Positioning is the most crucial part of both writing and marketing your book. If you put in the work to properly position your book now, you will reap the benefits for years.

What is book positioning?

Simply stated, book positioning is the place your book occupies in the mind of your reader, and how that reader perceives your book as fulfilling their needs.

That is the technical, industry definition of positioning. But really, positioning is about answering the question readers ask about every book:

“Why should I read this book?”

It’s important to understand that you can’t write or market yourself out of a positioning problem. If you get it right, positioning makes both the writing and marketing of the book easy, and ensures you get what you want from your book.

If you do not take this seriously, and get your positioning wrong, then almost nothing you can do will save your book or make it successful.

A (Very) Brief History of Book Positioning

For a hundred years in the old traditional publishing model, every agent had to have the positioning discussion with an editor before they would buy a book.

Strictly speaking, in traditional publishing circles the positioning discussion only revolved around how the book fit into traditional book sales categories. That’s where the term comes from. It’s literally a discussion of what position on the bookstore shelves the book is supposed to go, because in the twentieth century, the market for books was essentially synonymous with the needs of bookstores.

This is obviously no longer the case. Most books are now sold digitally, categories don’t matter as much, and the majority of physical books are not sold in bookstores, but rather in non-book retail stores like Costco and Walmart that don’t even have categorized shelves.

Furthermore, when all book publishing was done by traditional publishing companies, the only positioning decisions they cared about concerned whether books would sell, because that’s how they made money.

Modern Book Positioning

None of this is true anymore. Now, most books are published outside of the old, traditional models, and most non-fiction books are not monetized directly.

Here is modern reality: most non-fiction authors make the majority of their money from other things that a book gets them, and not from sales of their books.

You can always make money by selling copies, of course. But making money indirectly from a book means you’re using your book as a marketing tool to get you something else that produces revenue.

For example, a book will help you elevate your authority, increase your visibility, and get you more clients. This strategy fundamentally changes the way books are conceived and positioned (more on this later).

At Scribe, we’ve adapted the old positioning process so that instead of serving the publishing company’s needs, it serves your needs as the author.

Positioning Done Right Ensures Your Book Will Work

In the next three sections of this book, I will lead you through our positioning process, using the exact steps and questions we use to help authors refine and crystallize their ideas into well-positioned books that will get them results. These are the three steps to positioning your book:

  1. Determine Your Objectives
    What result must the book produce for you to be a success?
  2. Target Your Audience
    Who is the audience that must be reached for your goal to be achieved?
  3. Lock In Your Book Idea
    What is your book about, and why will your audience care?

Everything is connected.

The objectives necessitate a certain audience.

The audience have their needs that must be met by the book.

And the book idea must attract and provide value to the audience, so you’ll reach the objectives you want to achieve.

It all ties together in a simple formula. If you follow it, you’ll pick a book topic that provides value for both you and the audience.

That’s the key thing to remember with your book: nobody cares about you, or your book. They only care about what your book can do for them.

This point is so important, I am going to begin and end the piece with it:

Positioning answers the question in your reader’s mind:

“Why should I read this book?”

If you do not know the answer to that question before you start writing, chances are you will write a book that does not serve an audience…or you.