Finding an Agent
Figuring out the best comp titles for your query
Last weekend I was at the San Francisco Writers Conference (which was a total blast, BTW!), and I took part in a few panels designed to help writers write better pitches and queries for their books. There was a lot of discussion about how every querying writer needs to figure out what books their book is similar to, so that they can show agents that they know something about the marketplace for their book and that they are writing with readers--and sales--in mind.
The idea is that you want to sum up your book's audience and potential super quickly, and the best way to do that is with examples, ie, "It's The Hunger Games meets Pride and Prejudice," or "It's the new Fault in Our Stars."
I got a few questions about good places to figure out "comp titles" for books online. ("Comp" being short for comparison title.)
A few ideas:
What about other folks? How do you figure out the best comp titles for your agent pitches and queries? What has worked best for you?
I have a hard time with this one. That's why I joined this forum. I realize there must be other books like mine out there somewhere, but I can't find them. I live in the boonies. I moved here on purpose so I would not be distracted by the chaos of the city. I'm not a city person. So stopping in at a bookstore is not practical, and the ones in the nearby city, 40 miles away, are small. The community is conservative. I am not. So what is sold in the two books stores doesn't match what I write. I've subscribed to publisher newsletters, but mostly I can't say that the books they publish are like mine. But I will try again because of your suggestion. Maybe it's a matter of numbers. I write with my own voice, not someone else's. I've never been a copycat. It's boring. I do searches online, but for most of my books, there is nothing like them that I can find. Can you suggest how I do a thorough search online?
I've been writing for years. I think the writing is good, but my pitches suck, apparently. Until recently I did have an agent, but he was drunk and incoherent some of the time. Some of the time he was brilliant and looooved my work, but produced no results.
I do have a book being seriously considered by a university press. I pitched it myself. I'm awaiting the results. If they offer a contract I will need someone to handle it. I know from a book I previously published with the help of my late agent, that without the agent to act as a buffer, my interests would have been ignored.
Any ideas that might help?
Mayi--I love your post. Would love to help you brainstorm as I am sure others on Book Country would as well.
The first thing I would do is to fill out your Book Country profile. This will help you to start thinking about how you describe yourself as a writer and how you describe your writing, reading, and your favorite books and authors. This is all very telling, I believe.
Then I would review someone else's book so that you can post your own--that way we can take a look and see what comp titles we can come up with.
Looking forward to learning more about you!
Thanks for your response. There are a number of queries for a number of books. I kept sending my agent new books as they were completed, until the last one. I'm loyal, so it took me a while to realize he was the wrong one. One of the things I learned from some of the masters at the writers conferences I attended was - do not share the details of your work with others, unless you know and trust them. They said that others could take your idea, change it enough for it not to be plagiarism, write and sell your book idea out from under you. Since they had been in the business for a long time and spoke with verified authority, I believed them. I still do.
I finally got the query/pitch right for the book that is being considered by Ooligan Press at PSU. This one is a true story about the murders my brother committed and what that did to my family. With all the mass murders taking place on a regular basis throughout the country, the time is ripe for this work. I was able to do the research online, and the field is lacking in this regard. The second published work was fiction. I was working through the death of my sweetheart. After that, in each of my works I was working through something and created a storylines to accommodate that goal.
At the time prior to my mom's death my late paternal grandmother came to me as I was painting the cover art for the novel I was writing at the time. I was having a hard time coping. She came as a presence over my shoulder and said, "Come to us in the days ahead, and we will see you through." She, her daughter and another one of my aunts, all deceased, were fictional characters in the work. From then on I lightened my works and decided I wanted to have more fun with writing. I was tired of living a Murphy's Law life. Here's a link to the painting: http://www.whereartmeetstheheart.com/xfiles/xfeistyoldwomen.shtml . She's the one on the upper left. The story about her and the others is the first in a series. This story could be classified as Boomer Lit with flavors of fantasy. In the other two completed works in this series the old women are quirky guides of sorts, not the protagonists. The third one in the series is currently being evaluated by my second reader/editor.
In addition I have a trilogy, a kids book and a book which spans two different time periods. That latter will be quite controversial. religiously speaking.
Enough for now. It's time to do my daily yoga. Don't want the body to flab out or stop working. Bodies tend to do that if you don't admonish them to do otherwise.
My work is literary fiction with flavorings of other things. Yes, there is a little bit of magical realism because my life kind of works that way. I like to know all about characters, otherwise books bore me. I don't care who is doing what to whom if I don't care about them. I can only care about them if the characters are developed. The writer who inspired me the most is Richard Bach. His little seagull is the reason I knew I could become a writer. I wrote to Richard through the publisher thanking him for writing one of his books which helped me through a tough time. He called me - he had to look up my number. He was the one who was responsible for me getting my first agent, the editor who made him famous. She is now deceased.
When I was writing sex scenes for the novel I'm currently writing, I asked a friend how much detail she liked in that regard. She mentioned Shades of Grey. So, unfortunately I got it. I couldn't read long enough to get to the sex scenes. I've had men treat me badly, and I won't tolerate a book that glorifies a man being that way. Murder novels don't entertain me, because I've been through it personally. Now, sometimes someone in my stories ends up being abused by others, but it's not the focus of the story. I make sure the bad guy gets what's coming to him. In one of my stories I had a mud slide kill one of my characters who had mistreated my protagonist.
One of the things I'm having difficulty with on this site is finding my postings again so I can respond. I know there's a listing of what I've posted somewhere, but I stumble on it and can never find it again. I have to write it down.