing For Indie Authors Part 1: The Basics

pinterest_85ca29515a
Pic via Pexels

These days it seems as though everyone’s hustling products, from celebrities, athletes, and even politicians.  Usually, they can be found promoting anything from beauty products to prescription meds, often serving as an affiliate of a company or of several companies.  Before I go on, let me explain what an affiliate does: An affiliate is a person or entity chosen to promote services or products on behalf of a business.  Affiliates are usually given a percentage of any sale made through them.

There is serious money to be made these days selling products to your online audience.  And today, an indie author can approach affiliate marketing in two ways first, as an affiliate (also known as a content creator), and as an advertiser.

Now I have to be honest, most indie authors say that the earnings they make from affiliate marketing can barely cover their Netflix subscription.  On the other hand, there are few who are making thousands from affiliate marketing.  It all depends on what you sell and the deal you make.

Popular Things Authors Sell and Promote

  1. Books; digital, audio and print versions.
  2. Writing or editing software.
  3. Learning eCourses.
  4. Subscription services like; Audible or Amazon Prime.
  5. Book related swag like; T-shirts, posters and tote bags.
  6. Book cover design services.
  7. Editing services.
  8. Conference or workshop tickets.

Before You Start

Before you go signing up for all the affiliate programs available, please be careful and realistic as to what you are most comfortable promoting. If you’re a religious person, maybe signing up with Harlequin (a romance publisher) isn’t the best idea. Keep in mind, if you don’t like or understand a product, this affiliate experience will most likely end in a disaster.
Another thing to seriously consider is your audience’s tolerance for promotion. When your readers sign up for your blog or liked your social media page, they are signing up to connect with YOU not your benefactor. It is possible that if you promote too much, your audience may get turned off by it and leave.

You Don’t Have To Sell Your Soul

As a content creator, it is up to you as to who you’ll work with and what products you’ll promote. You can always say no to a deal especially, if the terms are unreasonable or pathetic. As I said before, it’s all about what you’re comfortable with.

What’s Expected

It’s not uncommon for a company to want a content creator to write an article or review about their product. This can mean anything from a Youtube video or a blog post. And as the content creator, you’ll have to act natural as well as keep the dialog organic.

Spaces You Can Rent To An Advertiser

  • Social Media
  • Blogs
  • Newsletters (Check the rules, Amazon doesn’t allow affiliate links in emails while other sites do.)
  • Podcasts

Be warned that some companies might give you a script that you’ll be required to read from or post on your blog.  Usually, these scripts consist of the sales copy, a call to action and links to the product. On the opposite side of the spectrum, there are companies who will give you the freedom to sell a product anyway you see fit.

Know Who You’re Selling To

The only way for this affiliate marketing thing to work is to make sure that you’re selling to the right crowd. For example, you can’t sell wheat bread to an audience of Celiacs. I mean you could, but I doubt they would appreciate you for it. So you need to know your audience before you can sell them ANYTHING. Hopefully, you’ve gotten to know your audience through your analytics, the comment section of your blog or through random polls. If you haven’t done this, you had better get started. The most common questions content creators ask their audiences are;

  1. What are you struggling with? (Find a product that can help them with their problems.)
  2. What are your favorite books or products? (Try pitching that publisher/ company for an affiliate opportunity.)
  3. What products do you hate? (Avoid them like the plague.)
  4. What are your goals? (Find a product to help them reach their goals.)

If you can get your audience to answer some of these questions, you’ll have a pretty good idea as to which products to sell and which ones to avoid.

Well there you have it, tune in next week where I’ll discuss the requirements for successful affiliate marketing.

You can check out Part 2 here: Affiliate Marketing for Indie Authors Part 2.

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.