Author Tamela Hancock Murray

Finding Comparables for Nonfiction

Last week I discussed finding comparables for fiction, resulting in many requests that I address nonfiction proposals. I appreciate the input!

Of course, look for current books addressing your topic. But what if you think a little further and look at the audience? There will be some overlap, but these are broad ideas:

Readers Seeking Self-Improvement and Edification: I believe most frequent readers of nonfiction fall into this category. As Christians, we seek to grow, and areas of improvement are countless and broad. This reader may not have an urgent problem, but wants an informative and perhaps even fun and lighthearted read about a topic that interests him or her. Your book may be titled something like Snow White Is No Longer a Brunette: God’s Gifts as We Grow Older. The challenge for this author is to demonstrate, through a dynamic and active platform, that thousands of readers can relate to what she’s saying because she’s already talking about the topic, and readers want to hear more. Here, platform can overcome other current offerings, but it’s still a good idea to show how your book is different from others.

Readers Seeking Answers to a Specific Question Today: This reader has been hit with a new problem and is seeking guidance on how to cope. The reader may be battling with emotional trauma, has lost his spouse, or parents may have just discovered that despite a Christian upbringing, their child is troubled. These readers want actionable answers, and they want them now. Here, the author’s approach is that of a friendly, kind, knowledgeable blend of pastor and psychologist. Your book title may be along the lines of, Experiencing Grief Through God’s Grace. Your topic may be perennial because human suffering will take place as long as people dwell upon the earth. Show how your book is different from current offerings and why readers are clamoring to hear about this topic from you as an author.

Students and Academicians: Perhaps you are writing to a particular type of reader to add to the knowledge available on a topic or to put forth a new theory. While professors may use your book for classroom study, that may not be your primary purpose. Your book title may be along the lines of, The Doctrine of Justification as Found in the Writings of Jonathan Edwards. Your challenge is to find books that address your topic, to show that yours introduces a new take on the subject, why you are considered an expert, and why people will buy your book over others currently on the market. The “academic” section at is an excellent place to start searching for comparable titles: click here 

Writing for any category and publisher is a worthwhile endeavor. Regardless of your writing and publishing plans, finding comparable titles is always a good way to educate yourself on what’s on the market. And who knows? You may find many wonderful books for your library!

Your Turn:

What category of reader did I miss?

What is your favorite nonfiction book you have read lately?

What tips can you offer nonfiction writers?

Leave a Comment

He Said. She Said.

A blog reader recently left an excellent comment on an earlier post:

Tamela, fiction workshop presenters taught me that the best word for “said” is “said”–that others only tend to slow down the reader’s eye. I’d appreciate a discussion on this.

While I don’t know the workshop presenters in question, what I can guess they meant is to avoid substituting creative verbs for “said” as a tag. For example:

“Cyrus, tell that joke about the tortoise and the hare,” the cowboy chuckled.

“This caviar is not up to my standards,” the dowager sniffed.

These tags aren’t without merit, because they do help convey the emotions and actions of the characters. In fact, they could even be expanded into effective action tags. At the least, simple punctuation would keep these characters from performing the improbable task of sniffing and chuckling words:

“Cyrus, tell that joke about the tortoise and the hare.” The cowboy chuckled.

“This caviar is not up to my standards.” The dowager sniffed.

So why would fiction workshop presenters tell writers to use the word “said” as a tag? I would say that there is a time and place to use a simple tag. In a fast-paced scene, a simple tag will keep the action flowing. For example:

“Get the gun,” Bruce said.


“I said, get the gun.”


“Don’t ask questions,” Bruce said. “Just do as I say. Now.”

In a case such as this, complicated action tags could slow down the rhythm and urgency of the scene, distracting the reader rather than adding to the story. The “said” tag is used infrequently to help the reader keep track of the conversation.

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Three Questions About Agents

In meeting with writers on the cusp of their careers or flush with new success, we find that three big questions come to the forefront. Today, Tamela shares her answers:

How do I find a literary agent?

1)      First and foremost, visit the Agency web sites to see which ones are actively seeking the type of work you write.

2)      Talk to your agented friends to learn about their agents. Referrals are a big part of our business.

3)      If time and finances allow, attend a conference or meeting where your preferred agent will be appearing and meet the agent.

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Ann’s Wise Advice

My daughter Ann works with analysts who are always being asked for materials to present to high-level executives. Often her conversations sound like this: Coworker: “I don’t have any idea what they want.” Ann: “Create something, show it to them, and let them tell you how to change it.” This …

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The Feather Duster

You might think my purchase of a feather duster has nothing to do with writing, but I found a correlation. Relationships. That is why I bought my feather duster from Fly Lady (website here). Fly Lady has an excellent housecleaning system that I am too free-spirited to follow. However, I …

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Inside or Outside the Box?

Some writers get frustrated by writing category stories, meaning stories that demand a precise formula. Some people even have the unmitigated nerve to criticize authors writing these stories as somehow not as talented as people who write books with fewer restrictions. I think both types of authors possess abundant talent, …

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Ask Us First

Now more than ever, people are using social media to share their opinions and their anxieties. Sharing can be therapeutic and helpful. We all need to know we are not alone during this stressful time. Yet, in the matter of business concerns, social media can cause undue and unwarranted anxiety. …

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A Partnership

At our agency, we’re your partners, not your dictators. An author can argue that there’s no point in hiring an agent if you don’t agree with their strategy. To avoid disagreement over where your work is submitted, discuss all your plans with your agent, not only when you decide to …

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