TCK Publishing has published more than 400 books, and many of them have become number-one bestsellers. In this episode, I’m going to share what I’ve learned about book market research that can help you achieve your self-publishing goals.

Three Keys to Book Market Research

  1. It’s critical that you understand who your reader is.
  2. It’s critical that you understand what your reader wants.
  3. That way, you can give them what they want most effectively.

Market research is about creating a product that serves your customers better. If you know who they are and what they want, you can make better decisions about what to put in your book.

The reason you’re doing market research is because you want to provide more value to your readers.
 — Tom Corson Knowles

As an author, you want to serve your readers better than anyone else. That’s how you become a number-one bestselling author and stay at number one.

Six Simple Steps to Effective Market Research

1. Find Comparable Best-Selling Titles

Finding comparable titles, or “comps,” means you want to find self-published books in your market. If at all possible, you want to find books written by authors who are at your level.

If you are a new self-published author, you want to find books by other self-published authors who have only published one or two books.

After you find books comparable to yours, you’re going to want to make a list in a program like Excel or Google Sheets that includes the book title and a link to that book’s Amazon page so you can easily do further research in the future.

Two Ways to Find Your Comparable Titles

  1. You can go to Amazon and search keywords related to the book you’re writing. So if you’re writing a vampire romance, you would go to and type in the keywords “vampire romance.” You’ll then find comparable books in the search results.
  2. You can use Amazon’s bestseller lists. Simply go to Amazon’s ebook store, find your genre, and drill down until you get to the most specific category you can.

The more specifically you can identify your category, the more likely you are to be successful, because specific categories have less competition and more targeted readers.

If you want to save time, you can sign up for Bestseller Ranking Pro, the proprietary web-based software I had developed that can help you search all of Amazon’s thousands of categories in a few minutes.

An Amazon category is simply a virtual bookshelf in Amazon’s store. All you’re doing when you choose a category is telling Amazon what bookshelf to put your book on.

2. Analyze the Covers of Your Competition

Your book cover is a crucial piece of branding for your book. The more you can make your book cover look similar to other books in your category, the more likely your target readers are to click on your book and read your product page. This gets you one step closer to the sale.

This is where your list of comparable book titles comes in handy. You’re going to look at the covers of the books on your list of comps. What you’ll notice is that a lot of these books have similar covers.

That’s not an accident.

Covers are designed to suggest the type of book the customer wants to read.

When you look at the book covers in your market, pay special attention to:

  • The colors that are used.
  • The fonts that are used.
  • The images that are used.
  • The size and placement of text on the book cover.
  • The emotion(s) that the book covers make you feel.

As I said before, you want your book to look like it belongs in the category you put it in.

People buy books primarily based on emotion. This is especially true for fiction books.

Never miss an opportunity to have an actual conversation with readers of your genre. You can learn so much from just talking to people about why they read the books they do.

3. Analyze The Titles of Your Comparable Book

The title of your book is another crucial piece of the puzzle when it comes to marketing and selling your book.

The number one reason people buy books today is still word of mouth.

In order for a word-of-mouth sale to occur today, a book title needs three things:

  1. The book title has to be memorable.

The book title has to be easy for people to remember so they can easily recall it to tell their friends to buy it.

  1. The book title has to be repeatable.

The book title should be understandable and easy to repeat in a conversation. You want to avoid confusing book titles as much as possible — being too clever can actually backfire. You want a book title that is easy to communicate.

  1. The book title has to be searchable.

After you’ve created a book title that is memorable and repeatable, you need to make sure it is unique enough that it will rank in the search engines online.

If you wrote a romance book and titled it Sexy, that would be a really bad choice. That’s because there is no way that your book would rank on the first page of Google with that title, unless you spend an enormous amount of money and time to optimize your Amazon product page for that keyword.

Even then, it would probably be a waste of money and time because the title is simply too vague.

Using Keywords in the Subtitle of Your Book

Another thing you’re going to learn when you study the titles of your competitors is the keywords and key phrases that they are using to attract the attention of your audience.

