Stalking the Competition (Marketing Plan #3)

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Photo by fPat Murray via Flickr
Photo by fPat Murray via Flickr

Originally published on ACFW Colorado’s The Inkwell Blog.

Last week, we discussed the importance of reading in your genre and determining both the similarities and differences of books already in the marketplace. Now that you know the books and authors against which you’re competing, it’s time to stalk–I mean, research–the competition.

First, let’s put that Google-fu into practice. Choose a book from last week’s list of comparable titles. Search the author’s name and make note of what comes up. Bookmark the search page.

1. Author website – Cruise on over and take a look. What do you like and what don’t you like? How do they connect with readers through message boards and mailing lists? What do you think is most effective? What doesn’t work as well?
2. Social media – With what social networks are they involved? Facebook? Twitter? Goodreads? Shelfari? LinkedIn? Pinterest?
3. Similar pages – Make a note of the little section at the bottom of the Google results page that says, “Pages similar to.” These will usually be other authors that have similar books, content, or are searched in conjunction with your target author. For example, when I search Denise Hunter, I come up with “Pages similar to” Colleen Coble, Sharon Hinck, Jamie Carie, and Christine Lynxwiler. These authors will most likely also be part of your competitive analysis.

Now, time to Google the book title PLUS the author name. Make a note of what comes up (or bookmark the search page.)

1. What bloggers have reviewed this book? These may be possible targets to review your book.
2. On what lists are they included on Shelfari, Amazon, and Goodreads?
3. How have the books been described in press releases?
4. What elements of the story do readers best identify with, as expressed in reviews and blog posts? These may be the elements in your own story (if present) that you will want to play up in your marketing.

Now cruise on over to and and see how the book ranks in its category. Amazon ranking has more to do with overall popularity, as indicated by book sales, inclusion on lists, and additions to wish lists. Barnes and Noble uses book sales as its sole criteria.

Do you think that the marketing techniques used for these books have been effective? If not, what would you do differently?

This week’s action item: Choose at least two books and research both the author and the book’s online web presence and sales rank from online booksellers. Make detailed notes. What books do you think are your main competition?

Next week: Determining your target audience

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