Finding comp titles for our book proposals can be a frustrating process. It feels counterproductive to list off books similar to our own when we’re trying to convince editors and agents that our stories are fresh and unique.
However, the comp titles section can be one of the most illustrative parts of a proposal. It shows editors and agents that there’s a market for what we write, and that we understand the market we’re writing for. Competitive works also allow us to further highlight the style, subject matter, and overall flavor of our books. Even as we point out similarities, we have the chance to explain exactly how our books are different from the titles our audiences are already enjoying. As we compare and contrast, we draw from successfully published works to show why our books are worth publishing, too.
Since we’re using these books to make a case for our own, we want to find the most relevant comp titles possible. How do we do this? Since most of us read in the genre we write, the obvious first step is to look at our own book shelves. But where do we go next if the books we read don’t quite fit with our current works-in-progress? Here a 3 places to go looking for books similar to yours.
1: Bookstores, Local and Online:
One of the best places to research comparable books is at bookstores. Head to you local bookshop and search for the section where you imagine your book would be found. Look through the stories you find there. Maybe start with works whose covers have a tone similar to your style, or ones that feature similar elements. While covers aren’t everything, they might help you pick out potential companions to your story a little easier.
If you prefer online bookstores (like the ever-present Amazon), focus on searching key characteristics of your book. What aspects do you want to highlight as appealing to your audience? What search phrases would bring up your title right away? Put those in and see what you find.
2: Readers’ Advisory Tools
Another great way to find books similar to yours is by using readers’ advisory tools. These resources use preferences to help readers find new books they might enjoy. Many of them catalog authors and titles with read-alike suggestions, but others use characteristics and genre searches to find recommendations. Readers’ advisory websites can help you see which books would lead a reader to find you.
Here are two of my favorite readers’ advisory sites:
A. Novelist Plus–
NovelistPlus is my top favorite reader advisory tool, as both a writer and a librarian. This site has everything. Not only does it offer read-alike suggestions for particular authors and titles, but it also has incredibly detailed filters available for searching books. You can filter by audience age group, genre, and publication date, as well as attributes such as tone, time period, writing style, and even whether the book is plot-driven or character-driven. Just remember that the more specific you get, the fewer results you’ll find. Be sure to focus on the elements you care about most.
One potential drawback of NovelistPlus is that it’s a database provided through libraries, so if your local library doesn’t have access to it, you might not be able to use it. However, if you live in the Greenville, SC area, know that your library card gives you free access to this awesome resource. (For Greenville County residents, you can find it under Learning and Research on the Greenville Library website.)
B. Fantastic Fiction–
Fantastic Fiction is a free website that offers read-alike suggestions, which is useful once you’ve found a title or two that’s comparable (or even almost comparable) to yours. This website also features sections with new books, top authors, and upcoming titles that can be worth exploring. While it doesn’t offer as in-depth search features as NovelistPlus, Fantastic Fiction does have a wide-selection of titles, giving a large inventory to search.
3: Reviews of Recently Published Works
One final way you can find books for your comp titles section is to read reviews of newer releases in your genre. Most advice I’ve read on book proposals suggest using books published within the last 5 years for your comp titles section. Book review sites tend to focus on recent titles, making them a great place to search. Plus, reviews of contemporary works will give you more insight into the book’s style and focus than just reading back-cover blurbs. A few good places to look for reviews include:
- Reedsy Discovery: This large site is organized by genre, making it easy to navigate. It also includes a variety of perspectives, as the reviews are written by different contributors. Also, many of the reviews include a “Read Preview” option, giving you a synopsis and a brief selection of the work to check out.
- Book Riot–This book-devoted website hosts a wide-range of content, with book reviews, articles, and book recommendations from all different genres. Book Riot also has podcasts to choose from, if you enjoy audio content. I haven’t tried them yet, but “All the Books” sounds like a promising source of book recommendations.
- Goodreads–Goodreads is great because not only can you read through several reviews of one book all in the same place, but you can also see how well a book is doing with the audience. The ratings on Goodreads can be a helpful indication of how the book was received and whether you want to associate your work with it
Comp Titles are Worth the Research
Although comp titles aren’t the main focus of your proposal, they are a valuable addition. A few strong comparable titles can give an agent or editor a clearer idea of your book with just a few lines. It’s another opportunity to make someone curious enough to keep reading.
At the same time, researching comp titles can remind you who your ideal audience really is and where you can find them. These comparable books can help you better understand you’re reader, and in doing so, can help you find new ways to make it easier for your readers to find you.