Granddaughter at bookstore

400 books

My publisher gave me an interesting assignment as part of a marketing campaign: find 400 comparable books and 400 comparable authors. I spent several days searching through Amazon, Goodreads, and BookBub, as well as checking my social media for new books. I found more than just a list of titles, names, and ASINs. I gained some insights into the publishing business. These might help you as an author looking to market your book or as a reader looking for books to read.

Amazon genres are more granular than you think

We tend to think about genres in broad strokes, such as fantasy, true crime, or historical fiction. Amazon genres are more granular than that. If you’re looking for a specific type of book, there are ways you can find what you want.

Here are some of the specific genres I found for Amiga:

And if those genres aren’t precise enough for you, there are keywords and abbreviations you can search for to find exactly what you want. Within the Multicultural & Interracial Romance genre, you will find books with codes like BWWM for Black woman/White man. Whatever you enjoy reading, there’s a book that fits perfectly for you. And whatever you enjoy writing, there’s an audience looking for a book like yours.

Big versus small publishers

My publisher Black Rose Writing is an independent press. As I went through the book pages of publishers like mine and those from major publishers, I noticed several differences.

The first is the amount of marketing on the books from major publishers. Screen after screen of reviews from major publications and media luminaries. Graphics with reviews and teasers. You can tell a lot of work and expense went into promotion. Then, you notice the price.

Suppose you wanted Mary L. Trump’s tell-all about You-Know-Who. The Kindle version costs at the time of my article, USD 14.99. That’s only USD 2.20 less than the hardcover! (And you can probably get it for less at Costco.)

There is one group of publishers that escapes the heavy marketing = high price equation. Those are Amazon’s house imprints like Lake Union Publishing and Montlake Romance. If I see a reasonably priced Kindle book with lots of marketing, I think, “Yeah, of course it’s an Amazon imprint.”

Small press and self-published authors can be just as competitive with marketing without adding costs. On Amazon Author Central, you can add book reviews (but get the reviewer’s permission first), your biography, and details about the book. You can create an author page with links to blog posts, photos, and videos. (As an example, you can view my page.)

If you’re a reader who is looking for affordable Kindle books, check those from indie and self-published authors. You can find great books for less.

“Comparable” versus “competitive”

At the beginning of this post, you’ll notice that I called the books and authors “comparable” and not “competitive.” Here’s why.

Most businesses are competitive. When I bought a Toyota, it meant all other car manufacturers didn’t get my business. When I upgrade my iPhone, it means I won’t be buying a Samsung or other brand of smartphone. But you can buy more than one book. (The stuffed bookcases in our house provide a testament to that.) Publishing is not a zero-sum game.

The trick to marketing on Amazon is to get your book on the list of recommended books. If customers read a book they like, they might pick yours to read next. And readers who liked your book will discover books from other authors.

As I looked for comparable books to Amiga, I found a number of books from Hispanic authors. I’ve always considered inclusion and respect important. We live in a diverse society, and our writing must reflect that. It’s also important that people tell their own stories, and we need to support authors of different communities. I came across books by a wide range of authors from all over the world. I encourage you to explore these other stories as well.

The more I’ve gotten involved in publishing, the more I’ve discovered what a welcoming and supportive community writing is. We face the same challenges, and we discover that we work best when we work together. I’m happy to have joined a number of communities, especially with my fellow Black Rose writers. The exercise of looking for comparable books is another way we can lift each other up.

There’s a place for you in the publishing world

Still, looking at comparable books can be intimidating. You will find books with higher Amazon Best Seller rankings, more five-star reviews, and more critical acclaim. You share the same virtual shelf space with John Green, Elin Hilderbrand, Delia Owens, and yes, Mary L. Trump. You can get a bad case of imposter syndrome.

But you also realize there are readers who are looking for a book just like yours. After all, there are people looking for enemies-to-lovers romances about billionaires with impossibly magnificent abs. While large publishers can spend more on advertising (and charge more in prices to make up for it), there are tools available to you to help your promotional efforts. You can seek support and advice from other authors and help other authors in return.

Looking for comparable books and authors reminds us that we’re not alone with stories and information to share. We can offer readers the one book they didn’t know they needed, but wind up enjoying. When authors and readers meet in those pages, we create connection. At a time when the world seems divided and physically isolated, connection is the most important service we can offer.