Exploring what’s already out there

So, you are starting to get clear on your topic. Treat yourself to some time on Amazon and in your local bookstore or library exploring what’s already out there.

This will be time well spent, as you will gain a lot of cues for the content and appearance of your book.

A great exercise as you are getting ready to write is to search out what is already available on your topic. I’m going to start with the assumption that you find a number of books on your topic on Amazon. Select several titles that have the “Look Inside” feature because you want to collect some information from those pages as well as the listing.

Set up a table or a spreadsheet file with the following column headings: title, author, publication date, size of the book (height and width and thickness, if available), number of pages, number of chapters, type of organization (if you can determine that), best seller status (if yes, in which categories).

You will want to compare information from several books to get a sense of which characteristics are most popular in your area of interest.

  • The title and author will make it easier to find the book in the bookstore or library for the next step in the exercise.
  • The publication date will let you know if it is a currently popular topic or if most of the books on that topic were written five or more years ago.
  • The size of the book is important in your planning. I have discovered that business-related books, self-help books, standard mysteries and romances, and Christian romances all come in slightly different shapes and sizes. The size of your page impacts on the layout of your book.
  • The number of pages, the number of chapters, and the type of organization will each give you helpful cues for setting up your own book.
  • Best sellers indicate topics that have a large ready-made audience of people who have already paid for books on those topics.

However, an online search will only do so much for you. For some things you are better off if you can get your hands on a physical copy of the books you are comparing.

If you have a local full-service bookstore you can do the next step there. If not, go to your local branch library. Take the list of books you prepared while on Amazon with you and find physical copies of as many of those titles as you can.

  • See what they look like on the shelf. Does any particular size or shape appeal to you more? Do you respond differently to different colors on the cover?
  • How does the book feel in your hands? The texture of the paper, the heft of the book itself.
  • When you compare each book to others in that section of the bookstore or library does it feel substantial?
  • Is it a size you would buy or does it feel like too much information to commit to the time necessary to read it?
  • Does it feel too short, like there is not enough information to justify the price?
  • Is the print easy to read? Check the back of the title page to see if the font is identified.

If you can’t find any books directly on topic this should be a red flag to you. Successful books are typically written about topics that people are willing to pay for. If your topic isn’t there, look for related topics. If you still don’t find a match, give serious consideration to pivoting and changing direction. (Can you tell I’ve been watching a lot of college basketball recently?)

Writing a book is a major commitment of time, energy, and other resources. If there isn’t a ready market already out there, you will need to do extensive work to create an audience to buy your book. Is this specific topic important enough to you for that additional investment?

Not all topics need to be shared in a book. Articles and speeches are additional mediums for sharing your message and may be more appropriate at this time.

So, as you get ready to write your book, take advantage of that monster of the Internet, Amazon.com. Research your topic and related ones. See what is already out there. Has your topic already demonstrated that it can captivate an audience? Follow up with a visit to your favorite bookstore or library.

Identify the physical characteristics of the books you like. Incorporate as many of these as you can as you visualize your own book.

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Have some questions about how to get started? Give me a call at 843-593-0045 or use this link to schedule your complimentary Enchanted Book Session.

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