Staring your competition in the face might not be your favorite part of the writing process, but a competitive title analysis can help sharpen your focus and help you articulate your book’s strengths.
This post originally appeared on Page Two Strategies‘ blog. Reprinted with permission.
When you set out to draft a book proposal, you might find the “market competition” section to be the most confounding. To start with, who enjoys staring their competition in the face? It can be daunting to sort through all the books that exist in the same subject area as yours, and the authors who have found the success you aspire to. At Page Two Strategies, we’ve worked with numerous published and independent authors who have wanted to turn the competitive title analysis process entirely over to us, suggesting that agents and publishers are the market experts and writers should just concentrate on writing great books.
The fact is, it’s important for an author to know his or her market competition intimately: a market-savvy author is in a position of strength. When an author positions himself as an expert on a particular subject, publishers expect him to know what else is on the shelf, what content has already been covered, and where his new book fits in.
The process of identifying competitive titles doesn’t need to be limiting or intimidating. On the contrary, it can often be a clarifying exercise, which will ultimately sharpen your book’s focus. It can illuminate and remind you what is unique about your proposal, which will help you articulate that unique value proposition with greater confidence.
What to include in your competitive title analysis
A well-conceived market competition section of a book proposal should list several titles, include brief descriptions, and list authors’ names. Your list shouldn’t be long – you don’t want to overwhelm the publisher – but it shouldn’t be so short as to seem unrealistic. Describe each book, then explain how your book differs from it or improves on it. Don’t hesitate to acknowledge when a book is done well. The point isn’t to criticize the other books in the field – which could seem disingenuous – but rather to express how your book will do what these others haven’t.
We also encourage our clients to list complementary titles when considering the market competition. By complementary titles, we mean books in the same subject area that don’t directly compete, but which overlap yours in some way, and which could generate additional interest in your book. Consider, for example, the books Wheat Belly and Grain Brain. Both are successful books in the category of nutrition and health. Both aim to reveal important key impediments to health. Both are critical of wheat and gluten. Wheat Belly focuses on physical health, while Grain Brain emphasizes mental health. When Grain Brain was published, Wheat Belly was already a best-selling book, but rather than eclipsing the newer book, it set the stage for Grain Brain’s success. A market that had shown keen interest in the first book was primed for the second.
Don’t fear the dreaded market competition section of your proposal. Consider how it can sharpen your book’s focus and market position.
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