The picture for this blog shows the end result of good product positioning and effective launch planning and execution. My publishing partner James W. Lewis was sitting around #390,000 in Amazon’s author rank just before we launched the book on December 18th. Within a week he is now ranked #30,021. One of the big reasons for this is effective product positioning which you will learn all about in this blog.
As we prepared to launch Tangled by James W. Lewis – his 3rd novel, I knew that in 2017 more than ever, getting the book’s positioning right would be one of the keys to success. For you authors out there without MBA’s in marketing – positioning simply means the unique place for your book in the reader’s mind, relative to the competition. Understanding this concept and its application can be the difference between a successful book launch and a book going unfound by desired readers.
The key to effective positioning lies in several assumptions. First it assumes there is something inherently unique about your book. Second it assumes that you can understand the mind state, habits, and desires of your customers (readers). Lastly it assumes that you know your competition well enough to appropriately differentiate your book. For Tangled, these three assumptions are crucial, because it’s a new genre for James, with a new world of readers to entertain and enthrall, and new author competitors to go up against and from whom to learn what’s working and what’s not.
Therefore in order to define your book’s positioning and ultimately Amazon categories and keywords (which is how reader’s find you on the retail giant’s site), you need to answer three questions:
- Who are your readers (or who would you like them to be)?
- Who are the competition?
- What’s unique about your book?
To answer the first question for Tangled – it was simple – readers who loved James W. Lewis books would be the obvious starting point (as we’d sold over 20,000 copies of his first two novels). Once that was defined I added in any reader who loved the genre for the book – psychological suspense. Then, to get more specific, I leveraged the best demographic data available – James’ fan pages on Facebook. Did you know that you can clone your profile page into a fan page? Why is this important? Well James has amassed over 4,000 fans on his profile page plus he had over 800 on the fan page we created for his first book, Sellout. I could quickly mine the Sellout fan page data to identify the specific age, gender, and geographic demographics of those fans but I needed the full picture by combining the data from both pages and over 5,000 fans. Once the page cloning was completed I learned that James current audience was 75% females , 62% of whom were between the ages of 25-54, who primarily are US-based and spread over 44 cities!
For question 2 – who are the competition, Amazon is your best friend. So, I went to Amazon and started playing around with different keywords like “psychological fiction”, “psychological thriller”, and “psychological suspense”. There were several pieces of information I wanted to glean from these searches so I created a table:
From a simple table like this (plus one major secret) you can gain tons of valuable info on the competition in your category. First, just focus on the top 10 books. Second, make sure you click the author’s name for each book to learn how many book’s each author has published. Then hit your browser’s back button and scan the product details section to find the book’s publisher (this tells you whether you are going up against traditional, indies, or Amazon backed books). In that same section you will find the book’s publication date which is useful to learn how long it can take a title to achieve top 10 status in a given genre. Scroll back up to get the book’s price and while you’re there also identify the number of reviews for the book which tells you your true competition – how many reviews do you need to achieve to be in the top-selling mix? Lastly, go back down to the product details section and capture the book’s Amazon bestsellers rank – with this data and a secret I will show you, the book’s sales rank can be roughly converted to copies per day! Knowing how many books best sellers move per day is instructive in terms of the readership of the category as well as how much money you can be making once you make it into the top 10.
Okay, now for the secret. The Kindlepreneur (Dave Chesson) has created an algorithm that extrapolates sales rank into daily sales. Click this link, enter the competition’s sales rank, and voila – sales per day data at your fingertips!
I do this chart for both ebooks and print books and then compare and contrast the differences. For example, I learned that while indie’s dominate the top 10 for ebooks in the psychological suspense category, for print it’s 50/50, indie to traditional. I also gleaned that ebooks are FAR outselling print in this category (the top ebook sells nearly 2,000 ebooks per day while the top print book sells only 41 copies per day)! Many many learnings on the competition that would come in handy in appropriately positioning Tangled for success. A few other secrets – study how the top sellers distinguish their books (cover design, titles, and descriptions) and then see how far off your book is from the same look and feel. While you want to be distinct, you also don’t want to have a romance category cover if your book is actually a horror story!
Now let’s move on to question 3 – what’s UNIQUE about your book? When talking to author’s about positioning, this is usually the part they find trickiest. They forget that the most unique thing about any book is the author! Your WHY for writing this book, your INSPIRATIONS for characters and settings, your EXPERIENCES, your VOICE – these are some of the things to clearly articulate that make your book one of a kind. In the case of James – he spent 20 years in the Navy working alongside men and women on one of the world’s most powerful nuclear warships, doing his part to protect the country and its allies. He saw first hand how military life strained marriages, since sailors would constantly deploy for several weeks and months. “Side” relationships would develop on the ship, with men and women often engaging in reckless sexual behavior. Sex was used as a tool or weapon for satisfying lust, revenge, blackmail, and even “favors” in exchange for promotion. At the same time, some wives and husbands left at home also had extramarital affairs. It wasn’t uncommon for the personal lives of both guilty parties to clash with the lives of their lovers in public. He noticed a lot of the drama derived from couples in their mid-to-late twenties, like the characters in TANGLED. What was done in the dark almost always came to light, sometimes damaging reputations, causing public embarrassment, and destroying careers. So he turned the soap operas he witnessed from his military life into a story about a ten-year high school reunion—with a few twists.
So what makes Tangled unique? Universal themes of high school angst, unrequited love, and relationship drama mixed with infidelity, dark revenge, and mystery.
With the three positioning questions answered I could complete my positioning statement for the book by completing this simple template:
For lovers of psychological suspense and fans of SELLOUT by James W. Lewis <Target Audience>
TANGLED is a gripping psychological suspense novel about the high school reunion from hell <Summary Statement>
that will surprise and satisfy you at every turn <Customer Benefit>
[because] of the twisted ending everyone will be talking about <Reason to Believe>
I hope you learned something useful about product positioning in this blog. Would love to take your questions in the comments section. Stay tuned as next week I will describe the next pillar of a successful product launch – the all important Price Point!