Serious book proposals (6): ‘competing’ books

Anthony Hayes has a lot of interesting thoughts and advice to offer on the world of publishing and books more generally but in particular this post in a series on book proposals is especially fine. Thanks Anthony.

Monographer

Publishers routinely ask prospective authors for information about what the former call competing books.

The paradigm case occurs in textbook publishing. Each academic or professional course is likely to adopt only one textbook as its primary reference. Thus textbooks exist in a state of genuine competition: typically several books are available, but only one will be preferred.

It makes good sense in this case to provide detailed analysis and evaluation of each competitor and to provide explicit comparison and contrast to bring out what makes the proposed book distinctive and what advantages it offers.

With other types of books, it is less certain that they are in competition. Take, for example, a book on how to write a novel. Some wannabe novelists may indeed be prepared to buy just one book. Thus there is competition. But some may buy more than one – it’s not uncommon for readers in the…

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