Got a Book Idea? These 4 Steps Reveal if it Will Sell

Will my book sell? Makealivingwriting.comHi writers — I’m excited to bring you this guest post from someone brilliant I connected with recently, Dave Chesson. He’s an expert in creating e-books that do well on Amazon. I’ve had a chance to play with his new research tool, KDP Rocket — a powerhouse timesaver that I recommend (and yes, affiliate sell). Check out his tips!–Carol

Do you have a book idea, but aren’t sure whether or not it would succeed in today’s market?

Undecided whether or not that book would be worth all your time and money?

You’re not alone.  Many authors ask this very question.  With Amazon becoming more crowded, some believe that you have to be famous or have a following before succeeding in self-publishing.

But this isn’t true.

No longer do you have to blindly guess at whether or not a book will do well on Amazon.  It turns out, there are vital numbers, analytics, and even some tools that will help any author figure these things out before they decide to write a book.

I like to call this process “Book Idea Validation.”

Book idea validation, a/k/a book market research, doesn’t guarantee sales and success – I’m not talking about a silver bullet. However, it does give you a better understanding of the book market before you dive in.

If you’d like to know more about your potential book market, and give your book a better chance to succeed, then read on.

Crucial components to a good book idea

If you’re a popular writer with a large email list, you could write just about anything, use your platform, and succeed, to a certain degree.

But let’s face it — most of us just aren’t in that situation.

Instead, we need our book to show up in front of the right customers when they’re looking for it online, on a big book site like Amazon.  This is also known as making a book that is organically discoverable.

Therefore, to ensure your book idea has a good chance of being ‘discovered’ naturally by your target audience, you need to verify three things:

  1. Are people actively looking for that book idea?
  2. Are people willing to spend money for that kind of book?
  3. Is there too much competition?

Now, let’s discuss how you do that.

The 4-step book validation process

To properly answer the three questions above, you’ll need to perform four steps.

These four steps may seem a little tedious — however, they are positively a piece of cake compared to writing a complete book that fails epically. Keep that in mind.

Also, if you’re not up to doing the steps below or it feels a little too tedious, there is a self publishing program that will do this for you instantly.

What are these four steps?

Step 1 – Organize your information

We’re going to be looking at a lot of important information as we step through this process. Therefore, it’s best to ensure you’re organized.

If you’d like to save time, download my free Book Idea Validation worksheet. It will have all the necessary headers, equations, and even recommendations.

Step 2 – Research your book idea

Sadly, Amazon doesn’t tell us how many people are searching for something on their platform.  Instead, we are left to assume and guess.

However, there are two ways you can get better data to help you figure out how many people are interested in that idea or phrase:

The first is a free method.  Go to Google’s Keyword Planner and type in your idea or phrase (you’ll need a gmail or other Google-related account). Keyword Planner will check your phrase, give you suggestions, and tell you how many people type that phrase into Google per month.

Sure, Google isn’t Amazon. But they’re both search engines, and again, this is some good data. In my experience, if there is interest for that topic on Google, there’s usually a proportional interest on Amazon as well.

The other method uses my tool, KDP Rocket.  This program not only gives book idea suggestions, it gives you the Google searches per month, estimated Amazon searches per month and tells you how much money that idea is making on Amazon already.

Step 3 – Learn if your idea will make money

It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of finding an idea in which there is interest as a result of Step 2. It’s important not to get carried away, though — as we’ve discussed, interest in an idea doesn’t always mean the idea is a moneymaker.

So how do you take things further, and judge whether an idea represents a potentially profitable book?

Follow these steps (which track the numbers on the worksheet):

  1. Search for your idea or phrase from the preceding step in the Kindle store.
  2. Write down the Amazon Best Seller Rank (ABSR) for each of the top 14 books (see the picture below).
  3. Plug each ABSR into my free Kindle Sales calculator tool, which will convert ABSR into books sold per day.
  4. Multiply the number of books sold per day by the sales price to get the gross daily revenue.
  5. Multiply the gross figure by 0.7 (if each book is priced between $2.99 and $9.99) or by 0.3 if it’s sold for any other amount. This gives the actual author earnings after Amazon takes their cut.
  6. Add all the daily author earnings figures together and divide by the number of books you’ve calculated for (e.g divide by 14 for the front page).
  7. This will give you an average daily earnings figure.

The below image shows where to find the Amazon Best Seller Rank (ABSR) for each book –

Amazon Best Sellers

If the number you get in step 7 is an amount you’d be happy to earn, proceed to the next step.  Also, you can compare these numbers between different ideas and see which one seems to be more profitable.

Step 4 – Determine if there’s room for competition

Everyone loves a popular, profitable book idea — including your competitors. If you’ve successfully progressed an idea through the preceding stages, you still have work to do.

