February 27, 2012

Sizing Up the Competition

Having semi-committed to publishing my collection of wine terms, I thought it prudent to check out the competition. My self-publishing reference (see below) confirmed that this was indeed the best way to start. I’d already been through the library’s collection and found it wanting. The largest glossary I’d come across had just over 200 words in it. On-line, I found only one glossary that had more than about 300 words, and all were riddled with grape, geography and chateau names and lots of what I considered to be non-tasting terms.

Next step: I’m off to Chapters.

I can’t emphasize strongly enough how important it is to visit a large bookstore and thoroughly study the section that might one day house your book. How big is the section? How current are the books? Do any of the books already cover your topic? Do they do it better? More completely? You’re also looking for what’s currently available: What sort of books are being produced that the bookstores are stocking and, presumably, that people are buying. What is the price range? What is the price range of books similar in size and length to yours?

Do an honest inventory here. The last thing you want to do is produce your book only to find out that a nearly identical one exists, and even worse, that it’s written by a famous author. You also don’t want to see a book that is similarly positioned that might cast a shadow on your book. For example, my 648 terms would likely result in a book of about 120 pages. On the shelves I saw a wine lover’s guide that boasted 1800 terms and cost $17.95. Yes, it contained all manner of non-tasting terms, but even so that’s nearly three times the size of my proposed book. If I priced my book at $14.95 for example, who would buy it if the book beside it had three times the info for a few dollars more? I decided that even $12.95 wouldn’t work if placed anywhere near that particular book.

So what I discovered in my research was this:

• There were no wine language books whatsoever. That means an opportunity.
• Those that claimed to be wine dictionaries or encyclopaedias were collections of wine reviews, all manner of wine terms, or hard-core academic encyclopaedias. Another opportunity for me.
• Prices ranged from around $16 to over $40. I had to think seriously about pricing.
• Everybody and his or her aunt, uncle and second cousin has written a wine book. This is a very cluttered and competitive category. That’s a big problem.

So if I were to go ahead and produce my book, it would likely have to sell in the $10 range and it would have to position itself as unique in its single-mindedness against hundreds of more glamorous tomes. If I could do that, then I might have a shot.
And so I began.

My main source:

How To Publish Yourself by Peter Finch
Alison & Busby Ltd., London, 1997
ISBN: 0-74900-301-4

No comments: