Writing a Great Nonfiction Book, One Page at a Time

Writing Prompt of the Week #4: Competitive Titles

If you want readers to pick up your book rather than somebody else’s, you need to be able to communicate how your book is better suited to their needs. Understand and build on your market differentiation. That’s a businessy phrase, but you need to get comfortable with it, because agents and editors are hungry for it. To learn more about what competitive titles are and why they matter, read this post on differentiation. To make sure your book is marketable, do your research.

1. First, read this post on genres and identify your genre. Your thoughts on this may change as you do your competitive title research.

2. Use a search engine and search for key phrases from your draft of message and promise from WPotW#2. Make a list of any books that come up in the results, either on Amazon or on other authors’ websites?

3. Go to a bookstore or to Amazon and find your genre. (On Amazon, genres are listed on the left side of the window when you are looking the books category. Keep drilling down to get to a more focused list.) Browse to identify the books that seem most popular and that are most similar to your own in terms of the audience they are trying to reach and the ideas they present. On Amazon, you can sort results in a few ways, including popularity. In a bookstore, look for those books that have a lot of copies on the shelves (if it’s selling well, the buyers keep more copies on hand) or ask a knowledgeable bookseller.

4. Look at bestseller lists and identify books that address the same topics as your book.

5. Ask people you know who are potential members of your audience which books they’ve read that have had the greatest impact or that they’ve recommended to others.

6. Read or browse the books you identify as competitive titles. Know them well and consider how your book will compete. (Read this post on market differentiation.)

WPotW is a series of posts designed to take you from idea to finished first draft in forty weeks or less. If it’s enough time to grow a human being, it should be enough time to produce a first draft. Occasionally I’ll post more than one, and you can certainly work through more than one a week to shorten your timeline. Where you go after the first draft is up to you. Hint: Second, third, fourth drafts.

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