It’s kind of like Goldilocks and the porridge. You need to make sure the balance of competition and interest is just right.  Not enough interest probably means very little competition, but also a lack of potential profit. A lot of interest could well result in a lot of competition — which also makes earning money difficult.

The key is to find the golden mean of an idea with enough interest but low enough competition. Here’s what needs to be kept in mind as you look at the competing books:

  • How many results show up in the Kindle store in total for your idea or phrase
  • The ABSR for the top book
  • The average of the ABSR for the top 3 book results
  • The average of the ABSR for the top 14 book results

These numbers show, on average, the competitiveness of a book idea. They can also be used to easily compare one book idea against another, in terms of the competitive landscape.

So far, we’ve only looked at the numbers.  However, there are certain parts that are more qualitative in nature.  So, before making your decision, check the following and use your judgment:

  • Title and Subtitle – Have these been chosen with your idea or phrase in mind? Are they targeting that term or phrase?
  • Book Cover – Are these eyesores, or masterpieces? Books with bad covers are easier to beat.
  • Description – Well-written and engaging, or drab and dreary? As writers, this is one area we stand a great chance of achieving competitive advantage. Also, did they format the description to look good on Amazon?
  • Author Reputation – Good luck going up against Ernest Hemingway or other super-famous authors.

If you want to save all the number-crunching, and your sanity, you can check out KDP Rocket — it does all of the above for you, in a matter of seconds.

Let Amazon tell you what’s popular

Just like I was always told growing up, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again.” Finding a good book idea ISN’T EASY! If it was, we’d all be pretty rich.

After going through all of the steps above, you may want to go back to the drawing board and come up with something totally different, or dig a little deeper into your original idea.

If the latter applies, be sure to look for more niche variations of your idea. One way to do this is by putting your idea into the Amazon search bar, followed by each letter of the alphabet (e.g My Idea a, My Idea b) etc.

In doing this, Amazon’s autocomplete will show you the most searched for phrases related to your seed idea. Here’s an example:

Amazon Searched phrases

This is one way to get more specific and find more niche ideas to pursue.  Also, look at the list of suggestions that Google’s Keyword Planner gives you as well.  Both are great resources to get the creative juices flowing.

Beyond book idea validation

Now you know how to give your book idea the best chance of success before you take the time to write it. But does it really work?

Starting from ground-zero using a pen name (meaning I didn’t use fame, email lists, or any existing marketing platform), I’ve generated almost $100,000 in revenue from just six books in 2.5 years, using the processed I’ve outlined.
Book sales

If you want this to happen with your book, follow the process to validate your idea. Then you can get to the best part — the actual writing.

Imagine how much better it will be to write with the peace of mind that you stand a good chance of making money, when it’s done.

If fear has been holding you back from making the leap and writing a book, hopefully this process will make things a little easier for you.

Got an idea for a book? Let’s talk about it in the comments.

Dave Chesson writes at the advanced book marketing website Kindlepreneur, and created KDP Rocket. When he’s not writing, he’s drinking tea with his princesses or chasing the boogey-man out of closets.

Tagged with: , , , , , , ,
33 comments on “Got a Book Idea? These 4 Steps Reveal if it Will Sell
  1. Maha Erwin says:

    We’re numbers people (full-time) and story tellers (part-time). We’ve been looking around for such a tool to determine our future book sales. Thank you so much for sharing.

  2. Jayne Bodell says:

    I have yet to figure out how to get past “create a campaign” in Google adwords so I never use that tool. Is there a trick to using it?

  3. Roz says:

    I found your article very informative. Question: Were your books fiction or non-fiction? If they were non-fiction, how do you think they would work for fiction?

  4. Firth McQuilliam says:

    I found this article to be fascinating! It bears careful thought. I’d like myself to write successful e-books. Maybe this winter will witness the migration of a reasonably orderly flock of words from my computer into Amazon’s fabulous realm. We shall see!

    I do have a question. That figure of an average revenue stream of $15.94 per day seemed seriously out of whack for 2.5 years until I realized that it undoubtedly referred to the average revenue per day per book with all six books in the set thrown together into a single, triumphant tag team. Is this view correct?

    Furthermore, am I correct in assuming that income continues to pour into your coffers from new sales of the aforementioned books? That would be great! Is it possible to mention the books by name, or would that risk arousing the ire of Amazon’s commercial-integrity gnomes?

    I’m not sure what else to say, so I’ll wander back to my own bumbling activities. ^_^

    • Dave Chesson says:

      Thanks Firth. Great observation on the books thing. I never understood why BookTrckr (the software I use to get my daily book income report from all platforms) had that number. You’re probably right, but even that is lower than what I would have expected. In truth, my daily income ranges from $150-350 a day and each book is organic in sales so they build off of each other – sort of like assets.

