How many times have you been perusing the latest non-fiction at a bookstore or at Amazon and thought, “Man, I could have written that one!”? I know I sure have. A title catches my eye and it is soon followed by a Homer Simpson “Doh!” and a slap to the forehead. Lessons learned. Now I write down ideas, even if what I have is no more than an idea. What you really want to know when you have an idea for a non-fiction book is, “Okay, who has done this already (if anyone) and is there room for mine?” What you need is a competitive market analysis. Hey! Wait! Come back here right now. There’s no reason to be scared. I’ll show you what to do.
- First, go to Amazon.com . It’s important that you go through the link in the previous sentence so’s I can make some money if you happen to buy anything. (How’s THAT for full disclosure?) :-}
- Go to the search bar and search the subject of your idea. For my example, I chose “library”. Okay, 1,183,140 results. Dang, somebody already wrote a book about libraries…
- Don’t be discouraged about the number of results. Trust me, you can cull the herd.
- If possible, narrow your search a bit by using two to three keywords under the “Advanced Search” tab. I narrowed by selecting “Library Design”. Brought my results down to 26,605, it did.
- Finally, I selected only new, hardcover books published after Jan, 2000. Now I’m looking at just over 7,000.
- Here is where the work begins. You can eliminate academic works, books with titles that are obviously different from your big idea, and books that are exceedingly long or short.
By now, you should have a short list. These are the books that might have the information you are considering as your big idea. If you find any that are pretty much identical to your idea, don’t sweat it too much at this stage. Maybe you’ve got a unique hook or spin. Your next stop: The local bookstore.
Oh, goody. Any excuse for a trip to the bookstore or library.
Try the bookstore first, since they are more apt to have the best selling books on their shelves. Find your competitors. Pick up the book and look at it. Make note of the cover design, the jacket notes and the format and size of the book. This should give you ideas for what you would or would not want to do with your book. Consider purchasing the top two or three competitive titles. Oh, and remember to use the Amazon link above. Hehe.
Take copius notes during this process. Why? Because an integral part of your book proposal to agents or editors will be a competitive market analysis. Remember that you are going to have to sell the idea of your book and a solid competitive title analysis shows that you have done your homework. That can go MILES towards landing you an agent or publisher.
Again, do not be discouraged if you run across competitive titles. These should inspire you. They let you know that the idea has merit and marketability. Your job now is to shine and blow the others out of the water with outstanding content that is freshly unique.