What Are Low Content Books? - ToughNickel - Money
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What Are Low Content Books?

Heidi Thorne is a self-publishing advocate. Author of nonfiction books, eBooks, and audiobooks. Former trade newspaper editor.

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Sounds like a self-published author’s dream! A book with very few words that can make money? I’m in. These would be called low content books. But what are they and what’s in them? And how can authors use this strategy to make money?

Types of Low Content Books

A low content book contains material that encourages readers to do some activity, usually by writing, drawing, coloring, painting, etc. right in the book itself. If you looked at the total number of words, it’s small when compared to a standard text-only book. These books are not designed to be read; they’re designed for action and interaction.

Popular low content books include:

  • Journals and diaries with writing or thought prompts.
  • Writing prompt books.
  • Workbooks.
  • Crossword puzzles and word games.
  • Coloring books.

Low Content Does Not Mean Low Value

Just because it doesn’t have a lot of words doesn’t mean a low content book has no value. The book could provide a host of benefits for readers including gaining insight, developing skills, eliminating boredom, a pleasant distraction, or entertainment.

How to Create Low Content Books

Authors obsessed with achieving word count could have a problem writing low content books. Where they get stuck is that instead of creating a show, they have to create interaction. It’s going from “look what I did” to “look what you/we can do.” That’s a skill that needs to be developed. Teachers, trainers, counselors, and guides are often better equipped to write these books.

Because of their interactive nature, the book itself needs to be easily usable for the included activities. Perfect bound paperback bindings that are typical for print on demand (POD) books through Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) may not be ideal since they don’t lay flat.

I’ve self-published two low content books through Kindle Direct Publishing for print. One was a business writing prompt book (101 Business Writing Prompts) and I published it in a larger 8.5” x 11” format so that the book would lay flatter. However, I also did a smaller thought prompt journal book that was 5.5” x 8.5” (Looking Questions: 31 Questions that Can Change Your Business and Your Life). Because the smaller journal had only a few pages, it didn’t have too serious of a lay-flat issue. The minimal gluing at the spine due to the few pages helped.

However, avoid turning your journal or workbook project into one that steals profits from you! Don’t be tempted to create the perfect lay-flat book. That usually means hardcover or spiral binding and both are expensive from a production and order fulfillment standpoint. If one day your journal is a big hit, and a hungry market still exists for it, then maybe re-release in a more expensively bound edition. But make your profits a priority!

On another production note, providing lines for readers to write-in their answers can be helpful. However, sometimes getting the lines right might be a formatting challenge. One reason is that Word attempts to force the auto formatting for lines. This can get messed up when KDP tries to convert the file. And if you use the Kindle Create (KC) tool to format both your eBook and print book with one file, results could even be more unpredictable, especially while KC is still in beta mode. Even though I used lines in my low content books, I probably won’t in the future just to avoid creating a bad user experience, and because I'm trying to use KC as much as possible. But do what works best for your market.

What About Low Content eBooks?

Just as a test, I also offered my low content books that I mentioned earlier as Kindle eBooks, even though they’re truly geared for print. Interestingly, I've sold slightly more eBook copies of the 101 Business Writing Prompts book than the paperback edition. Hmm...

I can kind of see why the writing prompt book as an eBook worked for a number of my readers. Since I would say that the majority of business writers use some form of electronic word processing, they were really just looking for ideas to spur their creativity, not for something to write in.

While this should be obvious, the eBook edition of your journal type book does not need lines for write-in answers. So remove them for uploading your file to KDP, even if you use them for the print edition. However, as noted earlier, for production ease, you may want to consider eliminating write-in lines altogether.

And though this should be obvious, the support documentation on Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) clearly states that puzzle books, coloring books, and blank books are not appropriate for Kindle. So unless your book also contains material that would be usable in electronic form, stick with print for your low content book.

Low Content Book Opportunities and Trends

Workbooks, Journals, Diaries, and Writing Prompt Books

These have a lot of potential life if they meet the needs and interests of a specific reader market. Note, though, that these are not blank books. That’s a completely different market segment.

Coloring Books

A while back, coloring books were a very hot publishing trend. They’ve cooled off a bit. I think the market got a bit over saturated, sometimes with “me too” or generic works that didn’t offer anything new or unique for readers. If you can create a book that taps into a special need or interest, there still may be some opportunities.

Word of caution: Use your own art! Don’t think that you can swipe some line drawing from the internet and, voilà, you have a coloring book page. It may be copyrighted and not in the public domain! Plus, if it’s already on the internet it’s not unique and marketable.

Crossword Puzzles and Word Games

Some low content publications are perennial favorites. Take crossword puzzle and word search books. For a return flight earlier this year, I was really tired and knew I wouldn’t be able to concentrate on writing or reading anything work-wise. So I wandered into the airport bookstore for a snack and to see if there was something fun to read. There were a ton of word game books! So I got a crossword book and I think I finished about half of the puzzles by the time I landed. I was certainly glad to have the entertainment and distraction.

If you want to try your hand at creating word games, there are some online word game generators for word search and crosswords. But be careful about reading the Terms of Service! You may be prohibited from publishing and selling what you create in any form, but especially if it's in electronic or eBook form.

