Two of the three most important elements in your niche book pre-test are the book’s topic and title. (Price is the third.)
The book’s topic directly reflects its market and the particular practitioners in its universe who will buy it. If your general topic is for baseball players, your book may be for catchers. Or if for dentists, you may focus on endodontists or orthodontists—or dentists in general.
How can you tell what that specific group will buy to know their specialization better? You may start with what you (or the author) already knows best, then match that to the buyers. Or you might go to catchers and ask them what kind of book they need most. Or, if dentists, you might also read their association newsletter, talk to frustrated veterans or newcomers, or check the cutting-edge workshops offered.
Then ask that practitioner what information format they most eagerly buy (paperback, binder, hard cover book, e-books) and what price range they might pay.
Finally, research and plan a book around that topic, but test it before you write it!
While you are doing this preliminary research, go a step farther so you know what you must gather if the test is positive. What do the books the practitioners buy actually look like; how much do they cost? Do they include photos of the catchers or dentists? How many? Of whom? What’s the gender ratio? Average age? Do the books contain specific insider terminology?
Let’s create a fictitious book to show what I mean. How about Standard Marketing Procedures for All Chiropractors?
Chiropractors are professionals with services and knowledge to sell. If they have their own practice or are partnering with others, they need to have a steady flow of paying clients. If so, all good things happen. If not, they have spent lots of hours and dollars prepping for pecuniary and vocational disaster.
Some of their patients are attracted by their chiropractic skills. Some come from positive word-of-mouth of satisfied patients. Some just seem to appear, usually in pain. But some also are the result of good marketing, usually by internal, referral, or external means.
The chiropractors aren’t taught much if anything about marketing at college—and, if they are typical, they know almost nothing more about designing and implementing a successful marketing plan.
So they must educate themselves (or pay rather dearly to get educated by specialists in chiropractic marketing) about how to create a marketing concept, system, and means that don’t take too much time from their primary task of helping paying patients.
That’s where my sample book comes in. Standard Marketing Procedures for All Chiropractors is the solution to help them solve their patient-flow dilemma.
The key part of what I need in my test is an informational flyer. On that flyer I must have the book’s title, its cost, its format, and a table of contents. Benefits the buyers will receive also help.
Let’s say that I envision 55 marketing SOPs (standard operating procedures), in an 8.5” x 11” three-ring binder book about 140 pages long, with all of the SOPs also provided on an accompanying CD, to be downloaded at will and modified to match the doctor’s specific need, style, and desire. And I think $149 will be an affordable price.
I can either self-publish it or I can publish this book through another firm.
If the test pans out, self-publishing is by far the most profitable route—the best choice. But it takes time, involves learning new skills, and requires a lump sum up front to create the initial direct mailing flyer, and later to print a run of books and put them in the buyers’ hands. (Done right, you should have your test results back in about 30 days.)
Why not let another publisher do it? If you can find one that will, your income will at most be 10% of your book’s list price, you will lose control of the title and structure, the publisher will market your book (usually fitfully), and it’s much harder to create much of an empire if you don’t own the core product.
So let’s move on, assuming you will self-publish. To do that, we need a fail-safe book title.
Nothing on the flyer is more important than the book’s title, so let’s talk about it for a moment. (I say much more about every step of this process, of course, in my book Niche Publishing: Publish Profitably Every Time!)
If the title doesn’t “grab” the buyer and state quickly and clearly what the book is about, the test is usually doomed.
The title should be direct, benefit-laden, and obvious why the reader needs the book. Put the niche buyer’s title first or last in it so they know that it was specifically written for them. Thus, Standard Marketing Procedures for All Chiropractors.
What does that title say in one reading? That it’s a book for chiropractors about marketing. Many will be aware of SOPs (standard operating procedures) and will assume, correctly, that the book talks about that.
If that is still vague or it provokes questions that need answering, add a subtitle. It’s not needed here, but let me share another, current example.
My firm recently published a book called Finding Middle Ground in K-12 Education, a title right on the button though it’s still incomplete in telling who would want it or why. So we added Balancing Best Practices and the Law. Bingo, those most likely to buy it (top school administrators, superintendents, principals, and education lawyers) get it: those involved with school law and are interested in creating or following best practices.
Work hard on your title. List 10-20, play with them, ask others what they’d expect to get if they bought a book called … It’s said (correctly) that a cover sells a book, and if you sell through bookstores that is absolutely true. But not in direct mailing, although a professional-looking cover is important. In direct marketing, particularly to niche buyers, the title is far more important. It’s what the reader looks for first. If it works, makes sense, and ignites a spark, they will eagerly read the rest of the flyer… But if the title isn’t sharp and clear, if it doesn’t at least imply what the book’s contents are about, the reader stops dead, sets the flyer down, and tosses it out a few minutes later.
Nothing sells a book quicker than its title, particularly by mail. In one glance the title must explain what the book is about and why a person would want to buy it. The title is the headline that gets its readers to want to read more. It seizes their attention in a second to buy hours and hours of profitable reading. Or it gets your book ignored.
Set those 10-20 possible titles aside. Then design the book’s contents and the benefits it will bring. Then when you see what you are actually sharing with readers, select your final title.
Some Title Restraints:
Remember, the title must sell the book without using deception
Some titles do that better than others. The best titles are usually short, catchy, accurate, and appropriate.
Short means just what it says: few words. Six or less are the easiest to remember. More than six usually requires the title to be run as a double-decker or, horrors, a triple-decker: lines atop each other on the flyer and cover. The problem is reader resistance if the title is long and dense. Yet many a good title has been long. Few are dense.
“Catchy” is just that. It catches your eye or ear. It twists a cliche or plays on a common phrase. A word or sound piques your interest. Still, many a good title isn’t catchy. Gone With the Wind is; The Holy Bible isn’t.
Accurate gets to integrity. You don’t want to sell a book through a title that misleads buyers into thinking the text is about something altogether different. And appropriate refers to tone. A formal academic book shouldn’t be titled in vulgar slang. The language tone and theme of the book should be expressed in the words used in the title. The Compleat (sic) Practical Joker and Gray’s Anatomy are appropriately titled.
You might consider using some of the 14 words said to be the most persuasive in the English language, if accurate and appropriate to your book. Those are: new, how to, save, discover, safety, health, free, you, guarantee, love, easy, money, proven, and results. These words demonstrate a point made by Winston Churchill that, when given choices, seek old words rather than new, short words rather than long. Comfortable words known to the reader. Use polysyllabic jawbreakers at peril, unless that is what your book is about!
Finally, you cannot copyright a title, although in certain (rare) instances part or all of a title can be protected as a trademark. Others’ titles are usable by you, as your title can be purloined by them. Best to plow new ground, though, to avoid any confusion that another’s title might create.
Why do you need a title now, even if you might, on the long shot, change it later to bring it closer to the book’s contents? Because you want to test the book before you invest any more time or money—and you can’t test a book without some title!
In Blog Budle #6, we will finish defining the “big three” in niche publishing’s pre-testing: the book’s price. In the next blog (#5), however, we must first see if you will be the book’s author, publisher, or both.
P.S. If interested, I have a free monthly newsletter that also sends you three instant, free reports about empire-building and niche marketing. Glad to have you aboard!