Use Surveys to Discover Marketable Nonfiction Book Topics

use survey to produce books that sell

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To produce a marketable nonfiction book, you need to write something  people in your target market need or want. However, often aspiring writers don’t put words on paper (or screen) because they don’t know to target that market with content. Or they do, indeed, write but with no idea if anyone will want to read their words. They simply don’t know how to create a book that will sell to their ideal readers.
There’s a simple solution to this problem: Ask questions.

Survey Your Readers

Marketable books, as well as saleable products, typically address the following four customer or reader concerns, according to sales expert and author Brian Tracy:

  • an unsatisfied need
  • an unsolved problem
  • an unachieved goal
  • an unresolved pain

To discover your potential readers’ needs, problems, goals, pains—and, I’d add, questions—ask what they are! The easiest way to do this is to survey your potential readers or customers.

The simplest survey has one question. Bestselling author Brendon Burchard says you can simply ask potential readers: “What would it take to double your business growth or your happiness this year?” You’ll get amazing answers—and book ideas—with that simple query.

A longer survey can be done using a service like or You also can use a simple blog plugin, like WordPress Polls,for example. Such survey services are easy to use and the free versions allow you to ask enough questions to get most of the answers you need. You can upgrade to their paid versions if you prefer to conduct a lengthier survey or don’t want to do more than one survey.

Survey Blog Readers

One of the best places to use such a survey is on your blog. These surveys can be embedded into a blog post or onto your website or blog sidebar using a text widget. This makes it simply to survey your current readership and to discover how you can further address their needs. I conduct a yearly survey of my blog readers to help me produce a content plan for the blog.

I used to have a long-standing survey on one of my blogs. It helps me gauge interest in a variety of topics I cover. It looked like this:

WP-Poll_in_text_widgetIf you conduct a survey with the intent to produce a nonfiction book, however, the type of information you seek is not that different. You want to know:

  • Who are my blog readers?
  • What do they like or dislike about my blog?
  • What are their interests?
  • What topics that I cover do they like or dislike?
  • What topics do they wish I would cover?
  • What are the issues with which they currently struggle?
  • What problems or solutions do they seek?
  • What is their largest frustration?
  • What stops them from achieving their goals?
Get Feedback from Your Followers and Subscribers

If you want to take the survey beyond your blog or website, share it on your social networks. Get your followers to participate and offer feedback.

Some surveys can be embedquestion_on_FBded on Facebook. This allows you to get your friends and followers there to answer your questions.

If you don’t want to use a survey with your followers, simply ask a question in a Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or Google Plus update. You can ask one per day or per week, conceivably finishing up a full survey in a month or two in this manner. This does not, however, allow you to take advantage of the analytics provided by survey services.

Don’t forget to take advantage of your email list. You can provide a link to your survey in an email, send subscribers to a blog post, or, in some cases, even embed the survey in the email. With my recent survey I had the best response from my email list.

Use Answers to Write Your Book

Once you have compiled the information from your survey, you can begin formulating your book around:

  • easing potential readers’ pain
  • addressing potential readers’ need
  • solving potential readers’ problems
  • achieving potential readers’ goals
  • answering potential readers’ questions

You need to plan out and research a book that accomplishes one of these items—or many books to address them all! The content can come from your own knowledge or from interviews with expert sources. Once you have mapped out a book, you are ready to begin writing.

If you can do that specifically for the people in your target market, you’ll produce a marketable book—one that sells to readers in your target market.

 Have you used a survey successfully to come up with an idea for a book?


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