On Episode 38 of the Writer’s Way, I share that it’s possible for you to figure out if your children’s book idea is any good by following simple, actionable steps!
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RESOURCES We Talk About!
Link to the FREE Sucky or Stupendous Course
Click HERE to listen to the How to Find An Illustrator episode.
Click HERE for the link to the rhyming webinar.
Click HERE for the FREE Amazon Sales Rank Calculator.
Click HERE for Elizavet Arkolaki’s book.
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Something that stops writers in their tracks before they even start writing their picture books is whether or not the idea they have is any good. On today’s episode of the Writer’s Way, we’re going to talk about your book idea. Is it Sucky or is it Stupendous?
Welcome to the Writer’s Way podcast where we celebrate writers who have completed their books and inspire writers who haven’t. Join Laurie and her guests as they talk about writing books and life in between chapters.
I’m a Daydreamer
Hey writer! So I’m a daydreamer and I’m pretty sure I always have been. I’m sure a lot of you are twinsies with me on that one. What that means is I get ideas for books all the time. One time I remember very clearly when I was at our cabin walking in the woods with the kids and I saw the most perfect sun beam slide through the trees. I composed a story about it as we explored, but this was years ago and way before I had written and published my first book.
I never wrote it down. And so now I remember that moment of finding that perfect story based on a sun beam, but I don’t remember the story. Curious, share with me if you have lots of times in your lives like that where you compose a story on the way and then it’s gone.
A Cozy Mystery
If you’re like me, you get ideas all the time. Not too long ago I went to an Eagles tribute band concert, and I actually horrified my sister a little bit, by plotting out a book about one of the band members dying. I guess that tells you that the concert itself wasn’t actually that good. The main character of course would be Georgia who was our waitress. She’s not so good, we’ll just say, and she was celebrating her 21st birthday that night.
So the book was writing itself, my friends. My sister doesn’t know me that well, I guess because she thought I was plotting a gruesome death in extreme detail, you know, behind my little quiet smile. But the truth is I am a cozy mystery kind of gal. In my mind it was more like Georgia would come to work in the morning and find the feet sticking out from underneath the stage, something like that.
The Most Loved Worm in the World!
Another idea I’ve managed to get half written this time was about a worm. One night, a not too long ago, my son, who’s 11, came to tell me that my seven year old daughter had a worm in a zip lock bag in her bed. I did not believe him. A worm in her bed. Anyway, she did. She’s an animal lover. And so she was keeping the worm safe and giving it lots of love of course. And there was grass in the bag, which to her made it okay.
I calmly suggested that the worm could not sleep in her bed, it needed a new home, and she proceeded to lose her mind. She cried about it longer than I think any worm has ever been cried over before. Actually, it wasn’t a worm, it was a caterpillar, but she called it a worm.
Make it a rhyming story?
And worm is much more fun to say. Anyway, I came downstairs the next morning to see that she had written a note on our whiteboard that’s in our kitchen. It said, dear worm, I love you very much. I’ll include a picture of that in the show notes on my website just so that you can see it. But after seeing that note from her that morning, I figured that kind of love had to really be preserved somehow.
(Pictured Left: The message my daughter left in the morning for her worm; Pictured Right: The message daddy left afterwards. Clearly the worm really made an impact!)
And I started writing just jotting notes in a notebook at the park, like I tend to do and the book came out of me in rhyme of all things. My husband laughs because I’m not very poetic. And I recently took arriving webinar because I thought I maybe I would have to learn if I was going to put a book out in rhymes. I will put that info in the show notes too if anybody’s interested in, looking for another one of those webinars.
Are you paralyzed with indecision?
I’m working on the book. I don’t know if it’ll get it done. The summertime’s really hard to get anything done, truth be told, but I will decide whether or not I’ll move forward on the book by the end of summer. I hope whether or not I’ll keep it in rhyme or not. It’s harder to sell translations when your book is in rhyme because of course in other languages it’s not going to rhyme.
