Book positioning is what will get you to the top of bestseller lists.
Not your writing skills, not your pedigree as a businessman or author, not even the number of followers you have on your social networks.
Sounds crazy, right? Does that mean writing like a caveman can make you a top-selling author on Amazon?
Here’s the even crazier answer: If you’ve positioned your book correctly, then yes it can!
This is obviously a very extreme example, of course. But the point is that the quality of the writing itself will not always be the deciding factor in a book’s success.
In fact, the same goes true the other way.
Even if you’ve written something that reads like it was crafted by the gods of writing themselves, it could still come out as a dud.
Because when it comes to making a book that sells, your writing skill is only part of the equation.
Table of Contents
What is book positioning anyway?
Book positioning answers that age-old publishing question, “Why should a reader read your book?”
Picture this: Your book is sitting on a shelf, along with hundreds of books with covers that look visually similar to it. A reader walks by, picks your book randomly, and glances at the blurb on the back page.
At that precise moment, book positioning is what will set your book apart from the rest of the crowd.
Because that’s the first question that pops into a reader’s head. “Why should I read THIS particular book out of all the books that look similar to it?”
And it’s a question that YOU as the author should know the answer to. Even before you start writing, or even before you start outlining your book.
If you notice that this definition veers towards advertising or marketing territory, that’s because it actually is.
Because we’re using the meaning of “positioning” that was defined by Al Ries in the seminal book “Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind”.
“…positioning is not what you do to a product. Positioning is what you do to the mind of the prospect. That is, you position the product in the mind of the prospect.”
The product is your book. The prospect is the reader. Book positioning is all about your potential readers’ perception of your book. It’s not what you, the author, says your book is, but rather what your readers believe it to be.
If they believe that your book can offer something new and valuable to them, then it is so.
If they believe that it is trash, then it is trash. Doesn’t matter who you are or how well you write.
What is the number one secret to book positioning?
With book positioning, you need to fit in and stand out.
But how in the world can you achieve two seemingly opposite things at once, you might ask. It’s simple. Here’s…
How to FIT IN
Fitting in means finding a niche and positioning yourself comfortably within it. Any niche is fine, though you might have higher chances of success if you go for a relatively uncrowded category.
Let’s imagine then that you’re the owner of a pet supplies business.
You want a book that is related to pets. Since you love cats and have a couple of felines at home, you decide to write a book about cats.
More specifically, how to properly understand and take care of a cat for people who haven’t owned cats before. Like a newbie cat owner guide.
As expected, there are already tons of books on cat care and cat training on Amazon. Though it can be intimidating at first (how are you going to compete against all of those?)— what this tells us is that this particular niche is lucrative.
We got our niche down. Next we need to learn…
How to STAND OUT
From within this niche, think of a new approach that no one else has done before.
What will make your book unique? We have honed in on our niche, which is providing cat care advice for newbie cat owners.
But how can we make our basic cat care guide for newbie owners claw its way to the top of the competition and persuade (purr-suade?) potential readers to choose our book over others?
What if we focus on training tips for cats?
Nope, it’s already been done.
Decoding cat body language?
Yup, that too.
How about cat psychology?
Someone has already beaten you to it.
It seems like all aspects of cat care has been covered already
So, what if we changed not the subject matter of the book, but rather the way it was written?
What if we wrote a cat care book from the point-of-view of a cat?!
Now that’s a wild idea.
It’s not entirely an original concept. This notion of having a cat as the narrator has already been explored before. A popular example of this would be the Japanese satirical novel “I Am a Cat” by Natsume Soseki.
But they were all for fictional stories. Nobody has done it in a nonfiction context like in a cat care guide before.
Imagine learning about proper feeding, litter box training, grooming, and other such pet care topics from the perspective of a cat.
It sounds like a silly idea on paper. But you have to admit that this is uncharted territory— a unique concept that no other author has ever done before.
It’s a book positioning gold mine.
