Why You Should Be Sizing Up Your Competition

Throughout history, virtually every successful civilization has maintained rules against stealing, and few would argue with the idea that taking what does not belong to you is immoral.

Luckily for you as an author, promoting your work doesn’t require you to steal anything. But that doesn’t mean you can’t borrow some good ideas from those who have traveled the publishing road ahead of you. All you need is the wisdom to seek out new and clever ways to promote your book—ways that other authors have already proven effective—and then put your own unique spin on them.

Why Monitoring the Landscape Is Important

First, it is helpful to think of authors, thought leaders, and experts who have a similar message to yours as peers, not necessarily as “the competition.” If you adopt this mindset, keeping tabs on what they are doing won’t seem like a waste of time. Instead, you’ll get a view into your audience’s perspective, which can pay huge dividends for your platform growth.

If you’ve written a book about leadership, it’s likely that your ideal reader is familiar with John Maxwell, Jim Collins, Ken Blanchard, and a host of other people who have influenced them in one way or another. It is important to understand their messages, not only so you can clarify your point of differentiation but also because they are all really good at promoting their books. You can always learn some new tricks from them.

Tips for Learning From Your Peers

Tracking other experts in your field is much more a habit to establish than a one-time task or quarterly check-in. If you want to start learning those valuable lessons, the first step is listening on a consistent basis. Here are several tips for how to monitor your competitive landscape:

  • Keep alert for new names and book titles. When you hear buzz about a new author or book, take five minutes to do some Google research and check out the website. Pay attention to any new research or fresh takes on established paradigms.
  • Visit Amazon once a week and review the best sellers in your categories. After a few visits, you will start to recognize many titles—but those rankings change hourly, so you are bound to find some new ones each time.
  • If the new author is active on social media (look for links on their website), check out their timeline. Follow them—or add them to a list, if you want to maintain some anonymity. If they are sharing a perspective you agree (or disagree) with, weigh in with your own two cents by posting a comment. Make note of any hashtags—new or tried-and-true—that they may be using.
  • You can set up a passive system to keep your eyes on new and trending topics with Google Alerts. Just set up a few alerts for keywords that are common to your space and you’ll receive emails summarizing new activity on a regular basis.

How to Use What You Learn

Now that you’ve committed to paying more attention to other voices in your space—just as your audience does—what can you do with that knowledge? Here are some effective options for putting your newfound awareness of your competitors to work:

  • Impress their audience on social—Replying to a social media post puts your name in front a competitor’s audience, and if you are able to consistently contribute to the conversation, you may attract new followers of your own.
  • Use it as a source for content ideas—Reading a blog post or social media share often sparks you to think about a topic in a new way. Within your area of expertise, it’s not unlikely that you will have a perspective on news updates or firsthand stories shared by your contemporaries. Maybe your book takes the position opposite another expert . . . which sounds like a chance to debunk a commonly repeated misperception.
  • Guest blogging / partnership opportunities—Many thought leaders are primarily interested in serving their audiences, so a new author may be more of a potential partner than a “competitor.” Following and engaging with new and established names in the space gives you an opening to collaborate and provide both of your audiences with the best experience.
  • Targeted advertising—Many of the big social media and retailer platforms offer opportunities to reach specific audiences through paid advertising. New best sellers in your space mean new chances to refine the targeting on your Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn advertising campaigns, ensuring you’re reaching into every corner of the market to talk to your audience.

Now that you know why it’s so important to keep an eye on your “competitors”—and what to do with your new knowledge—you’re ready to begin. Start by spending five minutes each morning on one of the tactics listed above and grow from there. You’ll be surprised at how much more plugged-in you will feel and how many great ideas you’ll have . . . just by tuning in to what others are doing.

Good luck—and please share any new tips you pick up from your competitive research with us on Twitter (@GreenleafBookGr)!