It is important to know which books on the market will compete with your own manuscript. The topic should be a section in any nonfiction proposal you put together. But it is also something you should know because it can tell you whether or not to pursue a topic.
The first step is to do a search on Amazon. Keep it simple. “Black bears Smoky Mountains.” Hint #1: Remember to search only in books. It narrowed this search from 515 results to 25. If you don’t turn up any titles, you might have a problem on your hands — zero interest. But here are 25 items. Here are some of the things that I look for to narrow things down.
I write nonfiction for children and teens so I rule out fiction and titles for an adult audience. Since I publish traditionally, I also rule out Create Space titles. That leaves one competing title for this topic – The Moon of the Bears (The Thirteen Moon Series) by Jean Craighead George. The publisher is HarperCollins and the publication date 1993. It doesn’t look like this book is still in print so again I would want to poke around to try to judge interest level.
But let’s say it was a brand new titles – just a year old. If you only have one competing title and it is written by someone like Jean Craighead George, you probably do not wand to go toe-to-toe. Does that mean you should give up? No way. It means that you come up with way to write your book without competing. How can you do this?
Change the age range of your book. George’s book is for grades 4 – 6. You could avoid competing by:
- Writing a picture book for grades K – 2.
- Writing a book about a particular cub that was rehabilitated and released to the wild.
- Focus on a ranger that works with bears.
Another thing that you can do is show that your work is superior. Let’s say the book was written by a new nonfiction author and published by a new, unknown press. The reviews were awful. You can point out that your work corrects faults in other books. Or if the information in the book is anecdotal, base yours on recent wildlife studies and tell the editor that this is what you are doing.
Be prepared to show an editor that there are books (interest) but that there is still room for your book. If you can do this, they will know that you are a writer who does her homework.
Other books on your topic published in the last 5 years. How does your book differ? My book covers a greater breadth than other titles and is more scientific. Given the interest in STEM titles, I’m going to emphasize that aspect.