In this section, choose 3 or 4 works that are competitively similar to yours and summarize them and their success.

Choose Wisely
Ever watch “American Idol” and hear the judges rail on about the importance of “song selection”? Same idea here. You don’t want to pick books that are (heaven forbid) exactly like yours (hopefully there aren’t any!), or too different, or too successful, or not successful enough. You need books that are competitive foils to yours — that will help show how your book will go the extra step in satisfying a hungry public.

Then, explain how your book will be even better.

Keep it classy, San Diego
The trick, of course, is to somehow expose your competitors’ weaknesses without actually bashing them (or their publishers!). In the first proposal I ever wrote, I skewered my competition. I was so embarrassed when my agent told me, “We are better than that!” Yikes! Yes, yes we are.

It’s hard not to get carried away, but here’s an example of how I’ve done it successfully:

    With 500,000 copies in print, the #1 New York Times bestseller The Sopranos Family Cookbook by Allen Rucker (Grand Central Publishing, 2002) established that the market for recipe collections inspired by hit television shows is healthy. The New York Times bestselling Skinny Italian by Teresa Giudice with Heather Maclean (Hyperion, 2010), based on the TV star’s family recipes, is in its 4th printing with 126,000 copies, and has just been released internationally. The Mad Men Cookbook serves up the same 5-star combination of popular character-based storytelling and amazing cuisine with the added appeal of nostalgia.

Based on my own experience (messing it up), I think this is one of the hardest sections to finesse. Since I don’t want you to make the same mistakes I did (In my first proposal, I wrote that a competing book had “a writing style aimed at sixth grade boys” and “reads more like a conspiracy-theory blog.” Ouch.), I’m going to give you a peek at the full Competition section from the proposal for Skinny Italian here.

Sales Numbers
It can be difficult to find sales information without access to the databases that industry insiders have, but a little Google hunting, and you should be able to come up with some numbers. Numbers are good.

Every year, Publishers Weekly releases a list with (somewhat reliable) numbers on the best-selling cookbooks of the year (I say “somewhat” because the reporting system for book sales is flawed at best). Here’s their link for Cookbooks in 2012.

Citing Other Books
Finally, the correct way to cite other books anywhere in your proposal is as follows: Title Italicized by Author’s Name (Publisher, Year Published). Or: French Women Don’t Get Fat by by Mireille Guiliano (Knopf, 2004).

>> NEXT: Promotion & Publicity