Recently I received thoughtful questions from a writer about how to find the right comparable titles. Today I will offer my insights. Please note that my examples use classic novels. I recommend comparing your book to current offerings, preferably those released within the past two to three years.
The writer asked:
Could you elaborate on what types of similarities or level of similarities are important?
Is it about:
Plot? Yes. Offer a brief plot summary of your compared title, then show how yours is different. For example, if you are comparing your book to Gone with the Wind, you might say that while GWTW is about a woman sacrificing everything to keep her home during and after the Civil War, your plot focuses on a woman forfeiting everything to save her condo building in contemporary Manhattan from destruction.
Characters? Yes. For instance, you might say, And Ladies of the Club follows two women in Ohio after the Civil War; but your book follows two members of a women’s garden club in Savannah, Georgia, in the 1940s.
The subject of conflict or challenge? Yes. For instance, the adventure novel The Count of Monte Cristo focuses on revenge and takes place in the 1800s, while your adventure novel focuses on reconciliation and takes place during WWII.
Arc of the plot? Yes. If your book is a romance novel, you can use comparisons with other romance novels to show that yours fits that category. Use the same logic for other categories.
Language? I don’t recommend that even evil characters take the name of the Lord in vain in a Christian novel. Some publishers are more lenient on lesser swears than others. I recommend using great caution here. As for listing comparables, I don’t recommend emphasizing this category unless there is a particular reason to do so.
Setting? Setting can almost be a character in itself; and, indeed, there are times when a story can’t work in a different context. For instance, 1984 would not have been as powerful unless it was set in what was then the future. Now that the year has passed, some book critics enjoy showing how the story was accurate and where it was off in its predictions. Yet the plot, by taking place in the future but not the faraway future, worked well at the time.
Voice? You might want to compare your book to others written in the same POV, such as first person, first person present, omniscient, or third person, primarily if there is a reason you chose this POV.
What suggestions can you offer?
What are two similar, yet different books that you enjoyed reading?