The Internet is a vast ocean of information and it is easy to drown in it. That’s why, whenever you set out on the high seas of the Web, you need to have an idea of what you are looking for. Before you begin doing online market research for your book, you need to know what you are looking for and how to find it.

I can almost guarantee that whatever your book – or indeed your business – is about it will have already been done by someone else; it is a crowded marketplace and if you expect to be alone in it, you will probably be disappointed.

online research

Given that you will find that someone else has already written ‘your book’ it is important to remember that no two people can write the same book, even if the title and topic are the same. You will always bring your own unique perspective, knowledge and personality to a book and it is this that will make your title stand out. What market research can do is to help you to see how you are different so you can emphasise that difference and use it to differentiate your book from others.

That said, I know it can be demoralising to go snuffling around out there only to find someone has already done what you are planning to do. Do not let that get you down. Seeing that someone else has already done it can tell you a lot if you know how to interpret the information you get.

How to do online market research for your book

The obvious place to start looking for information about what other books are out there is, of course, Amazon. The second place is Google.

What you can learn on Amazon:
  1. Amazon’s search results will tell you if there is another book with the same title as yours.
  2. You can discover how many books there are on the same topic as yours.
  3. You can find out how well those books are selling.
  4. You can find out how they are priced.
  5. You can look inside the books and discover what the content is and how well-written it is.
  6. You can find out who the author is and what level of expertise they have to offer.
  7. You can usually find a web page, Facebook page and other online information that will help you to determine how much of a competitor this author is in your market.

Because one simple search can give you so much information it is important that you record your findings. The best way to do this is with an Excel spread sheet or on a table in a Word document.

You need to include:

  • Title and sub-title
  • Author
  • Publication date
  • Price
  • Category the book is published in
  • Star rating (if any)
  • Number of feedback comments and general views
  • Key areas of content
  • Web address of the author and/or the book
  • General impressions, things you liked, things you didn’t like
  • Impression of the cover
  • Any other titles by the same author
  • Amazon seller data (position in sales or revenue list)

Record the details of the first book that comes up from your search. Choose 3-5 books from each search and record the details of the ones that you believe are the most relevant. Search a range of ideas to get an overview of the whole market. If some books come up more than once make a special note of them.

What you can learn from Google

Once you have gleaned all you can from your Amazon searches it is worth doing a Google search of your book title, too. This will bring up another whole range of books, businesses and other reference material. This can either be enlightening or completely overwhelming. Here are some questions you can use to interpret the data you get and pick out the parts that are relevant:

  • How you are different from your competition?
  • How experienced is your competitor?
  • How well-developed is their business?
  • Could your competitor potentially be joint venture partner at some point?
  • What is your overall impression of this business?
  • Are they giving away a free eBook, if so, what is the title? (Join their list so you can learn more about them and read their book.)

You could spend a lifetime doing market research and another one learning how to interpret the data you find. However, I would advise you to look, take a note of what you find and use the information to help you to create a better book.

In my experience, you can do all the market research in the world and you can still misjudge the market. That’s because publishing is not an exact art; there is an element of risk in it and that is what makes it so exciting. Books tipped as bestsellers flop and books that are not expected to do well fly to the top of the bestseller lists. Sometimes publishing success is a bit mystery – and I for one quite like it that way!

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Deborah Taylor
Deborah Taylor

Hi, I'm Deborah Taylor and I'm a publishing consultant and book-writing mentor. I work with established business owners who want to share their message by writing a book but are struggling to get started (or finished). I help them write, publish and launch a stand-out, attention-grabbing book that will raise their profile, reach more of their ideal clients and grow their business. I am a trained editor with over 15 years' publishing experience with major blue-chip UK publishing companies such as Hodder & Stoughton, BBC Books, Cassell and Pearson. I have produced books on every subject under the sun and with professinals and experts from a wide range of professions, from chefs and gardeners to life coaches and career consultants. I would love to help you write a book you love and that will raise your profile, attract new clients and bring you exciting new business opportunities.