Writing and publishing a book on Amazon is easy. But to give yourself a better chance at success, should you test market your book?
Test marketing is a proven marketing strategy to measure market interest before launching new products.
But how can you test market your book idea?
After you write your book, you can use various methods to gauge if readers are interested in your topic.
How to test market your book
With online technology today, you have so many tools you can use for book marketing.
Whether you have written a fiction or nonfiction book, you can find ways to test the market.
However, depending on your book’s topic, you need to be selective about which marketing tools you use.
Another factor to consider is how much time and effort you are willing to invest in your market testing.
There are two methods you can use. The first is the slower and proven way, but it relies on having an existing blog and social media network.
The second is more direct and rapid. It is the best option for fiction and nonfiction writers without an existing online presence.
Let’s look at both options.
Pre-publishing market testing
If you have an active blog or email list, you have a lot of tools you can use to gauge interest in the topic of your book.
You need to spend time getting your message out about your new book. Here are some basic actions you can take.
1. Write a blog post to introduce your new book to your readers. It’s a good idea to give them an in-depth look at why you wrote the book and why they will enjoy reading it.
2. Do an email shot for your book blog post if you have a mailing list. If not, share it on all your social media accounts.
3. Write an article for another blog if you can. Guest posts are always of great value. But make sure you write an original article on your topic for every guest post you can get.
4. Do a book cover survey on social media. You need to have a choice of perhaps three book cover versions to do this. But it’s a great way to attract reader interest.
5. Offer it for free as an ebook version on your blog. You can send a copy by email or set up a free ebook download on your blog.
6. Reply to every comment you get on either your blog or social media. It is the best way to engage with your new potential readers and book buyers. But don’t simply say thank you. Write extended comments and replies to maximize your interactions.
7. Measure your traffic and interactions. For your blog, you can use a program like Google Analytics. For social media, you have insights data for Twitter and Facebook pages.
8. Write another blog post about your book, and this time you can talk about your efforts, successes, and failures with your book marketing campaign.
It’s going to take you a couple of months to discover if your new book has gained traction with your readers. But from the feedback you get, you might want to make changes to your book before publishing it.
There are many more ways you can test the water for a new book release. It’s up to you how much time you want to invest.
Test marketing with an ebook
This is the best method if you don’t have a working blog or a big social media following.
Even if you do, you might want to consider this method because it’s faster and, in some ways, a more reliable gauge of your chances of success.
One of the big benefits of Amazon KDP self-publishing is that you can publish an ebook for free.
But one of the lesser-known benefits is that you can unpublish an ebook very easily.
Many new authors make the mistake of publishing a new book in ebook, paperback, and even hardcover or audiobook without testing the market first.
Doing this can create big problems. Firstly, it costs a lot to produce different versions of a book.
Secondly, if things don’t go well, physical versions of a book will stay around forever.
Lastly, you have no way to measure your success or why your book might fail to sell.
That’s why a test with an ebook is a much better option.
But don’t rush into it. Simply self-publishing an ebook and then waiting to see what happens is almost always bound to fail.
To get the best value, you need to do some important work first.
How to set up an ebook test
You need to do three important things before you self-publish your new test ebook.
These will give you the tools and options you need to change and modify your ebook during your test period. You want to find out what works and what doesn’t work.
1. Create three versions of your ebook cover.
You don’t need to spend a cent to do this. All you need to do is set up a free account on Canva, and you can produce as many as you like.
But make sure you check popular ebooks in your genre and note the colors and fonts that they use.
Design your ebook cover to suit the expectation of readers. Then make different versions with perhaps a change of background color, main image, or positioning of your title.
When you get to publishing your ebook, you can change your cover quickly and easily to see which version gets the most attention.
2. Carefully select your categories and search keywords.
It is not a rush job to select your categories and keywords. If it takes you less than a day, you are moving too fast.
One of the biggest failings of most self-published books is poor keyword research and selection.
There are two ways you can do it correctly. One will cost you, but it is much faster and accurate. The other is free but more time-consuming.
The best way by far is to invest in Publisher Rocket.
Yes, it will cost you a little, but it’s a once-only payment, so you won’t be paying an ongoing annual subscription.
With the software, you can research and narrow down to find your best keyword and category selections for your book.
You have unlimited access to the whole Amazon database for books and ebooks and can even choose by geographic region.
If you want to do your research for free, you can use the Sonar keyword tool.
It can help you find reasonable keywords with the free version.
The only drawback is that it won’t help you with category selection. You will need to do this using Amazon KDP.
3. Keep a detailed record of your selections
The best way is to use an Excel sheet to keep track of your keywords.
Make a list of all the keyword phrases your find, and keep them all. If you discover more, add them to your list.
Choose your best seven to get started. But after you publish, you can and probably will change them to find the best performing keywords. This is the key to testing your ebook.
4. Write three different book descriptions
Do this after you research your keywords and phrases. Now you can include some of them in your book description or even your sub-title.
Write your versions with a change of “hook” or use questions to create more interest.
During your test, you can try each version to see which one works best.
5. Measuring your test ebook
You could say that if you get some sales, your test is a success. But there is more to it and much more you need to do.
Go back to your keyword selections and use them one at a time in Amazon search for Kindle ebooks. Look for where your book ranks for each search term.
You’ll probably find that only one or two are working well, and the others are not helping you.
If this is the case, look through your list and find search terms to replace your underperforming ones.
If you do this once a week for a few weeks, you can help lift your ebook higher in search rankings.
At the same time, why not change your ebook cover or book description to see if it works better.
Yes, some sales or Kindle Unlimited page reads are encouraging. But by continually adjusting and fine-tuning your search keywords, you can improve your sales performance.
When do you stop your test?
There’s no defined timeframe, but you should wait around three months.
If it’s a success and you are getting regular sales of your ebook, you can then take your next steps.
These might include publishing a paperback version with a high-resolution cover. At least now you know that an investment in a quality book cover will be worthwhile.
You can send your trial ebook covers to a designer to give them an idea of what is working for you.
You could also then consider an audiobook version if you wish.
But what do you do if your efforts to test market your book aren’t what you hoped for?
The good news is that your test costs you nothing, so you are not out of pocket. You also didn’t waste your money producing a paperback version and paying for book promotion.
But of course, the bad news is that your book didn’t get any traction.
However, you have options. The first is to unpublish your ebook.
Then you can get to work on making it better. Perhaps a rewrite of the first chapter or two, a new title, a better subtitle, or even a change of character names.
There’s a lot you can do to improve a book, so don’t give up. Make it better, and then try a new test in a few months.
There is no guaranteed recipe for success when self-publishing a book.
But you can take out some of the risks and improve your chances by testing the market before your rush into publishing on Amazon or any other platform.
The more you can do to understand what readers want and how you can fulfill that need is going to help you.
Whether you take the slow method by using your blog, mailing list, and social media, or the faster route with a test ebook, both can help.
What you don’t want to do is rush into publishing a new book, and especially a physical book. If it fails, your book will be listed forever on Amazon and elsewhere with no way at all of removing it.
With an ebook, it’s easier to delete it and start again.
If people bought your test ebook, it stays on their devices. There might also be a few other traces here and there, but not enough to worry about.
But most importantly, your test ebook sales page will disappear and result in a 404 not found page.
If you are new to self-publishing, wait, be patient, and do your market research first.
Test market your book, and then you can be much more confident before you publish other versions of your book.