Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Side Trip: How to Write a Non-Fiction Book Proposal – Part 7

Competitive Titles

Every book proposal needs to have a section that lists and describes the books that are similar to the book you’re writing.

There are several ways to gather this list. We used to be told to peruse Books in Print, which your library might have.

Today, it’s easier to find this information online. Here are some ways to do that:

  • I use Amazon.com a lot. Use their search function to search for your topic and category and key words.
  • Don’t stop with Amazon.com. Also check BarnesAndNoble.com and any other online bookstores. They often have titles you didn’t find on Amazon.
  • Finally, Google your topic and key words. You’ll find even more titles that you didn’t find earlier.

When you find books that will compete with yours, I like to print off the information and keep it in my files (which, yes, can make for a lot of printing, but I think it’s worth it).

When you’ve gathered your information, type it into your book proposal. Include:

  • The title.
  • The author.
  • The publisher.
  • Number of pages.
  • Price.

Then make a statement that shows how your book is similar to these books and how yours differs. Here’s an example:

“Ms. Smith’s book My Unexpected Pregnancy is the author’s true story of how she dealt with her surprise pregnancy. My book, Deliver Me, is similar in that it is about unplanned pregnancy, however while Ms. Smith only tells her own story, my book tells the true stories of more than seventy women and men. My book also includes helpful resources, including online web sites and books, at the end of every chapter.”

See what I mean?

If you have a boatload of titles, too many to really put in your proposal without making it way long, you don’t have to list them all. Pick samples to list that are the best titles, the ones that rank highest in sales, and the most recently published.

Sometimes I also group titles together that have similar statements about how they are similar and different to my book.

Find all the titles you can that are similar to your book.

Don’t leave off your list the best selling titles that will be your biggest competition. Your editor or agent will notice you didn’t do a good job of researching your competition.

Don’t say anything like, “There really aren’t any books like mine out there.” This throws up two red flags to your prospective editor or agent:

  1. There really is nothing new under the sun. So there probably are books on this topic out there and you just didn’t find them.
  2. If there’s truly no other book on this topic then there must be a reason for that. Could be there’s no interest in this topic. Could be there’s no market for this book.

And never badmouth a competitor’s book. Don’t say anything like, “Famous Author’s book is really poorly written and his conclusions about the Bible are all wrong. I write much better and I’ll get it all right.” Don’t say theirs is bad and yours is better; just say theirs is like this and mine is similar in this way and different in that way.

The purpose of this whole section of your book proposal is to give your prospective editor or agent a solid idea of what you have in mind for your book by comparing it to others, what the potential for selling your book is like, and of course its competition.

1 comment:

Tanya T. Warrington said...

Thank you for this information. I always wondered which books to include from a long list of possible books.