By Peggy Thomas
What to look for in a comp title:
1. Subject – Most of your comps will be in the same subject area. Comps for a shark book will typically be other shark books. An exception would be titles that share the same style or structure, especially if it is unusual.
2. Publication date – choose books published within the last five years and still in print.
3. Publisher – focus primarily on traditional publishers and use trade books when submitting to a trade publisher.
4. Length & reading level – typically you should choose books similar in reading level to your title. An exception might be, for example, where there are no early readers on your topic. Then you’d have to justify why one was needed.
5. Popularity – choosing comps that sell well suggest there is a demand for more books on the subject. Check the rankings on Amazon or Barnes & Noble.
Where to find comps:
1. In your research notes – if you’re like me, you probably read other books on the market before you even started your research. It’s a good way to check the viability of an idea. Has anyone else written about this topic? How long ago? What was their approach? Etc.
2. Your library – I inter-loan all the books I can find that I think are similar, especially the titles that came out in the last five years.
3. Worldcat – although I love my library system, it is not as comprehensive as I’d like. This catalog shows me books that are nearby in other library systems.
4. Book reviews – keep current by reading School Library Journal, Horn Book, Publisher’s Weekly Children’s Bookshelf, etc.
5. Amazon and Barnes & Noble – the “Look inside” feature sometimes shows enough to get a sense of what the book is like without having to hunt a copy down. For more ideas, look at the “customers who viewed this item also viewed…” and “customers who searched… ultimately bought…”
6. Edelwiess. “The book industry's platform to market, sell, discover, and order new titles.” It takes a little getting used to, but you can create a free account, search for upcoming books, and in some cases even see a review copy.
What to tell an editor:
Choose three or four books and give the title, author/illustrator, publisher, and year published. Then, in a sentence or two, explain how your manuscript is similar or different.
Consider structure and tone. Does your book have a unique format that sets it apart from everything else on the market? Or is it similar in style to a popular title on a different subject?
ALL ABOUT FROG by Rib Ett and illustrated by Anne Phibian (HopperCollins, 2020). Fans of this popular picture book would also enjoy my proposed LOOK OUT FOR LADYBUG because they are both written in a humorous, first-person voice.
What about your focus? Do you come at the topic from a different angle?
How about the depth and accuracy of the information? Have you included new research?
THE MANHATTAN PROJECT by Adam Balm (Boom Boom Books, 2019) is a staple in school libraries. However, key documents have since been declassified and will feature prominently in BOMBS AWAY!When noting the differences, please remember to be polite. You don't want to bash your competition. Someday, your book may become a comp title, too.
Meet the Author:
Peggy Thomas, a proud Nonfiction Ninja and co-founder of the NF Fest, is the author of dozens of award-winning children’s nonfiction and co-author of the only nonfiction writer’s guide, ANATOMY OF NONFICTION: WRITING TRUE STORIES FOR CHILDREN. Her books have earned the AFBFA Book of the Year, Gelett Burgess Award, National Outdoor Book Award, NSTA Outstanding Trade Book, and John Burroughs Award. For more information visit: www.peggythomaswrites.com.
