Test the Market for Your Book or E-Book Before Spending Time and Money to Write It

by on August 22nd, 2010
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You have always wanted to write a book, and finally you have come up with a sure-fire winner of an idea. Your friends have told you that your idea is brilliant. Now you’re ready to spend a year of sleepless nights working on your masterpiece. Before you devote all of that energy, though, wouldn’t you like to know whether your book will find an audience?

The reality is that most books fail. Thanks to print-on-demand publishing, anyone with a computer can write and publish a book that no one will want to read. Even before desktop publishing, though, there were plenty of literary bombs. Imagine spending years writing a book, experiencing elation upon acceptance for publication, and then being crushed when it failed to sell any copies.

Thanks to technology, though, it is possible for you to test a book concept before you devote time, effort, and money into creating it. You can then pass by ideas that are not likely to succeed and focuse your efforts on ideas that are potential winners. There are two primary ways to test your concept in advance of publication:

1. Promote a Non-Existant Book. In 2006, Tim Ferriss became the bestselling author of “The Four-Hour Workweek.” Before publishing his hit non-fiction title, though, Ferriss ran a Google Adwords campaign to test several different titles. Web surfers who clicked on his ads were taken to a “this-book-is-coming-soon” landing page. Meanwhile, Ferriss collected data about which titles drew the most clicks. In the end, “The Four-Hour Workweek” was the winning title, and the rest is history. For more detail about Tim Ferriss’s process, see “The Sticky Goodness of Testing Book Titles with Google Adwords” at FuturePerfectPublishing.com.

Ferriss was just testing book titles (he had already written the book itself). But you can use the same process to test book subjects. Run one ad for “101 Reasons to Buy a Cat” and another ad for “101 Reasons to Buy a Dog.” If one ad gets a higher click-through rate than the other, then you know which one people are more likely to buy.

2. Publish Your Book in Stages. Another option is to offer a minimal version of your book first (this approach is best suited for non-fiction, as opposed to fiction, but either will work). Find a place on-line to publish an article-length version of your concept. Sites like AssociatedContent.com and Hubpages.com will give you statistics about how many people visit your articles; if you run a blog, you can use Google Analytics or a simple hit counter to monitor your hits; and if you post in a forum you will typically have an automatic indicator of the number of hits you receive. If there is a lot of on-line interest in your topic, you might be onto something.

The next step is to publish a longer version of your concept. You could publish a short e-book (30 to 60 pages), for example. Then, if that does well, go ahead and write your 200-page treatment.

Both strategies ensure that you actually have an audience before you invest the blood, sweat, and tears (also known as time, effort, and money) necessary to write a full-length book. They thus massively reduce the odds that you will waste significant resources producing a literary lemon.


“The Sticky Goodness of Testing Book Titles with Google Adwords” at FuturePerfectPublishing.com.

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