Monday, 28 April 2014

Why Spying on Your Competition is a Great Way to Be Successful…

Spying is a catchy way of saying “do your research and stay tuned in.” Regardless of what you call it, it’s a mandatory part of being successful. It’s also a great way to build connections. There’s an old saying that to be successful you have to stop obsessing about the competition. I agree with that to a certain degree, but to not be aware of what other authors in your genre are doing is never a smart idea.

Regardless of what you write you need to be dialed into the competitive landscape. Knowing what others in your target market are doing, writing about and promoting can be key to your success as well. Not that I would ever encourage copying, but being in tune with your genre and market can be a fantastic idea generator, not to mention it gives you the ability to stay ahead of certain trends that haven’t even surfaced at the consumer level yet.

First rule of spying: study your target market, the books as well as other authors in the industry. It helps you to also differentiate yourself from them in products, services, and pricing. Again, you don’t want to copy, you just want to be aware. Another lesser known reason for doing this is that if you’re struggling with your social media (like me)—both from the aspect of what platform to be on to what to say to drive more engagement—keeping these authors on your radar will greatly increase your marketing ideas. Living in a vacuum never made anyone successful.

Whether you’re writing fiction or non-fiction, you want to know who else is writing on your topic or in your genre. Google search is a great place to start. The results will not just turn up names and book titles but also show you the best ways to interact with your reader.

Google is packed with names of authors who write about your topic or genre. As you begin to compile your list I want you to do one thing: ignore big brands because it’s likely that they can do anything they want and still be successful. If you’re a middle grade writer, names like Rick Riordan and Brandon Mull come to mind. These authors are big, powerful brands. You want the smaller names, the people you may not immediately recognize. Why? Because they have to try harder. If tomorrow Riordan or Mull decided to put out a book on poetry, while their fans might be surprised they would likely still buy it. But if a lesser-known author did that they’d look like they have writer-ADD. Not good.

So start putting your list together, as you do sign up for their mailing lists, and follow them on Twitter and any other social media site they use. That’s what I do. Aside from the obvious reasons why you want to do this, I’m a big fan of supporting other authors in my market. Share their Facebook updates, retweet their great Twitter posts, etc.

One of the hidden gems of this research is it will also show you what social media sites to be on. If you've been struggling to figure out where your market resides, this strategy should really clear that up for you. Why? Because if you’re plucking names off of the first page of Google you know one thing: whatever they are doing to show up in search, they’re doing it right. Google has made so many changes to their search algorithms that you simply can’t “trick” the system anymore to get onto page one. Look at their updates. What are they sharing and why? How often do they blog? Are they on LinkedIn instead of Facebook? Is there much going on for them on Pinterest? Really spend some time with this. Not only will it help you tune into your market but it will cut your learning curve by half, if not more.
Successful authors leave clues. Are you following their bread crumbs?

16 comments:

  1. Thanks for the advice Sharon. It certainly takes a lot of effort and patience to keep afloat. Research is as important in selling the book as it is in writing the story.

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    1. True that, Susan! Seeing what other successful authors have done is a step in the right direction.

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  2. As an ex-librarian, I know the value of research. Just shows, research helps in every career.

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    1. Agreed, Eleni! Research can cut years off stumbling around in the dark! Hugs!

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    1. Thanks, Lisa! Appreciate your input!

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  4. Wonderful post! Good advice, one that I have been implementing lately. Not just for this reason, but also since we are building our website. My sister looked up my name and I was on 4 pages of Google. i was kind of surprised.

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    1. Thank you, Lisa! Yes, it's a great strategy to see what other successful authors in your genre are doing. Best wishes on your website!

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  5. Excellent advice. I do the same thing. :D

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    1. Great minds, Liz... LOL! Cheers for stopping by!

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  6. You've taught this old dog some new tricks. Thanks, Sharon!

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    1. Hey, us old dogs gotta stick together, my friend! Hugs, Sloane!

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  7. Sharon--great post as always. One question: what's the best way to start a google search?
    Jan

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    1. Hey, Jan! As far as I know, when you're in Google browser, just plug in the name of the author you want (Google yourself) and see where it comes up in the list. That's what I do. Thanks for your kind comment!

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