Twitter: @Pegtwrite, Facebook: PeggyThomasWrites
Thanks for shedding light on comp titles and showing us some helpful examples, Peggy!ReplyDelete
Thanks, I hope it's helpful.Delete
Oooo I'd love one of my books to be a comp title! I usually picture all those books together on a shelf - why would someone pick mine?ReplyDelete
Someone would pick yours because you've learned from the best and perfected your craft and created a great book!! That's why:-))Delete
My library system doesn't let me interlibrary loan brand-new books so I love Edelweiss and NetGallery for finding/previewing comps. I also love the Epic app for finding and getting those 100 pbs read.ReplyDelete
Ooh! Thanks for mentioning NetGallery and Epic. Those are great resources.Delete
Thanks for all the helpful resources to help find comp book. This is always the hardest thing for me.ReplyDelete
I'm not anonymous, I'm Mona Pease!Delete
Thanks for a great post, Peggy! Comps can be challenging and your ideas are helpful!ReplyDelete
Peggy, thank you so much for your insights on this... so helpful!ReplyDelete
Thanks Echo! Love that name.Delete
PEGGY: THANK YOU for this comprehensive look into how and why to use comp titles. You've spelled it all out for us in an understandable and accessible way. I will DEFINITELY keep referring to this post to help with submissions. THANK YOU!!!ReplyDelete
Thanks Natalie! Glad it was helpful.Delete
Peggy, thank you for the tips on how to better explore comp titles. I literally feel ill at the stage! Your post is a keeper!ReplyDelete
Hopper Collins? Lol! I do hope ALL ABOUT FROG by Rib Ett and Anne Phibian becomes a bestsellers!ReplyDelete
very helpful - thank you!ReplyDelete
Great information about choosing comps! Thank you!ReplyDelete
Comps drive so many writers crazy (including me sometimes) that this blog post is more than informative, it’s a mitzvah (good deed)!ReplyDelete
Thanks for some great ideas on comp titles. they are always so hard to find.ReplyDelete
Peggy, thank you for the information about finding and using comps. I didn't know about Edelweiss. Thanks! Also thanks to Jessica Coupe for mentioning NetGallery and Epic!!ReplyDelete
Thank you, Peggy, for the tips on finding comp titles. I find that a difficult process and I'm sure this will be helpful.ReplyDelete
Thank you for sharing the *what* and *where* for comp titles, Peggy.ReplyDelete
Oh my, I am such a fan of yours, Peggy. It was reading your books a few years back that made me want to write non-fiction. This post is very helpful with an admittedly hard part of submitting for me. Thank you.ReplyDelete
This is a great way to think of comps. I particularly like the idea of looking at similar structures found in books on different topics.ReplyDelete
Great ideas. I'll save this blog post! Carol baldwinReplyDelete
Thanks for sharing! I've never used Worldcat. Your link didn't work for me. Here's the one I found - https://www.worldcat.org/ReplyDelete
My stomach gets tied in knots when I hear the phrase "comp titles." This is a great, welcome post. Thanks for all your good advice.ReplyDelete
This is such a great post. Thank you for the practical suggestions and resources.ReplyDelete
Thanks so much, Peggy for the great info. I scratch my head alot about comps because the books that inspired much of my n-f history are old. This helped me think differently.ReplyDelete
Very useful info.ReplyDelete
Thank you both for the helpful practical advice and the laugh that was needed today. I love your awesome comp "ALL ABOUT FROG by Rib Ett and Anne Phibian (Hooper Collins)"!ReplyDelete
Thank you Peggy. There’s so much information and detail here. But I have to say I love the book about frogs by Rib Ett illustrated by Anne Phibian. I would buy that book just seeing those names assuming the rest of the book would be just as humorous and creative. Thank you for all this wisdom.ReplyDelete
This is great, and yes, giving comp titles often feels like I'm either giving them a reason to say no or braggy--like I think my book is as good as xyz. I am online now trying to purchase your book ANATOMY OF NONFICTION but I can't find it for less than $75. Oh my! Is there another way to purchase a copy? I'd love one!ReplyDelete
Thank you very much Peggy! Your suggestions will help me immensely in finding comps for my PBs. This has always been difficult for me and now I feel like it will be much easier. Bless you!ReplyDelete
The above was my comment. Thank you again Peggy!Delete
As others stated, identifying comps can be somewhat tough. Using your ideas will help.ReplyDelete
This part of a proposal has always been challenging for me. Thanks for these great tips and especially for the sample comp blurbs you included!ReplyDelete
Exactly the help I needed today! Thank you so much, Peggy!ReplyDelete
Thanks for the tips.ReplyDelete
Peggy, thank you for the wealth of information on tackling comp titles!ReplyDelete
This is so helpful. Thank you, Peggy!ReplyDelete
Thanks for writing on the topic of comp titles. This is MUCH NEEDED information!ReplyDelete
Thanks so much! I am signing up for Edelweiss right now!ReplyDelete
Thanks Peggy, you packed a lot of much needed info into this lesson.ReplyDelete
It's good practice to see where the market trends are in NF PB. Your resources are so helpful to us newbies! Appreciate all you do!ReplyDelete
Thanks, Peggy. I love to use the library's catalog locating current comp titles. It is always good to be reminded of other resources.ReplyDelete
Great suggestions on comps and how to position them in your proposal!ReplyDelete