How to Test Market Your Book Idea with a Blog

by Joel Friedlander on June 1, 2012 · 14 comments

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by Nina Amir (@NinaAmir)

This post is part of Nina’s blog tour for How to Blog a Book, her terrific and useful new title that’s just been released. Nina is something of an expert on this question, and we’ve engaged in some interesting discussions about the multitude of ways writers can use their blogs. Nina’s last post here was 7 Ways to Mine Blog Posts into Publishable Gold.



I once heard Ellen Archer, president and publisher of Hyperion Books, say the advent of blogs provided publishers for the first time with a way to test market potential books. In other words, a successful blog equals a successfully test marketed book idea.

Why? Publishers consider loyal blog readers and subscribers potential buyers of a book based upon that blog. And the books that have, indeed, been published and contained primarily blogged material have proven this premise correct.

Take, for example, some of the early blog-to-book hits, like Pamela Slim’s Escape from Cubicle Nation: From Corporate Prisoner to Thriving Entrepreneur, which was released in 2009 by Penguin/Portfolio and contains about 70 percent new content and 30 percent blog posts.

Or consider Brett McKay’s The Art of Manliness: Classic Skills and Manners for the Modern Man, published in October 2009 by HOW Books; seventy-five percent of the book consists of articles taken from the blog and edited for the book, and 25 percent of the book’s content is new material.

Then there is Christian Lander’s Stuff White People Like, The Definitive Guide to the Unique Taste of Millions released by Random House Trade Paperbacks in 2008; the book consists of 50 percent new material including charts, graphs, and other work from graphic designers.

More recently, we’ve seen Martha Alderson get a book deal for her blog, The Plot Whisperer, Jill Smokler land one for her blog, Scary Mommy, Dmitry Samarov scoop one up for his blog, Hack, Grace Bonny score one for her blog, Design Sponge, Jill Abramson end up with one for her blog, The Puppy Diaries, and Kevin Cotter win one for his blog, My Ex-Wife’s Wedding Dress. And there are more…

They all share one thing in common: They attracted a large number of readers, and these readers attracted a publisher or at least made the blog attractive to a publisher. Why? For the reason mentioned above. The publisher saw the blog as the closest thing to a sure bet as any proposed book could be.

How to Test Market Your Book

There are two ways to test market your book on a blog. You can simply blog on the topic of your book or you can blog your book. Let’s look at the pros and cons of both.

1.     Blogging on the topic of your book. In this case you choose your book’s topic, and then simply begin blogging day and day out on that topic. As you blog you pay attention to the sub-topics that garner the most interest; in other words, you watch your blog statistics to see if you get more readers when you blog about one particular subject over another. You focus on the subjects your readers are interested in, slowly building up a loyal fan base and angling your blog and an eventual book toward your readers’ interests.

Later, when you decide to compile your book, you can focus on the 5-10 areas your readers have shown they want to read about most by creating a content plan for a book based upon their interests. You can “book your blog,” a term coined by Joel Friedlander, by repurposing old posts into a book. You do this by choosing relevant posts and placing them into a manuscript.

2.     Blogging a book. With this option you choose a topic for your book, create a content plan, and then break each chapter into post-sized bits (250-500 words). You then compose those posts in a word processing program on a schedule (2-7 times per week) so you create a manuscript, copying and pasting them into your blogging program on a regular schedule as  you complete them. You watch your analytics program to see if your readership grows and if any particular parts of the book are not of interest to your readers or if certain “chapters” are of more interest.

However, you are most concerned with seeing if the book as a whole—the general topic of your book—will garner a loyal and large readership over time. If so, you can simply edit and revise the manuscript you have created and submit it to a publisher along with a book proposal—if a publisher does not find you in the process of blogging your book.

Of theses two choices, the second is by far the most logical. Blogging a book is the fastest and easiest way to write a book and discover if it has a market—readers—because you promote your book at the same time that you write. You create an author’s platform—a built in readership—as you blog your book. Plus, you create a manuscript, so you don’t have to go back and search out content and make it fit into the content plan for a book after the fact.

What To Do When You Finish Your Test Marketing Project

If your test marketing project doesn’t work, you have a few choices. You can just delete your blog and all the content on it. I don’t suggest this. Here are some other choices:

  • Create an ebook and give it away for free to build your mailing list or simply to help yourself get known.  More than likely, you gathered at least a small number of readers around your blog. That means someone is interested in your topic. Someone will want to read the book.
  • You can look at the posts that were most popular and focus on them. Create a content plan around those topics and begin blogging a new book on the same blog. Don’t let those readers you attracted go to waste.
  • You can simply keep blogging and build you blog into a nice platform for yourself. Blog on the topics your readers showed interest in. Later blog a new book when you have another idea or find a hot topic.
  • Submit a proposal to a publisher. If you simply didn’t build up enough readers to get discovered by a publisher by the time you finished blogging your book but your readership is growing nicely, send a query letter and a proposal off to a publisher. If you believe you have a good idea, move forward. That’s what I did with my blogged book, How to Blog a Book, and I ended up with a publisher and a blook, a book based on a blog. Of course, you can also just self-publish, which is a fabulous option if you have a strong fan base for your blog as well.

