The Competitive Advantage
Last April, Michael Hyatt ran a series of blog posts about the importance of the Competitive Advantage. I can’t possibly summarize it all, but there are a couple of really important thoughts I want to share with you.
It seems the biggest worry of the unpublished author is (understandably), “Will there be room for the new voices? The non-famous? The good-but-as-yet-unpublished-writer? In other words, me?”
As you can imagine, that question affects all of us, agents especially. I have currently under consideration around 200 queries, partials, proposals and manuscripts. Most of those are from unpublished authors. So the question for me is the same as for you. Not just “Do I believe in them?” which is my first question, but, “Can I sell them?” which is the deciding question.
So please pay attention to what I think is the most important factor of Mike’s post. Here is his hierarchy of A-Level through D-Level projects:
A-Level Projects—The Cash Cows: Projects where there is strong brand equity and a strong competitive advantage.
B-Level Projects—The Potential Stars: Projects where there is weaker brand equity but a strong competitive advantage.
C-Level Projects—The Question Marks: Projects where there is stronger brand equity but weaker competitive advantage.
D-Level Projects—The Real Dogs: Projects where you have neither a strong brand equity or a strong competitive advantage.
(You have to read his whole post to understand the difference between brand equity and competitive advantage.)
Okay, here’s the GREAT NEWS:
When it comes to the B-Level and below projects (where most unpublished authors are), competitive advantage trumps brand equity.
Do you get the significance of this? This means that even though you’re not famous, even though you’re not Beth Moore or Max Lucado and you don’t have a television show or a 30,000-member church, YOU STILL HAVE A CHANCE.
Your chance lies in your ability to create a book that has a competitive advantage strong enough to overcome your lack of brand equity… or as we often call it, platform.
You can gain a competitive advantage by having:
a An incredibly compelling idea AND execution. Subjective? Of course. But there are certain books that large numbers of people find incredibly compelling. It can be done.
a A unique perspective that’s not yet represented in the market, but many people are interested in it.
a An untapped niche market.
a A killer media hook.
a A unique ability to get your book in front of its target audience.
a In the case of fiction, a well-written book that captures people’s imagination and begs the reader to turn the page.
Now, not all publishers are Thomas Nelson. BUT, they are all operating within the same competitive marketplace. To a certain extent, they will all need a degree of assurance that every book they decide to publish has some type of competitive advantage, just like Mike explained.
Look carefully at the book you’re writing/pitching/planning. What’s its competitive advantage? If you’re getting pass letters from agents and editors… can you make an objective analysis of your own work, based on the brand-equity/competitive-advantage matrix, and figure out what the problem might be?
Let’s not use all this upheaval in the publishing industry as a reason to panic. Books are not going away. The publishing business isn’t going away. But it is changing. The question for each of us will be whether we want to change with it. And whether we want to be a part of it at all.
There is something to be said for simply sitting back and reading books, isn’t there?
Rachelle Gardner, Christian literary agent, WordServe Literary Group, Colorado.