Book Comparison- A Stumbling Block in Your Book Proposal?

happily ever after hands BarbaraEllinFox.com

I’ve been diligently working on a book proposal to send to prospective literary agents. This, I can tell you, is no small undertaking. One of the larger stumbling blocks in this project is book comparison.

Book comparison? If my book was like someone else’s, why would I even write it?

I’ve spent a couple of weeks searching for books like Remember Not, and I found a few with some of the same plot points, but not enough to fill my need. Besides, I had a niggling feeling that I didn’t quite get the idea of a book comparison.

After reading what I thought was a perfect book comparison, I looked at the publish date. Sigh. It was already ten years old. Surely that wouldn’t fly as a quality addition to my book proposal.

Then I thought about the books I’ve been reading.  I remembered thinking one was so much like my story, but when I searched through the books I’ve read in the past two years nothing jumped out as “the one.” I read between ten and fifteen books a month which amounts to several hundred books over two years. Note to self—categorize what you read. At least create a favorites or useful list.

I love stories where the hero makes my heart pound and the heroine is someone I can picture being. I enjoy a deeper plot, because, let’s face it, real life is pretty complicated. And I hate coming to the end of a story I love so series are a favorite.

Still, I don’t write just for me. If I did, I’d never need a book proposal.

This morning I had a brilliant idea. (Most of my ideas come in the morning. The good ones come during my time with God.) Why not let Google help? I typed in “find comparable books,” hit enter and at the top of page one was an article by Rachelle Gardner, Finding Comparable Books. Yes! I didn’t actually fist pump on the outside, but I could feel myself doing it on the inside.

Who is My Audience?

Rachelle said, “Ask yourself, “Who are my readers? What are they reading right now?”  My inner fist fell to my side. Advice always says “Define your audience.” I thought I had that little item worked out, and it wasn’t helping.

Here’s what I had. “This book will appeal to women, ages 18 and above, who love character-driven contemporary Christian stories featuring horses, current issues, healing, and romance with a happily-ever-after ending.”

Even I’m yawing. Sometimes there’s a problem with “horse-educated” readers. We’re all at different levels with different experiences. Some of the lower level contest judges in the past didn’t like certain things Rylie’s horse Eskador did because it hadn’t been in their realm of experience.  I was chewed out by one of my early ACFW Scribes critiques because after rearing, I had Eskador bring his forehand back to earth. “I know horses,” she wrote (actually I felt her yelling at me). “They don’t have forehands.” But of course they do, or else how would we teach them to do a “turn on the forehand?” But we’re taught never to argue with critiquers, so I didn’t, but I’ve always wondered—did she read four hands? If so, I agree. Horse don’t have four hands. They have four hooves.

Back on Track

But I digress…(a writerly word for “I just took off down a rabbit trail”)

My book isn’t published. It doesn’t have readers so how can I decide what they are reading?

And then Rachelle Gardner said, “Wrong, Grasshopper.” No, I’m kidding. Rachelle Gardner didn’t say that. She said, “Keep this line in mind:“PEOPLE WHO ENJOY THE FOLLOWING BOOKS ARE LIKELY TO ENJOY MY BOOK.”

Whoa! Yes! (My inner fist flies into the air) Think contest judges, Scribes critiques, and the people you’ve asked to read your book. Did they like it? Why? And yes, think you. Why did you write it? Where are you going with your stories?

It’s a given that a person who loves romance and horses will be attracted to Remember Not. At least if they’re anything like me they’ll give any horse story a try. But what about the readers who picked it up on ACFW Scribes group and followed to the end? It takes six months to put a book of 95,000 words through Scribes, 2500 words at time. Anyone who sticks with your story must enjoy it.

Most of the critiquers for Remember Not were women, late twenties and older, who loved a strong hero and a unique heroine who didn’t mind speaking up for herself. The majority didn’t know the first thing about horses, but were interested to learn. They were a terrific barometer for me, saying, “I don’t understand this horse term. Can you clear it up for readers like me?” And they liked seeing characters change because they absorbed a particular Christian principal. When the story concluded they wanted to know when I’d have the next one ready, and which of the supporting characters got their own book. Who fell in love after the end of book one?

Now, not only do I understand my readers better, finding comparable books is a whole lot easier.

How about you? What makes you sit in bed until 3:00A.M to continue reading a story?

Thanks for reading my blog post. I’m sure glad you’re here.

Barbara Ellin Fox

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