blogging for authorsNina Amir, Inspiration-to-Creation Coach, inspires people to combine their purpose and passion so they Achieve More Inspired Results. She motivates both writers and non-writers to create publishable and published products, careers as authors and to achieve their goals and fulfill their purpose.
The author of How to Blog a Book, Write, Publish and Promote Your Work One Post at a Time (Writer’s Digest Books), Nina has also self-published 10 short books and is a sought after editor, proposal consultant, book and author coach, and blog-to-book coach. The founder of Write Nonfiction in November, she writes four blogs, including Write Nonfiction NOW!, How to Blog a Book and As the Spirit Moves Me.

Amazon links are affiliate links. Blog header photo by notionscapital

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    { 10 comments… read them below or add one }

    bowerbird June 1, 2012 at 3:27 pm

    this is good advice for people who want to
    manufacture books to sell to customers…
    market-testing is a smart thing to do then.

    but writers? creating art?

    who cares if anybody buys it, or not? what is
    important is that you are true to your muse.

    and the beauty of electronic-publishing is that
    you can do it without spending a single penny!

    oh sure, of course, if you _want_ to spend it,
    you can put all kinds of your money up, for
    cover-art, editing, formatting, what have you.

    but you can also do it without spending a cent.
    and don’t let anyone convince you otherwise.
    if you make money down the line, _then_ you
    can reinvest it. but you can start with nothing.

    this realization can be tremendously liberating.
    use your freedom, to let your imagination roam.

    meanwhile…

    consider the best advice you will ever hear
    about someone “stealing” your good ideas:
    > Don’t worry about people stealing an idea.
    > If it’s original, you will have to
    > ram it down their throats.

    it can be the same with art, baby. _the_same._

    sometimes the better it is, the less uptake it gets.
    at first. but then eventually, people come around.

    so don’t listen to the audience and parrot back
    what they want to hear. anyone can do that.
    but you are the only person who can be _you_.

    your muses want you to use your unique voice.
    it’s why they chose you to receive their blessing.

    and they want you to continue to sing even if
    nobody comes around at first to listen to you…

    if you’re a capitalist, fine, do your market-test.

    but if you are an artist, just let yourself _sing_.

    -bowerbird

    Reply

    Nina Amir June 1, 2012 at 9:35 pm

    Bowerbird,

    Art is fine. I’m all for it. And hopefully you can create some art at the same time. But for those of us wanting to produce commercial works, market testing is worthwhile. As is building an audience. There is also a difference sometimes between nonfiction and fiction when you discuss art.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander June 1, 2012 at 9:42 am

    This also gives authors a really good way to be experimental with their writing. So often we think we’re committing an “act of literature” when all we really wanted to do was see if an idea is worth pursuing. With Nina’s techniques, you can find out whether there’s interest in your idea before investing a huge amount of time and effort, and that’s got to be a good thing for writers.

    Reply

    Nina Amir June 1, 2012 at 9:39 pm

    That’s really true, Joel, especially for nonfiction writers. I’m all for people writing a book of their heart, though, if they really feel they want to do so. To be honest, a blog is a great place to do that as well. You can attract some readers for almost any blogged book (or blog), and for one that may not be the type of idea that will attract a publisher or lots of readers, you can at least find a few people interested.

    Reply

    R. E. Hunter June 1, 2012 at 8:17 am

    Thanks, Nina, those are great ideas. I particularly like #2. In fact, I’ve seen a couple of blogs that seem to be doing this. What do you think about leaving the book on the blog unfinished (perhaps stopping at the climax), as a hook to get the interested readers to go buy the book when it’s ready?

    Reply

    Nina Amir June 1, 2012 at 5:51 pm

    Well, #2 is my favorite, too! :~) If you k now of blogs doing this, please email the links. I wouldn’t leave the ending off. Your readers will by the book just as a souvenir if they like it. Plus, you will add some new elements and edit. Find an enticement to add to it. The chapter of your next book?

    Reply

    R. E. Hunter June 1, 2012 at 7:07 pm

    One blog that came to mind is Whirling Point. The “One Fine Mourning” story has nine installments so far. I don’t know if his intent is to eventually turn this into a book, but he’s certainly collected a number of fans so far (myself included). I’m sure I’ve seen others, but I don’t have the links.

    Another good place to serialize a book is Wattpad. This can be done in parallel to blogging it, to attract additional viewers.

    Reply

    Nina Amir June 2, 2012 at 9:23 pm

    Thank you!

    Reply

    david June 1, 2012 at 8:01 am

    Hi Nina, that is a great idea. And I was thinking that even if you don’t write a book you can certainly use the information about what posts were most popular to continue to refine your material and please your readership.

    Reply

    Nina Amir June 1, 2012 at 5:47 pm

    David,
    That is exactly right. Any type of test-marketing you do is helpful and will improve the product you turn out. And the better the product, the more readers you will gain. Thanks for your comment.

    Reply

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