Because potential readers are inundated with choices. And you want them to choose your book. By offering them something new and different, you pique their interest and make them want to explore what you’re offering.
You’re positioning your book in their minds.
A book positioning case study
If you’ve ever delved into the geeky pop culture side of YouTube, you’ve probably run into Austin McConnell’s videos.
Austin is very popular and very good at what he does. His videos get millions of views, and they’re all generally interesting and of high quality.
So, during the pandemic lockdown, he embarked on a unique book writing project, one that held a great deal of significance to him. His grandmother had written a short story during the last year of her life while she was battling cancer.
Austin decided to bring this story to life. He decided to expand on his grandmother’s original work (the original short story was just around 2700 words) and turn it into a novella titled Neva’s Story.
His self-publishing plan was solid. If even one percent of his 1.12 million subscribers were to buy the book, he would recoup his investment and then some. He even enlisted popular figures within the writing and publishing Youtube realm to help him expand upon and refine the manuscript.
But alas, despite careful preparation, Austin’s book flopped.
In the end, it only managed to sell around a measly 200 copies. Way, way below Austin’s target sales figure of 11,000.
This is an example of how having everything— an already-existing fanbase, an established social media presence, a solid online platform, and even the right connections— doesn’t guarantee anything.
What does bad book positioning look like?
So, what went wrong in this scenario?
The answer: poor book positioning.
The book is a nice read and is well-written, with charming cover art. But there were a few glaring problems that prevented it from becoming a success…
Target audience was not targeted
As mentioned by Austin himself, he was betting on the support of his subscribers to drive most of the sales of the book. The problem was that his channel’s main audience were males aged 18 to 34, and the book was for middle-school girls.
There’s a huge discrepancy between the audience that Austin has and the audience he’s targeting for this book.
Price was too high
…and book was too short. At $12.99 per paperback and $4.99 for a short volume of less than 30,000 words, some readers must have felt that they were not getting their money’s worth. Especially so when you can buy full-length novels at the same price point.
Content didn’t stand out
The blurb marketed the book as “a coming-of-age story about family, high school sweethearts, and growing up in the year 1940.” There really is nothing inherently wrong with this story premise, but it doesn’t really distinguish itself from other coming-of-age novels that are available on the market today.
Book cover / category mismatch
The book was listed in the Teen & Young Adult Fiction on Girls’ & Women’s Issues and the Teen & Young Adult Contemporary Romance categories on Amazon.
Based on the golden rule of positioning, the book just doesn’t FIT IN visually with the other books in the same category.
Here is the book…
Versus other books in the same category.
Since the book was set in the 1940s, a more apt category would be Teen & Young Adult Historical Romance. Its cover would also fit in more nicely with the typical design and style of a lot of books in that category.
In book positioning, why is it important to fit in?
By placing the book in the right categories and then aligning its cover with whatever the expectations for book covers in those categories are, Austin could’ve attracted a larger and more engaged audience.
But the cover was drastically different. Potential readers must’ve assumed that the book doesn’t contain anything that can be of interest to them.
Alternatively, he could’ve reworked the cover into something more apt for the categories he was targeting.
Yes, it’s important to stand out in a crowded market place, but not so much that you alienate the majority of your target audience within your niche.
Book positioning is all about balancing the familiar and the established, with the new and exciting.
Where can I read more book positioning case studies?
If you ever need more proof from real life of how proper book positioning can lead to amazing books that are also Amazon bestsellers, just check out Leaders Press CEO Alinka Rutkowska’s Outsource Your Book.
The first chapter is wholly dedicated to the art of book positioning. Lots of useful case studies on how you can take a book, fit it into a specific niche, and make it stand out through its unique selling proposition.
Fittingly enough, Outsource Your Book is itself also a product of carefully-planned book positioning. There is no shortage of books about writing and publishing.
But despite this, the author recognized that no one has ever thought to do a book on outsourcing various aspects of the book publishing process. So, Outsource Your Book was written to fill this gap in the market.