This is especially true for nonfiction books. A subtitle that describes the benefit that your audience will receive from reading your book will help you sell many more books.

You can also use your subtitle to stand out. If you’re writing a book on investing and every book in your comparable list uses the words “low risk” in their subtitles, you don’t want to use the exact same words in yours.

You want to stand out and be different. If you look just like every other book in your genre, people who don’t know you aren’t going to want to take a chance on you.

Studying the book titles in your target market gives you an idea of where the gaps are so that you can craft a title that sets you apart from the crowd.

4. Study the Book Descriptions of Your Competition

When you read the book descriptions of your competition, you’re looking for the keywords and key phrases they’re using to sell their book to your potential customers.

You want to look at the keywords, key phrases, and concepts that jump out at you as you’re reading book descriptions.

After you read the book descriptions, model what works and avoid what doesn’t work.

5. Study the Reviews of Your Competition

Read the reviews of your comparable books. This is how you’re going to find out what people like about books in your genre, as well as what they don’t like.

Throughout the research process and especially when reading reviews, you should have a notebook with you so you can jot down notes.

It’s important that you read every review of the comparable books in the market. The more reviews you read, the more data you will have when you go back and analyze it.

As you read these reviews, you’re going to find there are patterns to what people like and don’t like. Pay attention to those patterns.

Your readers pay your bills. Pay attention to what they have to say about your work and the work of others.

Knowing what your readers want allows you to edit your story based on what will serve your readers best.

Reading reviews can help you identify gaps in the market that you can fill, allowing you to become successful quickly.

Doing market research allows you to see the world through the eyes of your readers. By understanding what your readers want and need, you will be able to serve them better than other authors who don’t do this type of research. If you give your readers more of what they want, they will come back to you and help you become successful.

6. Research Author Websites

After you have done the market research on Amazon, go and look at the individual author websites of the authors you’ve been researching. What are they doing on their website to market to their audience?

Do they:

  • Have a blog?
  • Have a podcast?
  • Have a YouTube channel?
  • Have an email list?

Basically, is their website a part of why they’re successful?

Some authors have websites but they clearly don’t maintain them. As with all market research, consider modeling what works and avoid what isn’t working.

Look for additional revenue streams.

Both fiction and nonfiction authors have the ability to sell related products to their audience.

So if you’re a nonfiction author in the health space, you might sell health supplements, an exercise plan, or other health-related products to your audience.

If you’re a fiction author who writes about dragons, you might find that 20% of the authors in your market sell dragon figurines or T-shirts. Again, copy what works.

Reach Out

The next step you can take if you want is to connect with other authors in your genre or category. You should do this after you’ve done your market research and published one or two books in your category.

When you connect with these successful authors, try and find a way for the two of you to collaborate. If you can build a relationship with someone who is successful in your genre, it can go a long way to building your audience faster.

It’s important that you do your research and publish your work first so that you have credibility when you contact other authors.

Questions to Ask Yourself as You Go through the Market Research Process

As you go through your research process, you’ll want to pay attention to some specific elements.

1. What market or sub-genre are you in?

Get really clear on what your market is. The more specifically you can define your market, the easier it will be to serve the needs of your audience and market to them.

2. Who is my ideal reader?

Have this question in the back of your mind as you’re reading reviews. Get as much information as you can about who these reviewers are.

  • Do they seem old or young?
  • Are they mostly men or women?
  • What kinds of careers do they have?

3. What do my readers love?

  • What do your readers love about life in general?
  • What do your readers love about books in your market?

4. What do my readers hate?

  • What do your readers hate about life in general?
  • What do your readers hate about books in your market?

By focusing on what your readers love and hate, you can better craft a book that meets their needs.

Links and Resources Mentioned in This Podcast — My free webinar, which goes through the process I use when doing market research. — The software I use when doing market research. — This link will take you directly to Amazon’s bestseller ebook categories so that you can start doing market research.

Rules of the Rich: 28 Proven Strategies for Creating a Healthy, Wealthy, and Happy Life and Escaping the Rat Race Once and For All— My bestselling book on how to create success and financial independence.

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