Book Proposals

Selecting the Right Comp Titles

Whenever you write a proposal for an agent or editor, you are asked to include a section of previously published books that are similar in theme or style to yours.

In the guidelines section for proposals submission on our website (link provided below), we say it this way:

“A listing of other books available that are similar to yours and a brief explanation of how yours is both different and/or better.”

Being aware of the “competition” should be important as you write your book and take the next steps to publication.

Identifying appropriate comparable titles is tricky. It is much more of an “art” than simply looking something up online. Here are some suggestions to get started with your list:

  1. Do it online – going to a physical store to browse for comparable titles will be time-consuming and never truly helpful to you. Stores do not carry as many titles as Amazon. The book jacket is not as important as sales rank and reader reviews.
  2. Use Amazon Advance Search – it is in the toolbar there in the book section. You can look for key words, check lists of best-sellers and come up with a nice initial list. You can sort the search results using various criteria.
  3. Take time to do it right – read at least one of the closest comparable titles, especially if the closest comparable title is a well-known book.
  4. Don’t use Indie-pub titles as comparables – few have significant enough sales or credibility to make an agent or editor impressed. Remember, you are talking to agents who sell to traditional publishers. Using indie-published titles as comps does not communicate good information. Unintentionally, you might be stating all the titles most like your book are not published by traditional publishers.
  5. Don’t compare to really old titles. Twenty years should be a cutoff. That’s after 1995. (In a few months shift to 1996!)
  6. Find titles that have sold relatively well and have some good reader reviews – If every title you select has just a few reviews and an Amazon rank in the seven digits, you are not helping yourself.
  7. Include the title, author, publisher and year of release in your list.
  8. Don’t get too negative about a comp title – putting something down to elevate your book is never attractive.
  9. Don’t get too positive about your book – be very specific how your book differs or compares. Use fewer adjectives than you might want in your explanation. Less hype, more business-like.
  10. Be reasonable – major best-selling titles are a double edged sword as comps. Favorably comparing your title to Harry Potter will be dismissed by everyone and not helpful. It could actually work against you as agents or editors feel you are unrealistic. Unless of course, you are writing a fantasy series for kids about a training school for wizards.

Why do we ask for comparables?

We desperately want to categorize your book, much to your chagrin I am sure, because in your mind, your work is unique.

No matter how creative you are, we need comp titles. Everyone needs to know what and how to think about your book and the best way is to compare it to something else that is reasonably familiar.

Every book ever written is like another book in some fashion.

Comparable titles are a key element in the proposal process. Take time to do it right and the drive toward publication might speed up a little.

And when other authors start using your book as a comparable title for their work, the circle will be complete!

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