With thousands of books published every day (yes, you read that correctly), you need to give your book the best chance to succeed. One of the smartest ways to do just that is to conduct a book positioning study. (You might also see this called a competitive analysis or a book marketing study.) Of course book success relies on writing a great book that has a great cover. But there’s SO MUCH more you can do.
Among other information, a book positioning study tells you the following about comparable books to yours:
- Pricing strategies
- Book details (length, size)
- Strengths and weaknesses (according to readers; read the reviews!)
- Genre trends
Wouldn’t knowing all this make you feel more in control of the self-publishing process?
Knowing what books comparable to yours are like, as far as content and structure, can help you structure your own. If nine of 10 books similar to yours have a glossary, then maybe yours should, too. If 8 out of 10 are in the 150-page range and get good reviews from consumers, with no comments in reviews about them missing certain topics, then your book probably might not do as well if it’s only 100 pages (or if it’s 250 pages!). Do most have an index? Maybe your book should, too. Do all 12 have between eight and 10 chapters? If your outline currently has 22 chapters, you might want to rethink it. All of this research tells you, as an author, how to position your book in the marketplace for success. Looking at 10 or 12 titles in your genre shows you patterns with regard to page count, topics, and book structure that readers of your genre are looking for in the marketplace.
Looking at 10 or 12 titles in your genre shows you patterns with regard to page count, topics, and book structure that readers of your genre are looking for in the marketplace. - @jodibrandon
I’m not saying you need to do JUST what everyone else in the marketplace is doing. I AM saying that readers are often creatures of habit, so if something works, there’s a reason.
Read Those Reviews
You also want to know what readers are saying, both positive and negative, about books already on the market. Reading the reviews of comparable titles can offer a wealth of information. Look for comments of substance. Do several reviewers wish a certain book covered topic A? (Does yours?) Do reviewers say they wish there were more case studies for social proof? Think about how you can weave those into your manuscript, if you don’t already have them.
Reading the reviews of comparable titles can offer a wealth of information. - @jodibrandon
We’ve gotten a bit ahead of ourselves, though. Before you can complete a book positioning study, you need to know what you’re studying. To do that, you need to spend some time identifying your book’s genre — I mean, REALLY identifying it. (Hint: I don’t mean just “business” or “self-help.”)
You can do this on Amazon easily if you’ve identified your genre and sub-genre, but this task used to require a trip to the bookstore or a library, if yours has a good selection. (If you’re a visual person, doing it this way is way more fun than sitting on your computer scouring Amazon.) If I was working on a book similar to Martin Seligman’s Flourish, for example, I would head to the self-help section of a bookstore and then to the personal growth and development section after that.
I might think identifying my book as fitting in the personal growth and development is narrow enough, but when I look more closely, I realize there are so many sub-genres: happiness, stress, resilience, mindfulness, and more.
There it is!
While you’re there in that section, look around. The bookstore (or library, or Amazon) might have done some of the legwork for you. What titles are nearby? Take a peek at their contents. Flip through them.
Breaking it Down
I’ve created a worksheet so you can start keeping track of the info you’ll gather and use, but here’s the jist:
- Book info: title, subtitle, publisher
- Book specs: physical size, number of pages, price, format (hardcover or paperback)
- Structure notes: foreword, appendices, index, case studies, journal prompts, etc.
- Reviewers’ comments (positive and negative)
This is a general list. You might want to track something in particular that I haven’t listed here. Modify this to suit your needs as you write your book and craft your launch and marketing plan. Remember: Your goal here is to do the work now to best position your book to succeed when you’re ready to publish.
If you have any questions about a book positioning study, let me know in the comments. Happy writing!