17 Nov

Finding Competitive Books

Posted in DIY MFA, Literature, Process, Tips

Sooner or later, writers have to put their writing into context.  This means tracking down published books that are similar to the WIP (i.e. competitive books) and reading them.  Some writers like to do this sort of research as they’re working on their own book.  Other writers prefer to hold off until they’ve been through a draft or two.  Regardless of when you decide to start doing your research, it’s going to take time.  And that’s time you won’t be spending writing, or revising, or querying, or… you get the picture.

Which brings me to the point of this post.  How do we actually find these elusive books in the first place?  And for that matter, how do we keep our reading lists from getting long and out of control?  I’m a perfect example of the latter.  Every time I hear of a book even remotely similar to my WIP, I have run out and read it.  This is all well and good, but it does nothing to get my actual WIP written in the first place.  The message here is to find a balance.  Yes, research is important, but the key is to do it efficiently and effectively.

To that end, here’s a nifty trick I’ve discovered that has helped me speed up the search for competitive books.  All you need is the internet and the title of (at least) one competitive book.

1) Go to Amazon.com and search for that one competitive book you’ve already found.   If you don’t have the title of at least one book that’s similar to your WIP, try doing a keyword search.  All you need is to find one book and then the search becomes much easier.

2) Scroll down to where it says “Customers who bought this book also bought…”  Browse through the books listed and make a note of any that might fit within the context of your WIP (similar themes, genre, target audience, etc.)

3) Use the “Look Inside” feature on Amazon or search for the titles you’ve noted using Google books.  Read a few pages.  An alternative is to go to a bookstore or library with your list and browse the shelves.  After all, you want to make sure the books you’ve put on your list are actually going to be useful.

4) Now read ’em.

This trick might seem like a no-brainer to all you super-efficient genius researchers out there, but believe it or not it took me forever to figure out.  In case anyone else out there has been beating their heads against the wall (like I did for so long) I figured I’d pass on this trick.  Sure, this search tool isn’t foolproof and nothing beats the tried-and-true method of getting recommendations from a librarian or knowledgeable bookseller.  But in a pinch, this saves time.  And as I see it, that just means more time for writing.

On a separate note: Don’t forget to check out my contest!  It’s open until Saturday.


Comments on this post

  1. Christine says:

    Thanks for the great tips! I will utilize them. My greatest dilemma is finding time to read the books. I tend to focus too much on the writing, the blogging, the …. on and on it goes. But then I learned to take a step back and just read for pleasure's sake between projects. Not just "competitive" books, but books written by authors I enjoy reading because they craft such delicious stories.

    And now off to Amazon I go!


    1. Stina Lindenblatt says:

      great advice. two years ago, one of my crit partners had a book going out on submission. Her agent asked her to list some books it was similar to. We were all clueless. I was the most well read in YA at the time, but still couldn't come up with anything.

      1. Carol Riggs says:

        Hey, nice to meet you, and thanks for stopping by my blog! I had to follow you "home." Good tips here on where to check out similar books to your WIP. (By the way, you can also do a topic or genre search on Amazon, like type in "YA dystopian.") I'm like Christine here–I tend to write more than I read. But reading is important too!
        Artzicarol Ramblings

        1. Ann Best says:

          I saw your icon just now on my followers, and came over to meet you. You are SO young and very, very pretty–and I suspect very excited about life and especially writing!! Your blog is VERY creative.

          Even though I'm 70 years old, I still love YA literature. I read it back then and I still read it. I think some of the best books written are YA and middle grade. I'm not familiar with dystopia, though a young writer friend had me read a rough draft of hers in this genre. I can't say it's my thing, but if it's written well… I have an open mind.

          1. salarsenッ says:

            This was a great help, Gabi. I'm currently chatting with a publisher, and they asked me where I felt my story fit into the works they already represent. So for me, I had a list to check through. But in the future, I'll definitely use your suggestions.

            1. Carol Riggs says:

              Hi there! I awarded you a blog award on my site–come read about it and fetch the image at:
              Artzicarol Ramblings

              1. Maria McKenzie says:

                Great post! Thanks for all the advice. I'll definitely be using your tips. Now, I'll just have to make more time for reading!

                1. Rachel says:

                  Great tips 🙂 I inhale books that are competitive and am always looking for hints, tricks and style in the writing to make my own project better. But you are absolutely right–it is all about balance. Thanks for stopping by my blog 🙂

                  1. Lola Sharp says:

                    I do this all the time. I'm nosy and like to know what's out there. Since I also love to read (duh) I don't mind adding to my TBR pile…moundS. 🙂

                    Have a wonderful weekend!

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