As a writer, there’s no denying they’re your bread and butter.
One great idea can catapult an unknown author into the stratosphere and be the beginnings of what turns out to be a very lucrative literary career.
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If you need proof, just examine the life of J.K. Rowling.
The idea that sparked the creation of an enchanted wizarding school known as Hogwarts and the global phenomenon that is Harry Potter has moved her from being a formerly homeless and struggling author to a self-made multi-millionaire.
While you may not aspire to be as prolific a writer as J.K. Rowling, knowing how to generate ideas is still a very important skill to have, especially if your focus is self-publishing.
From creating your manuscript to writing promotional content for your author blog, your ideas are the stepping stones that take you from your initial concept for a new book to the final destination of connecting with someone that becomes your customer and eventually a loyal fan.
Data Mining for Idea Generation
Where do ideas come from? And more importantly, where do good ideas come from?
It’s a daily struggle to avoid two issues that tend to pop up for writers of all persuasions – writers block and lack of inspiration.
Even if you’ve never been someone who’s had a problem coming up with ideas for your books and content, learning how to research and really dig into the resources available to you can reveal opportunities that you may never even have considered.
Data mining is defined as the process of turning raw data into useful information.
Also called “knowledge discovery”, data mining involves looking for patterns in large quantities of data to learn more about target markets and customers, and then transforming that information into insights that help you to develop better marketing strategies and increase your sales.
You can use data mining skills to never run out of ideas and always have a collection of inspiration that you can turn to as a starting point for your next book, article or blog post.
- Scan Viral Blog Posts in your Niche
One of the greatest things about the internet is that it’s a very transparent place.
It’s easy to identify what web surfers find interesting and valuable in the form of specific content that generates a significant response.
When a blog post or article goes “viral” it’s a clear sign that readers in a niche find the content of the piece to be particularly poignant.
Use these signals to identify posts and articles that warrant deeper investigation to find out exactly what readers found very helpful or inspirational about it.
Read through the blog post or article making note of the general topic and the specific questions and topics covered in the body of the piece.
Another hot spot for finding ideas that you can use as a spring board for your own writing is in the comments left under viral posts. They tend to be plentiful and have enough detail to clue you in to why the content was so appealing.
- Scour Online Communities and Groups
Another excellent tool for data mining online is the resource known as the online community.
All over the internet there are millions of spaces where surfers gather in groups that focus on very specific topics. Ideas are shared, problems are discussed and solutions are just waiting to be developed and packaged for sale to those eager to buy them.
Whether you specialize in fiction or non-fiction writing, online communities in your niche offer a treasure trove of information and data that you can use to figure out the kind of content you can develop that appeals to your target audience.
If you see the same question popping up time and again, that’s a good indication that creating a resource that solves that specific problem could be a potential winner.
In other cases, online communicates help you to discover subniches of a wider niche that you have probably never even though of. When this is the case, it can lead to new and interesting ideas for you to develop book concepts as well as marketing and promotional content.
For example, if you are into fantasy-based fiction writing and stumble upon an online community filled with avid fantasy fiction fans, you will likely come across conversations that detail the types of books they’ve read and enjoyed. You’ll also find out what they love about these books and the characters they feature as well as not yet existing stories they would love to read if they become available.
Websites such as Facebook, Reddit, Goodreads and many others have niche community groups and forums that provide extensive data and information about the things that are most important to your target audience.
- Ask Your Existing Audience
One of the most underutilized tools of data mining is the survey.
It’s so painfully obvious but yet so many marketers, including book writers like you, overlook the idea of going straight to the source in order to generate priceless ideas.
If you have already released a book and you have even a modest tribe following you, the best way to develop new ideas is by asking your readers what they want to see next.
You can do this by sending out a simple open-ended question to readers of your newsletter, or by starting a conversation with your readers through your social media channels and asking them for feedback.
- Dig into Older Blog Posts and Comments
When you create content on your own author blog, it’s very easy to forget older posts and focus only on your most recent musings and the comments they generate from readers.
A simple way to gather new ideas for books and promotional materials is by going through older blog posts on your site, particularly the comments, to look for specific questions or comments from readers that stand out.
These questions and comments often reveal gaps in the information your books provide and offers clues to new directions you can take your fiction writing in.
- Look at What’s Popular and Trending
Sometimes taking a look at what is popular and trending in your niche can give you inspiration and new ideas for books and blog posts.
Say for example you are in the health and fitness niche with a focus on weight loss.
A quick search on “weight loss” in a tool like Google Trends reveals that sub-topics such as the ketogenic diet and intermittent fasting are hot niches that are trending upwards.
This information can be used as a starting point for further research into your competition’s posts, online communities, social media properties and even into your older blog posts and comments to gather even more useful information.
The internet has made it easier than ever for you to put your finger on the pulse of your target audience and really drill down to find out what their interests, problems and pain points are.
By developing your ability to “listen” closely to what your audience is telling you and knowing how to follow the trail of breadcrumbs they inevitably leave behind you dramatically improve your chances of stumbling upon ideas that have the most potential.
These ideas mark the first step in creating book offers that your prospects find absolutely irresistible, and give you the inspiration you need to generate book titles that truly serve your audience.
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