It is helpful for us to see these when preparing reader reports. If we publish together, then it will be needed for retail buyers – they ask for this information, particularly in North America. Shelf space is limited. If they are to stock your title, they need to return someone else’s. They are not going to read your book, they want to know where it fits into the market.
Do not write "There is nothing like this book around, it is unique" – of course it is unique, but the obvious answer from the buyer is that there is nothing similar around because no one else has been daft enough to think there's a market for it. If thinking of "competing" books is difficult, think "which books would I like to see mine next to on the shelves?"
It is not quite so meaningful for fiction, but it is crucial for non-fiction that can be categorized. Even fiction is usually sub-divided into genres, with titles that yours can be compared to.
We can’t fill this in for you. We aren’t as familiar with competing books as you are likely to be. Just put down three.
- Relevant titles: Please only list recent titles published in the last two or three years. There are two extremes to avoid. Do not put down competing titles that look as if they have sold a handful of copies. Most stores will only stock one or two titles in your sub-category area anyway. You can get a rough idea of sales by looking at their ranking on Amazon. More on that in Chapter 12 on Amazon. Anything under the ranking of 50,000 is worth using; beyond that, it is probably too specialist a title for the brick-and-mortar stores to be interested in. At the other extreme, comparisons by a first-time author with bestsellers tend to be similarly counter-productive. A comparison to The Secret or The Da Vinci Code just brings an immediate dismissal – the buyer has heard it so many times. Please try to ensure at least one competing title you include has been published in the last three years.
- Details: Enter author, American publisher, 13-digit ISBN starting 978 (the American one; you can convert 10-digit ISBN using http://www.isbn.org/converterpub.asp), date of publication, page extent and price. Check on Amazon (use the US Amazon.com) for details.
- Where to find them: Use Amazon. Do not rely on bookshops to see what else is available in your subject area, or a library, they are likely to stock only a microscopic fraction of them. Your own bookshelves are probably not helpful, in that you may have an old edition with a different ISBN, which currently has nil sales on Nielsen (tracks all book sales). There are useful software programs around for finding similar books if you can’t manage to find them in the Amazon.com subject categories. Check out for instance the “similar authors” software on http://www.librarything.com/authorcloud.php and “similar words” software on http://www.whichbook.net.