How can you find book proposal comps?

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This is my weekly installment of “writing about writing,” in which I scan the world to find websites, books and articles to help other writers. Today I discuss a blog post about book proposal comps….

Many writers ask me about how to choose their book comps, while a smaller number ask me what a book comp actually is.

If you’re unfamiliar with the term, it refers to  “comparable titles” — which means books that might be considered similar to your own. All publishers (and agents) require you to give them your ‘comps’ as part of your pitch for why you should be published.

It’s a tricky, tricky business coming up with the best comps — often the most anguished part of crafting any book proposal. But a recent post by writer Star Wuerdemann on Jane Friedman’s blog offered some terrific advice on how to find compelling comps for your book.

Here are my favourite tips:

  • Focus your search on the last few years. You can go back up to ten years if absolutely necessary but if you do, pair the older comp with something more contemporary.
  • It’s OK to use film/TV as comps, as well as authors and podcasts instead of books.
  • Ask yourself, what books, published in the last few years, appealed to readers who will like your book?
  • Ask yourself, what books published in the last few years, are similar in plot or tone to yours?
  • Research the last three years of “best of” lists in your own category (ie: literary fiction, sci/fi, memoir, non-fiction).
  • Don’t go for books that are ubiquitous (e.g. Where The Crawdads Sing)

Even if the project of looking for book comps feels tedious and time-wasting, it’s essential. And the good news is it will probably teach you something about the market along the way.

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