Proposal Writing: 7

On to one of the most interesting parts of the non-fiction book proposal.

Competition.

Even though this section comes near the end of your proposal, you might want to research it first. It may alter the way your present your ideas. In a worst case scenario, it might make you abandon your idea.

You’ll have to do some research for this one. Search Amazon and Chapters, head to your local library, and check out the children’s bookstore. And then, stop panicking. Even when there are other books that seem, at first glance, EXACTLY the same as the book you have planned, they’re likely quite different. If you’re searching on-line, check the page count. If you’ve planned a juvenile non-fiction book about garbage dumps and you find one with the same title and the same description (irregular heart beat starting now), you might see that it’s actually a 32-page picture book, and then you have nothing to worry about. If that doesn’t work, find an actual copy and have a look. It it’s a book about your topic, but it sucks, then you’re still okay!

If you do happen to find a book that’s precisely the same book you wanted to write, you have two choices:

1. Discard your idea and move on to another project. Heartbreaking, but occasionally necessary.

2. Use other people’s projects as impetus. Find a way to present your idea that’s different from every other book. Can you alter the format? Can you make it funny where other books are serious? Can address the issue from a different point of view? Can you somehow mix fiction and non-fiction to make the treatment unique? You may find that the threat of competition has driven you to create something better.

Assuming you go ahead with your project, the point of a competition section in your proposal is to offer the publisher an overview of the books on the market, and explain why yours is different and better. The more thorough you make your research, the more confident your publisher will feel.

My example:

Competition
There are several recent biographies of young activists, as well as numerous activism guides for teens (though not many from mainstream presses). I’ve found nothing specifically designed for the middle-grade readership, and nothing in workbook form.

The closest competition is a book called Raise Your Hand, Lend a Voice, Change the World, published by Scholastic in 2007, which does provide some ideas for launching new campaigns by kids. It’s not a workbook, however, and doesn’t offer the same interactive planning tools used in Rock Your World.

Biographies

Cullis-Suzuki, Severn. Notes from Canada’s Young Activists. Vancouver: Greystone Books, 2007.

Wilson, Janet. One Peace: True Stories of Young Activists. Victoria: Orca, 2008.

Guides

Halpin, Mikki. It’s Your World: If You Don’t Like It, Change It. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2004.

Hughes, Susan. Raise Your Hand, Lend Your Voice, Change the World. Toronto: Scholastic, 2007.

Hunter, Zach. Generation Change: Get Your Hands Dirty and Change the World. Grandville: Zondervan, 2008.

Moore, Anne Elizabeth. Hey Kidz! Buy This Book: A Radical Primer on Corporate and Governmental Propaganda and Artistic Activism for Short People. Berkeley: Counterpoint, 2004.

Schwartz, Heather E. Political Activism. Mankato: Capstone Press, 2009.

Vargas, Roberto. Family Activism. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehlet, 2008.

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