How to Choose Book Topics That Sell on Amazon?

Amazon is a huge marketplace with over 3 million active accounts, and so it’s easy to believe that any book offered for sale on the marketplace will find an audience. But if you want to make a living at this, you’ll have to think more strategically.

Let me give you an example from my own experience. Book 3 in my Work from Home Series is highly personal to me and something I’m very passionate about. The book is about how to start a home-based food business, and as a foodie and serial entrepreneur, writing it was one of the coolest things I’ve done. I wanted to make it stand out from the other books on the topic, so I put tons of research into the book and even included a state-by-state list of the cottage food industry laws. I put many hours into writing this book. In short, in my humble opinion, it’s the best book out there for anyone interested in starting a food business.

But…

How many people do you know who have that dream? While the book is informative and a great resource for anyone who wants to start a food business, its sales potential is limited because let’s face it, not everyone wants to start that type of business.

So the result is that the book not only isn’t a huge seller, but it actually hurt my brand a little bit. Here’s why:

  • I’m known for writing books about work from home businesses that appeal to the masses. This book was one that only appeals to a limited audience. I think, in retrospect, my followers were a bit confused by it.
  • To keep the sales flowing on Amazon, you have to release a book every 90 days at a minimum. (I’ve come to believe that once a month is a better plan.) So, although I released a new book in my series, it didn’t give me the bump that it should have which caused a loss of momentum in my series sales.
  • Every book that I release in my series provides a bump to my other books during the launch because it helps new people discover them. That didn’t happen when I released this book because it didn’t produce the same launch exposure my other books do. So not only did I lose out on sales from its release but also the extra sales of other books in the series.

So, as you can see, the process of selecting what you will write about is extremely important.

I’ve seen a few other books on this topic that recommend you write a book to a specific audience and not try and appeal to the masses. And while that sounds good in theory, I’m here to tell you that it simply doesn’t work. My books that appeal to a broad range of people sell consistently, but the food business book doesn’t sell nearly as many copies. It’s really just a matter of simple math. The more potential readers there are, the more books you’ll sell. But if you limit your audience, you’ll sell fewer books.

Now that you understand the importance of step one in the process: selecting a wide-reaching book topic let’s talk about how to do that.

The Two-Step Process to Selecting Book Topics That Sell

What if I told you that it’s possible to determine whether or not a book topic will sell before you write it? That you could guarantee that whatever book you publish would have a built-in audience that is looking for books just like yours?

Sound impossible? It’s not. The truth is that with a little research and digging you can determine whether or not your book idea will be a seller, or like my food business book, will struggle along, selling a few books here and there.

But before we talk about how to do that, I need to make a point. Your book has to be good for it to sell. Anyone can put up a poorly researched nonfiction book, or a novel with no character development, but readers aren’t going to buy them or recommend them to their friends no matter how many promotions you run. Sure, the books may get a good kickoff, but once readers figure out the quality is lacking, they’ll begin leaving bad reviews, and that will put a halt to sales. 

For you to make long-term, passive income from your books, they have to be well- written, educational, informative, or in the case of fiction, entertaining, and well- developed.

So, can we agree that you’ll only see long-term results from the steps I’m about to show you only if you write a well-researched nonfiction book or a well- developed and entertaining novel?

Now, how do you know if your book idea will sell? You’ll need to create a book that people are looking for and one that doesn’t have such a large amount of competition that it will get lost in the sea of books on Amazon. Let’s talk about the two steps you should take before you ever sit down and begin writing.

Step One: Do Some Research

The most important thing to remember when thinking about a book idea is that just because you think you have an idea for a bestselling book, that doesn’t mean there’s an actual market for it. And to avoid the negative effects of publishing a book that consumers don’t want en masse, you’ll need to do some serious research.

For instance, if I had done this type of research for my How to Start a Home- Based Food Business book, I would have instantly realized that although I’m very interested in the topic, not that many people are. Let me take you through the essential steps you’ll need to take for every book topic idea you have. Remember, if you skip these steps, you may work hard on a book that only sells a handful of copies a week.

Identify Your Keywords

Every time someone goes to Amazon to look for a book, they type keywords into the search bar, and books that have those keywords in their title, description, or keyword list appear in the search results. This is true whether they’re looking for fiction or nonfiction books.

Discovering which keywords people type into Amazon’s search bar will give you a pretty good idea of whether or not people are actively looking for your book topic because Amazon uses auto-suggestions on its search bar to finish the phrases people begin typing in.

But that’s not enough.

Let me give you an example. Before I learned the complete method I’m about to teach you, I only used Amazon’s search engine for keyword research. So when I did keyword research for my food business book, I saw that people had looked for “food business,” “food business books,” and “how to start a food business.” I found this by typing in food and then looking at the suggestions listed below. In my naiveté, I assumed that because those suggestions came up, it meant a lot of people were looking for books on the topic. But that just wasn’t true. If I had taken the two additional steps outlined below, I would have realized that the book would only appeal to a small audience.

In other words, while using Amazon’s search bar is a good start for your keyword research, it’s not enough. And the main reason for that is that while Amazon’s search bar will tell you that people are looking for books by using those keywords, it doesn’t tell you how many of them are doing so.

