Finding Comparable Books

When you’re trying to interest an agent or publisher in your book, you’re often asked to provide “comps” — other books that could be compared to yours, or books that might compete with yours. A good book proposal always has a “Competition” or “Comparable Books” section, and even if you’re self-publishing, it helps if you give readers a frame of reference in the form of similar books.

One of the most common questions I’m regularly asked is, “How do I figure out what books to include in my comps?” People get all hung up on it, especially with fiction. Do I look for books with the same premise or plot? Same time period? Same writing style? How do I know what to include?

I’m going to make it easy for you.

Ask yourself, “Who are my readers? What are they reading right now?” Those are your comparable books.

Keep this line in mind:

compare apple to orange


“People who enjoy the following books are likely to enjoy my book.”

You can use that line in a proposal, then follow it with the comparable books, and for each one, a brief explanation of why your book would appeal to those same readers. This approach frees you from trying to decipher what an agent is looking for, and instead, use those comps to identify your audience.

If you can’t readily identify six to ten books or authors whom your potential readers are already reading, then you need to stop what you’re doing and get a lot more educated about what’s already out in the marketplace, and who your potential audience is. If you can’t identify your audience, then how will you or a publisher sell your book to them?

Providing “comps” is all about helping your agent, your editors, your marketing team, and your readers to capture a vision for your book.

Too often, writers tell me, “I’ve looked and looked, and I can’t find anything quite like my book.” You and I both know that’s a cop-out. Think about your potential readers, and figure out what they are already reading. It’s that simple.

To read a little more about how to create a strong Competition section for your book proposal, click HERE.

Do you know what books your potential readers are already enjoying? How do you research this?


If you should decide to invest in some personalized counsel, I offer coaching for unpublished authors here: My Coaching Services


Rachelle Gardner

Literary agent at Gardner Literary. Coffee & wine enthusiast (not at the same time) and dark chocolate connoisseur. I've worked in publishing since 1995 and I love talking about books!


  1. Connie Terpack on February 10, 2016 at 10:25 AM

    Such simple advice but such a huge help! Thank you.
    I self-published my first novel and did not have to worry about comparison. My next novel will be in the Christian series and all the Christian books I read were by Harlequin. They had simple plots, mainly about finding love. While the stories and characters were good, I wasn’t sure how to compare mine to theirs. Based on your article, I realize I don’t have to compare exact stories like I was thinking.

  2. Lily Mars on February 9, 2016 at 11:58 AM

    Great post! I need all the help I can get with comp titles! My challenge is that I live in Switzerland but I write in English, and there are no English-language libraries near me. Thank goodness for e-books! But one can spend a lot of money trying to see if a book “fits.” Your suggestions will help me to figure out what to look for. Thank you!

  3. […] Finding Comparable Books (Rachelle Gardner) – How authors can figure out what books to compare theirs to, for proposals. “Do I look for books with the same premise or plot? Same time period? Same writing style? How do I know what to include?  I’m going to make it easy for you…” […]

  4. […] I read a lot, but I couldn’t think of the perfect comparison (Check out this for comparisons: ). Then of course my queries were falling flat. I was […]

  5. El agente editorial o literario - techleo on February 3, 2016 at 11:40 AM

    […] referencia, puede que en algún momento del proceso sea útil para el agente y editoriales identificar los libros comparables (comps), es decir, saber qué […]

  6. Neil Larkins on February 2, 2016 at 2:48 PM

    I already thought of one comparable and mention it in the introduction to my memoir where I write “I often thought I had something better than the like of say, ‘Love Story’… That’s presumptuous, yes, but worse: a 46 year old book (1970) – and my story is set in 1964! Who’s reading “Love Story” today? Now I gotta find a modern Erich Segal.

  7. John Wells on February 2, 2016 at 1:00 PM

    Interesting point; and the “how to” isn’t all that difficult. I write historical fiction, a genre that Amazon Best Sellers covers, inter alia, with other genres in their Kindle eBooks – Literature & Fiction. This yields the comps.

  8. Karen Collier on February 2, 2016 at 10:31 AM

    This perspective on comparable titles is a big help. Especially that one line: “People who enjoy the following books….” I’m already coming up with comps I hadn’t thought to include. Thanks!

  9. Incy Black on February 2, 2016 at 9:05 AM

    You won’t be impressed, but…

    Defo the hardest question to answer, especially if like me, you shy away from putting yourself up there with more established writers. Eeek…who’s got that much front. Not me. I think I’ll stick with the cop out wail of ‘I don’t know’. *reaches for Prosac*

  10. Abner on February 2, 2016 at 8:50 AM

    Will it still work even if the comps aren’t in the same genres? I write cyberpunk pulp. My closest comps are in mystery and urban fantasy and a couple in SF.

  11. Elizabeth Varadan on February 1, 2016 at 1:23 PM

    Great post. I’ve bookmarked it.