Previously, I started to discuss what you can do if you discover your book has turned into disaster for some reason and listed the five biggest disasters that can hit your book. Here they are again:

  1. The wrong message! You realise half way through your book that the whole (or at least a significant part) of your message, solution or method is flawed. Panic! What now?
  2. Someone stole my book! Someone much more famous, better connected (in business or marketing terms), funkier or more impressive publishes a book on exactly the same subject as you and even has the exact same title (or near enough). Aaarrgh!
  3. It’s all fallen apart! Your perfectly worked out book structure falls apart when you realise three chapters need t be 4000 words long and the other three are just 1000 words – and the other two chapters don’t have any content at all because you’ve covered it elsewhere. Eeek!
  4. We need your book NOW! You get an exciting email asking you to speak at a prestigious conference in TWO WEEKS’ TIME. Great! But, they ask you if you can bring your book along too as they want to sell copies IN VOLUME at the back of the room. The only problem is that you haven’t started writing it yet. Gulp! Do you accept?
  5. It’s awful, don’t publish it! You ask a couple of trusted contacts to give you feedback on your book just before you send it off to the copy editor (who you’ve booked for next week). Their feedback isn’t positive. In fact, it’s extremely negative. Your heart sinks. What do you do now?

All of the ‘disasters’ listed above are solvable. Agreed, they are challenging and they are scary but they can be overcome and even used to your advantage. Today, I’m going to deal with Disaster 2.

Disaster 2: Someone stole my book

So, there you are bowling along with your book and getting close to finishing it, when DISASTER! You get an email from a well-known and extremely well-connected marketer or guru telling you about their new book. Horror of horrors! It’s exactly the same book that you are writing. You go hot and cold. You begin to panic and your mouth goes dry. Now what?

Now, we all know that no two people can write exactly the same book, but if your title and topic are very similar, you will need to make some adjustments.

When you come across a major competing book title it can be challenging, but you can handle it and use it to your advantage. Here's what to do.

Do some research on the competing title

First of all, find out as much as you can about the other person’s book. See if you can glean any information about the content or approach to the topic.

  • Which format(s) is the book being published in?
  • Is it being used as a lead generation tool for a much more expensive product?
  • Is it being published by the author or a publishing company?
  • When is it going to be released?
  • What is the price?

What your research means

The lead-generating book

If this book is a lead-generation tool, it may not be as detailed as your book. However, if your book is also a lead-generation tool book theftand isn’t very detailed either, you have a choice:

  • go with your book as it is but wait for the heat to die down on the other book;
  • publish at the same time so you get some of the traffic generated by the other book;
  • add to your book to make it far meatier in terms of content so your book is better.

The traditionally published book

If the competing book is being published by a traditional publisher, you need to do three things:

  • Differentiate your book from the other book by deliberately making it stronger in the areas where the other book is weaker (if you can). Make the comparative strengths of your book clear in your sales copy.
  • Make your book very similar to the other book in terms of design content but simply make it far more attractive in terms of price.
  • Emphasise your credentials and expertise so anyone looking at the other book believes your book is a direct competitor and will not compare based on publisher.

The goal is to make the reader think your book is just as good if not better than the other book but for half or a third of the price, and with more detailed content and without the hype.

It’s not such a disaster after all

Books on the same topic are being written all the time. It is nuances like the design of the cover, the content, style of writing, expertise of the author, length of the book – and a whole slew of other factors that makes one book more appealing than another to a particular set of readers.

It may seem as if someone has written a bigger, better book than you for exactly the same market that you are writing for, but it is rarely the case. Do some research on the other title and make any necessary changes to your marketing or content. However, avoid getting too distracted and bogged down in what someone else is doing. Even with the same title and content, the two books will not be the same. Once the reader has used ‘look inside’ function the will be able to judge for themselves which title they want – and of course, they may well buy both.

Having a very similar and major title published at the same time as your book may be competition, but it can make a topic hot (or hotter) and bring far more traffic and interest than before, so it is often a good thing. Traditional publishers were always suspicious if a publishing area had no books in it. Rather than seeing it as virgin territory to be conquered, they always asked why there were no other books in the area. Often the answer was that there were few or no buyers.

If you are in a quiet publishing area, having a big title storm in could be perfect bit of action to ignite your book. So turn off the panic button and start working out how you can capitalise on your competition.

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Deborah Taylor
Deborah Taylor

Hi, I'm Deborah Taylor and I'm a publishing consultant and book-writing mentor. I work with established business owners who want to share their message by writing a book but are struggling to get started (or finished). I help them write, publish and launch a stand-out, attention-grabbing book that will raise their profile, reach more of their ideal clients and grow their business. I am a trained editor with over 15 years' publishing experience with major blue-chip UK publishing companies such as Hodder & Stoughton, BBC Books, Cassell and Pearson. I have produced books on every subject under the sun and with professinals and experts from a wide range of professions, from chefs and gardeners to life coaches and career consultants. I would love to help you write a book you love and that will raise your profile, attract new clients and bring you exciting new business opportunities.