Jeanne Costello, a veteran buyer from Maria’s Bookshop in Durango, CO, created the following “Comparable Titles Priority List” for her sales reps, and has kindly offered to allow us to share it with you here:
FRONTLIST COMPS PRIORITY LIST – FROM A BOOK BUYER’S PERSPECTIVE
I know publishers expend tremendous resources to add comp titles to their Edelweiss lists. Sometimes, that effort is wasted by bringing in irrelevant comps, a disservice to the authors, publishing companies and buyers. Here is feedback from a buyer on how to get those pesky comps right.
Let me sum it up first – the most important comps in direct order of priority:
MOST RECENTLY PUBLISHED
BOOKS BY OTHER AUTHORS (last & least)
Here it is with a little more nuance:
- Any previous releases of the title:
- For paperback releases, the most important comp is the hardcover release
- For re-issues, any previous releases of that title, especially the most recent and/or the original or most popular release of that title (that is, the one I am most likely to have sold if I carried it).
- Treat new editions like re-issues, please.
- Most recent and relevant titles released previously by that author:
- If it is part of a series, I want the most recently released titles of that series in the same format, that is, paperback for paperbacks, hardcover for hardcovers. I’d like to see the most recent regardless of format – in case it was a ‘break-out’ title in the series. I don’t need the whole series if it is a long one– only the most recent several titles as well as the first book of the series.
- If it is a stand-alone book, then I simply want the most recently released titles from that author, again, a higher priority on books of the same format, although I am interested in the more recent titles in either hardcover or paperback to see if that author has increased their following in my shop with their most recent titles.
- Include the author’s most successful titles.
- Comps to books by other authors:
- This is most important for debut authors. I use these to get a sense of the genre and potential customer base for this title – huge sale numbers do not impress me on comps for a debut title. (And sometimes irritate me.)
- It is fine to add some comps by other authors for books that are not a debut, especially for authors with only a few titles previously published. Don’t give me too many please, and don’t bother with well-established authors unless the new title represents a departure from their established genre and/or customer base.
Other suggestions to create a better comps list
- I want these listed chronologically starting with the most recent and going back to earlier titles so I can see sales trends over time.
- Include the title itself so I can see if I have ordered it already.
- E-book as comps: don’t add them at all. I want to know how many hard copies to order and e-book sales are not indicators for me. E-book sales are much lower than hard copy sales in brick-&-mortar stores. They make sales potential look bad, if anything. I often delete them.
- Audiobooks: I only want to see audiobook comps for audiobooks being sold on the list! As with e-books, they are not indicators and generally under-perform hard copies. Including them make sales potential look bad for hard copies. I often delete them.
- Don’t include too many comps – more than 12 is too many – and you rarely need that. Somewhere between 4 and 12 is best.
Why does this matter? I look at thousands of books to consider bringing in for sale in my shop. If you do not have the most relevant sales history for your list, I am much more inclined to pass on your books. When I have to do the work myself, I look at the title and often decide it isn’t worth the additional labor on my part. (After all, it wasn’t worth the additional labor on your part). When I have to import the relevant sales data myself, it dramatically increases the amount of time I need to review your list. That makes me cranky when I’m buying your list. . . (it only makes it worse if you have included a lot of best-selling titles by other authors as comps).
Publishers – when you don’t have a cover image, you are doing your authors and their books a huge disservice. Except for well-established authors, I often say ‘no’ to books without covers as I have no way to see if the cover will help or hinder my customers’ buying choices.
Some notes for Reps on mark-up notes: I love what you’re already doing: summaries, your best comp, if you read and liked it, good reads in-house at your company, etc. You do a lot of the things that I will list here, but I don’t see it consistently. I love it when mark-up notes clearly indicate the following:
- Print run and or sell-through for prior editions (especially the hardcover)
- Paperback original
- Re-issue or new edition
- Large Print or Audio Book
- For books in Spanish, list the title in English
- Author’s regional tie or current location
- Exciting media (already booked on NPR, will be a movie, etc.)
- The title has been re-cataloged or was sold in a previous season