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How to Research a Profitable eBook Topic Successfully


This is the third post in my series on how to successfully publish and sell an eBook.  I recommend reading the first two posts before continuing on with this article:

Post 1: How to Research and Publish an eBook Successfully

Post 2: How You Can Create and Profit from an eBook & Why You Should Write One

Hopefully by now you are convinced that you can 1) create an eBook and 2) profit very nicely from it for months and years to come. In this article I want to discuss how you should research an eBook topic to ensure your efforts are effective. In other words, to ensure your eBook does relatively well and pays you for your time and effort.

The best way I can summarize the whole jist of this article is that a best-selling eBook can be created by blending your personal expertise and research.  Your knowledge about the topic you write about will ensure that the eBook provides quality and useful information that a reader values, and the time you spend researching will ensure there is demand for your topic and therefore a chance to profit from it commercially.

Create an eBook on a Topic You Know Well and/or Enjoy

When brainstorming eBook topics to write on, consider topics you know a lot about or are truly passionate about.  This is a brainstorming exercises so there are no right or wrong answers.  Jot down topics that relate to your skills/expertise, your profession, your passion, hobbies and interests.

Note that when I say “a lot”, I don’t mean you have to know everything. This just means that you need to know more than an average person. For example, if you are a financial planner and do that for a living, you may only know 5% about the entire personal finance world, but that is 5% more than Joe who works as a mechanical engineer. Do you think Joe can benefit from the 5% you know about and is willing to pay for it? You bet!

Your knowledge of the topic you select will make writing easy, as you can simply write what you already know in your head.  The only thing you really have to do is organize your thoughts in a logical, chronological manner so that the reader can follow and benefit from your eBook.

If you don’t want to write on a topic that you know a lot about for whatever reason, pick a topic you are truly interested in. Your passion for the subject will enable you to research and learn the topic and then write about it in your own words with your own perspective.  Again, there is no right or wrong answer when researching an eBook topic, as long as you pick a topic that fits one of the criteria mentioned above.

Research an eBook Topic Supply & Demand

This is where things can get a little tricky.  If you have selected a topic that has no commercial demand, then your eBook will have a tough time selling even if you were able to prepare a quality product. When selling a product or service successfully, it is important to realize that it is not what you want to sell that is important, but rather what your audience wants to buy.  Feed the marketplace hunger with relevant information and you will be successful.

The good news is that researching an eBook topic that can be lucrative is not difficult, thanks to the Internet. The following are just a handful of ways you can research an eBook topic’s demand:

*Keyword Research – Words rule the Internet. Everything done online is predicated on keyword used by both publishers (producers of content) and web surfers (consumers of content).  Researching keywords or phrases that are searched for the most can give good insight into what people are looking for on the internet.

When a web surfer types in a search query on Google or any other search engine, the engines scour the internet and provide results (search listings) that fit the query or keyword/phrase typed in by the web surfer.

There are tools and software that assist with revealing all the keywords that are searched for online, and their relevant supply and demand (number of searches conducted by Internet users). Market Samurai is a good one that I personally use for keyword research. Using this tool allows me to discover hot keywords on my topics of interest, internet search trends for those keywords as well as the competition for the keywords I am interested in targeting.

Although the practice of keyword research is often used within the scope of web content creation, particularly in establishing niche websites, keyword research can assist you discover profitable eBook topics when done properly.  You can read my article on why keyword research is critical to your success here.

In addition to Market Samurai, there are two other tools that can really help you narrow in on a topic of choice.  Site Build It’s Free Search It! tool is a powerful topic research search engine that does an excellent job of surfacing profitable topics and dissecting its competition so that you know exactly what you are getting into.  Search It! is a tool developed by Site Build It! to help its users research, establish, market and monetize a successful web business online.

This is the tool that initially helped me start making money online from niche websites and eBooks.  You can read more about how this works in Site Build It!’s brief summary of the process here.

*Scour eBook Stores Online – If you are going to sell an eBook online, it just makes sense to scour the various eBook selling platforms online such as Amazon and Barnes and Noble to assess your competition and determine whether there is demand for your eBook topic.  If you see eBooks on your topic already selling, and particularly if you can tell that they are selling, you definitely know there is demand for your topic. Have a look at the best selling eBooks list and see if your topic is in one of them.

Look for eBooks with reader reviews. Reading those reviews can give you insight to what sub topics are covered within the eBook, and whether there are gaps you can fill.  Many readers express their satisfaction and dissatisfaction through book reviews, so make sure you take advantage of this available feature.

*Read Industry Blogs & Forums – Type your selected topic in search engines plus the word blog or forum (i.e. “your topic + blog”) and visit the various platforms to observe the discussions taking place.  Look for patterns and commonly asked questions, which can give you insight on what sub topics to discuss within your main eBook topic.  The individuals who are involved in discussions on blogs and forums are the very same individuals who are searching for this information online in forms of articles, eBooks, etc.

*Browse Bulletin Boards – Scouring through question and answer type bulletin boards is another one of my favorite eBook topic research strategies.  There are several such sites, most notably Yahoo Answers and Wiki Answers where people ask and respond to questions.  Reading through these sites provide really good insight to some of the pain points people are experiencing related to your topic.

These are just a handful of methods and by no means a comprehensive list of what you can do to research a profitable eBook topic.  To avoid falling into a false positive trap, I don’t recommend using just any one of the eBook research methods discussed above. Rather, use a combination or all if possible to determine the viability of your eBook topic.

Finally, I want to conclude this section by mentioning that don’t be afraid of competition. If you see competitors in your contemplated field or topic while you research an eBook topic, take this as good news rather than bad.  Competition is a sign that there is demand for your topic, and that there are others who have recognized this demand and therefore are selling information to fulfill that demand.

