Market research for a non-fiction book – it doesn’t have to be a yawnfest!

Often when we hear the phrase ‘market research,’ it sounds as appealing as a trip to the supermarket to do the weekly food shop. You know you have to do it, but it’s not the most exciting way to spend a Tuesday. 

However, when it comes to writing a successful non-fiction book in your niche, it’s crucial. After all, you want to write a book your readers will love, right? So how can you complete your market research without it turning into a yawnfest? Here’s some advice to help you.

Market research – it’s important, honest!

You’ll unlikely be surprised that your book won’t be the only one in its niche. This can make some people feel a bit anxious – you want to stand out from the crowd, but how can you do that if there are so many books with a similar theme to yours? Cue sweaty palms and a desire to sip gin through a straw.

Listen, I get it. It’s overwhelming. Maybe you’re writing a book in the same space as some of the ‘big guns’ – your Glennons, Brenés or Mels. But when I feel like this – and I do – I like to remind myself of coffee shops.

Yup, coffee shops. Here’s why.

On your average high street, you’ll find plenty of coffee shops. Some of the big brands are there, but there are also some small independent cafés too. And (mostly) they tick along quite nicely together. Some people don’t give the indies a second glance; they’re straight into Costa, ordering a frappe. But others – myself included – prefer the indie places, where the coffee tends to be better, and the cakes are divine.

It’s the same with your book. Yes, people may well choose a Brené to start with, but guess what? Once they enjoy books with a particular theme, they’ll look for what else is out there. That’s why you should feel confident to write yours. 

Because you’ll write something that resonates. That connects. That speaks to your reader in a way Brené didn’t. Just like my local coffee shop’s mocha speaks to me more than Costa’s does.

So, instead of fearing what’s out there, it’s time to get familiar – and even friendly with – your ‘competition’.

What other non-fiction books are out there?

Off the bat, let me just say I don’t particularly like the word ‘competition’. It suggests you’re about to enter the gladiatorial arena, so let’s use the word ‘community’ instead. What else has been published in your niche by other authors in your community?

You’ve got two ways to do this. You can either stay in your house and use t’internet, or go into your local town and visit the coffee shop – oops, I mean a bookshop. Of course, in an ideal world, you’d do both. But that’s my ideal world, not necessarily yours.

Let’s stay on the sofa for now. Unsurprisingly, Amazon is handy; it acts as a search engine, after all, so use this to your advantage. So fire up your laptop, grab a notebook and pen, and let the research commence!

Here are a few questions/options to consider:

  • What other books are out there in your niche? Where would your book be positioned? If you’re thinking about traditional publishing, this is a question they’re likely to ask.

  • Imagine you’re in a bookshop; which books/authors would sit on either side of your book? It doesn’t matter if they’re international bestsellers; it’s just good to get a picture in your head.

  • What do you notice about the bestsellers? Are they just by the ‘big names’, or are others in there? Read the synopsis and get an idea of what they’re offering.

  • Look at the 3* or 4* reviews – these are the best ones to focus on. The 5* reviews are great, but they can also trigger imposter syndrome; 1* reviews tend to be written by people who hate life. The 3* and 4* reviews are where the treasure is buried. Here you’ll find what people enjoyed but also what they were hoping for that the book didn’t deliver.

The great thing about this type of research is it gives you a clear idea of where your book belongs. You can also use the information to inform the content of your book. By finding out what people were hoping for, but didn’t get from other books, you can be sure to include this in your work.

Amazon is an excellent place for research, but Goodreads is helpful, too, mainly for reviews.

Other market research to consider

Different market research types are essential to creating and promoting a non-fiction book. Here are some further steps to help you conduct market research for a non-fiction book:

  1. Define your target audience: Determine who your book is for and what problem it solves. Then, consider your ideal reader’s demographics, interests, and behaviours. You can learn more about how to do that in this blog post here.

  2. Conduct surveys and interviews: Reach out to potential readers, book clubs, and social media groups to get feedback on your book’s topic, title, cover design, and content. This will help you better understand your audience’s needs and preferences.

  3. Analyse industry trends: Stay up-to-date with trends and hot topics in your niche. Keep track of industry publications, blogs, podcasts, and social media conversations to discover what interests readers.

  4. Talk to the audience you already have – or even your clients. Your experience of working with or interacting with them has likely spurred you on to write anyway, so tap into this. Get on some calls with them and share your ideas – see what they say. People are always excited to hear about potential books and will enthusiastically give their thoughts!

By following these steps, you can conduct effective market research for your non-fiction book, which will then help you create a strategy to reach your target audience and maximise your sales potential.

Now, I’m off for a mocha and a slice of cake…

If you’d like more support with this, get in touch. We can discuss your book idea and your ideal reader in more detail so you can confidently start your writing journey.

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