Kindle publishing is one of the biggest buzzes in the making money online (MMO) world these days, but much of the information offered is at best scanty and sometimes even wrong. Often the sellers of these products are far more interested in getting your money off you than they are in actually providing you with anything useful. See the Great Kindle Swindle in Part 1 of this article.
Selling snake oil
There’s no shortage of information on the Internet about how to be a successful Kindle publisher. The trouble is that an awful lot of it is dross. There’s a lot of newbies trying to sell to newbies and there’s also a lot of false claims and hype.
They talk up how big the Kindle market is (and it is big), they’ll tell you how easy it is, but they never really give you the nuts and bolts of how to do it.
One example is John Locke’s book, How I Sold 1 Million eBooks in Five Months, in which he makes no mention at all of how he really sold all the eBooks he did. Actually, he paid for reviews to game Amazon. This is discussed in a New York Times article (the mentions of Locke are on pages 3 and 4 of the article).
You might think that all’s fair in love, war and business, and I’d not shoot him down for using what many would consider to be a dodgy marketing tactic. It’s legal, and it’s just another way of gaming the system, just like SEO is a way of gaming the search engines. However, to sell a book about his success in Kindle publishing, which is intended to inspire others to do it his way, seems pretty damned dodgy to me when it turns out he’s not told the truth about how he did it.
Let’s do it differently. I’m not giving you any sales hype here, just learning by doing.
Do your market research before you start writing
You could write the best book in the world about any given subject, but if no one wants to read it then it’s a no-hoper as far as making money is concerned. Equally, if you choose a very popular topic, then there is likely to be a heck of a lot of competition for it. Therefore, you’ll need to do some market research to get an idea of the likely demand and supply (competition) for your topic. What you’re looking for ideally is a niche where there is enough demand for the subject of your book and not overwhelming competition from other sellers.
I never really think too much about selecting a niche for my sites, I just tend to work on gut instinct about what I think might sell or be popular. I often get it wrong. But surely choosing a niche for a book would be pretty much the same as choosing a niche for anything else. Look at the supply and demand. Are people searching for it? What’s the competition like? Are there buyers in the market?
Some people recommend selecting a niche according to what interests you and what you know about. Certainly that’s a good way to stay motivated while you’re writing your book, and this is what I usually do when writing articles, or blog posts. That’s also what I did with my first book. I wrote about a subject I knew something about, without doing much market research at all. (I simply looked to see what competing books there were about Bangkok in the Kindle Store.)
One way to improve your chances is to narrow down the subject. It’ll probably result in a better, more focused book anyway. I’m using the book I wrote during the Kindle challenge, Bangkok Basics – 101 Tips, as an example throughout this article. I was aware that a book about Thailand would be far too big a subject for me to write about. I’ve never even been to many of the popular destinations there, so I narrowed it down to Bangkok. But even Bangkok was too big a subject to tackle. It’s a huge city, and besides I’d be competing with the likes of Lonely Planet and Frommers. That didn’t sound too good either.
Thus I had to offer something different. Well, I’ve been visiting Bangkok fairly frequently for more than 20 years, so I decided to do my guide to the city, where I stay, where I eat and drink – all the kind of questions people often ask me when they’re planning to visit. They’re usually pleased with the advice I give them, so instead of leaving all this info buried in emails, I decided to put some of it into an eBook. Plus I added some other tips about things which you might not find in a mainstream guidebook.
But that’s not a very scientific method of niche selection. It’s fine if you’re doing this for enjoyment, but if you’re serious about making money from it, then you’ll need to be a bit more serious about your approach. First come up with ideas for the book(s) you’d like to write, and then do a bit of market research to see if your idea is a viable business proposition.
Is there any demand?
The ideal way to ascertain demand would be to find out how many buyers there are on Kindle in your niche market. How many books are sold about Bangkok each month? Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any way to do that. (I’ll report back later if I do find out anything.)
Thus I had to resort to the usual tactic of seeing what demand was like on Google. Using the Google Adwords Keyword Tool, I ascertained that there are about 11.1 million global monthly searches for “Bangkok”. I played around a bit with some other keywords and longer keyword phrases – and discovered that “Bangkok books” only gets 3,600 global searches a month. Erk! That doesn’t look too promising. However, the book is published now so I’ll persevere and try to make the best of a bad job. I didn’t want to drill down too much at this stage into specific keywords or phrases, because that comes later in Part 3 – keyword research.
So, what are we competing against?
A quick check in the Amazon Kindle Store for the search term “Bangkok” revealed that there are 447 books for sale on the .co.uk site and 448 on the .com. Hmm. That’s not bad, really, and certainly not overwhelming. If all 448 books were equal (which of course they’re not), and if 3,600 global searches for “Bangkok books” is correct, then each book might hope to get eight potential buyers from Google each month for that particular keyword phrase. But this is flawed because I doubt if many people search for books on Google these days. They’re much more likely to search for books on Amazon, and Amazon doesn’t seem to give us any information on the demand side of things. Besides, the spread of potential buyers will not be equal for all 448 books. Those at the top of the pile will attract more buyers.
I’ll need to work at getting the book onto their first page for the keywords I choose. But that’s more to do with the promotion than niche selection so we’ll leave that for later. Also, I’m not just going to be targeting one keyword, ie Bangkok, so in the next part of this article, I’ll talk some more about doing keyword research.
Just to make sure I’m not making a complete hash of things here, let’s try another keyword at random. How about “home improvement”? Using the Google Keywords Tool, I discover that there are 1 million global monthly searches for “home improvement” and only 1,300 global monthly searches for “home improvement books”. And there are 652 books for the keyword phrase in the Kindle Store on Amazon.com.
Well, you can never really rely on these Google figures to give you data accurate enough to base any conclusions or decisions on. I’ve seen Google figures in the past suggesting that a site was a no-hoper, and it’s done well – and vice versa. Still, it was an interesting exercise. Let’s see what happens next.