Preparing to Write a New Book? Read the Competition

You’ve got an idea for a new book. You’re eager to start writing, but there is something that you need to do early in the process. You need to check out the competition. I always tell my writing students to do this because it is the best way to know that there is room for your book in the market.

Recently, I’ve been working on a new picture book. Broadly, it is about pet adoption. When I first started playing around with my idea, I wasn’t sure what shape it would take. Because of this, I started writing before I did much research into the market.

As I wrote, I realized that the point-of-view character is the cat. He may start out as a cute, cuddly kitten but by the end of the book, he’s a bruiser. He isn’t tiny or cute. In fact, he’s a bit of a punk.

When I had a fairly solid draft, I decided I better do my market research. I checked out an impressive stack of picture books about cats. There are so many books about kittens finding homes. There are books about stray cat rescues.

As I read, I breathed a sigh of relief. None of the books duplicate my own idea. Most of them aren’t even close. Then I saw the cover of Mr. Wuffles, the nearly wordless picture book by David Wiesner. Oh, no.

But I’ve checked it out and although Mr. Wuffles does look an awful lot like the star of I am that Cat, the two stories are nothing alike. Phew. What a huge relief.

Whether you are writing fiction or nonfiction, a picture book or a young adult title, always check out the competition to make sure that there is space in the market for your idea. The earlier in the process that you do this research the better. Why? Because you’ll have time and energy to reslant your project.

Not sure how to reslant? Not to worry. I’ll write about that tomorrow.


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