  5. Ohita Afeisume says:

    Thanks, Dave for this rich post.
    I’m reading this in Sri Lanka! I never knew there was a thing like this.Will find it very useful.

  6. Karen Ingle says:

    I have never heard all these steps spelled out so succintly in one place. Thank you! Suddenly book marketing research seems do-able.

    • Carol Tice says:

      I feel like I’ve done some research for the ebooks I’ve done (10 of ’em now!), but never in such a systematic, useful, data-informed way. I actually tweaked the title of my upcoming book and special report based on my research with Dave’s KDP Rocket, and plan to START with that research in deciding on my next ebook topic, for SURE.

      • Dave Chesson says:

        Yeah, I’m a big fan – especially doing it before writing your book as well. Validating your book idea can really help. It’s no magic bullet and isn’t perfect, but it is WAY better than nothing – which most authors are currently doing.

        But just because the numbers don’t support you book idea doesn’t mean you can’t write it. It just means that, organically, you can’t depend on Amazon to sell you book well. You need to start planning how you’re going to ACTIVELY promote your book and get it in front of the RIGHT readers. And that…is powerful knowledge as well.

  7. Evan Jensen says:

    Hi Dave,

    I’ve done a handful of old-school book proposals over the years, and the market research and competitive analysis can be a very time-consuming process.

    You’ve greatly simplified the process for validating a book idea.

    This post is high on my list of what it means to provide valuable content. Thanks. Super useful and helpful.

    • Dave Chesson says:

      Thanks, Evan! That really means a lot to hear. I’m a big numbers nerd and I know how it can be time-consuming. That’s why I needed the steps above to help me streamline.

  8. I looked up the link for Google’s Keyword Planner, and it has me lay out my entire AdWord plan. Is that the correct link? I am not seeing where we get the info you mentioned above.

    Love the article! Thank you!

    • Dave Chesson says:

      HI Chelsea. Yup, that’s correct. Google likes for you to have an account in order to be able to use their free tool. Here’s a good video on how to set it up, as well as how to work it: The commenting here wont’ let me post the video links, but if you just do a good search for the following, you’ll find it: “How To Do Basic Keyword Research Using The Google Keyword Planner | WP Learning Lab”I hope that helps!

  9. GD says:

    Carol, you actually make me want to rush and do all my homework with these tools. I have been ‘holding back’ for a few years wondering how and if my 3 novels would make it…

    Dave, you are a mastermind genius ! Thank you so much !

    GD Daviau, Quebec, Canada

    • Dave Chesson says:

      Hi GD! Aw shucks, thanks! Yeah, the truth about it is, all types of businesses use this sort of data in order to give themselves a go-no-go criteria…so why not authors.

  10. Val Breit says:

    Awesome resource! A must for anyone thinking about writing & selling a book. Thanks for breaking down the free way & the easy way (KDP rocket) to do this valuable research.

  11. Max Brink says:

    I am in process of answering the 3 questions but I didn’t know what they are. Now I do. Thanks!!

    • Dave Chesson says:

      That’s awesome Max. As you’ll see with any business, these questions are very important. I sometimes jokingly call this the “In N Out” model. Even though In N Out has the GREATEST fastfood burger in the world (fact), they don’t just setup a new joint anywhere. They research to see what roads get the most traffic, how much competition exists, and how much that competition is potentially making….ultimately coming up with a statistical value that helps them base their decision – operational research. And thanks to Amazon, we authors have that capability as well 😉

  12. Kevin says:

    Great piece. Such a timely info

  13. Carol Tice says:

    Just FYI folks, Dave is in Sri Lanka, so he’ll probably be in to respond to comments a bit later in the day today. 😉

    • Dave Chesson says:

      Yup, what ^ she said. I actually work for the US Embassy here by day, and write by night 😉

      • Carol Tice says:

        And after hearing that, writers, I’m hoping everyone else is going to stop with the excuses about how they don’t have time to write! #justdoit #workethic

        Dave is an inspiring example of how you can build an incredible side business through writing, and replace that day job with your writing income. I feel like I’ve worked super-hard, but what Dave has done makes me look like a couch potato.

        • Dave Chesson says:

          Haha…couch potato? haha…no way. In truth though, tomorrow will be my last day working for the US government. Because of my writing, and book sales, I will be able to exit the Navy, and do this full time. It will allow me to be home with my wife and kids – I couldn’t be happier.

  14. Boon Ong says:

    Glad to know about this. Im going to do it. =)

  15. Roger Pell says:

    Interesting. Thanks. Just a journeyman writer seeking mastery under Carol’s tutelage. Have a book idea. Once gelled will pursue the 4 Steps.