No one likes to think that he or she has competition — but you know you do. If you're a writer, your competition consists of all the competing books in bookstores. You've got to talk about them in your Competing Books section of the book proposal. I'm going to show you exactly how to do that in a ERB covers way that will defuse your competition.

You may find it helpful to think of the audience for your book proposal as being friendly. They want to believe in your book. Why? because your book may make them more money than anything they've worked on all year. So don't be afraid to discuss the competition in your book proposal. Publishers want to know what competing books are available because it shows them there's a market for books like yours. But they also want to hear that your book will be better.

The best way to cover competing books in a book proposal is to devote only one or two sentences to each book. Your book proposal Competing Books section will then have the look and feel of a professional product — one that isn't afraid to talk about competing books.

Let's say you're writing a book about Princess Diana. Here's an example of the way to treat your competing books. "A DRESS FOR DIANA by David Emanuel (Collins Design 2006) focuses only on Diana's wedding dress, but my book will talk about all Diana's wardrobe and her sense of style."

Notice that the title is in ALL CAPS. The publisher and date are in parenthesis. Your sentence describes the competing book and also tells why yours will be better. If there are two or three competing books be sure to talk about each one in this brief fashion. And that's all you need to do for a Competing Books section of the typical book proposal.

  • Tell the title and author of the competing book.
  • Give the publisher and date of the book.
  • Describe the competing book briefly.
  • Assert that your book is better.

Have a little chutzpah. After describing the other book, tear it down just enough to show why the world needs your book. And remember, the publisher wants to hear your book is better. So come right out and say it.

Where do you find the competing books?

Look in bookstores or on Amazon. Looking on Amazon is easier, and you can read a summary of the book right there. But looking in bookstores is also a good idea since you can search the shelves for similar books. You might also want to ask a few bookstore clerks if there are any books on your topic.

Two more insider tips:

  • Your prospective literary agent and editor will go online and check the topic on Amazon. They always do this, so you should do it too.
  • Ignore books that are out of print or that are not in bookstores. These books are not going to compete with yours.

(Photo: Covers of some of Edgar Rice Burroughs' novels in the Ace editions.)