Why is it important to research authors of books similar to your book?
It helps with cover design, preparing metadata (categories, keywords, descriptions), and marketing, to name just a few.
So the second question is: how do you find these authors?
Helping to answer that question is the author of today's guest post, Desiree Villena. Here are Desiree's seven steps to finding and learning from “comp authors.”
Comp authors, or “comparable” authors, are authors whose work has something substantial in common with yours. In other words, they’re the authors you’ll often want readers to mention when they’re trying to describe (and recommend) your book to friends! For that reason, it’s crucial to identify these authors, look into their marketing strategies, and take inspiration from their efforts. Let’s go through this process step-by-step, starting with…
1. Become active on Book Twitter and Instagram
You likely already know the big names in your genre. For example, if we’re talking UK crime authors, some popular names immediately jump to mind: Ian Rankin, LJ Ross, Ann Cleeves, Lee Child, etc. (This part shouldn’t be hard — after all, if you’ve chosen to write in this genre, I’d guess that you read it extensively as well!)
Now log in to Twitter and Instagram, and search for the most famous authors of your genre. Scroll through their pages to see if they’ve recently spoken about or interacted with any other authors you don’t know who write in this genre. Next, go through the list of people they follow to find more relevant accounts: slightly lesser-known authors, reviewers, book bloggers, publishers, you name it. As you do this, keep a running list of the actual authors you encounter, as this will be useful to you later.
Also, before you follow anyone, make sure you’ve included some basic information about yourself on your profile! “Crime novelist based in Brighton, LOST BODIES coming out Spring 2021” might be all people need to see before they follow you back, but it doesn’t hurt to include a personal touch as well (“loves baking and Law & Order: SVU”). Remember that you won’t just be on social media to discover other people — you also want people to discover you, so give them a reason to want to click that “Follow” button.
And needless to say, don’t just make your accounts and leave them. Engage with discussions in the writing world, respond to other writers’ Tweets and IG posts, and share what you’re reading. Hashtags like #amwriting, #writingcommunity, and #bookstagram are great places to start!
2. Dive into related reads on Goodreads and Amazon
Aside from the acquaintances of other authors on social media platforms, two more websites you can use to locate your comp authors are Goodreads and Amazon. Both suggest related reads for every book you look up, so run as many searches for authors in your genre as possible. If you’re self-publishing, keep an eye out for fellow indie authors, again taking note of their names (and following them on social media while you’re at it!).
Locating self-published authors will be important for the next part of this process, so regardless of whether you plan to go through KDP or not, you should take note of the Kindle Unlimited books in your genre! Why Kindle Unlimited? Because the majority of self-publishing authors take the Amazon self-publishing route, meaning their books become available on KU.
(Of course, a book being available on Kindle Unlimited doesn’t necessarily mean it’s self-published, nor does it mean all self-published books are part of KU. But unless it has thousands of reviews, it’ll still likely be the work of a midlist author who may be of interest to you.)
3. Search relevant keyword footprints on Google
It’s now time to take your list of comp author names to Google! The objective here is to find evidence of these authors’ promotion and publicity efforts, with a view to using the same ideas and sites to market your own book. Try combining these author’s names with relevant keywords to run searches and see what you discover.
- To find events they took part in or posts they’ve written, search for: “[Author name] book tour”, “[Author name] reading”, “[Author name] interview”, “[Author name] guest post”
- To find websites where their books were reviewed, search for: “[Author name] book review/review”, “[Author name] ARC”
Since you know your genre better than most people, you’ll probably have some other thoughts about which keywords will be fruitful for your genre. For example, nonfiction authors are more likely to appear on podcasts, so a good search might be “[Author name] podcast”. Don’t be afraid to get creative—and check out case studies like Derrick Smythe’s for more ideas!
4. Adopt genre- and niche-specific marketing strategies
Now that you’ve got a sense of what similar authors are doing to promote their books, sit down and have a think about your own marketing strategy. Even if you feel that other authors’ exact decisions aren’t relevant to you, try and adopt the same general mindset in order to come up with genre- and niche-specific strategies.
If you’re writing about superheroes, for example, you may want to look into attending or speaking at a convention like Comic Con; if you’re a poet, you could look into open-mic nights where you can perform. Check out this Author Imprints interview with publicist Julia Drake, or Ashly Lorenzana’s Goodreads quotes marketing trick for more inspiration.
5. Reach out to the same book bloggers
Going back to what you found on Google, some of the authors on your list have probably had their book reviewed on book blogs — and since you’re writing in the same genre, it’s likely those book bloggers will also be interested in reading and reviewing your books.
Before sending out a blast of cold emails to dozens of book bloggers, however, take the time to read through their blogs so you know where your book will be a good fit. Bloggers usually state quite clearly which books they’re happy to read and review, as well as which books they aren’t interested in. So if a reviewer says they don’t review gory crime, don’t send them a book where your clever sleuth investigates a decapitation!
Finally, if you’re short on leads for this part, check out David Wogahn’s The Book Reviewer Yellow Pages for finding independent reviewers, as well as the directories of book review blogs found here and here.
6. Foster positive relationships for future cross-promotion
Throughout this process of trying to market your book, it’s easy to start perceiving other authors as your competition. But in fact, they’re some of the best allies you could ask for — and if you build positive relationships with them, you’ll be able to mutually recommend each other to highly relevant readers.
On that note, return to social media to uplift and support your comp authors. Writers of a certain genre are often a tight-knit community, but if you can become part of that community, you’ll find yourself heartily supported when your book is released. And if you meet authors whose books are extremely similar to yours in tone, atmosphere, or themes, you’ll know they’re the perfect candidate for cross-promotion (via mailing lists, for example) — so don’t be afraid to take action and suggest it to them!
7. Use their books as your comp titles
Speaking of books that are extra-similar to yours, remember to try using them as comp titles when you write your book description. After all, comp titles are a major part of what makes a powerful Amazon book description. Just make sure they’re fairly well-known and generally well-received among your target readers — you don’t want to compare yourself to a book no one’s ever heard of, or worse yet, that readers didn’t enjoy.
I hope these steps are helpful as you proceed with the final, exciting stages of publishing your book. To quickly recap, you’ll want to do the following:
- Find baseline comp authors through social media, Amazon, and Goodreads
- Expand your search with relevant keyword footprints on Google
- Adopt niche-specific strategies that seem to work for your comp authors
- Reach out to book bloggers and fellow authors for promotional opportunities
- Use comp authors’ titles in your book description (optional)
Best of luck with all your marketing ventures!
Desiree Villena is a writer with Reedsy, a marketplace that connects authors and publishers with the world's best editors, designers, and marketers. In her spare time, Desiree enjoys reading contemporary fiction and writing short stories. She’s very passionate about independent publishing and hopes to help as many authors as possible achieve their dreams!