It’s not unusual to have to supply comparative titles with your book propsal, and the idea is to make those comps count for for something. It’s a sure bet that my eyes will glaze over if I see someone has littered their proposal with books published by vanity presses.
It’s not a snobbery thing, but a practical thing. We are looking for books that best compare and contrast to your book because this helps during the marketing and promo phase. Book buyers want to know how best your book (an unkown) fits in with what is on the marketplace. It’s much easier to tell a potential reader that Title ABC is akin to Jan’s Story (which has sold about 30k units), than it is to use some book pubbed by AuthorHouse (which has probably seen very few sales and even less market traction.
Vanity or self-pubbed books don’t give an editor a clear picture of the competition – only commercially pubbed books can do this. Our sales teams don’t care about iUniverse books because they don’t have any distribution, and won’t be read by many people. It’s not a realistic gauge of the marketplace.
It’s also important to use current title comps. For example, let’s say that you suffered the heartache of inverted belly button syndrome in your teens. You looked for books that discussed diagnosis, how to cope, and treatment – and came up empty, so you decided to write your book to save others from suffering what you suffered. The problem is that you’re stuck in the past in terms of your comparative titles.
Those comparative titles you read many years ago are your basis for writing your book, and you’re dating yourself. Much has changed with inverted belly button syndrome since you last did your research, but you haven’t kept up, so your comps are out of date. You need to see what the new books have to say about this sydrome in order to see how your book compares and contrasts AND to see if you really have a marketable book.
The first thing I do when checking up on title comps is head over to Amazon and see the latest and greatest books in that same topic. If the author hasn’t included current books that are pubbed by commercial presses, then I have to weigh how well-versed the author is on their subject matter.
I pass those title comps to our sales and marketing guys, so I have to possess the latest and greatest. So make sure your title comps count for something.