Sunday, July 28, 2013


1. Do you know what books are comparable to your WIP?
2. Do you know your target audience?
3. Do you know if your book has already been written, and if it has, did the book sell well?
4. If yes, why? If not, why? Was it recent? Is that comp book out of print? Why did it go out of print?
5. Is there room in the market for your WIP?

These are a few of the questions I ask myself when I look at a submission, especially a submission I am considering representing. These are questions you should have fully researched before you send out queries, and even more importantly, before you spend years writing a book.

Why? Because there is an opportunity cost of time and money for consumers, agents, editors and publishers for every book we read. My choosing to rep your book means I will not be repping a book by a person who happened to write the same plot/characters/unique twist that your book has. Perhaps that book is better, perhaps yours is. BUT, if that book is already out on bookshelves and is selling well, or not selling well, I/consumers/editors/publishers will not spend their time and money buying your book.

Below is a short list of sites I compiled for the SCBWI Agent Workshop I held in Bakersfield, CA last fall for researching comp books. I am sure there are many more, and I am sure my readers will help fill in the missing gaps in my list.

Websites for researching comp books

(Accelerated Reader)
Publisher, year, reading level, interest level (age), # pages, # words, reviews. For example, here is my book DARE TO DREAM...CHANGE THE WORLD.

Amazon Advanced Search , Indiebound, B&N online, etc.

Publishers Marketplace $25/month. Also shows which editor bought the book and which agent sold it.

Website with catalog from every publisher: Early Word. Scroll down and find the catalogs listed on the left side. Lots of other great info here.

Here's to all of your publishing dreams coming true in 2014!

Sign up for A PATH TO PUBLISHING online face-to-face writing workshops. Wether you choose the NOVEL TRACK or the PICTURE BOOK TRACK, our goal is ensure you understand concept, plotting, character development, scene development, action and emotional arc development, as well has how to pitch your work to agents, editors, and readers.

Photo Credit: William Wegman (American, b. 1943). Reading Two Books, 1971. Gelatin silver print. Collection of Robert and Gayle Greenhill, © William Wegman


  1. Great tips, Jill.
    I also want to check out Escaping Tornado Season!!!

  2. Thanks for the great links. I learned plenty about comp titles from my interning days at Running Press... and what I wouldn't do for BookScan now that I'm ready to query!

  3. Twitter question:
    helpful - but confused - good 2 have comp book or not?

    yes, good to know ur comps, ur target reader. Not good to have exact same book already on the mkt--i've gotten these in slush.

    For example, I received a near duplicate book to HOW ARE YOU PEELING in the slush. If you know this book you know that it was a ton of work for the author/illustrator who sent me the sub to write/create his book. But if he had done his reasearch he would have learned that his book has already been done, done well and has legs.

  4. Jill,
    Do you find comp's in certain genre's to be less forgiving? For example, it seemed during the Harry Potter years, that editors were shying away from ANY middle-grade boy fantasy. Is there anything now (any vampire romances) that editors or agents are reluctant to take on?

  5. Thanks for these links! Great post, as always. :)

  6. These links are great. Thanks for putting them together. :-)

  7. Thanks for the tips Jill! I worry that I've missed something, but I've certainly tried to do my research. Let's hope I did it sufficiently well!

  8. This line has me confused:

    "BUT, if that book is already out on bookshelves and is selling well, or not selling well, I/consumers/editors/publishers will not spend their time and money buying your book."

    The glut of vampire books at my local Target seems to contradict the "selling well" part of the above.

    Isn't there always, in books, TV, and movies, a desire for more of what's working?

  9. Great post, Jill! It is another one to print off and use as a research tool. Thanks so much!

  10. Great links -- I'm going to check these out later today. Thanks!

  11. Amy and Paul,
    Yes, with success follows proliferation and eventually, glut. So in the beginning of the curve, you need to know which publishers already have a vampire book and target the ones that do not have their foothold in the market yet. Then, when everyone has their vampire, you need to create a new twist--something different, unique, compelling to draw readers to your book. Without looking at/reading the comps, you are walking blind.

    And when does a craze end? Who knows. Now there are vampire middle grade, chapter books, graphic novels and picture books. But, it is the writing, the voice, the twist that makes room for each new entry into the market.

    How can you put a fresh spin on vampires or a fish out of water story or bedtime books or aliens landing on earth or the first day of school, etc.?

    This goes back to the first rule of writing---read, read, read and then read some more. Now...pick up your pen and dream:)

  12. So much to love here, Jill. Thanks for the links!

  13. Our local Chapters Book Store had a display table of Christmas pic books this past holiday season. What struck me were the number (I think it was 5) of covers featuring Mother and baby polar bears, all illustrated in a similar style/feeling, semi realistic. I can't say the content of each book didn't vary. They were all published within a few years of each other but perhaps the rules are a bit different for seasonal books.

  14. already on the mkt--i've gotten these in slush.

    Work From Home

  15. I went to the sites (Thank you most kindly for compiling them) I have not yet paid the 20.00 to do Publishers Market Place. I could not find my book. - I am working on an adult fiction piece. Two women in their sixties - one widowed, one divorced time travel back to 1969. I put in time travel to 1969 and came up with very little. which is a good thing - I hope. Now I am busy checking out your agent research suggestions and working up a query. Wish me luck! Onwards
    Susan Berger

  16. Hi Jill,

    I've been searching for a book similar to mine for months. I haven't found any. It's a YA Fantasy about four modern teenagers who end up stuck in a different world. While they're trying to find their way home, they get mixed up in a battle between "good and evil". The conflict arises when they are forced to side with "evil".

    No vampires, no angels, no demons, no fairies, no...mermaids, no...whatnot. The paranormal beings are my own.

    I really want to be able to find a similar book so that I can compare them a little in a query letter. Of course I won't find any with the same paranormal beings, but modern-day teens lost in a different world? There have to be some out there, right? (YA, not MG's like Narnia).

    Is it impossible to find a publisher who would take such a novel? Would they think it's too risky?

  17. Jill, thank you SO much for the "Early Word" link! This is priceless, as is your advice :)

  18. A massively helpful post. Thank you so much! Already checked out Perma-Bound, and it's invaluable.

  19. Thanks for the great post! I have linked to it here:

  20. I attended the SCBWI conference this past weekend and this was one of many suggestions I wrote down. After reading your post today, I spent the time researching comp titles today. I'm glad I did. While there's nothing exactly like what I'm writing, there are books I need to look at in person to make sure mine is different. Thank you for such a timely, informative post (complete with links!).


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