People come up at conference interviews and tell me their book is truly unique, that there is nothing like it on the market.
Know what a publisher hears when we say that? “There’s no market for this book.”
The role of comparables in a proposal is to do just that, to show what we feel the market for the book is by saying the books we are referring to are aimed at the same readers we are writing for, and those books are selling. They serve to define and quantify the market.
So what if we do have a project that is really unique? What if we are blazing new ground?
If that is the case, we have to not only sell a publisher on the project, but we have to show them the market. We need a marketing plan that identifies the people we think will be consumers of the book, show that we have the means (or can show the publisher the contact points) to contact those readers to sell them the project.
The more unique a project is the more likely a pitch is to garner the dreaded line, “I don’t see how I could sell that.” I believe the right response is to lay the problem right on the table with a publisher and say we know the problem with a unique submission is to define the market more than with other submissions. Then I would go on to show the markets I felt were appropriate and my plan for selling to them.
Our potential success in pitching a unique project hinges on our ability to accomplish this.