Writing a book is different from writing in your personal journal. You’re writing a book for other people to read—not yourself.
If you desire for people to buy your book, you need to know who they are, if they’re interested in what you have to say, and if your book is different from what’s currently available.
Exploring similar book titles probably sounds like a waste of time. But trust me, it’s not. There are actually two practical reasons why you want to do your research in this area, and figure out if your book is marketable.
#1: Is your book different from others on the market?
Unless you’re writing a book on a new scientific or technological breakthrough, there’s probably little chance of writing a book that’s never been written.
Now, I’m not saying this to dash your writing dreams against the rocks. That’s not the case at all. You see, writing a book is like joining a conversation. Your goal is to figure out if you have something unique or new to add to the conversation.
So, how will your book differ from what’s already been written? Do you have new insight to add? Does your story possess a unique angle previously unexplored?
To help you think through these questions, I suggest examining reviews of comparable books to look for questions left unanswered, topics not explored, or weak points in their ideas or story. This information will help you leverage what’s been left untold.
#2: Is there a demand for your book?
If you desire to write a book to influence others, then it’s a good idea to see if there’s actually a demand for your book.
You probably don't have access to the data provided by Nielsen Bookscan. But that’s okay. There are a few free ways you can see if there’s a demand for your book.
First, check out the sales rank of books similar to your own on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. This will provide you with a snapshot of present day sales. However, it’s best to have an idea of long-term book sales.
The second step you will need to take is to explore best-seller lists, such as The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, or USA Today, to help you better identify the long-term sales potential of your book.
If a book you’ve identified that is similar to your own—this is called a book comp—is on the best-sellers list, then check to see how long it’s been there. This will let you know if interest for your book will last longer than 1-2 weeks.
Identifying similar books to your own will let you know if you actually need to write your book, how you can differentiate your book from others, and if it even has the potential to sell well.
This simple exercise will help you focus your writing and position your book well in the marketplace.
Action Step: Identify 3-5 book comps, and determine how you can best differentiate your book and whether you can expect it to sell well.