Self-Help Books and Competitive Analysis

I’m reading a lot of business and self-improvement books right now; not just because I appreciate the information, but because I’m writing a book in this genre and book proposal requires an analysis of books that are comparable to mine. The idea in the book proposal is to show a publisher that you understand the market you’re writing in and can clearly identify how your work differs from the competition. One thing I’ve learned clearly so far is what the book I want to write is not compared to the competition.

What am I writing, anyway?

Regular readers of this blog know what I’m about: I try to share information about the working world–all the stuff they don’t teach you in high school/college–so you can better overcome some of the challenges I’ve experienced. I’m focused on doing the work well while getting along with your managers/peers/subordinates and building your network for when you’re ready to make the next career leap. My tone will range somewhere between serious and humorous, the idea being that this is the sort of advice I’d offer you if you sat me down in a saloon and wanted help with a work problem. Simple enough?

Who is the competition?

The book I’m writing would appear with the business books in the library/book store. This covers a wide variety of books, which I quickly found encompassed:

While some of these titles were interesting, many of them were not quite what I have in mind for what I’m writing. More to the point, the tone is not me. I’m not one to use exclamation points or words like “awesome” or “transformation” in a title. I’m a little too low-key for that, and I’m not promising to transform anyone’s life. I am all about the work and doing it well. After sifting through something 100 different career advice books, I finally narrowed down my most likely/similar competitors to the following texts. Even given my own non-hype-based preferences, I couldn’t escape from some of that language among my potential competitors:

So far, I’ve read 2.5 books out of this list, though I intend to plow through them all to one degree or another so I can understand their content, approach, and tone. In fact, I found some other titles while I was grabbing the Amazon.com links for these, but this list will do for now.

Having narrowed down my content/tone niche, I need to identify where my book will differ. Right now, I’m learning more about what my book isn’t compared to what it is: not hype-based, not “transformative,” not all about personal power. That’s not entirely a bad thing. I can then invert those words and focus more on words like practical, realistic, and professional. Hopefully my title and subtitle won’t be as long as some of the ones listed above, but it’s important to realize how keywords in a title can set the tone and expectations for what’s happening between the covers.

More excitement ahead. Meanwhile, feel free to read my competitors. Knowledge is power, or so some authors say.

About Bart Leahy

Freelance Technical Writer, Science Cheerleader Event & Membership Directior, and an all-around nice guy. Here to help.
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