Not too long ago dgkayewriter posted on her noteworthy blog a link to the app (I Write Like) which, when you paste a paragraph of your writing, the app compares you to famous writers by analyzing your word choice and writing style.
That amusing exercise got me thinking of comparables. Whether you are writing non-fiction or fiction, self-publishing or going the tradition route, comparables (comps) help the reader and book seller know where your book fits in. Knowing your comps will help you know where your niche is in the marketplace.
Where would your book be placed in a book store or library and within that category whose books would you compare yours to?
Michael Dellert, an award winning writer, editor, publishing consultant, and writing coach with a publishing career spanning 18 years posted an interesting article on comparables.
What makes YOUR book stand out?
Publishers and agents generally want to see “comparables”: other fiction books on the market today that have an audience comparable to yours, that have themes, settings, and characters comparable to yours, that have a market niche comparable to yours, and then they want to know what sets your book apart from those.
Editor Rachelle Gardner in a post titled Know Your Competition adresses the question of comps:
Search for possible competitive or comparable books using a variety of means; don’t limit yourself to one particular search term or one method. Go deeper than the titles to make sure you’re not missing anything. Search on various websites besides Amazon. If you’re writing a Christian book, use Christianbook.com.
And in another article on comps Rachel Gardener offers this advice:
Ask yourself, “Who are my readers? What are they reading right now?” Those are your comparable books.
Keep this line in mind:
“People who enjoy the following books are likely to enjoy my book.”
You can use that line in a proposal, then follow it with the comparable books, and for each one, a brief explanation of why your book would appeal to those same readers. This approach frees you from trying to decipher what an agent is looking for, and instead, use those comps to identify your audience.
It’s tricky finding comparables. For example, in my crime novel Warning Signs the protagonist finds herself in a relationship with a serial killer. The detective investigating the serial killer’s crimes has a romance going with a suspect. Taking those two important elements of the novel do I compare my novel with those which have serial killers in them or do I compare it to stories about romance? Warning Signs also deals with mental illness so should I compare the novel with other novels dealing with mental illness? Or do I compare it to a noir novel?
Here are some comps I found for Warning Signs. People who enjoyed these books are likely to enjoy Warning Signs.
The Perfect Husband by Lisa Gardner (What would you do if the man of your dreams hides the soul of a killer?).
The Last Victim by Karen Robards ( Obsessed with learning what makes human monsters commit terrible crimes).
A Good Marriage by Stephen King (a wife who discovers that her husband is a serial killer). Incidentally, when I took the I Write like Who the result was Stephen King.
The Killer Inside Me by Jim Thomson (a pitch-black glimpse into the mind of the American Serial Killer).
The Lies He Told Me by Sylvie Greyson (a police detective falls in love with his main suspect).
The Fix by Sharon Leder (Living with a Heroin Addicted Parent).