How to find comparable books

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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 how to find comparable books….

If you’re an aspiring book author who’s looking for a publisher or an agent, you’ve probably heard of the phrase “comparable books” or “comps.”

Here, as part of your pitch or book proposal, you’re expected to name other, already published titles that could be compared to your book in some way.

The purpose of this exercise is to give publishers (or agents) an instant understanding of what you’re trying to achieve with your work.

Some general rules:

  • Look for books that have been published in the last two to three years (nothing much older than that.)
  • Don’t pick titles that haven’t sold well; on the other hand, don’t name mega-bestsellers like Harry Potter. (The publisher/agent will think you’re full of yourself, or deluded.)
  • If you are researching books on Amazon, scroll down to the “also bought” part of the list for some additional ideas.

In my experience, many people scratch their heads at the demand for comps and don’t have a clue how to choose the books for their own mini list. If you’re facing this particular problem, a recent post from agent Rachelle Gardner will likely help you.

Here’s how Gardner phrases her advice:

Ask yourself, “Who are my readers? What are they reading right now?” Those are your comparable books. You can use that line in a proposal, then follow it with the comparable books, and for each one, a brief explanation of why your book would appeal to those same readers. This approach frees you from trying to decipher what an agent is looking for, and instead, use those comps to identify your audience.