Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Know Your Competition

How do you/other agents feel about having a book you represent listed in an author's book proposal competition section? It makes sense that an author might reference a book you represent -- and that if the book is similar, it would make sense to list it as competition. But then...

*** Please note that this is going to appeal primarily to nonfiction writers of self-help nonfiction. Rarely do I think fiction or narrative nonfiction needs a competition section.

Ultimately the goal of competition is to show what’s out there. I think deleting something simply because it’s represented by the agent (or publisher) you’re pitching could do more harm than good. It gives the impression you don’t really know the market. The point of the competition section isn’t necessarily to show that there isn’t any competition, but to show that you know what the competition is and how your book is different and stands out from other titles. For this very reason you don’t want to bad-mouth the titles, but instead use them as a standard to make yours stand out even more.

And last, in case you’ve missed it, to better understand this question and what goes into a nonfiction book proposal, see my previous post on the subject.



Magdalena Munro said...

Cynthia Shapiro's two books are the closest to my work, however, she was not noted in my proposal because the only similarities are in the target audience and in a purely ephemeral sense that we're both HR figures with a focus on staffing. When one gets to the grist of my work they are not similar. This begs the question; is another author's work considered part of the competition if they target the same audience and have some similar themes or does the work need to be of the same order to be considered competitive? For example, if I were writing a cookbook focused soley on chocolate, would an author writing a cookbook with 1/8 of her book dedicated to chocolate be considered part of the competition?

Mira said...

This is a good question. I've wondered this myself - since I hope to write non-fiction someday.

In some ways, the jist of the question for me is: If the agent already represents a book on the same topic, would they want to represent another one?

I've sort of assumed 'no', that an agent wouldn't want to have their clients competing with each other....

But from your post, if there is a way your book could stand out alittle - not be exactly the same thing, it might work.

Anonymous said...

This doesn't really have anything to do with your current post, but something I was wondering crossed my mind while I was reading this entry.

What is your preference on debut author's sending out queries. Is it better if they send them out to numerous agents at the same time, or to stagger their queries? I've heard it both ways, but I'm always curious as to what different agents prefer, or what they think is better or more beneficial to the author, being that they're debut.