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Choosing A Marketable Subject for a Self-Published Book

Almost anything will work if you know how to reach that market

When we're struck with an idea for a book, the temptation is to begin writing at once. And, in fact, we may need to do just that in order to capture and hone the idea.

If the project is to be truly successful, however, we must soon turn at least part of our attention to how the book will be marketed - the sooner the better. Self-publishing offers the freelance writer an opportunity to reach an audience in ways that may not be possible with traditional trade publishing.

Just what makes a marketable subject for a self-published book is far from an exact science. Some topics are fairly obvious, like how to lose weight and keep eating or almost anything to do with sex. Others are less obvious. After all, What Color is Your Parachute was originally a self-published book and no one would have predicted a book about mid-life career changers would sell literally millions.

Looking back, it makes sense, but in 1970, when Bolles first published it, he did so at a copy shop, no one would have believed it's potential success.

What Book Marketing Is All About

The key to knowing if you've got a marketable book is your ability to identify a significant number of people who are interested enough in your subject to buy the book.

Don't laugh and think this is too obvious! It's truly surprising how many would-be authors are convinced that 'everyone' will want their book. In truth, there isn't a topic in the world that appeals to everyone. It's also true that there are at least a few potential readers for every subject.

You have to decide what a significant number means. If you're working on an obscure piece of history or a new type of fiction, that number may be as low as a couple of hundred. On the other hand, if you've created a dynamite new detective character or are addressing how to solve a problem many people have, your book may have best seller potential. Best seller can mean numbers of maybe 100,000 on up. It's up to you to set realistic goals.

Knowing Where Your Readers Are

It's not enough to know that there are, for example, millions of people out there who are concerned about their cats. You also must find a way to reach those people. self-publishing has tons of stories about authors who wrote decent, even good books, published them in a reliable way, but failed to even earn back their costs because they didn't market their book effectively. In fact, some don't market at all.

Locating and reaching your market can include everything from getting on Oprah to direct mailing to buying ads in print publications, to getting on the ratio, to building an effective website and email list. Most often a combination of methods are used.

All of the ways to market take time and most take at least some money. As a general rule, the more money you have to spend on marketing, the less time it will take, and visa versa.

Market Research for your self-publishing Project

The quickest way to get a sense of your market is to search on your topic at Google, Amazon, and Barnes & Nobel. The online bookstores will let you know roughly what your competition is - and you're probably better off with some rather than none. Both sites hint at sales figures, which can be helpful. Googling your topic will get mixed results... spend some serious time chasing links. The Alexa Tool bar (http://alexa.com/) can give you a sense of the traffic on sites. Bookmark those that apply for future use.

We'll talk more about marketing later. For now, just give it some serious thought. Begin now to develop a marketing plan and budget, even if it's just a list of resources.

There's a lot to think about, and do, when venturing into self-publishing. The book is only part of the equation. So pick your topic, do some market research and get writing!



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