Self Publishing: Researching Bestsellers



There’s a lot that goes into publishing a book that does well on the charts. It makes sense to do some early prep-work to make sure you’re on the right path. Rarely can you just come up with a topic, write on that topic, and watch the sales start rolling in.

Readers know what they like. There are ebbs and flows with certain topics. What’s hot today might not be hot tomorrow. If you don’t write on a topic people are interested in and willing to spend money on, you might be wasting your time. You’ll end up disappointed when it comes time to check your sales ranks and earnings.

Of course, you might have reasons for publishing that are different than making a lot of money. Maybe you have a specific business or product you want to promote. Maybe you want to become known as the go-to person on a certain topic and just want to make use of the credibility that naturally comes as a result of having published a book, even if that book never goes on to become a bestseller.

But, if you do want to maximize your earnings, then it is important to research bestsellers ahead of time. Know what you’re up against and what you might want to write about or which genre you should write in. Know what audiences are responding to and what they want more of.

Some people think it’s ‘selling out’ to research and write to bestseller trends. I don’t think so at all. It’s just good business. You have some excellent tools for research at your disposal (namely Amazon). Why wouldn’t you make use of them? That’s like throwing money away.

And you’re not selling out by writing books based on bestselling topics. You’re paying attention to trends and writing books that people actually want to read. You’re making people happy. You’re doing them a service, really.

Why It’s So Important To Target Bestselling Topics

Many people make a big mistake when they get started publishing on Amazon. They come up with a topic or write in a genre just because they’re interested in it. They don’t bother to check whether it’s actually profitable. You’re shooting yourself in the foot if you do that.

Since you’re in business, I’ll assume you’re interested in self-publishing because you want to earn more money. There are other reasons, of course (such as driving traffic, showcasing yourself as an authority, etc.). Generally, though, it comes down to money.

There are books out there earning a lot of money and books out there earning no money at all. A book that took a year to write could earn nothing while a book that took a day to write could earn a ton of money—even a full time income.

How is that even possible? It’s possible because the high-earning book is written on a hot, bestselling topic or genre.

Bestselling topics are ‘bestselling’ because people are interested in them and are willing to pay money for them. People’s interests do change- what’s hot right now might not be the case next year.

If you research bestselling topics, then you will be positioning your book where the money is. It’s just good business sense.

What Happens If You Don’t Focus On Bestsellers

If you don’t focus on bestsellers or if you choose not to research them at all, you’re taking a shot in the dark. Sure, you might hit that hot, moneymaking target by accident or out of pure luck, but it’s not likely.

Researching bestsellers turns on the light so you know exactly where your target is. You don’t have a 100% chance of hitting it, but it’s pretty close.

If you don’t focus on bestsellers or know what they are, then you have no idea what your market wants. You don’t know what to include or what not to include in your book. You don’t know which topic to focus on at all.

If you just choose a topic without knowing whether it has a solid chance of becoming a bestseller or not, then you might be wasting your time, earning nothing in the process.

Don’t Be Stubborn, Unless…

Maybe you think you have an absolutely fantastic idea for a book topic or sub-genre and you’re SURE you don’t have to do any research ahead of time. You might be being way too stubborn, to your own detriment.

The one caveat here is if you have a business plan and area of expertise that is so highly focused that you know for sure you shouldn’t deviate from it.

Maybe you don’t care at all about how much money you make with your books. You just want to be able to present your published work as a big business card to potential clients and customers, for example. In that case, you might not need to worry about what the bestsellers are because you have other goals in mind.

I’d still say that it’s generally worth at least doing a little digging. You might find some ideas that are worth exploring within your area of expertise that have a higher chance of rising in the sales ranks and therefore making more money and getting more recognition.

In the end, this is a personal decision you’ll have to make for yourself.

Another time you might not worry too much is when you have products you’ve already created and you just want to get them up on Kindle (or another self-published option) as an additional area of exposure.

The Incredible Amazon Research Machine

Hopefully, it’s clear that researching bestsellers is generally an important part of self-publishing. It’s smart business sense and allows you to get a better feel for the people in your audience.

We live in a lucky time because it’s not expensive to do the kind of research I recommend you do. In fact, it’s free. You can find everything you need to know by researching via Amazon.

Amazon gives a great deal of information self-published authors can make use of, if they know where to look. Perhaps the most important data are the bestseller lists that are organized by category.

You can simply follow the trail through categories and sub-categories you’re interested in to find related bestsellers and topics you can target.

You can also take a look at the movers and shakers in book categories. You can look at the hot new releases and upcoming releases.

You can piece together trends based on what’s popular. What are people responding to?

Amazon gives each book in its Kindle store a sales rank—the lower, the better. You can find the sales rank of any book to get a feel for whether your book idea is a viable one. You can even use these low-sales-rank (high selling) books as fodder for brainstorming your own ideas.

Take notes on what you find as you comb through the bestsellers within the genre/category you’re interested in. Drill down into specific sub-genres/sub-categories.

Look at the reviews and note what people like and don’t like. Note related books. Note other books bestselling authors have also written. Pay attention to patterns and common threads.

It’s great if there are similar books in a sub-category that are all dominating the charts. It likely means that it’s a super-hot topic and that there’s room for more than one book on the topic. It means that your unique angle might do really well and rise to the bestseller ranks, too.

So, go ahead and comb through the general categories and genres you’re interested in on Amazon right now. What’s hot? What’s selling well? Take notes on what you find.

Zeroing In On Your Perfect Book Topic or Sub-Genre

Don’t just stick with a general category—especially if you’re newer to self-publishing. You’ll usually have a better chance of releasing a bestselling book yourself if you focus on a narrow niche or topic.

Click through the sub-categories until you find something you’re interested in. Look through the top 10 books in a sub-category. Are they all ranking well? You might define ‘ranking well’ as ranking under 10,000 or 20,000. If they are, that’s a super-hot category you might want to tackle. Although it can be good if some of the ‘top’ books aren’t ranking super low (low is good) because that might give you some more room to sneak into the bestseller rankings yourself.

There are no perfect answers or perfect categories. You should study the bestselling categories, sub-categories, and books. Note their covers, descriptions, reviews, and more. Use this information to come up with ideas for your own book release.

Finding a Unique Angle

You want to stand out amongst all these bestsellers. That means you definitely don’t want to release a book that’s just a carbon copy of all the others—your book probably won’t do well if you do that.

Brainstorm unique angles to take. What do people note in the reviews of bestselling books? What do the other books lack that they wish were there?

Find a unique angle within a bestselling topic that you think you can dominate the charts with—something the audience is still hungry for. Offer your unique insights, experience, research, talents, etc.

Keeping Up With the Trends

With all this talk of research, it’s easy to think this is something you can do once and never again. That’s not the case. The research you do today is really only relevant for the very near future. Things change quickly on the bestseller charts.

Keep up with the trends. When you need ideas for new books, take a look at the upcoming releases on Amazon—especially those that are released by traditional publishers. The big publishing houses put a lot of money into predicting (and creating) trends. You can learn a lot from that.

Frequently visit the bestseller pages of the niche you’re targeting. Keep a notebook full of ideas so you never run out of ideas you can publish. Frequent publishing is a great idea and your whole catalog will help to ensure that you can rise to bestseller status.

Research Your Next Bestseller

This really isn’t that complicated, you just have to get started. Head over to Amazon and start this research. Don’t be intimidated by it—with a few clicks, you can have some world-class bestseller data at your fingertips. Use this data to put yourself on the bestseller lists as a self-published author.