How to Develop a Comp Titles List

Chances are, whether you’re submitting to agents or self-publishing, you’ll be asked at some point what books are similar to yours. If you’re not prepared to rattle off three or four similar titles or authors, then you’re going to have a much harder time attracting people who want to read your book. Why? Ppeople don’t want to have to guess if your book is for them or not. They want to know that they have found the next Michael Chabon or Barbara Kingsolver or Gillian Flynn.
Make a list of themes in your book. Loss. First love. Illness. Music. Magic. Family drama. Unrequited love. Obsession. Come up with a list of about 20 themes. That way you have plenty to choose from. Then whittle it down to 5 recurring ones. What are the major events pushing your book forward? These are the ones to focus since they’ll make it easier to stock your comp title list.
Look at Amazon or Goodreads for titles using your themes list. I used to only use Amazon for this list when I was an agent, but with the sharp upswing in self-published titles I need to get reliable search results. Why don’t I use self-published titles for this list? Mainly because they’re not well known enough to mean much to an agent, an editor, or a reader. They’re still building their audience (unless they’re Seth Godin). Get about 15 or 20 titles (use your list of themes for your searches) that may be similar to your book published by major or independent houses. Choose 2-3 recently published books (published less than five years ago) for your list.
Look at the NY Times and USA Today for similar authors. Are there authors who are writing in similar genres? Create a list of 4-5. While you may not use all of their names, it’s always good to have 1-2 bigger authors to compare your writing to.
Read a chapter or two of each book you listed. This is to get a feel for the author and they’re writing. You don’t want to make the mistake of comparing your book to a writer, only to discover that they write nothing like you. Refine your list based on your reading.
Create your top 3 picks. If an agent or reader wants more comp titles, have 3-5 more ready. But chances are you’ll have given them a good idea of what the story is about with the 3 you’ve chosen.
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Barnes & Nobles’ New Tablets:The Nook HD and The Nook HD Plus In The News

Barnes & Noble is looking to reclaim some of the ground they lost to Amazon by turbo-charging their Nook designs. The new tablets are supposed to capture the market just below the iPad (info for Nook HD here).

I own a Nook Color, purchased a few years ago (shocking how out-of-date it already is). I thought it would be more fun to read books on a color device and it was a bonus to be able to check my email. In reality it didn’t work as well as I’d hoped. The email didn’t sync easily with my accounts (I use gmail so it should have been easy) and reading books didn’t work with the glare (even in low light). I bought a lot of accessories to make it easier (an anti-glare screen cover, a rubber sleeve to keep it from getting banged up) and gave it to my 1 yo daughter. One thing that worked beautifully were the children’s books and apps I downloaded for her. Both the size and the control she has over it make it a great choice. Problem solved as to what to do with an overpriced gadget.

I’m skeptical about The Nook HD being comparable to the iPad or the Kindle Fire (to be fair William J. Lynch, the chief executive of Barnes & Noble, said they were not trying to go head-to-head with the iPad and they are aiming the the space in the market just below). The iPad is the high end part of the market. They’ve set the bar high. They have an enormous amount of apps that allow the user to do anything from check email to draw to edit videos. The Kindle Fire has all of Amazon’s content (books, movies, TV) to make it worth your while. Even Wal-Mart is threatened by the Kindle Fire and how easy Amazon makes it to purchase content directly from their interface, cutting out the middle man. So unless Barnes & Noble can compete on that level, I think this is going to be another expensive gadget that doesn’t do much for the user. And what does that mean for Barnes & Nobles bottom line? How long can they try to edge into the market that Amazon is carving for themselves before they say it’s a losing battle?

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