One Writer’s Journey

October 26, 2016

Choosing a Title

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:37 am
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surprise-one-handedHad a really interesting experience with an image search Monday.  I was looking for the cover image of the picture book “Peeking Under the Street.”  Me being me, I’m a bit lazy.  So I didn’t add the author’s name.  I didn’t even add the word cover.  I just clicked image search and Enter and . . .

Oh, my heavenly host.  What the hell is going on here?

Let’s just say that this pulled up something about a particular area in Las Vegas that seems to be upper garment optional, unless you count paisties as garments.  Some of the people may have been “working women,” a polite euphamism my grandmother used.  Others were clearly tourists.

I don’t know about you, but I would not want some kid to type up the name of my book and get an eye-full of bossom.  If it was sculpture and painting I wouldn’t care but this was VEGAS and although some of the people seemed very friendly it was not child-friendly if you get my drift.

My point?  When you come up with a title for your book, do a Google search.  Do it on a computer that doesn’t have Net Nanny because you need the worst case scenario.  And don’t just to a Google search, do a Google Image Search.  I’ve done this before and pulled up something that looked like the gore-filled image from a slasher film.  It was something by some Death Metal band but, again, not what I want my readers to find when they’re looking for me.  Another search turned up a competing book.  I don’t want that either so I tried title #3.

Take the time to search your book titles.  You need to find competing titles but you also need to know if a search would pull up things that aren’t appropriate for your audience.



February 3, 2016

Comparable Books vs Competing Books

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:34 am
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comparableWhether you are writing a query or a nonfiction book proposal, you need to know which books are comparable to your own.  Note: Comparable does not mean identical or competing.

You do need to know which books would compete with yours.  This is vital because you need to know that there is space for your book in the market place.  If there are five books on mouse vocalizations for preschoolers, you can’t claim that your book on the same topic for the same audience will have no competition.

But comparable books are a little different.  Or, as my grandmother would have said, they are a skootch different.

When you are trying to determine which books are comparable to yours, consider this sentence.  The audience for my book is the same as the audience for (insert appropriate titles here).  

You can’t give the world another Judy Moody or Stink but the humor in your chapter books might appeal to Megan McDonald’s fans.

You book about a group of princesses who double as secret agents is a bit too stark for Shannon Hale’s reader but might be perfect for those who appreciate Sarah Rees Brennan’s, especially if you include the necessary fantasy element.

If you write nonfiction, the above examples might not seem applicable but maybe you bring the passion to vocal music that Trombone Shorty Andrews brings to New Orleans’ jazz. Or you might have an eye for detail and comparisons like Steve Jenkins.  Or a talent with cryptids and the offbeat like Kelly Milner Hall.

Take the time to analyze your work and come up with someone whose work has a similar flavor.  Do this and you’ll know there’s a market for your type of writing and you can also take a closer look and make sure there is space in those reader’s lives for your work as well.


December 1, 2015

Help! I’ve found a book that’s the same as mine…

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:46 am
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competitionIf you write for very long, this is going to happen to you at some point in time.  You’ll have a manuscript in the works or on the back burner and you’ll be going merrily about your day.  As you read through a book you’ve picked up at the library or read about a book online, you have that stinking sinking feeling.  This book is just like mine.  It just happened to me yet again as I read Jan Brett’s On Noah’s Ark.

Different people react to this in different ways.  Absolutely brand new writers sometimes assume that someone has stolen their idea.  Me?  Not so much.  For one thing, this isn’t the first time I’ve had this expereince.  If you like an author’s work a lot, you can probably assume that the two of you have some things in common.  You may read the same things, see the same movies or have similar experiences.  It isn’t beyond the realm of possibility that similar input will yield similar ideas at least once in a while.

So what do you do?  Do you shelve your idea or discard is completely?  Maybe you keep working.

In part, it depends how alike the two ideas are.  Brett has a vast variety of animals, much as I pictured in my own story.  But hers are in the illustrations and not the text itself which is natural since she is an author/illustrator and I only write.  She also groups her creatures in a different way than I had planned for my story.  Although there are strong similarities, there are also big differences.

But this isn’t always the case. If you still want to market your book, sometimes it means that you have to change something to make sure that your book and the one in print don’t compete.

You can also read the reviews on the book in print.  Is there something that reviewers don’t like?  Perhaps important information was left out. You can address this so that your work goes above and beyond what the first book covered.

Me?  There are big differences so I have no qualms about moving forward.



October 20, 2014

Research: Gathering Facts and Eying the Competition

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:07 am

Book searchWhether you are writing fiction or nonfiction, both require research.  The problem is that if you aren’t doing two types of research your writing may be in trouble.  You need to do both the research required to write the piece and research on the competition.  I’ll explain this using some of my recent work as an example.  As I’ve mentioned several times recently, I’m writing about Pearl Harbor.  Obviously, this means that I’m gathering lots and lots of information on Pearl Harbor.

But I also need to have an eye for my competition.  What is already out there?  What exactly did they cover?  What did these books do well and, perhaps more importantly, not so well?

When I’m researching the competition, I always start with an Amazon search.  In this case, I would do a book search on “Pearl Harbor.”  Maybe you’re more industrious than I am but that search yields 4,923 titles.  I don’t want to pick through all of them to see what the competition is up to so I need to narrow it.

When your search results come up, you’ll see a column of categories to the left.  Under BOOKS> there is “see all 23 departments.”  Click that.

When I did this for my Pearl Harbor book search, it gave me three children’s books choices — Military Books, 1900s American Historic Fiction, and American History of 1900s.  I would look at first Military Books with 48 books and then American History of 1900s with 35 books.  There is probably overlap in these two categories but going through 83 books total is a lot easier than going through 4,923.
For whatever reason, your category choices aren’t always the same when you do an Amazon book search.  When I did a search on World War I and then click to see all departments, I get one choice for Children’s Books.  I’m not sure why it varies from topic to topic but there you have it.
If you aren’t taking the time to research your competition, you may be writing a book almost identical to one already on the market.  Avoid this by doing some research and making your book 100% unique.

May 7, 2014

Competition: The Titles You Are Up Against

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:27 am
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Yesterday I wrote about marketability and selling points.  Another thing that Mary Kate discussed with us was competing titles.  Which books are the competition for your work-in-progress?  You should show awareness of this in your pitch and/or query letter.

There are two mistakes that writers make when naming the competition:

To think that no competition is a good thing.  No competition might mean no market as in “no one can find an audience for this kind of book.”

Naming only the big dogs.  Especially if you are a new writer, don’t think that your books will immediately compete with Harry Potter or the Hunger Games and win.  Don’t name the most recent block buster.  Show that you know the books that haven’t recently been made into movies.

The point of being able to name competing titles is to be able to tap into the audience for these books to help move your sales along.  Naming the competition helps the editor and the marketing department pigeon hole your book, and I mean pigeon hole in a good way.  Say Rick Riordan and they’ll think, fast plot and myth based.  Jane Yolen?  Literary and multi-layered.  Wilce?  Alternate history with a big dose of magic.

This isn’t easy to do but going through the effort will show the editor that you know the field and where your work fits.  It gives you a chance to impress them with your manuscript and your knowledge.





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