The best thing of all, Outsource Your Book is FREE. On this page you’ll find an input box where you can input your email to get it. It’s also free on Kindle.
Is book positioning necessary for authors with established businesses and large social media followings?
The answer is a resounding yes!
Even authors with established businesses and a large social media following cannot afford to overlook the importance of proper book positioning.
From what happened to Austin McConnell’s book, we can see that a large following doesn’t always equal a successful book. Without proper book positioning, even the most popular authors and businessmen risk falling short of their book sales goals.
Decades and decades ago, traditional publishing was the only way to get your book out into the world.
It was a pretty straightforward process. Publishing houses publish your book, which they send over to bookstores. From there, depending on the demand for your book, they’ll put it on their shelves.
And positioning only meant just that – the literal position of the book on the shelves. Selections were scarce, and are limited to what the bookstore can physically display.
It’s now the 20th century and publishing just doesn’t work like that anymore.
For one, there’s more competition. You can consume books in multiple ways— paperbacks, audiobooks, and ebooks.
The big traditional publishers are still around, but in their ranks they are joined by hybrid publishers, self-publishers, and independent publishers.
There’s just also a lot more stuff that compete for our attention nowadays. From social media and video games, to streaming videos and podcasts. For a lot of people, reading is no longer a major form of entertainment that it once was.
So, why are people still writing books?
The truth is that most non-fiction authors don’t make their money from the direct sales of their book.
They make money from the doors that their books open up for them.
As a businessman, your book is your professional calling card. It increases your authority, especially if your book is a best seller.
It may open you up to opportunities that weren’t available to you before, like consultancy gigs, speaking engagements, and mentorships.
It’s another marketing tool. And a highly effective one at that.
Proper book positioning ensures that your book is marketed and presented in a way that is aligned with your ideals and your brand.
Even if you do have a built-in audience already, positioning can still help you maximize your book’s reach.
What to look out for during the book positioning process
As mentioned earlier, book positioning should be done BEFORE you start writing. You need to evaluate your book’s position first before you put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard).
So here’s what you need to look out for when positioning your book:
Structure and Presentation
Look at other books in your niche and see how they are organized.
If you’re on Amazon, you can use the site’s “Look Inside!”feature to see a book’s table of contents.
Take notice of how they structure their chapters. Books related to business and marketing tend to favor short chapters, which are then further grouped and organized into larger parts (Part I, Part II, Part III…). While books that are more personal in nature tend to have longer chapters.
In Pocket Mentor, chapters are very short in length, with some only 3 to 4 pages in length.
In any other book, this might seem a little jarring.
But it works well for Pocket Mentor since the book’s unique selling point is that you have a literal “Pocket Mentor” with you everywhere you go. Whom you can quickly reference for bite-size pieces of advice whenever and wherever you want.
Copywriter guru Neville Medhora advocates for “writing like you speak.” Readers don’t need to be bogged down by complicated language. You need to relate to them.
When you write like you speak, this makes your writing more approachable and easier to read, since you’re basically mimicking the way people communicate in everyday conversation.
The conversational, and oftentimes irreverent, style that Mark Manson used in The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck is one of the huge reasons why people like his book so much. He comes across as direct and unpretentious. A far cry from other older self-help books that tend to be formulaic and/or overly complex.
Know your book’s scope.
An introductory book for beginners (like our cat care book for newbie cat owners) should cover a wide range of topics, but only offer a shallow exploration of each.
On the other hand, a book targeted towards experts should have fewer topics, but with more in-depth analysis into each.
Whatever scope you will choose, it’s important that you get the balance between providing enough useful information to your readers, while not overwhelming them with too much detail.
Let Leaders Press turn your book idea into a best seller.
Our approach to book positioning, which we honed through years of experience and dozens of successful book launches, is both comprehensive and strategic.
We meticulously identify gaps in the market that your book can fill… and then we go beyond simply filling those gaps! We will help your book stand out and make readers excited about what you have to say.