Oh, it is? Not only is that not a bad thing, it’s a good thing.

“But it’s already been done! My idea is already out there. What do I do?”

We’ll get to that.

If your book's topic is too specific, it might not have a large market. [I probably shouldn't publish this book.]

If your book’s topic is too specific, it might not have a large market. [I probably shouldn’t publish this book.]

I know you* think it’s a fantastic idea, but have you shopped it around? Have you asked people who won’t say, “That’s a fantastic idea!” only because they like you or want to make you happy or want a doughnut?

This the hard part, but this is the part where I save you months of hard work for, potentially, nothing. This is where I talk you out of your book idea. Or, on the other hand, where you convince me that it’s worth publishing.

If your book (or a similar topic) is already on Amazon, that’s a good thing. That means there’s a market for it. A tiny niche might mean tiny sales.

Let’s take my fake book idea, the photo on this page. The book idea is, “How to Shoot Bugs. A book on photography, not rifles.” It’s about using a macro lens on your camera or phone to get extremely close up shots of bugs.

Now that I think of it, the play on words is so clever (did I just compliment myself?), maybe I’d even get some traffic from people who live in swampland where there are tons of mosquitoes and they are looking for tips and tricks on pest control. However, this would be misleading the audience because even if you did trick them into buying the book, it wouldn’t be what they were hoping for and they’ll probably ask for a refund (bad) and leave a 1-star review (worst) and call you a sidewinding snake oil salesman (which you are).

Analyze the Market Demand

Notice I didn’t call this competition. Yes, sure, they’re sorta competition, but we’re really interested in if there’s demand (at all) for this topic. A quick Amazon search for “macro photography bugs” gets me here:

There’s even a bug on the cover! Cool. Is that a dragonfly with its nose in a flower? Extremely cool. I’m buying that book! Slow down, cowboy, let’s look a little deeper and ask ourselves some questions.

  1. How does the competition stack up? What’s out there already? Is the market saturated?
  2. Could you do better? Why you? What are you credentials?
  3. What’s your angle? (little photography pun there … ;-))
  4. Who is the audience? Newbie, amateur, pro?
  5. What is the market missing? Can you fill the gap?
  6. Is there room in the market? How can you tell?
  7. Are you still motivated?

The “Mastering” book referenced here has 23 chapters with sub-headings like, “What are Flash Units (Built-In, Hot-Shoe, Ring & Dual)?” Amateur macro photographer that I admit to being (especially now … ), I can honestly say that I am intrigued, intimidated and I have no idea what any of those things are. Does that mean I’m no longer qualified to write a book on macro photographer for bugs?

Absolutely not.

My search, although limited and maybe even a little silly, of “macro photography bugs” brought up only that book. Then there were lots (no, LOTS) of products using photos to make a mouse pad or a phone case. Further down there are a few books of photos of bugs using macro lenses, but they don’t look like how to books. Aha, so there is at least interest in the final product: photos of bugs. 

But frankly, with a sub-heading about “Flash Units,” I might think that the Mastering book is for more advanced users. I really would just like to buy a simple clip-on macro lens for my iPhone to do the occasional shots of colorful insects. There you have it, we just:

  1. Identified our niche (macro photography for bugs),
  2. Determined our audience (newbie macro photographers interested in bugs),
  3. Analyzed the competition (higher level “pro” photography).

We should dig deeper and buy (and read) the Mastering book to see what they did, how we’ll do it differently, and where we can improve or differentiate.

What’s next? Decide if you’re motivated to do it. You could do some market research as simple as asking around or going onto a forum of amateur photographers and fish for interest. If you think it’ll fly (another bug pun, sorry … ), get down to production!

Disclaimer: I “researched” the market all of 14 seconds on one site (Amazon). You can (and should) do better than that.

I know I’ll get the question, so I might as well answer it here, “Dude, you created that cool book cover and apparently are into macro bug photography (you weirdo), so are you going to write that book?”

My answer?

I started this post as an example of something so abstract and improbable to write a book about so that no one would be tempted to write about it. But it’s a little crazy: it’s not the worst idea for a book! My son has had so much fun with that macro lens. What if there were a book that just went through the basics? Frankly, I’d like to know a little more about the topic. I think it’s one of those topics where you think (1) you know everything there is to know about it because it’s seemingly so simple, but (2) when you read more about it, you realize that there is much more to it to the point where (3) you get even more interested in the topic because you learned more about it.

Odd how that works, right? Maybe my book, “How to Shoot Bugs” will partner up with Jason Miller’s Mastering book and I’ll send the more pro photographers his way and he’ll send the novice shooters my way.

I will never know if I never write the book.

* And maybe your neighbor’s daughter.