Now we come to the Competing Books section of a book proposal. This is still part of the Introduction. Here you take a long hard look at what books already have been written on your topic and how your book compares to them.
The reason for this is simple. You want to convince a publisher that the book you are planning to write is different and adds something new to existing titles. In the industry we say, “Make sure your book fills a hole on the shelf.” That means, find a place amongst the already published books in book stores where a title appears to be missing. That’s where your book should go. It should fill that hole. It should be angled so it covers the information that hasn’t yet been covered or written about.
In the Competing Books section of the proposal, simply write a short introduction saying “The following books are closest in subject matter and, therefore, represent the most direct competition to [Title of book].” Include up to five books with the best-selling books first or by date of publication. Conclude with a paragraph comparing these books to your book or you as an author to these authors. In his book, How to Write a Book Proposal, Michael Larsen suggests you set this section up in this manner:
Title, Subtitle, by Author (Publisher, copyright year, # pages, paperback or hardcover, $ price). Two incomplete sentences joined by a semicolon; first one says what is positive about the book and the second one says what is negative about the book.
If you don’t think your book has any competition, move on to the next post, but don’t belittle the importance of this section. I once had a publishing house reject my proposal because of this Complementary Books section…not because I hadn’t done it well but because they felt the books I listed hadn’t sold enough copies. (This, to them, meant the market wasn’t big enough and my book represented too big of a risk.) One of those books had sold well over 100, 000 copies and was just about to be released as a third edition. Go figure.
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