“There’s never been a book like this,” is a phrase that may doom your book propsoal to oblivion.

When writing a book proposal, an essential document to prepare is a comparative title analysis. This is a report which identifies the current bestselling books like yours. If there is nothing comparable to your book in the marketplace of ideas, then there may be a reason for that which would make your project unsuitable for commercial publication.

For example, if your book concept mixes genres you may have difficulties identifying your niche. If your book crosses memoir with self-help, you’ve got a problem. There aren’t any books like this and no one wants to read someone else’s life as a how-you-should-live-yours. Is your book idea partly a textbook intended for students mixed with a teacher’s guide grounded in pedagogical philosophy? There’s a reason you can’t find similar books on the shelves: two different audiences, two different kinds of books, two different kinds of publishing. Mixed genre book concepts rarely fly.

Information for the Swenson Book Development Writer's Workshop

If there are no other books like yours on the shelves of bookstores and libraries then there simply may not be enough audience demand to warrant the production costs of publishing a book. I may be the world’s leading expert on Jack ‘N Jill salt and pepper shakers and own the most extensive historical collection in the world, but if no one is interested in Jack ‘N Jill salt and pepper shakers I won’t be able to interest any publisher in my book project.

So the first steps in completing a comparative title analysis is to get to your local bookstores and start window-shopping for what is published in your subject area and genre, and subgenre. Notice which section you find this material and the subject heading used in the bookstore. When you get home get on the computer, research these books, read the reviews, look at the Amazon sales rankings, and get to know your competition.

Some authors mistake a comparative title analysis for a review of the literature. Scholars often review the research comprehensively on their subject area and write a critical summary of others academic writing. This document is nothing like that at all. It’s a marketing report to help you sell your book concept. Perhaps competitive title analysis is a better description of this document in your book proposal. It is an analysis of the books your audience is buying as competing products. So you will need to make the case that there is sufficient audience demand for this new product in the competitive marketplace.

You need to find books that yours will sit next to on the shelves in the bookstore. So finding your niche in the market is one purpose of completing a comparative title analysis.

Another purpose of the comparative title analysis is to get a good sense of which publishers are currently successful with books that are like yours. Once you find relevant titles, look at the copyright page and identify the publisher. Make a list. Competition is the new collaboration. You’ll want to read and review these books, engage with the authors of the ones you liked reading, and meet people who also liked the book. Why? They are your audience and word of mouth advertising team for your forthcoming publication.

The third purpose is related to the bottom line. The comparative title analysis helps you estimate the size of the potential audience. This report reveals the potential size of profit and risk of losses in the market sector.

Next time, a bit more “how-to” on conducting your own comparative title analysis for your book proposal.Information for the Swenson Book Development Writer's Workshop

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