When you’re trying to interest an agent or publisher in your book, you’re often asked to provide “comps”—other books that could be compared to yours, or books that might compete with yours. A good book proposal always has a “Competition” or “Comparable Books” section, and even if you’re self-publishing, it helps if you give readers a frame of reference in the form of similar books.
One of the most common questions I’m regularly asked is, “How do I figure out what books to include in my comps?” People get all hung up on it. Do I look for books on the same topic? How similar does it have to be?
I’m going to make it easy for you.
Ask yourself, “Who are my readers? What are they reading right now?” Those are your comparable books. If you have a non-fiction book, then your readers are probably already reading books on the topic. People typically don’t read just one book about a particular subject that interests them; they want to read a variety of sources.
Keep this line in mind: “People who enjoy the following books are likely to enjoy my book.”
You can use that line in a book 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.
You want to highlight not only how your book differs from that other book, but how it complements it, how yours adds to the conversation that’s already going on.
It’s a good idea to get familiar with the other books on your topic, and be able to readily identify six to ten books or authors whom your potential readers are already reading. This helps you understand your audience, and what they may have already read.
Providing “comps” is all about helping your agent, editors, marketing team, and readers to capture a vision for your book.
Too often, writers tell me, “I’ve looked and looked, and I can’t find anything quite like my book.” But that doesn’t get you off the hook from providing comps. Think about your potential readers, and figure out what they are already reading.
Do you know what books your potential readers are already enjoying? How do you research this?
Rachelle Gardner is an agent with Books & Such Literary, looking for authors with long-term publishing potential. She represents Christian fiction and non-fiction, with a particular fondness for strong spiritual memoirs and books that address contemporary issues in Christianity. www.rachellegardner.com