Cheri Cowell here—

Cheri Cowell

Cheri Cowell

When authors are asked about their book’s competition, sometimes they are hesitant to respond. They might be fearful of sounding critical of others or too highly of themselves. But, knowing your competition and how you are positioned with them is critical not only to completing that pesky part of the proposal, but also in selling your book. You want to learn the competition dance.

The first step in the dance is reading the books similar to yours in genre, subject matter, and theme. You should have read the top five, if not more. As you read, note how your book is similar to them. Is it similar in content, layout, point-of-view, or conclusion? Answer the “If you like this book then you’ll love my book because” question. Then determine how your book is different. Be specific. Do you have different experience, a different approach, or a different conclusion? In fiction, is your story coming from a different POV then another story told during the same time period or with a similar plotline?

Now that you know how these books are similar to and yet different from your own book, use bullet points to make these concepts known in your book proposal. There is never a need to slight your competition, but showing how yours is similar to a big seller is a good thing—it demonstrates there is a market for your book. However, if you can’t show how yours is different, then you are telling the publisher there is no need for your book. Be bold, and if you do this well, you are convincing the publisher to take a chance on you and your book without much need for the rest of the proposal (well, almost).

The next step is to decide how to use this information in the marketing of your book. Don’t be afraid of mentioning your competition, but make certain you are delivering on your promise. For example, if you want to claim your book is the next Harry Potter, it had better be. It may be better to say your book has been considered by some to be the next Harry Potter, but with a clear message of redemption and grace. You might also want to use Amazon’s Listmania! feature to include your book with a list of the top five books on your list. If a reader has read some of the others on your list and are looking for more, they just might purchase yours.

Finally, when doing interviews about your book you can share how your book is similar to this “top parenting book” in these ways, and yet it offers something different. Then spend time outlining how your book is different. This is a great interview technique and a wonderful way to use your research.

In conclusion, knowing your competition not only positions you well, it also sets you apart if done well. Knowing your competition is not only about completing that section of your proposal, it is also about marketing your book so readers know how your book is similar to and yet different from that other book they loved. And before you know it you will win that dance competition.

Cheri Cowell is the author of four books including her latest release Sharing the Story: Reaching Outside the Church Walls. She is the owner/publisher of, and can be found at several writers’ conferences in 2015. For a list, visit her website