But anyway, my daughter is very happy to have her worm’s story preserved in a book. If you’re like me and you have a worm story or sunshine story or you know, dead band member, story, you might be stuck. You might be paralyzed with indecision. You might not know if you ought to even start on any of the ideas, you might not know which idea to choose, or how to choose which one.
Move Forward with Market Research on Amazon!
This episode is meant to help you move forward by choosing which idea to do first based on the potential outcome. And by that I mean whether or not, you know, after you do your research, whether or not you think it will sell. I’m going to walk you through a few tricks. And what I hope you get out of it is the ability to do market research on Amazon, which is where the majority of books are sold these days. It is the place to look around no matter what your personal feelings happen to be about Amazon.
Before I tell you how to do this market research and make your decision, I’m going to share some thoughts from fellow author Elizavet Arkolaki, who is the author of Where Am I From? Now, this is a fantastic story that portrays children with different racial backgrounds and children who live in different countries from all of the inhabited countries, all of the inhabited continents that she’s got included in this book. So let’s listen to what she has to say about deciding if her idea is good or not.
Elizavet Arkolaki’s Concerns
Elizavet: My biggest concern is that there are quite a few books dealing with the same subject and which are doing great sales wise. Can I compete with these ones? Can I make my book rise in ranks in sales and find a spot among the best selling ones?
Elizavet’s concerns about whether her book will sell in a competitive market is one of the common concerns that writers have before, during and after, let’s be honest, they publish their book. What’s a good way to try to make sure that it sells well? Well, you have to do some market research before you start. Full disclosure here, my reading, writing friends, I can’t tell the future so I don’t know if your book will sell or not. And even after you do your research, you won’t know for sure if your book will sell or not.
Tip #1: Ask a Friend
But these are techniques you can use to get a good idea based on how similar books are selling already. Now I know that it’s not all about whether or not it will sell, but sometimes if you can be reasonably sure that you will at least make back your investment that you make in your book, that helps to make the decision and helps to choose which book to start with.
Before you pay an illustrator and before you publish your book, please, please do some market research. My first tip is easy to do, although it might involve you feeling a little bit vulnerable when you start talking about your book and your book idea. The first tip is just ask around, but don’t ask, you know, somebody who’s going to pat you on the head and tell you any idea you have is fantastic. Ask a teacher that is not your best friend or maybe a day care worker or a day home provider.
Ask someone who gets kids
Somebody who is around kids is your best bet. Somebody who really gets them, gets what they like gets what they need, gets what sort of things has them pulling the same book off the shelf over and over and over. If you know some kids to ask, that of course don’t depend on you for food, ask them too.
Your friends, kids, your nieces, your nephews, ask a friend maybe to ask their own kids. So you’re totally removed from that situation and they’re not going to try to spare your feelings. Ask them what they think about that idea. Like a worm story. Hey kids, what do you think about the worm story and the worm’s, I don’t know, it’s going to be a superhero. Do you think you would like to read a book like that?
Tip #2: Market Research on Amazon
Next step, if everybody says, hey, yeah, I would like to read a book like that or your teacher friends say, I think that’s really needed. Or yes, I’ve seen the kids gravitate to those dinosaur books all the time. That would be a great topic. Next we’re going to move to Amazon. So your first step is to do a search on your topic. Are there already a ton of books written sort of with your main idea? That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t do it because it’s saturated, but you do want to do some research looking at those books, see how well they’re selling.
See what the reviews say. Are the reviews all calling on one particular thing that they love about the books or that they wish were in the books? So an example about this is Unicorn books. There are loads of Unicorn books out there right now because everybody loves UNICORNS.
Look for books like yours
Have a look. Are they mostly chapter books? Are they all coloring books? Are they picture books? Are they picture books for little kids like zero to three? Are they picture books for our kids you know, six to nine? Has Your idea about the Unicorns in particular been done already? Has it been done in a variety of ways? Are they always the same way?
Try to pick, I would say five books that are really comparable to what you think yours would be. What that means is a similar topic, the same age range, a similar page count. So don’t be comparing your picture book to a chapter book, in other words. Scroll down to the product details area and look for something called the Amazon bestsellers rank. There’s going to be a number there out of all the books on Amazon, and that’s how you can see how well that book is doing compared to the millions of other books on Amazon.
