Thousands of new titles are published on a daily basis.
Since it’s economically and physically unfeasible for book buyers to acquire them all, readers are making choices. To make sure your book has the best chance at being their choice, it’s critical to understand what’s happening in the book market and what your competitors are doing.
It’s time to put on your spy gear and gather some market and competitive intelligence.
Start by answering the following questions:
What market issues could potentially influence your book sales?
There are a multitude of factors that could affect book sales. Whether it’s fluctuations in demand for certain formats, advances in technology, international market trends, changes in buying behavior, or even economic, social, or business issues, you should take a macro-level (broad, big-picture) view of your genre and then ask yourself, “What’s going on, how will this impact me, and how should I respond?”
What critical problems could hinder your ability to reach readers?
With our widespread, easy access to technology, it’s strange to think that any author would have trouble reaching a reader—no matter how rural the person is. However, it’s not just about physical reach. The reality is that readers are suffering from information overload thanks to a saturated book market, which makes them far more discerning when it comes to choosing their next book. They seek quality signals to determine whether a title is worth reading, they turn to experts and influencers, and they develop heuristics based on previous experiences to ease the cognitive burden of making a decision. That makes the visibility of your book all the more crucial.
So, the question is how many people are potentially being exposed to your message? What do you need to do to not only connect with people through relevant channels of communication but also carve your way through the distractions that ultimately fragment their attention? Are you building your brand and reach through social media, email, and a website? Are you constantly seeking other ways to reach people? Do you have the resources to reach them? How long will it take? By asking these questions and identifying critical issues, you’ll be more equipped to find solutions that help you cut through the noise and expand your reach.
What’s happening in terms of genre trends?
Is there a leaning toward diversity, epic premises, or certain tropes? Are readers in your genre becoming drawn to more authentic voices and original stories or do they prefer tried and true formulas? Following genre trends will give you an indication of potential book sales, as well as help you be strategic in positioning your book.
Are there any particular buying habits that will affect your book’s release?
How many books do readers who buy books like yours purchase in a month? How often do they buy? Do they buy at the beginning of a month or towards the end? Do they buy both print and ebook versions? Do they prefer to buy in bundles? Are there any seasonal buying trends? Believe it or not, buying habits can have a major impact on the month you choose to release your book and when you’ll release it during that month. With other books entering the market on a daily basis, it’s not hard for readers to forget your book exists, so timing is everything.
Who are the influencers and thought leaders in your genre or niche?
As mentioned earlier, readers seek quality signals and often turn to experts and influencers. Think of Oprah’s Book Club for a second and how one word from the talk show queen herself can turn a relatively unknown title into an international bestseller. Identify the people in your genre or niche who have similar power—albeit on a smaller scale—so that you can start connecting and building relationships with them.
Who are your competitors?
Keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Just kidding! There are many reasons you want to know who your competitors are—some of them could even be mutually beneficial. These writers have very similar audiences to you. The upside is that you not only learn from what they’re doing but you can also cross-promote when you want to provide value to your audience. Browse through the Twitter and Facebook feeds of some of your favorite authors, and you’ll soon see that many of them aren’t afraid to promote the authors they’ve come to enjoy.
How are competitors pricing books similar to yours?
Effective pricing can make or break you. How your competitors price their books is just one small piece of a gigantic pricing puzzle, but it’s a key piece to figuring out your own pricing strategy. When you’re answering this question, you’ll want to establish how competitors are pricing their books before launch if they’re offering pre-orders, during launch, and after launch.
How are competitors promoting and distributing their books?
The chances are that many of the distribution and marketing channels your competitors use will be the same ones you’ll want to use. Gaining a clear picture of where competitors are currently active will help you when mapping out your own promotion and distribution strategy. Don’t forget that competitors are using specific channels for a reason—your readers are using those channels, too.
What are your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses?
Do competitors have resources you don’t? Do they have established audiences? Perhaps they’re incredibly fast at getting new books to market. On the other hand, they could be embarrassingly inefficient at managing the whole launch process. If you want a winning launch strategy, you need to answer this question so that you can build on your own strengths and resolve your own weaknesses. You first need to know what those strengths and weaknesses are based on yours and your competition’s successes and failures.
What threats do you face?
Increased competition, a slow economy, and changes in reading devices are just some of the many threats that face authors. Having a good grip on potential threats can help you avoid them while planning and executing a solid launch.
Are there any opportunities being missed on which you can capitalize?
Exploiting opportunities like adding a unique tactic to your launch campaign, reducing launch costs, or presenting your book from a new angle will give you a competitive edge during a book launch. By doing your research and evaluating the launches of others, you might just discover there are plenty of ways you can get ahead.
The Internet is a treasure trove of information these days, as are bookstores, industry events, and authors themselves. It doesn’t take much to find launch plans your competitors are following—they’re sharing them on blogs and through social media platforms. You can also easily find blogs, social media accounts, and websites talking about your competitors’ books. Understanding both the market and your competition will allow you to become hyper-focused and make the most appropriate decisions when building out your launch plan.
How are you making sure readers pick your book over another? Share your tips with us in the comment section below. Before you leave, be sure to hit the subscribe button. We’ll be sharing loads of launch-related info to ensure your book generates the publicity it deserves. Get a head start by downloading a copy of our free book launch success checklist below.