Would you pay someone to give you the same advice that you have heard over and over again from your family and friends for years? Probably not.
So the advice of buying and reading your competitor’s books is based on the simple fact that if you know what everyone else has already said, you will be better prepared to write a uniquely insightful message that is worth reading, and a message worth reading is a message that is worth publishing.
Why You Want to Read Before You Write
When I choose a new topic to learn about, I don’t just read one book on that topic-I read several. I don’t care how many libraries I have to visit to find a book on my topic or how long it takes to sift through Amazon’s inventory to find the perfect books, if there is a published book on what I want to know, I want to find it.
When I finally find books on the topic I want to know more about, I channel my inner critic while I read the back cover, table of contents, introduction, and even reviews if I find it online. Even if I find a printed copy in a bookstore or on a library shelf, sometimes I’ll look up the book online to see what people are saying about it.
Books that rehash something I’ve already read are immediately dismissed. So if your book truly fills an existing problem, chances are that there are already several books on that topic and that the biggest book-lovers among your target audience have probably read them and are only reading yours to see if you have something new to add to what they have already learned from the other authors.
Reading Strategy for Authors
You don’t want your readers to know more about your competitors and how you stack up to them than you do, so you will want to read 5-10 books on your topic or subject. Amazon and Google’s search engine for books are great tools for helping you quickly find competitors. Simply think of a few keywords that describe the kind of book you want to write and then start a search for those terms on Amazon.com or Google.com.
It’s wise to read contemporary articles and blog posts on your topic because they can contain more recent information than published books can offer. Being more contemporary-or up to date-is a great way to stand out and create a competitive advantage.
A few other ways to create your competitive advantage is to make your book:
- original (possibly through its organization or visual elements),
- more comprehensive,
- more entertaining, or
- more persuasive.
You could read a summary of your competitors’ work or skim through the pages to find ways to make your book stand out from theirs, but that will be about as effective as trying to bake a better cheesecake than the one your friend had at the Cheesecake Factory based solely on the description of it that your friend gave you and a picture you found online. In either case, you won’t understand your competition well enough to know how to create a better version of your own.
Image is reading in white by Magdalena Roesler via 500px