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So you have decided to be a writer. Congratulations!
You, of course, know what inspired and motivated you to do so.
You are now all primed and raring to go, to writing something with all the passion you can muster.
You have so many ideas that you don’t know which one to pick up first.
Then dear Reader, brace yourself for the first challenge that you need to face, even before that dreaded writer’s block hits you like a ton of bricks.
And that is: How (and where) do you find and rank bestselling ideas or even categories for your upcoming e-book?
Let me then, in this post, share what compelled me to write my book ‘Quiet Phoenix’. I will try to discuss where the inspiration came from and what you can learn from my experience.
But let me begin first by identifying the problem:
Books about best-selling ideas can be quite confusing: Lots of books float in the Amazon stratosphere telling you how to identify best-selling book ideas. The strange part is that the more you read these kinds of books, the more confused you become.
Some ask you to write in a particular genre namely Health, Wealth, Fitness and Relationships. Others tell you to write books for pets and children. Some ask you to do a best-seller rank research.
Some books are so well-written that they scare you as no horror fiction can!
Don’t even dare to think that you can write a book without doing any market research or otherwise you will shoot yourself in the foot, warn some!
Tools are being sold to find you best-selling ideas: Some are nowadays even selling tools that can help you do market research, in hours rather than months. These guys know what we Authors really fear and how to make money out of it. They are harping on an idea that unless you pay them, you can NEVER become a best-seller.
My two bit: Don’t listen to them!
You have to find your passion: There is another problem with identifying best-selling ideas. You have to find something that you love writing about.
As Guy Kawasaki says, you should be able to write a book without expecting anything in return!
So if your best-selling research tells you that Vampire books are very popular and that people just love to read stories about these blood sucking creatures, are you going to dive straight into this genre?
What if you don’t read Vampire novels yourself? What if you think you are happier writing historical fiction, for example, because that is what you love to read and write? Won’t you then like to do justice to yourself and to your readers by NOT writing another Vampire book?
Ghost-writing: I cannot tell you how many people advise (on the net) that you should just find a best-selling idea (of course, by buying their book or “software”!) and then outsource your work to a ghost writer who can churn the kind of books people actually love.
So if you don’t like Vampire novels yourself, you can hire a ghost writing agency who would know how to write a vampire novel better, and voila, you become a best-selling author. They tell you that this way you can keep producing self-published books without making much effort.
My question: Why then become an author if you are only going to outsource all your work? Supposing you do hit the jackpot this way (which I doubt you would), would you sleep well reflecting that you were never the author of your work?
Now, I have nothing against Ghost-writers, many of who are simply budding hard working authors who need to “come out of the closet” to announce their talents to the world. Through publishwithprasen, I shall keep on trying to encourage them to do that.
My point is that, in my limited experience, I don’t think any get-rich-quick scheme works. Be it business, stock exchange or writing, everything demands your blood, sweat and tears.
Let me tell you that there is no escaping a lot of heartbreaks and struggle being a self-published author. Unless you are already a celebrity, and have in addition a traditional publisher to hold your hands, because then ghost-writing will work for you.
Otherwise, believe me, it requires a lot of hard work and dogged determination to succeed. If someone tells you that it is so easy to become rich by simply publishing a book on Amazon, he is obviously lying. Authors struggle to make a living even with multiple books. That is why many of them have a day job!
My message: you should first, be passionate about what you do.
My take on best-selling ideas: What you can learn from my latest book ‘Quiet Phoenix’
Honestly, I really don’t care about best-selling ideas. My first instinct is to find and follow my passion. Once I have identified that, then I do some market research to find out whether people are interested in that genre.
In some cases, my passions don’t translate into writing of books because my market research proves the opposite. For example, I am a great fan of Microsoft’s Age of Empires (which is a computer strategy game first released a decade ago) but I didn’t write a guide about the topic. Why?
Because when I researched Amazon, I found that there are very few priced guides available on the subject. But lots of people had written guides which were free on the internet. Some had even uploaded YouTube tutorials of campaign walkthroughs.
Why would people then want to buy a priced guide (that too of an outdated game) when there is so much information on the internet for free? So I didn’t waste my time and energy writing about something that cannot sell at all.
Inspiration for Quiet Phoenix: Recently I read Susan Cain’s book Quiet: the power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking. Being an introvert myself, I could deeply connect with the book.
Next, I searched Amazon for a couple of other books on the subject including Jennifer Kahnweiler’s Quiet Influence, Sophia Dembling’s The Introvert’s Way, and the Introvert Advantage by Marti Olsen Laney. I found all these books fascinating.
So I found a niche which I was interested in. These books made me realise my own strengths and weaknesses about being an introvert. Now I understood myself better. I definitely wanted to write a book in this genre based on my own life experiences.
Now comes the market research bit.
Is there a market for such types of books?
Susan Cain’s book was published a couple of years ago and continues to remain a best seller even till this day. This means that people are still interested in the subject.
I had a look at some other books too on the subject. All of them seemed to pass the Amazon Best seller rank test.
What is the Amazon Best seller rank test?
This is a common test employed by many writers to test the popularity of a genre. If a book has a best seller rank below 20,000 (which means that it is almost selling 5 copies a day) then it can be said that the book is selling well. If you find at least 2 or 3 books having a sales rank below 20,000 then that means that people are interested and actually buying books belonging to that genre.
Most of the books that I have mentioned above, had a sales rank way below 20,000 (somewhere between 1000-3000 in fact). So I found a genre which people were still interested in. This little research then enthused me to start writing my book ‘Quiet Phoenix: An Introvert’s Guide to Rising in Career & Life’.
Where to find the Amazon Best seller rank of a book?
You will find the Best seller rank in the Product details section of any book available on Amazon. The Product details contain information like file size, ASIN, Publisher, Language, etc. In the end, you will find the book’s best seller rank.
Other ways to do market research
I think most of the time the above mentioned research should be enough to help select a genre. However, if you have the time, you could look up other places at well.
You can, for example, do a keyword search on Google Adwords to find out the popularity of a genre or check Goodreads to see whether people are still discussing a book belonging to that genre.
Can you notice how many reviews and ratings this book has got?
I hope I am able to clear out a few doubts using my example. However, I would love to hear from you your views on this subject.
What is your favourite way of doing market research? How much time do you spend picking up a genre? Do you follow your passion or simply write because a genre is popular? Have you tried the ghost writing idea?
I look forward to learning from your experiences.