Are you a first-time author who wants to traditionally publish a nonfiction book? You’ll need to write a nonfiction book proposal, a detailed sales pitch to a publisher showing that your book can succeed.
One section of a book proposal — the competition section — is where you tell the publisher what your book is up against even before it gets to market. This is vital to your book’s success; addressing books similar to or in conversation with yours asserts that your book has a place in the publishing world and that you are an expert on what’s out there in your field.
5 things to keep in mind when writing your book proposal:
1. Know that you DO have competition.
What? No other book out of the millions published since the dawn of man has dealt with the subject matter of your book? Are you really the first person to write about this topic? The catch is, if that’s really true, then all that tells a publisher is that there is no market for your book. No market = no book contract. In a way, you want to hope your book has competition. Competition pushes you to really assess how you can enlighten readers in ways they’ve never been enlightened before.
2. Embrace positivity.
Don’t trash the competition. This is bad form, on top of just being a bad idea. It’s tempting to say how badly such-and-such book handles your subject matter and how your book is far superior, but think of this: what if the editor or agent of the book you’re trashing is reading your proposal? Do you think they’d be inclined to want to buy your book? Instead, show how your book handles the topic differently, or expands on what’s already been done, or adds new information.
3. Do your homework.
In other words: Don’t copy and paste the book’s description from Amazon. Talk about lazy — and talk about something that publishers will see as the mark of an amateur right away. If you didn’t take the time to explore the shelves of a brick and mortar bookstore, comb through a genre or category, buy books, read them yourself and make your own conclusions about what the competing book is about, how do you think a publisher will trust you to do the work necessary to write your own book?
4. Choose your titles wisely.
Don’t use self published books. This is just common sense. Choose books that held their ground in the traditional publishing world, not a self published book that didn’t make enough waves to get picked up by a publishing house. Remember, especially in today’s publishing world, every publisher is only seeking books that make a big impact. Bonus: Include books that have been recognized, e.g. earned the title of a New York Times Bestseller.
And, keep it timely. Don’t choose titles from 50 years ago. Your goal is to show that there is a current conversation in the zeitgeist that a publisher has to tap into immediately. One exception: If a book is a stand-out classic in its field — e.g. Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus — that’s okay to include.
5. Keep it short and sweet.
Don’t list a library. Five or six titles will do. The more energy you dedicate to writing great synopses of a few books will definitely build a stronger argument than spreading yourself too thin over 10+ books.
Remember, the key to finessing any book proposal is following through every step of the way. And, if you think you need extra help, consider hiring a developmental editor to guide you. Good luck and happy writing!
Those were five ways to write a winning book proposal. Find out 45 more ways to give your book an edge. Just sign up for my weekly newsletter and you’ll receive Special Report: 50 Ways to Stay Out of the Rejection Pile as my gift to you.