Trust me; I discovered this the hard way.

So what’s the answer? Using supplemental keyword research tools. Here’s the logic—what people type into Amazon’s search bar is likely aligned with what they look for on Google. And that means if a lot of people are looking for your keywords on Google, you’ve probably hit on a good book topic idea.

Let me show you how this played out for my food business book. If I had used this method and investigated how many people used those same keywords in Google searches, I would have seen that, according to KWFinder.com, only 720 people searched for the term “starting a food business.”

Ouch.

Let’s look at an example for fiction authors. If you type “culinary mysteries” into Amazon’s search bar, you’ll be shown a few suggestions that would lead you to believe it might be a popular and profitable fiction topic. But if you type those words into a keyword research tool, you’ll find that if you write these types of books, you’ll have a very limited audience.

Don’t let this happen to you. Begin your research by using the Amazon search engine and looking for phrases that readers have searched for. And then, follow up that research by using the keyword research tools listed below.

  • KeywordFinder.com. You can use this tool to lookup 2 keywords every 24 hours. You can also refine your search by location and language.
  • Google Keyword Planner. You must create an AdWords account to use this tool, but it won’t cost you anything. You’ll be shown the average monthly searches for the keywords you choose.
  • Keyword Explorer. Here, you’ll type in your keyword phrase and be shown a list of similar keywords you may not have considered. You’ll also be shown the search volume on yours plus the suggested keywords. You can use this tool for free.
  • Keyword Tool. This free tool (up to 750 keyword suggestions) is a must because it will show you long-tail keyword phrases that Amazon and Google customers have typed into its search bar. In other words, this tool will show you hidden but relevant results that aren’t shown in the suggestions. Once you have these keywords, you can use them in your description, set up page keywords, or even your title. Keep in mind that to get the number of times these keywords were used, you will have to sign up, and at $48 per month, it doesn’t make financial sense for a lot of authors. But it’s a great tool for finding those hidden keywords.
  • SEMrush.com. This is another great and free tool that will tell you exactly how many people are looking for your keywords.
  • Keyword Rocket. This is a useful tool put out by Dave Chesson at Kindlepreneur. It allows you to type in a keyword and see how many author competitors are using it, exactly how many people are looking for it on Amazon each month, and how much money the top books using that keyword are making. It will cost you a one-time fee of $97 for unlimited access, and in my opinion, it’s well worth it.

Can you see how looking beyond the Amazon search bar will give you important information about whether or not a book topic idea is a good one? But you can’t stop there because not only do you need to know whether people are looking for that book topic, you also need to know whether or not they’re willing to pay for it.

And for that, let’s move on to our next step.

Step Two: Determine if the Topic is Profitable

Now that you’ve narrowed down your topic ideas to those that people are searching for, you need to determine whether or not the topic is a profitable one. Now, I need to warn you that this step is numbers-intensive but necessary. Here’s how it works.

Go to Amazon and type in your chosen keyword (book idea topic) into the search bar. For example, I would have typed in ‘start a food business,” if I had done this step before I wrote my book.

Next, for the top 10 results, you’ll need to write down (or put in a spreadsheet)  the book’s Amazon bestselling rank and the asking price. Then, you should use a sales rank calculator like you’ll find at tckpublishing.com or Kindlepreneur.com. These calculators will give you the approximate amount of books sold each day for that sales ranking. Next, multiply the number of books sold times the sales price. Then multiply that figure by 30 to give you an indication of how many books per month it sells.

So, a book that is priced at $10 and sells 10 books a day earns $100 per day. To determine monthly sales, multiply $100 x 30 and conclude that the book earns approximately $3,000 per month. Now, take out amazon’s cut of 30 percent, and that author earns about $2,100 a month from the book before marketing expenses.

After you’ve done this for each of the top 10 books, add the sales projections together and then divide by 10. This will show you the average sales for books related to your topic idea.

A word to the wise here: these calculators don’t take into consideration sales spikes because of a promotion, or consistent sales that lead to a better sales rank. For example, my book, How to Build a Writing Empire in 30 Days or Less sells consistently and currently has a sales ranking of 16,000. It achieved that ranking because it sells multiple copies every day and Amazon’s algorithm rewards it. But when I input the ranking into the calculator, the numbers don’t match up to my true experience.

That’s why I recommend that you take the results of your calculations and divide them by 3. It’s important that you get a true picture of a book’s selling potential, and the calculators seem to be a little bit optimistic. I don’t want you to be disappointed when your sales aren’t as high as what you’d expected.

As an alternative (or in addition to using the calculators), the 2016 Author Earnings report provides a handy chart that shows an approximate number of sales per ranking, and it does take into consideration one-day sales spikes and consistent sales.

There, now you have it. A foolproof method to determine whether or not your book topic is one that people want to read. Isn’t that better than writing a book and then hoping people will be interested in it? Whether you’re writing nonfiction books or novels, it makes good business sense first to determine whether or not there is a market for your book.

Now it’s time to start writing your book. Or is it? Whether you’re writing fiction or a nonfiction book, chances are you’ll need to do some research for it. We’ll cover that topic in detail in the next article.

Ready? Let’s find out how to best conduct research for your book before you begin writing.

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