[Updated 6/15/2015] We have all been taught to “play nice,” but when your book is finally published you will have to compete against every other book ever written on your topic for the attention of your target audience. This means that one of your primary jobs as an author is to find a way to tip the scales in your favor so that your books will fly off the bookstore shelves.
How do you create an unfair advantage?
Use Amazon to Help You Build a Plan
Study your book’s competitors and find a way to be more:
- current, or
than the other books that may appear next to yours in the bookstore.
Amazon.com is a great tool for helping you create an unfair advantage because it allows you to “look inside” the book and gives you access reviews from the Amazon.com buyers in addition to the professional reviews that the publisher’s submit to the book listing.
- Pay attention to the book’s different formats. If the book was only released in print, you may be able to take over the e-book sales that the book left behind. If the book is available as an e-book, audiobook, paperback and hardcover, you may want to seriously consider doing the same.
- Read the table of contents, the introduction and the first chapter (or at least as many pages as Amazon will allow), the back cover, and the book summary from the publisher to get a general idea about the book’s message.
- Read the highest and lowest review ratings and pay attention to comments about the book’s:
- physical layout,
- use of references,
- use of lists,
- accuracy, and
- Find the bestselling books in your genre, even if the focus of those books are different from yours, and review the same three points of information listed above. You may notice something in those bestselling books that you can use in your own, even if the focus is slightly different. If it helped them reach their status, it may help you too.
Tips for Creating Your Unfair Advantage
If you want your book to be original, look for an angle on the topic that other authors are not using. For example, if everyone else is writing on the topic based on their personal experience and/or their interpretation of the Bible or another trusted text, consider using a series of interviews to gather the content to support your message and present them as case studies that reinforce your key message.
Even if there are a lot of other books on your topic, there has to be a perspective or interpretation that has not be explored or not combined in the same way that you choose to use.
Details are important, but if most of the books on your topic are busy telling readers how to cook a great meal in 20 minutes, then it may be left to you to offer comprehensive kitchen management tips for how to organize the kitchen, store food and manage the grocery shopping list in a way that makes it easy to consistently cook 20 minute meals.
This approach may require you to do more research than you originally planned to do, but it may make the difference between having a lot of potential readers and having a lot of buying readers.
The biggest challenge with comprehensive works is making it comprehensive enough to be useful yet easy enough to navigate that people can quickly find the information they need. So balance your desire to present a large volume of information with an organization strategy that is informed by how your readers will use your book.
Although you may be a logical person with a good head on your shoulders, everyone who reads your work will not agree with your message simply because you wrote. So the more evidence (in volume) and types of evidence (in variety) you use to support your message the more convincing you will be.
Your persuasive support may be in the form of:
- examples (they may be brief, extended or even hypothetical),
- stories (they may be short anecdotes or long case studies),
- testimonies (these may be quotes from experts or those who have experience with your topic that gives them more insight than the average person), or
- facts and statistics.
The key is to use support from credible sources that your readers are likely to recognize or at least trust.
If you are writing on a historical event, it may not matter that most of the books on your topic were written over a decade ago, but if your book is about solving a problem that readers are living with today, they may want a book that has more up to date support than your older counterparts offer. So don’t be afraid to be the one to give it to them.
You don’t have to be a comedian to have a book that is more entertaining than the other books on your topic. Sometimes a conversational tone and a few great stories to liven up a dry series of data tables and statistics will do the trick.
It is much better to become familiar with your competitors before your book is published so that you can build a book that benefits from the public’s response. So if you have already created your book outline or table of contents, then consider using the information you got through the activities above to improve it. If you haven’t already outlined your book by drafting a table of contents, that should be your next step after you create your unfair advantage.
Happy Unfair Advantage Creating!
Question: Can you think of some other ways to create an unfair advantage for your book?
Image by: By Toby Hudson (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons