Sales: Knowing Your Competition

Knowing Your Competition

When I was asked a few weeks ago how I saw myself growing a business I answered immediately by knowing our competition. This brought up a discussion about: Who are our competitors? How can we get to know them? What do they offer that we don’t? What do we offer that they don’t? How can we created brand equity and brand differentiation?  How do we stand out? These are all important questions when thinking about your competition. Now, this might sound very business-world-like, but I promise you, as with most things I have learned, this translates directly into the writing/author world.

Who are my competitors?

This one may seem simple: other authors. Yet, it’s not merely just other authors because I’ve chosen the route of self-publishing. It’s also all those people who want to be writers, all of those large publishers who threaten the world of indies daily (or maybe I threaten them daily), and the smaller publishers that promote indies.

How do I get to know the competition?

READ, read a lot if you can, surf their websites. This is especially important when looking at your author competitors. Author’s websites are often blogs which help you get to know them. From getting to know my author competition I’ve learned that:

As bad as this sounds, you might be able to instantly spot a weakness, like say, professionalism. It’s great to let your readers in, but they don’t need to know every intimate part of your life. It’s great to have a sense of humor, but there should be limits to it. What I’ve found is that some author’s forget to include professionalism into their blogs or websites. It’s important to remember that your internet presence is a representation of who you are and a marketing vehicle for not only your books, but you. If you say your books are in depth with strong layers of emotion and not a single part of your website says this about you it will create brand confusion. You say one thing, do another. That’s not good for business. You create a service promise with your website, so keep it coordinated with your novels and their aim.

On the publisher end of things viewing the websites of both large and small publishers can give you a perspective of what is up and coming, what the industry is over run with, and if you want them to notice you, you can learn how.

COVERS, look at the whole package, by surfing these websites and websites like Amazon you can start to see trends–some of which you will want to stay away from, other ones that you may fall into, and how you can stand out. The last thing you want is a cover that looks like 50 Shades if you are writing a clean romance.

What do they offer that I don’t?

In the writing world this is a very difficult question, and it’s more about knowing how you don’t write than anything. It also shows you who your competitors are and aren’t. Do I compete with Harry Potter? No, my books are nothing like that in writing style or content. Knowing what others offer that you don’t in the writing world is important because it helps you to know who your competition is and who isn’t. This way you are better armed to play against them.

What do I offer that they don’t?

From surfing websites you can obtain this information, but the best way to obtain this information is by reading the novels of your competition. In the indie world I’ve read some novels that were so poorly edited that my eyes crossed. This isn’t to say I’m perfect–you can read In Between Season’s first edition and see that I am not, but I am talking major errors like: capitalization; missing quotation marks; wrong words used; changes from past to present tense in the same sentence, etc. Am I immune to these errors? NO. Are big time publishers immune to them? NO. That’s what I learned from reading both indie and major published books. What it taught me is that I can offer something that other indies don’t. I should and can put a book out there that can compete with the major books, and that will outshine indie books thrown out there with an error every two sentences.

How do I create brand equity and differentiation?

Brand equity is the value that your reader sees in you and what differentiates your brand from another brand. In business an easy way to accomplish this is with logos and icons–like say the Gieco gecko. As a writer I don’t have that appeal–I can’t, and don’t want to be associated with a cute gecko. It’s even more important for me to create brand equity because of the myriad of things that I write. I may have to write some things under a pen name to help avoid this confusion. You might want to consider this too. It makes marketing all that much harder, but if you concentrate on you as a writer as opposed to one book or a single series you should be able to create differentiation. What you do need to know is what you want your brand to be. Who are you as an author–as a person? My brand equity that will help readers stay and become fans of not only my books but me is that I genuinely care about my readers and believe that they help me in my success. I want them to know how much I appreciate them and I also want to help other struggling/developing writers. How do I do this?

  • I connect with my readers at their level–getting involved in conversations about not only my books but other ones that are similiar
  • I try to make my blog appealing to readers and writers by telling the truth about the process and sharing what I’ve learned
  • I thank my readers with giveaways, blog tours, and personalized emails
  • I make sure that readers know that I am open for them to contact me for interviews, questions and even just chit chat
  • I talk about books other than mine and promote them, too

How do I stand out?

Through brand equity and differentiation you can see how you want to stand out, but there has to be follow through.  The most important thing is to stand out as an author by having a voice in your writing that is recognizable across genres, especially if you write in more than one. When I was told by several readers that I had a unique voice and style of writing I was thrilled. I don’t want to write like anyone else but me, so I try to keep my influences on my writing purely grammatical. Another way I’ve tried to stand out is with my covers. They don’t look like all the fluffy young adult covers that have hit the market recently, but the aim is this; they symbolize the books of which they represent. I’ve had some great comments on them and then some not so great ones, but that happens with everything.

How do you stand out as an author? Are there things you are struggling with to brand yourself? Who is your competition?




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