Research: Gathering Facts and Eying the Competition

Book searchWhether you are writing fiction or nonfiction, both require research.  The problem is that if you aren’t doing two types of research your writing may be in trouble.  You need to do both the research required to write the piece and research on the competition.  I’ll explain this using some of my recent work as an example.  As I’ve mentioned several times recently, I’m writing about Pearl Harbor.  Obviously, this means that I’m gathering lots and lots of information on Pearl Harbor.

But I also need to have an eye for my competition.  What is already out there?  What exactly did they cover?  What did these books do well and, perhaps more importantly, not so well?

When I’m researching the competition, I always start with an Amazon search.  In this case, I would do a book search on “Pearl Harbor.”  Maybe you’re more industrious than I am but that search yields 4,923 titles.  I don’t want to pick through all of them to see what the competition is up to so I need to narrow it.

When your search results come up, you’ll see a column of categories to the left.  Under BOOKS> there is “see all 23 departments.”  Click that.

When I did this for my Pearl Harbor book search, it gave me three children’s books choices — Military Books, 1900s American Historic Fiction, and American History of 1900s.  I would look at first Military Books with 48 books and then American History of 1900s with 35 books.  There is probably overlap in these two categories but going through 83 books total is a lot easier than going through 4,923.
For whatever reason, your category choices aren’t always the same when you do an Amazon book search.  When I did a search on World War I and then click to see all departments, I get one choice for Children’s Books.  I’m not sure why it varies from topic to topic but there you have it.
If you aren’t taking the time to research your competition, you may be writing a book almost identical to one already on the market.  Avoid this by doing some research and making your book 100% unique.