How can you track research information about competing books?

Posted August 2nd @ 6:30 am by Roger C. ParkerPrint

Before starting to write & self-publish a brand-building book, ask yourself, How can I keep track of the research information I gather about competing books?

Information management is one of the biggest challenges facing both new authors as well as experienced authors.

As you become more comfortable researching competing books in your field on, and analyzing their strengths and weaknesses, it becomes more and more important that you develop a process for organizing the information you uncover.

Information management options

Here are some of the options available for tracking competing books:

  • Worksheets. There’s a lot to be said for low-tech solutions like worksheets that you can download, print, and fill-in by hand. I suggest you print worksheets on 3-hole punched paper, and save them in a 3-ring binder. The advantages of worksheets is that you can work anywhere. Another advantage is that hand writing is often a pleasing change of pace from typing. Here’s a sample worksheet you can download for free!
  • Lists. Another way you can compile and save the information you locate about competing books is to create lists that you save using your favorite word processing software. The advantage of creating a master list of competing books, organized by author last names, is that you can easily sort the list. The disadvantage is that you are limited to a single paragraph summary of each book, unless you create a multi-column table.
  • Spreadsheets. Spreadsheet software, like Microsoft Excel, is a step up from a list. Spreadsheets permit you to include multiple categories of information about each book, i.e., author’s website, year book was published, the categories where the book appears on categories, and its ranking in the categories. Spreadsheets also allow you to search on multiple criteria. A single, searchable, spreadsheet could contain detailed information about 100′s of competing books.
  • Online. There are several ways you can take advantage of recent advances in cloud computing, or online information storage. One of the most popular is Evernote. Using Evernote, you can create an online competing books notebook and instantly add new books as you discover them. One of the biggest advantages of Evernote is that you can access your notebook from any online computer, allowing you to work from home or on the road.
  • Mind maps. My favorite solution is to use mind maps created with software programs like Mindjet’s MindManager to visually display competing books. You’ll be able to not only view thumbnails of the book covers but you can include as much, or as little, information about each book as desired. You’ll be able to categorize books by popularity and sales, primary emphasis, and intended market. Most important, you can easily reorganize your map as your information needs change.

Get help analyzing your competition and your options

This is the 25th in a series of questions, ideas, and tips to help you plan your book and explore your options before starting to write and publish your brand-building book.

My goal is to help you avoid many of the challenges, frustrations, and problems I faced as a first-time author–before going on to write over 40 nonfiction books sold around the world.

I want to help you clarify your goals, analyze your readers, examine competing books, choose the right book title, explore your publishing options, and plan your book marketing & post-publication profits before you start to write.

Asking questions helps you examine your assumptions and opens the door to new alternatives and resources. As you explore the questions, you can review earlier posts in this series and ask questions about researching competing books on using my online form. You can also share your comments, questions,  and concerns, below.

I encourage you to download my currently-free workbook, 99 Questions to Ask Before you Write & Self-Publish a Brand-building Book. You can can review earlier posts in this series and ask questions about researching competing books using my online form. Please share your comments, questions,  and concerns, about researching competing books below.

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