This month, my friend and teammate Mary Walewski of Buy The Book Marketing explains how to research your niche so you can tailor your book to your market. You can use free resources found in your library and online.
Self-Publishers: Here are 7 Tips to Research Your Niche
By Mary Walewski Copyright © 2009
Most authors working on a first book never really give any thought as to who their book is for. “It’s for everyone!” I’ve been told with a radiant smile. As a marketing person, this declaration makes my heart go into my shoes.
If a book if for everyone, it’s really for no one. Probably the biggest mistake any first-time author makes is to think that just because they find their subject fascinating, that everyone else will too. Some people will find your topic fascinating; but a lot of people will not. Your job is to write to those people in that narrow little niche who are likely to buy.
But won’t that limit your book sales? Let’s take a hypothetical example:
Say there are 3 million people in the United States who are interested in your topic. Two million of them regularly spend time on the internet. One million of them discuss the topic on online forums. If you spent time networking and posting on forums, maybe 5% might like what you post, go to your website and buy your book. Could you live with selling only 50,000 books?
That little niche looks a lot more attractive now, doesn’t it?
Take some time during the first draft/research phase of your writing to really research who your potential audience is. Keep and add to your research as you write your book. Your payoff really comes when you formulate your marketing plan. You’ll know your market inside and out!
Here’s my seven best ways to research your niche:
- Go to the library and throw yourself on the mercy of the reference librarian. You don’t really need to beg or anything – librarians mostly like to help people. Look for general books on your topic, also do a search of their periodicals, electronic databases, and depending on their collection, scholarly manuscripts. You want to know who’s writing about your topic, whether those books got any reviews or press, and whether the average public library has seen any demand for books or information on your topic. If your topic is more scholarly or esoteric, do your search at a college library.
- Do keyword research to find out if anyone’s looking for information on your topic online. Go to Google’s keyword tool at http://www.google.com/sktool/. Type in keywords and see how many people are searching for information relating to your topic. This gives you two valuable pieces of information – how popular your topic is and what keywords should be included on your website so you can be found.
- Set up a Google Alert on your topic using some of those same keywords. Go to http://google.com/alerts. You can have alerts from the news, websites, blogs, video, and groups. You can also decide if you want to receive the alerts daily, weekly, or as it happens. I prefer daily if I’m in a hurry; weekly updates if this is an ongoing research project.
- Those alerts should include blogs and groups. Take the time to bookmark or subscribe to blogs you find interesting. Read them for a while, and then post comments on them. Hopefully you will develop friendships with bloggers on your topic. Consider starting a blog yourself so you can refer people back to your blog. Building this online platform will pay big dividends as you build an audience who will anticipate the arrival of your book. Join groups for the same reason. You can find hundreds of them on Yahoo Groups and Google Groups. Just remember to listen before your speak. Contribute to the group offering good information; don’t just promote your stuff. (In fact, if that’s all you do, you might get kicked off.) I also recommend following the Mom Rule when it comes to posting content on the internet: never post anything you wouldn’t want your mom to read.
- Join local and national associations that have to do with your topic. Attend the meetings and conferences, read the newsletters, get involved.
- Join groups on your topic on Facebook and/or LinkedIn depending on what’s appropriate. You’ll get acquainted with like-minded people and have the opportunity to ask and answer questions – a good way to build your reputation as an expert.
- Use Twitter for asking questions and taking impromptu polls. As new as Twitter is, it has become an amazing venue for taking the pulse of your market.
About Mary Walewski
Do you want to market online, but you’re not sure how to start? Mary Walewski of Buy The Book Marketing, provides online marketing services including marketing plans, home study courses, and coaching to authors and entrepreneurs. Get free tips on her blog: www.buythebookmarketing.com.