Tag s | comparison

My Book is Like…

When I posted about writing great book proposals, I noticed a trend toward anxiety about the market comparison section. This is understandable since authors need to strike a balance between, “I am the next C.S. Lewis,” and “You don’t want to read this, do you?”

Aspiring to be like…

Most of the time, newer authors don’t think about comparing their work to the work of others in the proposal. Some do venture to compare themselves to classic authors in the query letter, and that can help the agent or editor orient herself to what you are writing, especially when your work isn’t of a specific genre. Do couch your words with care, however. “I compare my work to that of Francine Rivers,” reads differently than, “I greatly admire Francine Rivers. Reading her books has helped me aspire to touch hearts and souls with deep, emotional stories.”

There are exceptions, but…

The real work presents itself in the market comparison section. Granted, experienced agents and editors can skim a proposal and discern where any given book will fall into the marketplace. However, the reason we ask for this section is that it gives us concrete information not only about what is already available, but how you perceive your book’s presence in the marketplace. When an editor takes your work to Committee, marketing people are present and believe me, their votes count. The editor may fall in love with your work, but if he doesn’t have good information so he can articulate how it can be presented favorably to book buyers, who must understand and be able to recommend your book to readers, then your proposal may die in Committee. Obviously, some bestsellers don’t fit easily into a category, but those are the exception. Before that book became a bestseller, a plucky editor had to be a huge advocate and convince the Committee that taking a risk on that book would reap rewards. As with all risks, some enjoy a hefty payoff, while others are moved to the remainder bin.

First, you should…

Read and enjoy current books that are like those you write. Then you can make an honest and informed assessment of how and why your books are like other books currently available. You will be able to cite substance and style similarities and differences with the authority and enthusiasm of a fan. And make sure you are comparing similar works (apples to apples, not apples to oranges).

Then…

You may have read across the genre but still can’t name enough books for this section for one reason or another. That’s fine. You have still done your homework. Now you will just have to do an Internet search. Using our earlier example of Francine Rivers, I suggest visiting sites such as Christianbook.com and Amazon.com, of course,  and entering her name. Read through the book summaries and choose one that shares elements with your book. Then say how yours is different. Not better, but different. You are trying to make an association for readers, not say you are improving upon existing works.

When you scroll down the page, you’ll see that Amazon has two especially helpful features for writers. One is the “Frequently bought together” tab and the other is the “Customers who bought this item also bought” tab. Pressing these tabs will ultimately take you to books by other authors’ books to enrich your comparison section. I recommend a total of three to five comparisons.

A big advantage of using Christianbook.com is that they will only list books intended for the Christian market and only those books currently available. Amazon.com searches on the other hand do not have that filter and will also list books that are out-of-print or unavailable.

A note on genre fiction…

Authors writing for established lines with publishers such as Harlequin can skip this section. Why? Because these books are geared to the mass market, meaning they will be marketed heavily for a short period of time, and they are often sold through book clubs. These publishers know their audience and how to reach them so while marketing efforts on the author’s part are always welcome, they aren’t as essential as with a trade book that is marketed for a longer period of time. The author’s main job here to read the line to know what voice and tone the line needs, along with word count and level of sensuality and how spirituality is expressed.

A note on nonfiction…

Nonfiction authors can use the same process to find comparisons. And you will want to say how your book is different from those on the market. However, you will also want to show that your book is adding to the level of published information available. What new information are you offering that cannot easily be accessed on the Internet and through other books? If you feel your book is an improvement on what is available, stress that your information is an update of existing information. Stay away from disagreements that seem critical of published authors. Your proposal is not an extension of heated debate with in-laws at your breakfast nook table, but a professional presentation about why your book is needed at this time.

This seems like an awful lot of work…

It is, and it’s worth it, because the market comparison will take you through the agent’s vetting process, then the editor’s, then the Committee’s. If your goal is to be a published author, you can self-publish today. But if your goal is to be published by a traditional house offering you great marketing, your first job from a marketing perspective is to show that your book will sell.

Your turn:

What authors do you wish others would compare your work to?

How do you make your books different from those already on the market? or as Steve Laube asked in his blog “Would you buy your own book?”

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