Will Your Book Idea Sell? Ideation and Vetting Tips and Tricks
If you want to get serious about publishing your book, this is one of the most important questions you will need to ask:
Is your idea any good?
Ultimately, the answer comes to how you define “good.” You might be paranoid about originality, or you might be looking at sellability. Ideas are only ideas in the end, neither good nor bad. If you want to judge the quality, you need to have a specific goal in mind and then question whether your book can reach (or help reach) that goal.
For the purpose of this post, we’ll assume you want to sell copies—possibly to write full time or to grow a large audience. Many authors have a goal in that area, and it’s one most of us can relate to.
Let's reword the question from earlier: Is your book idea marketable? Will it sell?
Note: Marketability might not be your goal at all, and that’s okay. You might also decide later that marketability comes second to another, more important goal. That’s also okay—just knowing what you want your book to do is one of the best ways to gauge its success.
If you want to top the charts, win legions of readers to your side, and make a decent income to book, there are a few things to look at: Will your book click with a ton of people? Are you willing to spend time on it to make it shine? Are you willing to invest what it takes to capture new readers from the onset?
Let’s take a look at the key factors of a bestselling book in more detail.
You need an existing genre. Not a huge one, but an existing one. That means that if your book falls into no particular category, if it’s heavily experimental in nature or refuses to fit into a box, then it might be a great story—but a bad bestseller.
Your keywords need to be (somewhat) popular and easily visible. You can look at any books topping your genre to get an idea for popular keywords, or simply guess what someone looking for your genre might type into a search bar. It’s a good idea to work these phrases into your book description, and some authors take this a step further and plant them into a book’s title or subtitle.
You need a competitive cover. You don’t need to go out and spend $500 on an award-winning cover—unless you want to. If you’re focused on making sales, you just need a cover that is a tad better than the covers of competing titles. It should be professionally made, preferably custom made, and reflect the tone and mood of your book rather than the events.
You need a network of people who write similar books. These can be personal friends or a free or paid online group of like-minded authors who are at comparable points in their careers. Arranging group and cross-promotions with these people will give you a better return than anything else when you get started, and it’s an easy way to gain more credibility—even if this is your first book.
We’ve looked at some of the factors you need to consider if your goal is to get your books to fly off the shelves. If your book idea is still strong in your mind, here are steps you can take to make sure it’s a perfect fit for the market.
Research and choose a genre before settling on your one, perfect idea. You might feel attached to your idea, but keep it flexible in the early stages. There might be ways you could optimize it for the market—or, during your research, it is entirely possible that you come up with something even better.
Read at least one book in your genre. This might sound obvious, but it’s possible to want to write a book in a genre you haven’t read much. Your efforts will be hit-or-miss in this case, but reading even a single popular, recent title will show you the ropes and give you an idea of what expectations readers will have when they pick up your own book.
Familiarize yourself with genre standards or tropes. It’s true: there are no rules to writing fiction. You can break the rules all you want. But if you don’t know what the standards are, people will assume your rule-breaking is only incompetence and leave feeling disappointed. Knowing the expectations will help you navigate them better and lead to a stronger experience for the readers.
Stay conventional rather than experimental. This is not the occasion for epic poetry or trying to one-up William Burroughs. If that kind of thing is the crux of your passions, you might want to rethink your goals and settle for either not selling well or only publishing your more outstanding works after you’re established in something more conventional.
For this article, I assumed a goal of selling well and being competitive in the market. Again, that’s not everyone’s goal. If you’re trying to decide whether your idea is worth pursuing, the first and most important thing you can do is decide whether it has a good chance of reaching whatever goals you have in store for it.
I created a market research and brainstorming worksheet available for my Patreon subscribers. You can access it and many other tools by clicking on the button below and signing up.