How to Produce a Competitive Analysis of Your Book

This post is a blogged draft excerpt from The Author Training Manual (Writer’s Digest Books, March 2014). Read the previous blogged excerpt, here.

Complete a competive review of your book.The competitive analysis completed during Step #4 of the Author Training Process, Make Sure You Write a Unique and Necessary Book, parallels the nonfiction book proposal section called “Competing Books” (also sometimes called “Competition Analysis”).  In this section of a proposal you provide agents and acquisitions editors with a detailed look at what traditionally published books have been written on your topic and how your book compares to them. This convinces a publisher that the book you plan to write is different and adds something new to existing titles. For the sake of the Author Training Process, you do not need to focus only on traditionally published books. In fact, if you are planning to self-publish your book, your analysis might benefit from an evaluation of bestselling indie-published books that compete with or complement your book project.

Analyze Competing Books

You want to complete a competitive analysis for your book’s business plan no matter how you publish your book. To do so, look at 10-15 books you consider direct competition to yours—books that cover the same type of information or that tell the same type of story, then narrow the competition down to five you feel are closest in subject matter. These should be the most direct competition to your book. List these by bestseller status or by date of publication first. Gather this information as well:

  • title
  • subtitle
  • author
  • publisher
  • copyright year
  • number of pages
  • paperback or hardcover
  • price

From your research on the books, write two statements (which do not even have to be full sentences) that make clear the positive and negative aspects of each book. Finally, include a paragraph comparing these books to your proposed book and you as an author to these authors, if that is relevant.

Analyze Complementary Books

The “Complementary Books” section, which typically follows the Competing Books section in a book proposal, is similar and offers a chance to evaluate your book against similar books on the market. These books may resemble your project in general subject matter, category or even story line but won’t contain the same specific information, advice or tools, personal experiences, journey, or story. You might or might not find them on the same bookstore shelf.

A man emailed me with a question about his memoir on the topic of dating, relationships and healing a broken heart. Other memoirs on these topics or similar topics written by a man would represent direct competition. Complementary books for his book project would be any of the many similar stories told by women or the prescriptive nonfiction books about dating, relationships or healing from a broken relationship. (Surprisingly, I only found 27 memoirs on Amazon when I searched with the keywords “memoir romantic relationship,” and three were written by men.)

In the Complementary Books section of your business plan, list 5-10 books. Include the same basic information you included for the books you deemed competition (title, subtitle, author, publisher, copyright year, number of pages, paperback or hardcover, and price). Provide one paragraph of analysis that compares your book to these books or you as an author to these authors, if the latter is relevant.

Do not belittle the importance of this step in the Author Training Process. And if you don’t think your book has any competition, look carefully at complementary books (although most books have at least some competition). Don’t, however, skip this step. It’s a rare book that is “the only one” of its kind, which is why agents and publishers cringe when they see a proposal that says, “This book has no competition.” It shows an aspiring author hasn’t done his or her homework. If you want to create a successful book, you need to go to the trouble of producing a competitive analysis for your business plan. (Next Monday’s post will explain why…)

The Author Training ManualNote: You can read additional blogged draft excerpts from my new book, The Author Training Manual (Writer’s Digest Books, March 2014) here. Only select pieces from the manuscript, a “working draft,” were posted—not the complete manuscript. Read the next post in the The Author Training Manual blogged-book series by clicking here. Purchase the book on, or at

LeaLearn how to become a successful authorrn how to create a successful book—one that sells to publishers and to readers—by developing an AUTHOR ATTITUDE and writing a BUSINESS PLAN for a MARKETABLE BOOK. Register for the AUTHOR TRAINING 101 Home-Study Course, and go from aspiring to successful published author! This course is based on The Author Training Manual. If you like what you’ve read here, you’ll love the course.

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