Marketing by Comparison

Marketing by Comparison

Marketing your book by comparing it to other books is something that Amazon already does for you. There’s a whole section on every book in the Amazon store labeled Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought. The goal of this section is to get a potential customer to buy something based on their interest in another product.

If this is a marketing method that works well enough that Amazon uses it on every product, it seems like one we should take a look at! The “also boughts” section on Amazon can’t be edited, but there are things you can do to get your book in front of people based on what they are already interested in. Let’s see how you can make this strategy work for you.

Details on the Strategy

Over on Kindlepreneur, Dave Chesson gives an interesting example about how one fiction author has positioned himself high in search results and in Amazon’s “also bought” section by comparing himself to other best-selling authors. Read the full article for the details, but the gist of it is that an author named Marko Kloos mentions in his Amazon description that his book is in the style of a few other best-selling authors in his book’s genre. Partially due to that strategy—since Amazon uses the book’s description to decide where the book should show up in search results—Kloos’ book is up high in results from searches for the best-sellers in that genre. (For all the details, check out the article on Kindlepreneur. The relevant section is under the Strategy #2 header.)

This is a powerful idea. But we can take it even further than just influencing the Amazon search results. This is an entire strategy that involves you figuring out which authors have a similar market to yours, then using that information to position your books in front of those readers. We’ll talk a little about how to do that in this article, along with how to figure out which authors you should be comparing yourself to.

A Caution

Of course, you need to be careful with this strategy. You can’t just go out and say your book is “in the tradition of” any best-selling author. (Think what would happen if I advertised my book as “Finding the Core of Your Story, in the tradition of Charles Dickens.”) It’s not just speculation that you need to be careful doing this: I recently saw an ad on Facebook for a book that compared the author to a well-known and well-loved author, but the ad went so far as to say this author was better than the best-selling author. The ad had several comments on it, all mocking the author for comparing himself to the best-seller.

Take away from that this lesson: You need to be intelligent about which authors you compare yourself with and how you do it.

Which Authors Are Like You?

Let’s start with how to choose the authors you should compare yourself to. Here are three ways to figure out which authors have an audience that might enjoy your books as well.

Who Did You Have in Mind?

When you wrote your book, you may have been thinking of a certain book or author as inspiration. If that’s the case, you’re already ahead. Jot down any authors that you personally think you’ve drawn inspiration from.

Who Does Amazon Think You’re Like?

Remember how Amazon has a section of books that customers have also bought? Look at your book on Amazon and see if there are some authors that appear similar to you in that section. Check out their books and see if they look like a good fit.

Taking this a little further, also look up the books or authors that inspired your own book to see which books Amazon puts in their “also bought” sections. If something feels like a good fit, write it down for further examination.

Who Do Reviewers Say You’re Like?

It’s possible some reviewers have mentioned books they think yours is similar to. Check through your book’s Amazon reviews, Goodreads reviews, and any blog reviews you can find. If you see an author or book series named as a positive comparison, add it to your list.

Time to Do Some Research

At this point, you should have a good-sized list of authors or book series that  may share a market with your book. Now it’s time to figure out which ones are actually relevant. This step may take some time, since you might have to read some new books for comparison. You should also ask trusted friends if they think your book is similar to any of the ones on your list.

Comparing Without Looking Dumb

Remember the example of the author whose Facebook got laughed at for comparing him to a best-selling author? Here are some ways you can compare yourself to other authors without infuriating their fans.

Don’t Say You’re Better

This is the biggie. Under no circumstances should you say that you are a better author than a best-seller. This is just asking for negative attention. Even if you have a quote from a reviewer who says you’re better than someone else, don’t use it in your comparison marketing. The only possible exception would be if that reviewer is a very famous, very respected person who knows their stuff—and even then I would advise against it.

What to Say Instead

These phrases can help you get readers interested without attracting negative responses:

  • in the style of [author or series]
  • for fans of [author or series]
  • in the tradition of [author or series] (This one is good if you’re doing a throwback to an older, well-known author.)
  • if you like/enjoy [author or series]


There’s one other way you can use this information, and it doesn’t depend on Amazon’s search algorithm noticing your comparisons. Instead, you can use your list of authors or books with a similar market to buy ads on Facebook or another social media platform. This can be very powerful, since you can target your ad directly to people who already like similar authors or series. Use the phrases above to craft an ad that will pique the interest of somebody who’s a fan of one of your similar authors or books. You’ll probably want to make a different ad for each author or book on your list.

Wrapping Up

Marketing by comparison is a great way to gain some new readers. You can get a shoe in the door by comparing yourself to something they already like, so take advantage of that to build your sales with this strategy.

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