I hear this question a lot, and I don’t know the answer. But I’m currently going through it myself, so maybe you guys can help me ;)
Some time ago, I decided there was an opportunity for a niche product to help self-publishing authors promote and sell their books.
Based on what I’d learned from the microISV folk (e.g. Patrick McKenzie, Rob Walling), I fired up Google Keyword Planner to investigate. I couldn’t find a strong set of keywords to go after, which was somewhat disappointing. There’s a bit of interest in how the industry generally works, but then it tapers off quickly.
The biggest search category is around “how to publish a book”, but if you investigate, most people are looking for how to get vanity published by someone with a brand, rather than to get help doing it themselves. And even that doesn’t offer too much to work with:
Still, despite the bleak search landscape, I liked the macro trends. 3 million titles were self-published last year. The number of titles launching each year is increasing at close to 500%. The market share of self-published titles (currently at about 5% of the total book market) is increasing by 80% year over year. And in some Nordic countries, 1 in 5 adults launches a book.
My thesis was that I could attract authors with good marketing advice, lock them in with a free landing page for their book, make it beautiful enough that they promote it instead of their Amazon page, and then take an affiliate cut when people purchase. If a book is moderately popular, the cut can get decent (for example, the affiliate cut on my book is $100–200 per month).
Of course, the wrinkle is that this model depends on the author being able to drive traffic, which most of them can’t.
Given the lack of reasonable search terms, I just went with the goofy name of Hey Look a Book. It’s missing all the bells and whistles it could have, but the core features work well and the conversion rate is strong.
So now I’m sitting on this side project and wondering whether to put more time into it. There are maybe 20 authors who “use” it, but since it’s a set-and-forget product, that doesn’t mean much. I’ve explored a tiny bit of content marketing via the self-publishing subreddit (5k subscribers) and saw good-enough results that I’m convinced it could get me to the next stepping stone.
But I question the fundamentals… Is the candle worth the flame? I have no experience with niche products like this, so I’m lacking any of the benchmarks that tell me whether it’s worth pouring some more time into or just leaving idle.
What do you guys think? Do I walk away or does it have legs I’m not seeing?