Today we end our month long series on writing a proposal (or do we — we have a special guest on Friday, January 30th) by talking about Comparable Titles and Marketing Plans. Even if you don’t have to write a proposal it’s important to know where your book would sit on the shelf of a bookstore and who will read it.
Sherry: The thought of finding comparable titles and writing a marketing plan probably intimidated me as much as writing the synopsis. I knew there wasn’t another cozy series with a garage sale theme on the market so I had to look at books that were similar. I googled books about estate sales and thrift shops. It was actually easier than I thought. The marketing plan might also be called your platform. Who is going to read your book? I pointed out that not only would cozy mystery readers enjoy the series but also people affiliated with the military as my protagonist, Sarah, is a former military spouse. Part of the action in each book takes place on a fictional military base. I also cited fans of yard sales and mentioned the popularity of shows on HGTV about yard sales and flea markets.
Jessie: I think this part of the proposal is really interesting to work on. It actually helps me to clarify for myself the sort of story I am trying to tell. I look at other work with similarities and by asking myself how mine is different I feel more sure of what it is I am really trying to write. Besides, searching the world for comparable also gives me a long list of great books to add to my reading list!
Edith: I agree about the list of great books to read, Jessie! For my proposals (three now under my belt), looking for comparable series didn’t intimidate me. I was just glad that there were no others in my exact niche: organic farmer in New England. Country store/restaurant owner smack dab in the middle of the country. Quaker midwife in 1888. But for each I found several well-performing series tangentially related which showed that the general theme is popular, and I could riff part of the marketing plan off of those. Here’s what I wrote for the country store series:
Small towns in southern Indiana represent a middle ground between the north and the south, and between the east and west coasts. Many readers long for the scenic and traditional life of rural America. Cozy mystery fans will enjoy a new culinary mystery series, fans of cookware will eat up descriptions of tools from the past, and puzzle aficionados will appreciate Robbie’s skills with everything from cryptic crosswords to Sudoku.
Liz: I enjoyed this piece as well. It was interesting to take a look at the other animal cozies out there and see what each author was doing with their four-legged characters. I knew right away I didn’t want my animals to solve mysteries, but I did want to take this opportunity to emphasize good animal care and work in the rescue theme as much as possible. So that’s what I focused on in the proposal for Pawsitively Organic while using the series comparisons to show how popular animals are as a theme overall.
Barb: Weirdly, no one ever asked me for comparable titles or a marketing plan–so I got nothin’.
Julie: If you are writing a cozy series, you are writing a marketable book. It can be/should be well written, of course. The marketing portion of the proposal helps you understand a few things. First of all, what other books are like your series. This isn’t just so you don’t duplicate your hook. It is also so your potential publisher understands the niche, and can look up how similiar series are doing. Second, you are going to have to market your own series. Why should people want to read it? Going through this exercise helps that as well.
I am so glad we did this series. Proposals are something I wish I’d understood earlier. I thought I needed to sell my books as stand alones, but I was thinking about a series. At some point, I am going to dust off my unsold book from years ago and write a proposal for it. Stay tuned.
Readers: What do you think? Questions? Other comments on proposals in general, or market plans and comparable series in particular? Have you had to do this exercise for a proposal? What about in a different realm of life? Tune in on Friday when agent John Talbot will talk about what makes a good proposal.