Most companies test market their products before investing millions in producing and marketing them. But what about writers? Some writers give up years of their income-earning time and energy to research and write a book that might never sell to a publisher let alone the public. There’s a better way. Writers can test market their book ideas before dedicating oodles of time to writing them. Here are three ways to test market your book idea:
1. Check the shelves. Are there other books like your book on the shelves that sell well? Counterintuitive as it sounds, one of the signs of a marketable idea is one that has already been done well by someone else. Why do you think publishers flooded the market with vampire books after the Twilight series took off? They were following a tested trend: teenage vampire love stories. Spend time on Goodreads and online book vendors like Amazon to research books like yours. On Goodreads, you can measure sales by the number of reviews. On Amazon, check out book rank in several different categories. Pro Tip: As long as you’re researching, make notes about each book. Copy down the title, author, and publisher of the book. Make notes on the structure and content of the book as well as how your book will be different. Check the acknowledgments for the name of the author’s agent and editors. You can use all of this information in your book proposal.
2. Ask the bookseller. Your local neighborhood bookseller is another valuable resource in researching the marketability of your book. While online book companies can give you sales metrics, they cannot give you the kind of anecdotal evidence you need about what real customers buy. Booksellers with years of experience know what flies off the shelves and what languishes on the sales table. Interview several booksellers at stores in different types of neighborhoods. The memoir of a conservative thinker might bomb in a liberal neighborhood but be a bestseller in a conservative suburb. Ask the booksellers about books on your topic. What sells? To whom? What does not sell?
3. Research Your Readers. Create a profile of your ideal reader and figure out where they gather. If possible, join groups of people that fit the profile of your ideal reader and learn from them. Online networking sites like LinkedIn are wonderful for this. If possible, attend networking events and other gatherings for people in your ideal market. Ask people in your ideal reader groups what kind of resource would be most helpful to them. Find a few people to interview in depth about what sorts of books and resources they use and what kinds of resources they are looking for.
And that’s just the beginning! Some writers test out ideas by creating Pinterest boards, posting topical thoughts on Twitter, or blogging about their topic. For more ideas on test marketing your project, check out Michael Larsen’s book, How to Write a Book Proposal (4th edition). He offers many tools for test marketing ideas.
And you? What have you done to test market your ideas? Leave your comments below.