Writing a Great Nonfiction Book, One Page at a Time

Four Questions to Help You Stand Out from the Book Crowd


Do you know whether your book is marketable? Do you know what it means for it to be marketable? People have to be willing to put money down to access the content. So, one important aspect of marketability is competitive title analysis: Are there already other books on the market that offer the same content in the same way? Unless your book is based on entirely new research into a new area of science or exploration, you can be pretty certain that there are other books that address similar ideas. But don’t be discouraged! There are ways to stand out from the crowd. Start with these 4 questions.

1. Are you writing in a crowded space? Leadership, diets and weight loss, success: these and other genres can be very crowded. If many new books appear on the shelves for your genre every month, you’ll need to dig in to make sure you are differentiating your message and promise. There will be gorillas in these genres that demand attention. And you’ll be competing with them for shelf space and readers.

2. If you are in a crowded genre, does the size of your platform help you? If you have a huge following online, if you speak to audiences across the nation, if you have a sizable tribe ready and waiting to buy your book, then being in a crowded genre is less of an issue. If you are in a crowded genre, get to work on your platform.

3. How do your message and promise stand up? When you look at the books that cover the same topic as yours, is your message truly different? How is it different? Have you come up with a new model, a new process, a new approach to solving a problem? Are you meeting the needs of a special subgroup of readers (like vegans who are looking for a weight loss program)? Are you targeting a very specific problem that readers in the space struggle to overcome? Is your book practical while others are “big idea” books? Your message and promise should convey your market differentiation by highlighting the ways in which your book is different from others.

4. Do you offer a fresh voice or persona to the mix? Some books are successful not because they cover entirely new ground but because the author’s voice and persona are new to the genre, are more modern, are more aligned with current reader desires or expectations. For instance, Dr. Phil’s no-nonsense approach to soft and fuzzy self-help topics or Marshall Goldsmith’s authentic, conversational voice in the often stuffy business space.

Trying to determine if your book will pass the marketability test? Check out Writing Prompt of the Week #4 for a process. And let me know what you discover about your book.

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