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