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Writers' Tip - What's a Comparable Book?

June 1, 2020

This month, the Maryland Writers’ Association offered a Webinar on writing query letters with literary agent Gina Panettieri. Gina provided excellent tips on what agents are looking for, but the best one had to do with “comps.”

Gina Panettieri is founder and an agent with the Talcott Notch Literary Services. She has more than 20 years experience in the publishing industry. She is often a guest lecturer at regional and national conferences and workshops on various aspects of publishing.

Most agents ask writers to include in their query letter the titles of two or three books that are similar to the writer’s submission. For most of us, selecting comparable books is guesswork because we’re not sure what the agent is looking for. What does the agent really want?

The answer lies in remembering that publishing is a business. Publishers want to make money. What they want is some kind of assurance that your book will sell. One measure is that your book is like other books that found a large enough audience to make money. And that’s where comps come in.

She suggests going to and looking for books in your genre that are not more than 3 years old and have more than 1,000 ratings. Don’t list classics (“My book is like Pride and Prejudice”) or bestsellers (“It’s like John Grisham’s A Time to Kill”).

Thank you, Gina, for clearing up this puzzling part of the query letter.


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