One other note about this segment. Trying to compete with the mass market puzzles like The New York Times crosswords is tough to impossible. Be different! I saw one enterprising author/artist on Instagram who creates word puzzles based on a popular music genre and culture. Very cool!

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2019 Heidi Thorne

Comments

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on June 24, 2020:

Adrienne, optical illusion books (I know exactly what those are!) definitely qualify for low content books. I'm dizzy just thinking about them. ;)

Thanks for stopping by and have a terrific day!

Adrienne Farricelli on June 23, 2020:

This was an interesting read. I never heard about low content books before. Thanks for posting the examples as they helped me grasp the concept. My mom has an interesting book of optical illusion drawings so I guess that would qualify as a low content book.

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on April 18, 2020:

Peggy, again, thank you for sharing my work with your author friends! I wish your friend the best in this important project. Have a beautiful weekend!

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on April 13, 2020:

Hi Heidi,

I will forward this to her. I have sent other posts of yours to her as well. She is hoping to share her wisdom of teaching and counseling children and their families and put it to good use by authoring children's books. She is smart and caring, and I know that she will ultimately succeed in her efforts.

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on April 06, 2020:

Well, Peggy, I wouldn't consider children's books as "low content," even though they are low words. Low content is really more of the journal or workbook type of book.

But I will say that in spite of their low words, children's books are very difficult to write and produce! The illustration thing, of course, which is expensive. And usually I recommend that authors use an editor who specializes in children's books to review the book for reading level, content appropriateness, etc. I dedicated a complete hub to children's books a couple years ago. So if your friend is interested, tell them to check it out.

Again, thank you, and be well!

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on April 04, 2020:

Hi Heidi,

I guess children's books would count as low content books? My neighbor, who is a retired assistant principal, is researching writing children's books. They have limited word content and many illustrations from what she is learning.

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on November 12, 2019:

Hi Marlene! Glad you found this helpful and that you're encouraged to give doing a journal a try. Let us know how it goes and good luck with your journal project!

Marlene Bertrand from USA on November 12, 2019:

I am fascinated by the concept of the low content book. I never knew coloring books and such were called that, but I learned a lot here and I am now encouraged to finish creating and publishing an inspirational journal that I put away because I thought it might be a waste of time to try to try to publish it. Thank you for your excellent tips.

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on October 09, 2019:

Lawrence, I'm in no hurry to attempt coloring books either! :) But I am fascinated by the prospect of doing other types of books that aren't the standard text on a page.

Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing! Cheers!

Lawrence Hebb from Hamilton, New Zealand on October 07, 2019:

Heidi

I watched a podcast recently where the people at SPF were interviewing an artist who creates adult colouring books it was very enlightening and no, I'm not about to try it.

Great material here.

Lawrence

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on September 08, 2019:

Hi Linda! Crosswords are a great student engagement tool. I'm sure you could come up with some amazing ones based on all the science topics you cover. If you didn't before, there are some online puzzle generators that can help make it easier. Just check the terms to make sure you can republish what you create. Keep us posted on any low content books you publish! Thanks for stopping by and have a beautiful weekend!

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on September 07, 2019:

Thanks for sharing the interesting article and your advice, Heidi. In the past, I have created some original crosswords for my students. You've got me thinking about new possibilities.

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on September 05, 2019:

Bill, I know you've dabbled in the coloring book arena. I haven't worked up the ambition to do one yet. And I am horrible at drawing. So there you go. But at some point, I might dive into trying the crossword thing. You'll know when I do.

The weather here in Chicago has been beautiful lately, too. Here's to a spectacular September for all of us!

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on September 05, 2019:

Liz, agreed, the coloring book trend has cooled a bit. Still has some life in it if the material focuses on a particular market segment. And, yes, doing a crossword puzzle is challenging! There are crossword puzzle creation tools online. But even then, you still have to create the words and clues. That's quite a project! Thanks for sharing your experience across the pond!

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on September 05, 2019:

Flourish, while the coloring book craze has cooled down a bit, they are still entertaining and fun books to use and create. Glad you appreciate. Thanks for sharing your experience with them!

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on September 05, 2019:

Mary, workbooks can be very valuable publications. If you do decide to dive in and try doing one, I'd love to hear about your experience. Thanks for stopping by and good luck with your publishing adventures!

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on September 05, 2019:

Yes to everything you said. I don't see another one in me, but never say never, right?

Wishing you a brilliant September. It is absolutely perfect here today, but rain is rapidly approaching.

Liz Westwood from UK on September 05, 2019:

This is an interesting segment of the publishing market. Coloring books for adults were big in the UK a few years ago. I'm guessing that this is an area that sounds easier than it is. It takes a particular talent to create crosswords.

FlourishAnyway from USA on September 05, 2019:

There are really funny adult coloring books out there with a lot of sales on Amazon. I’ve ordered them as gifts but would never do them myself although I got a huge kick out of looking through them before gifting. Someone put a lot of effort into the artwork and the snarky humor.

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on September 05, 2019:

Good points as usual. A friend was telling me to do some workbooks but I just have not gotten into it so I'm grateful for this article.