Competing for Attention

Everything in our world is competing for our attention. Where you finally give your attention is a combination of what you want to pay attention to and what caught your eye at the moment.

No matter how you publish your book, either through a traditional publishing method or through some other author-controlled method, you are competing for attention with other books, products and events.

For instance, there were new books and music albums released in stores on Tuesday, September 11, 2001.  In fact, both Bob Dylan and Mariah Carey each had albums release on 9/11/01. I am certain a lot of people worked very hard on those albums and companies spent a lot of money, only to have their work swamped in a tidal wave of urgent and compelling news.

The best-laid plans …

But some people hit the news cycle perfectly with no credit due to anyone. Author Harold Kushner had the twentieth anniversary edition of his best-selling book When Bad Things Happen to Good People release on September 4, 2001.

Unpredictability is present every day.

While marketing people understand this, very few authors or those who don’t know much about marketing seem to grasp the concept in the media and world of public attention-getting … urgency and importance win.


Like your new book launched on the same day as a dramatic historical event. Or someone else’s book released to great fanfare on the same day as yours.

Many authors who have been fortunate enough to be interviewed in the media about their books, also know what it is like to be “bumped” by someone or something else that is more urgent or important.

All media has a plan for what they communicate but know even the well-considered plan must be set aside when someone important dies or a major historical, news or weather event takes place.

And it’s not just issues of national or global importance.

About 30 years ago I participated in organizing a press conference to announce something that was important to an area in Illinois. At least we thought so.

Wouldn’t you know, a major car manufacturer picked that day and time to announce they were opening a new assembly plant nearby and would hire a few thousand people. So much for our press conference.

It’s when I learned firsthand about competing for media attention and the pain of hard work amounting to nothing.

Publishing, whether traditional or author-controlled, is a series of intentional activities, not simply uploading a file and making a product available when you want.

When and how a book is made available for promotion and purchase is not entirely a wheel-spinning, dart-throwing process. It is more often than not part of a process of planning and intentionality. And even then, nothing is final until it actually happens.

Launching a promotion for your book on the 4th of July or the day after Thanksgiving or Christmas day is simply foolish.  In the same way, not checking Amazon to see what books are releasing around yours is a mistake. Use the Advance Search function and check to see what competition is present when you launch your book. The info is there for many months into the future.

Traditional publishers use Amazon and other data sources to determine the best release window for their books.  Being aware of the competition is important in any business activity.

Very few authors truly grasp how much competition there is in the book-publishing world. As of this writing, there are over 1,000 products listed on Amazon to release in October 2018 under the category of “Christian Books and Bibles.”

I know this is another heavy load added to your writing rucksack; but while there’s nothing you can do about some things, you can avoid some obvious pitfalls that could diminish the effect of your new book.


8 Responses to Competing for Attention

  1. Avatar
    Terry Whalin September 25, 2018 at 5:21 am #


    Thank you for this article and the realistic publishing perspective that every writer needs. It is not easy to be realistic but if you have a realistic perspective you will be more equipped to face the world and understand why you are competing for attention.

    Straight Talk From the Editor

  2. Avatar
    Heather September 25, 2018 at 5:30 am #

    Wow, that’s good to k ow about the advanced search feature! Thanks for the valuable tip. Will share with my publisher too!

  3. Avatar
    Kay DiBianca September 25, 2018 at 8:10 am #


    thank you for this information. Navigating the dual worlds of publishing and marketing is a challenge. Based on your article, maybe it’s a good idea to have multiple small media events rather than putting all the effort into a single large one.

    1,000 Christian books and Bibles to be released on Amazon in October, 2018? Yikes! That’s a lot of competition. On the other hand, maybe we should rejoice that so many people are led to share their faith through their writing.

  4. Avatar
    Carol Ashby September 25, 2018 at 8:11 am #

    Thanks for mentioning the Amazon Advanced Search! That’s actionable advice for author-directed Cerrillo Press, AKA me.

    A traditional publisher might not get another shot at launch, but an indie can always launch a second time if the first gets swamped by events. Life throws curve balls, but a catcher who’s on the ball can still get them into his/her mitt.

  5. Avatar
    Roberta Sarver September 25, 2018 at 9:18 am #

    Dan, As usual, you have given us worthwhile advice. It’s so helpful to writers when agents pull back the curtain and let us peek into the inner workings of the writing world. Thanks!

  6. Avatar
    Sheri Dean Parmelee, Ph.D September 25, 2018 at 11:10 am #

    Thanks for the heads-up, Dan!

  7. Avatar
    Jennifer Mugrage September 25, 2018 at 7:49 pm #

    This is very helpful. Thanks a bunch.

    I personally would like nothing better than a new book to read on the day after Christmas or Thanksgiving. That’s when I’m sitting around in a warm house full of food and relatives. But then again, I rarely buy new books anyway, so maybe I am not the target demographic.

  8. Avatar
    John de Sousa September 26, 2018 at 6:21 pm #

    I was a life insurance salesman years ago. As I sat in my customer’s living room with my carefully prepared charts, a vacuum salesman knocks on the door and offers a free case of soda to my client if he can demo his vacuum. The guy says yes, the salesman hands him the sodas, and puts on a show, right in the middle of my insurance pitch! That day did not end well for me. Rather than bringing sodas the next time, I just got out of the game.

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