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How similar is too similar?


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#1 katiefs

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Posted 12 February 2016 - 10:57 AM

Hi there,

 

I'm currently working on a popular science book. I'm already pretty intimidated by the process of preparing a proposal - I don't know much about the publishing industry and I have basically no platform to speak of at this point. But what's currently worrying me the most is that I just found another book that is quite similar to the one I'd like to write. It covers a lot of the same material, but not really in the same way; it's a bit drier and less narrative than what I had in mind. It was published in 2005 by a major publishing house, but it appears to only be available in eBook form at the moment. It was reviewed by several papers, so it was definitely on people's radar at the time, but I have no idea how well it did.

 

I've got some questions for what this might mean for me going forward. Specifically:

 

-Is there a resource I can use to determine how successful this book was?

-Should I hope that it was successful (thus proving that there is a market for my book) or that it bombed (if nobody read it, there's still room out there for mine)?

-How similar is too similar? Does this kill my proposal in the water? I feel like this subject could be really interesting if treated right, and i don't think this author really did that. But I feel like I'd be presenting the same facts, just in a hopefully more interesting and digestible format.

 

I can give more specifics if anybody is really interested in helping me pick this apart. :-)

 

Thanks in advance for your input!



#2 mwsinclair

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Posted 12 February 2016 - 02:04 PM

Actually, that's helpful to you. At a certain level, the fact that another book on the subject exists means there's an audience for it. I'm sure there are websites that can give you an idea of the sales of a specific book, but I'm not remembering the URLs at the moment (sorry).

 

In your query and proposal, you'd want to note the differences between your proposed manuscript and the previously published books.

 

"While Whosiwhatis's book thoroughly investigates the effects of gamma radiation on gametes and grametes, my manuscript delves into the related effects of such radiation on flammadoodles and pajamadoodles."

 

Moreover, depending on how old the earlier book is, yours might be able to demonstrate how the field has moved since the previous work. An update, if you will. And, if your book is more accessible to a larger audience, it might be just what a publisher would like to see.



#3 mwsinclair

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Posted 12 February 2016 - 02:08 PM

Your questions are actually a great example of why nonfiction publishers don't want to see a finished manuscript; they're looking for a proposal, which they can evaluate and say, "This stuff in the beginning is good, but chapters 4-7 are not necessary because it's well-covered space."



#4 katiefs

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Posted 13 February 2016 - 03:29 PM

How did you know I was writing about pajamadoodles?? :-)

 

Thanks, this is helpful and encouraging. I guess the key is to think carefully about that section of the proposal as I write and outline my book, and make sure there are clear differences or updates that I can point out.



#5 mwsinclair

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Posted 16 February 2016 - 02:19 PM

Exactly. And creativity is always welcome, whether it's fiction or nonfiction.






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