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Pitching your manuscript: How does your book compare to others?

As I revise my memoir, I’ve been thinking about how to pitch it. One of the first questions agents and editors consider when they’re pitched is how they’ll sell your book. Where does it fit on the bookstore shelf? What category does it fit on Amazon or Barnes and Noble? How will they describe your book when they pitch it to publishers?

This is where you need to know titles that are comparable to yours. You’ll use this information in your book proposal and if you find an opportunity to pitch agents and editors at a writers conference. Listing comparable titles offers context and helps agents and editors fix your book and its genre in their minds as they read the first pages.

To figure out how to compare your book to others, start with your reading list. You should be pretty familiar with your genre, and you may find appropriate titles from your book collection.

Another way to find comparable books is by scanning bookstore shelves and looking online at Barnes & Noble, Goodreads, and Amazon.

Other tips:

Don’t oversell your manuscript. Don’t suggest that your story compares to major literary and commercial bestsellers. Instead, focus on fairly recent successful books.

Consider how you can characterize your manuscript in terms of its audience. For example, you might say, “Readers that like mysteries by X author, will like mine.”

Highlight differences as well as similarities of comparable books and why they’d appeal to the same readers. Agents don’t advise listing the reasons why your book is SO MUCH BETTER than the one you’re comparing it to, but it can help to say how your book has a unique or fresh angle.

Don’t say, “There’s no book out there like mine.” If you can’t find any comparable books, this could be a problem. It could mean your idea isn’t salable, or an agent might think you aren’t connected with your genre or audience.

In the end, listing a comparable book or two will help you quickly position your book in the crowd of pitches agents and editors get every day.

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