The Amazon Book Rank Calculator
Okay, so if you see a rank of, let’s say a thousand or less that means that book’s doing really well. It’s selling about 72 copies a day. And in the show notes on the website, I’m going to give you a really handy tool that Dave Chesson created and it’s Amazon book rank calculator. That’s how I know these numbers. So he’s a self published author who’s also a software guy and he’s created some really useful tools that he offers for free to authors.
It’s a great way to do some market research on Amazon. The other thing you could do is take my course Sucky or Stupendous. It is free and there will be a link to the course as well in the show notes. And that book rank calculator is in the course with the links. That’s all super easy.
Tip #3: Take the Sucky or Stupendous Course
That might be your best bet actually is just sign up for that course. It’s less than an hour of videos and you can do it in less than an afternoon and then you have a good idea about your book topic and whether or not it will sell. Okay, so getting back to the rankings, if the book rank is 5,000 it means it’s selling about 20 a day. If it’s a round 10,000 it’s selling about 10 a day and around 90,000 is about a book a day and anything less than that, so if the rank is 100,000 or higher, that means that it’s selling less than a book a day. So obviously you want to shoot for a topic and an age range and a page count. All that stuff where the rank of the books are fairly low, meaning they’re selling a lot of books.
Create a Profitable Passion Project
Yes, a lot of creatives go into this really just wanting to get their books published, really get them out there, cross that item off your bucket list because it’s a goal we’ve had. We’ve wanted to be a published author probably for longer than we can remember, but truth is that if your book actually sells, then it becomes more than a passion project. It’s a profitable passion project, and trust me when I say that, that is so much better.
The point of this podcast episode is really just to tell you that if you’re like me, you get ideas everywhere and for all kinds of stories, not just kids books, but all kinds of stories. So first step, just write them down. Know books for kids are faster to write, but then there’s a lot of legwork to find and hire and work with an illustrator. So while it might take a little bit longer to write the chapter books, maybe that’s what you prefer and all you have to do is get a good cover made. Remember a few weeks ago I did an episode on how to find an illustrator? Check that out if you really are set on a picture book and if after doing your Amazon research you feel like a picture book is definitely the way to go.
Clarity is Key
Your writing quality of course matters. Your sales are not just going to depend on your idea or on your illustrations. It all matters. It all works together. You want to write the best book that you can write and then you want to hire an illustrator that fits your budget but really helps to move your story forward. And how you market your book when you’re done, when you’re published really does matter.
But starting off, you might be stuck on your idea, which idea to move forward on first, and is it any good? After you do your market research, what I’m hoping you’ll find is that one of your three to 30 ideas stand out as having more potential, being more marketable, maybe, being easier to sell to people because maybe it’s a hot topic or all the other books are doing really well, and so you feel like you have clarity on which idea to move forward with.
Get started NOW!
The point of this podcast is just to share with you how to find out which idea should sell better than your other ideas. And it doesn’t mean that you won’t move forward on your other ideas, but the idea is that you are able to pick one.
So my friends, please sign up for the Sucky or Stupendous course because I was able to do it much more eloquently and the links are in there and I was able to share my screen as well so you can actually, watch me on my computer and where I’m clicking and what I’m doing. And you can have your computer up and running at the same time so that you can follow along and within an afternoon you should have an idea of which idea is good or, I mean, maybe it’s gonna happen that all the ideas, you know, they’ve been done and they’re not selling that well. Well that’s good information to have before move forward and hire your illustrator and publish your book.
Good luck with your ideas, everybody. I hope you take me up on my offer for that free course, Sucky or Stupendous and I will see you next week.
Comment, review and subscribe
Hey everyone. Thanks for listening today. What do you think? Are Your book ideas Sucky or are they Stupendous? Leave me a comment after you’ve done your research and let me know what you found out, then go ahead and subscribe so you get a message when the next episode of the Writer’s Way Podcast is out. Bye for now.