Blog Post April 26, 2011
Go To The Bookstore (not the library)
Writing a book generally starts with a visit to the bookstore. You are looking for a whole bunch of very important information.
Collect Titles Of Similar Books
Bookstores and publishers and readers want books that are similar but different. It is a rare book that is totally unlike any other that gets into a bookstore. They don’t hate you; they just won’t know where to put it on their shelves. Describing your book is similar to the way a high concept movie, which is sold in a single sentence, is pitched to a Hollywood Studio. “It’s like Die Hard on a Cruise Ship.” “It’s like Sound of Music in Africa.” “It’s like The Beverly Hillbillies in Manhattan.” You hook to something easily recognizable (and preferably very successful) and then give your twist that makes the subject unique to you or your project.
Find books on your subject written by other authors. If there are other books on your subject, or near your subject, that means there is probably a market for your subject. If there are no similar books – that makes it a harder sell. What does it mean if there are other books on your subject? It means nothing. How may diet books do you think there are? How many cookbooks? As long as your book brings your unique point of view there is probably a market for it.
How To Look At What Other Authors Have Done.
• How is your treatment of this subject similar – what did the other expert do right?
• How is your treatment of this subject different – what would you do differently that would advance the benefit to your market?
In Which Part Of The Bookstore Did You Find The Book That’s Like Your Book?
Bookstores have to know where to put your book on their shelves. They don’t make up categories to fit your book. You have to fit your book to their sections. Publishers aren’t going to publish books they can’t sell because the bookstores won’t want it because they won’t know what to do with it. Think about the size of Barnes & Noble and you’ll appreciate their problem. Bookstores aren’t going to carry books they can’t place in a specific section. Look at the spine of many books today and they will tell you the genre.
• What genre is your book? How-to, Self-help, Pop-Psy, Psychology, Religion, Philosophy?
• Who is writing in your area?
• What have they written?
• What did they do right?
• What would you do differently?
• How would your work add benefit to your reader?
• How can you use this information in your book?
When you create a package for a publisher, one of the things you include is a Comparison Sheet in which you compare what you’ve found in the bookstores to your book. Include what they did that you would do, and what makes your contribution different. That’s very helpful research whether you go to a publisher or not. This is a good time to do that research for yourself. Let your competition be your guide – they are where you want to be.
How many sports related movies have you seen in which the coach is watching films of other teams. Professionals of all types understand their competition and this holds true of writing as well. You should know your competition as well as you know your subject.
It’s a good idea not to skim over this exercise for yourself or for your publisher. The more you know about your competition, the better you can compete with them.