Why Ten Books Are Better than One

(This is the final guest post, in a series of three, by Mark’s good friend and author, Charles Burke. See here for post one and post two.)

The concept is simple – the more books you write, the more you’re going to sell. I mean, think about your own preferences – if you like your first experience with an author, don’t you want to go back for more?

But that cannot happen if there’s no series. I’ve seen “authors” who’ve been working on their first book for years. Maybe they’re up to 800 chapters and still thinking of more things to include. They want to write the definitive work on their subject; want to include absolutely everything on the topic.

Now, I don’t know… maybe they’re afraid they’ll be criticized if they leave anything out, or maybe they’re putting off the move into publishing and marketing, both of which may be unfamiliar territory. In any case, they’re writing a one-shot sale that leaves no opening for future income. Their readers will be left with a (hopefully) good experience, but no second act.

In fiction, people like series books. That’s just a fact of life. They like “knowing” the characters and come to think of them as friends. And when they’ve finished the last volume in a series, they actually “miss” the people, the situations and the excitement. Many readers go into a form of withdrawal and may even write to ask when the next book is coming out.

So, if you’re writing fiction, sure, you can write epic novels spanning five generations if you want, but what’ll you use for income while you turn out your next book? And if you’ve covered everything in book one, what’s left to tell in book two? You may have to start all over with an entirely new cast of characters. Right there you’ve automatically lost a certain percentage of your readers, the ones who love continuity.

These Days People Don’t Buy Encyclopedias

And believe it or not, if you’re writing non-fiction, it’s very much the same. An encyclopedic coverage of everything related to your topic is impressive, but people these days don’t buy encyclopedias. They buy tightly targeted information products that tell them how to solve their most immediate problem, the one they’re facing and have to solve right now.

The exception to this rule is people just dipping their toe into a new hobby. They start off with beginner’s guides and then, if their interest survives the first few weeks, quickly move on to the specialized volumes. And that’s the market that spends the bucks.

So the good news is, whatever you’re writing, it’s to everyone’s advantage for you to break it all down into smaller, quickly-readable chunks. The vast majority of your readers prefer it that way. Even better, having more titles to sell will earn you more money (of course, this is all predicated on the assumption that you actually CAN write, but that’s another topic for another day).

Digging Deeper Into Your Book’s Niche

In part one, I mentioned my friend and his list of narrowly targeted books on Amazon. His decision to micro-niche his topic is very canny. Sure, his books are all short, and it’d be easy to dismiss them as lightweight. But a closer look shows that each one is deeply researched and provides strong, actionable steps that his readers can take to solve their problems. They’re good, useful books.

If you’re a non-fiction writer, what niche are you writing in? It could be elephant grooming – that’d certainly be a narrow niche. But it’s not only narrow, which is good, it’s also sparsely populated, and that’s not good. Ideally, your potential buyers should number in the millions if possible.

So let’s say we switch over to dog grooming. One way you could get the maximum mileage from your efforts would be to first write a general, basic book on grooming dogs, and then add in some fine-tuning for a specific breed, say, Border Collies.

Once that one is done, you could then retune it for Lhasa Apsos.

And again for Russian Wolf Hounds. After all, 80 percent of the information is the same, but ask yourself – would the owner of a Doberman or a Pit Bull want to be lumped in with Chihuahua owners? And vice versa. I mean, let’s be a little sensitive here.

So let’s say you keep going forward, retuning the basic book for different breeds, using different stories, names and terms. Before long you don’t just have a book about dog grooming. You have twenty of them – forty – a hundred. And you’re an established expert with a publishing empire. Even better, each person who buys one of your books has experienced you as a specialized expert on their particular breed.

Or maybe you’re into photography, and you’ve decided your book is going to be on that subject. So you start casting around for ideas. Sure, you could write yet another same-old-same-old book about the joys of taking pictures.

But what if, instead, you wrote a smaller, more specialized book about how to take macro (super-closeup) photos, and another on digitally turning face photos into comical caricatures, and another on how to find the powerful angles that nobody else ever notices, and yet another on how to use free online resources for sophisticated visual effects. You’d be specializing in the quirky and fun.

Taking that first example, macro photography, into a different direction, you could actually sub-niche it down lots further. First, just ask yourself, who uses macro equipment? Researchers recording results of experiments. Gardeners and flower lovers. Dermatologists. Dental surgeons. Metallurgists. You’d quickly become THE macro photography expert. See what we’re doing here? We’re simply seeking out approaches that are interesting, useful or exciting and core drilling down into the subject.

Then again, maybe you’re writing on how to solve serious, life-disrupting problems. Maybe it’s health issues. Or it could be how to deal with difficult people, or how to run a small, home based business despite having no money, no connections and no business experience. Or how to stop a divorce. Or how to escape an abusive relationship safely. Or how to rebuild your personal finances after a crisis.

Test Each Book idea Against These Two Questions

The whole point is, it’s not hard to brainstorm long lists of novel new angles and aspects of your topic. Afterwards you can test each idea against two questions: First, are there lots of people suffering from this problem and hungry for a solution? And second, are they willing and able to pay for your solution? Even better, are they already paying for information, solutions or help? If you come up with two good, strong yes answers, you have a winner. Add it to your list of books to write.

Follow this process and you can quickly carve out a stable, solid career as a self-published expert author.

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