Proposals can daunt just about any writer. But throw in comparative titles into the mix, and we may have made the process ten times harder on ourselves.
Comparative Titles: Recently published titles, in your book’s genre, that share similarities in theme, tone, or style.
It sounds simple enough, but when you have to come up with 3-5 titles, published by B-list authors, within the past five years, it makes the search all the harder. In this article, we’ll explore ways to find your book’s comparative titles, so you can wow publishers and agents.
Follow the Footnotes
You may know that your book shares similarities with another one.
For instance, my spooky MG shares similarities with Kristiana Sfirlea’s Legend of the Storm Sneezer. If I plug the title into Amazon, it shows me results of other books bought that are similar to this. I peruse the blurbs and the first pages of those books. If they seem to match mine, I buy them.
“Wait a minute!” You may say. “Why do I have to buy them?” First of all, you support authors, yay! Second of all, you want to make sure that you didn’t just choose a book simply by the back cover copy alone. As we’ve learned the BCC doesn’t always tell us the truth about the book’s contents. Better safe than sorry.
So you have to find a book published within the last five years.
No problem. Goodreads has lists of books in specific genres, published in specific years. Peruse the lists and find books that seem to match the tones or themes of yours.
You can find plenty of books in Paranormal MG published in 2020. Believe me, once you find these lists, you’ll have no problem finding books that are similar to yours.
Ask Reader’s Groups
Facebook has PLENTY of readers groups. Ask them in threads if they have any recs. of books, that are recently published, like yours.
It will surprise you how many recommendations you’ll receive. I’m part of a Christian readers group, and readers have obscure requests all the time. On average, these requests receive 30-100 responses.
Ask Authors in the Genre
Want to know comp. titles for your books? Ask authors who have published similar books in your genre. Odds are they have plenty of ideas for you to read.
After all, if we want to be good writers, we have to read lots of books in our genre, so we can understand the trends, the vogue voices, and of course, because we have loads of fun doing it.
It can be difficult to attract publishers when you have a small social media presence. No matter whether our age, our ailments, or our life circumstances have gotten in the way, at times writers need to take a step back from growing their platform. This may mean that the platform will diminish or lose followers because they haven’t kept up with it as much.
We’ve know writers who have developed vision problems and where staring at a social media scheduler simply isn’t conducive to their health.
With all this in mind, can we still woo a publisher, especially when our platform has taken a hit? If so, let’s dive into the ways to snag that publisher even when experiencing diminishing returns.
Do what you can
If we’ve learned anything about social media, it’s that once you have it figured out, it changes again. Sometimes people do better with a sporadic posting schedule or they must scale back a significant amount.
Find what works for you and your health. No, you won’t have tens or hundreds of thousands of followers. But you prioritize yourself. After all, you can have millions of followers, but if you don’t write well, a publisher will not want your book.
Publishers care about writing first, speaking of:
Continue to read and write
If you can’t work on platform, continue to write.
And if you cannot write, continue to read.
Publishers do care about platform, but they want, most of all, good writing. So practice and hone those craft skills. You will need those the most.
Explain what happened
Many publishers, having experienced tragedy themselves, will understand your situation. Provide a paragraph of explanation about the dip in platform if they ask.
At the same time, show them how you’ve grown platform before in the past, prior to when you needed to step back. This can show them that you have an entrepreneurial and marketing spirit, even if you can’t exercise it now.
Hire an assistant
Can’t do the work yourself? No worries, hire an assistant to schedule posts for you. We highly recommend reaching out to local colleges for students who are savvy with technology and work for reasonable rates.
That way you can show publishers you still intend to build platform, but may need a little extra help to do it. Don’t worry. Best selling authors hire assistants all the time.
Several don’t exist for query letters, and entire books have been dedicating to perfecting the art of querying agents and editors. That being said, as I am a literary agent writing this blog post, I have several examples of things that would fit in that don’t category that I see most often.
We’ve already covered a post on what to DO. Let’s dive into those DON’T categories.
DON’T: Be Demanding
I was in the querying trenches a few years back, I understand. You’ve sent hundreds of submissions, and you want:
Answers as to why people have turned you down
Referrals to other agents if this one will turn you down
And most important: an agent or a book deal
But you do have to keep in mind that we get literally thousands of submissions each year. If we provide any feedback or referrals, it’s on our own unpaid time.
Don’t ask for referrals or extensive feedback. The agent or editor will provide it if they see promise in your manuscript.
(You can put Ms. Bolinger if you want, but really make sure to research someone’s preferred pronouns before putting a Mr. or Ms. It’s often simpler just to do their name).
DON’T: Be Unrealistic
Who wouldn’t love for their book to be picked up by Netflix or Disney+. But we have to be realistic. Unless you have to have connections someone who already secured a Netflix deal for you don’t say, “This is going to be the next Netflix hit.”
Be realistic with social media numbers too. I may have 30,000 followers, but let me tell you, I did not have 30,000 of my followers buy my book when I released in June 2019. Talk about platform, but don’t say that that alone will get you sales.
DON’T: Be Rude
This should go without saying, but you’d be surprised at how poorly people take rejections. As someone who has been rejected literally hundreds (if not thousands at this point) of times, I know how to take a punch.
Don’t ask them to reconsider. Don’t say, “Well, J.K. Rowling got rejected XYZ times, and those publishers sure were sorry.” Don’t insult their agency, their position, or their publishing house.
Simply say, “Thank you for your time,” when they reject you. Believe me, you don’t want to burn bridges in this industry. And industry members do talk.
I have rejected people previously because I’ve heard from others that they were too hard to work with or badgered them constantly on social media for updates. While we’re at it …
DON’T: Pitch Them on Social Media
There is one exception: If they are participating in a Twitter Pitch Party. But even then, they require you to submit via email or Submittable if they like your pitch.
I have a rule of thumb (especially on LinkedIn). If I connect or friend someone and they message me a pitch, I immediately unconnected or unfriend them.
When you pitch someone on social media you not only invade their personal DMs, but you tell them that you only see them as someone you can get something from.
No one likes to feel used.
What other tips have you heard when it comes to queries? We’d love to hear them in the comments.