Take this as a chance to claim a piece of the bigger pie that is out there. Maybe you can provide a better product? Or many you can market it more effectively? Maybe there are gaps in existing products that you can fill in? Whatever the case is, competition doesn’t necessarily signal bad news. In fact, it is further validation that your research was conducted properly.

With that said, it is worth reiterating that the topic you choose must be a combination of one that you know well or are interested in, and one that also shows a healthy commercial demand.  A combination of these blends, coupled with a quality product that is marketed well (I will discuss this in a later post) will definitely bring you success.

Researching, Understanding and Catering to Your eBook’s Audience

Just as important as researching the demand for your contemplated eBook topic is the need to research and understand who your target audience / reader is.  For example, if you are a veteran financial planner and are going to write an eBook on the basics of financial planning for young adults, you cannot expect to use industry lingo or jargon, or present your information in convoluted charts and graphs.

You need to understand how your audience learns best, and then convey your message utilizing language and tools that are conducive to their learning needs. Not doing so will definitely ensure they fall asleep of boredom three pages into your eBook. But I’ve slight put the carriage before the horse here. For you to be able to cater an approach just for your audience, you need to know who your audience is.

Remember, as I mentioned earlier in this series, it is not who you want to sell to, rather who is out there wanting and needing your information.  There are a few ways you can find out more about who and where the critical audience mass is within your topic.  There are three free online tools that can help with this task:

*Google TrendsGoogle Trends is a powerful web based application that shows the search trends for searches conducted on the Internet. But in addition to just search trends, this tool also shows where the searches are coming from.  For example, if you see a heavy volume of searches on “financial advice for college students” come from the Midwestern United States, you know that your audience is college students from the Midwest.

This “intelligence” not only helps you cater your presentation approach, but also your marketing initiatives down the road (think paid ads implications here for example).

*Alexa and and are two additional free web based applications that keep track of website rank and statistics.  You simply type in a website’s address or URL and each shows some detailed information that reveal information about folks who visit that website.  Some attributes include visitor age range, gender, number of children, salary range, education, and other interests / website’s visited.

One way to use this is to search the address of a website that covers the same topic as your eBook to understand the type of audience interested in that kind of information.  You can search / study any website you find on Google when you type in your industry keywords.

Your research becomes much easier if you already have a website or a blog. If you know who your audience is, you can cater your eBook exactly for them. If you don’t know your audience, shame on you (just kidding), simply type your own web address on these two sites and learn more about your audience.

*Survey MonkeyThere is no better information than the source of truth, but in order to utilize this market research method you need your own website, blog or email newsletter where you can reach out to a group of people to gather their opinion.  You can also deploy a survey to your fan base on FaceBook or followership on Twitter.

Survey Monkey is arguably the best survey tool out there, one that I have been using for years.  The tool is extremely flexible, and it offers a free version you can use to get started immediately. Here are a few tips that may help if you choose to go this route.

In my experience using this tool, I have found that short one page surveys tend to get the most responses. Anything over 5 questions and people start getting lethargic just by looking at the survey layout.  Keep the layout clean with plenty of white space or breathing room for the eyes.

They key to remember whenever making decisions based on survey results is that you want to collect a large number of responses. Basing your eBook’s topic on just a handful of responses may prove ineffective as the smaller sample may not represent the larger universe or market which may not exist to begin with.

So there you have it; ways to research your topic and ways to research your topic’s ideal audience. I hope you found these helpful and practical enough to start taking action today.

In my next post, I will discuss how to create the actual eBook product without expensive eBook writing software. I will discuss a number of free resources you can leverage in the process and create a beautiful looking eBook mostly for free.

Readers: How do you research an eBook topic? Are there other methods one can engage in to determine the profitability / effectiveness of an eBook topic?

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16 Responses to “How to Research a Profitable eBook Topic Successfully”

  1. Vedran says:

    never thought to browse Bulletin Boards for topic
    very informational, thank you

  2. jon says:

    excellent, helpful post, i remember you saying this before, but its soooo worth remembering… it is not who you want to sell to, rather who is out there wanting and needing your information….spot on!!!!

  3. Vernon says:

    Thanks for sharing this post, it is packed with great information. I do agree on out statement “jon” it is worth remembering.

  4. Alex says:

    Well specified topic. You make the readers thinks that they should try this. Why not? It’s very helpful then.

  5. sutha says:

    Dear sunil

    superb post as always. just a quick one . i’m wondering if u want to make money from ebook u need to have a site. i think you are refering to sales page. have you written anything on how to do sales page from scratch . if no can you write someting on how to create a sales page from scratch for beginners. your article will be a boon for newbies as usual.


    • Sunil says:

      no, a site or sales page is not necessary, but one will certainly help. in my current ebook series, I am definitely going to write about sales copy and how to create an effective sales page

  6. Rash Scott says:

    This is really good post here. Thanks the time to post such valuable information. Quality content is what always gets the visitors coming. And I am waiting for this. See you next week

  7. I don’t doubt one bit that eBooks are very effective for making money on the Internet. However, in terms of effort, it probably requires the same level of effort and dedication as running a profitable blog. It is possible no doubt, but if you think it is a get rich quick scheme then you cannot be more wrong.

    • Sunil says:

      K – an ebook is definitely more passive in my experience. now if you want to turn it into a best seller, I agree that the promotion work can be just as much, if not more than running a full time web property

  8. Lina says:

    You seem to focus on advice/self-help e-books, but what about fiction? Do you think this series applies to those that want to make money publishing fiction e-books? Thank you and enjoying this series so far.

    • Sunil says:

      Lina – read my article about Kara, who took the lessons I’ve written about and applied them to her fiction book. she earns well over 5 figures each month in royalties from Amazon alone

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