Why Comparable Titles Matter

This will be on the final test...for your book. 

It’s easy to list the Hunger Games as a comparable title. Surely there’s a Malcolm Gladwell book orbiting your book idea. Spend a minute reviewing the bestseller list and you’ll find one or two books similar to yours, close enough that you can list them as a comparable title in your book proposal. This is a trap, and it’s the fastest way to get your book proposal ignored. 

Comparable titles are a great way to start the conversation.

There’s a hurdle out there waiting to trip up your book proposal and derail your project. It’s lurking, waiting to come up in conversations. You might even think you’ve checked that box.

Oftentimes when we are in a conversation with a potential author, we’ll ask them about their comparable titles for their book proposal. It’s a test. We want to know if you know what you are doing. How you answer can determine where the next steps in your conversation go with an agent or editor.

Comparable titles show agents and publishers that you’ve done your homework. You understand that as an industry, comparable titles play a pivotal role in how your book proposal is viewed. From where it’ll go in a bookstore to how it is viewed by a publishing board, comparable titles set the tone for your book proposal.

“Comparable titles can make agents and publishers sit up and listen.”

Here are three quick rules to help you improve the “comparable titles” section of your book proposal.

Rule #1. Stay away from mega hits. It’s tempting to list the big books, the runaway bestsellers, but often that’s a great way to be quickly dismissed, even if you have a great reason for listing one of them. Listing phenomenon books is like telling publishers and agents that you know how to catch lightning in a bottle.

Rule #2. Formulas work great. “If you like X, you’ll love Y,” or “This (x) meets that (y)” or “in the tradition of.” You see this used a lot in the copy on product pages for Amazon or Barnes & Noble. It’s super effective and a great way to give your audience a frame of reference for your book.

Rule #3. Always, ALWAYS, include comparable titles. Maybe the most egregious sin is not listing any comparable titles because “There’s never been a book like mine before.” There has, and you should list it. Not having any comparable titles means you haven’t done the work. Do the work!

Okay, one last thing that’s super important to know about comparable titles - and this is inside baseball, too, so it’s super powerful - comparable titles are a great way to accelerate your conversations with agents. If an author references a recent book we’ve worked on and is able to explain how their proposed work is similar - suddenly, you’ve got our attention. We’re listening to what you have to say.

Comparable titles matter a lot. You are showing agents and publishers who your readers are. But you are also telling us you’ve done the work to understand the important aspects of the publishing business. Now we are no longer dealing with an amateur because you are showing everything you are as a professional.

Want to learn even more about comparable titles? And all the rest of the essential elements of a book proposal? Check out our course
 The Essential Book Proposal!

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The Essential Book Proposal!

The Essential Book Proposal course is a writer’s guide to what a book proposal is, why you need one, and how to make it awesome. The Essential Book Proposal course is an 11-module video course developed specifically for authors just like you, on the cusp of getting published. After working your way through our course, you are going to have a completed first draft of your book proposal, finished and fantastic.
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