When I mention adding comp titles to a proposal, this is the response I often get from both nonfiction and fiction authors: “AARRRGGHH! Why? It’s so hard!”
Well, there are two main reasons as to the why:
- Comp titles show there’s a market out there for books like yours.
- Comp titles help the editor/author “get” your book better.
Now, that doesn’t mean you can just grab any book that’s similar and say, “See? There’s a market!” Instead, look for books that:
- Are popular and selling well. I know, I know, we don’t have access to sales figures. But we can see books that are on the bestseller lists, or in the top 100 lists. You can also see books that have a lot of positive reviews.
- Have been published recently. Folks don’t want to know that there was a market for the book five years ago. Even three years ago. Find titles that have published in the last year. The exception to this is if the book was published awhile ago, but has been brought to people’s attention again by something like a movie or world event.
- Are as similar to yours as possible. Can’t find an identical match? No worries. Look for books that are similar to yours in some aspect, such as focus, setting, audience, tone, voice, or message.
For both fiction and nonfiction writers, choosing your comp titles is only half the work. Now you need to let those titles work for you to clarify what makes your book stand out from what’s already published. Give a brief description of the comp title, then offer a sort of “comparative analysis.” It doesn’t have to be involved, just clear. So here’s an example, using a made up book, for my suspense novel Shattered Justice:
The Family that Preys Together, Jo Schmoe, Big-Time Publisher, May 2014.
In this suspense novel, a father has to fight to save his family when a gang on the run from the law invades their home.
As with this book, Shattered Justice focuses on a family in jeopardy. However, the father in Shattered Justice is in law enforcement, and not only is his family in jeopardy, but so are the people of the small town where they live. Shattered Justice also brings in the facet of faith in the face of doubts and anger.
So you let your chosen comp titles show the market is out there, ready and waiting, and then you pinpoint the similarities and then the differences. I generally encourage writers to use at least 3 comp titles. And yes, even if you’re writing a faith-based book, you can use at least one title from the general market.
Hope that helps!