Karen wrote and said, “The hardest part of a proposal for me is the ‘competitive analysis’ section. Any advice or tips?”
Sure — think about the purpose of that section. Publishers bascially sell in lines — that is, if they are currently selling a lot of fitness and health titles, they’re going to want to publish more fitness and health titles in the future, since they know how to market and sell those. (One of the things that drives publishers crazy is seeing a proposal that screams, “You’ve never seen anything like this!” Or an agent that says, “You’re not currently doing any books in this genre, so I thought I’d send this to you.” Huh? If a publisher isn’t doing any books in one area, they’re probably not going to know what to do with that project. An easy rejection.) So the “competivie analysis” section of your proposal serves as an advance organizer. It tells the publishing team, “THIS book is similar to THAT book. If you could get excited about THAT title, you’re sure to like THIS title.” Make sense?
What most authors do is to head over to Amazon.com and spend a little time doing research. Search by title. Look at key words. If you find an author who has done a book similar to yours, check out his or her other titles (since authors have a tendency to maintain an interest in a topic, just like publishers). What you want to do is to find a handful of titles (normally about three to seven) that are similar to your proposed book.
In your proposal, you want to list the title, author, publisher, and release date. You need to give some indication of what the sales were, if you can find them (that will take a bit of research). Then you want to explain very briefly how that book is similar to your own. And, in many cases, you want to offer a short explanation of how your proposed book is different.
More on the competitive works section of your proposal tomorrow, but I’d like to know what tips you have for other authors as they put together this part of their proposals.