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catwoods
06-12-2008, 01:21 AM
This is a basic question from a tech challenged person. (Proof of that, I just tried to start this thread and somehow hit the wrong key and lost it, hope I didn't post it as an incomplete thread, ha ha.)

I'm preparing a nonfiction query for an agent, and the instructions are very specific. They want a database search for "competing titles". I assume that means something called "Books in Print" and "Forthcoming Books".

I'm tempted to use the knowledge of similar books I have from bookstores and online book sellers, but I want to do as they indicate.

When I look for those databases online, I find libraries thousands of miles away who require that you have their library card; or Bowker's, which seems to require that you join with a username and a password, and also seems to assume that you are in the publishing, or library business. That's far more Internet entanglement than I really want.

Perhaps a visit to the local library is what I need to do? I'm somewhat limited by illness, and I only get out about 10 per cent of the time. So, I'd much rather do this online if possible.

Could anyone tell me if there is an Internet database on Books In Print and Forthcoming Books that you can search without joining something? Or if I must join, could someone tell me exactly what it would involve, so I don't have to just jump in and do it knowing zero in advance?

I greatly appreciate any tips you can give me. If this has been discussed here before, sorry; I couldn't find anything.

Matera the Mad
06-12-2008, 07:03 AM
Does your local library have a website through which you could access databases to which it is connected? You could call them and find out. It could be as simple as entering a number from your library card.

benbradley
06-12-2008, 08:09 AM
I think your thread title should be "How to search for and find books like mine?"

This is a basic question from a tech challenged person. (Proof of that, I just tried to start this thread and somehow hit the wrong key and lost it, hope I didn't post it as an incomplete thread, ha ha.)

I'm preparing a nonfiction query for an agent, and the instructions are very specific. They want a database search for "competing titles". I assume that means something called "Books in Print" and "Forthcoming Books".
...
I greatly appreciate any tips you can give me. If this has been discussed here before, sorry; I couldn't find anything.

I've seen threads where people say do this (find other books like yours to compare and contrast yours with for an agent in a query letter), but I don't recall anyone saying HOW to find the other books.

I think amazon.com could work as one site (of several) for book research. Especially in non-fiction, there's lots of classification (not just at Amazon, but for books in genera, everywhere you gol) and subclassification, so it shouldn't be too hard to find other books that cover similar ground to yours. If your book is on, for example, growing prize-winning roses (it comes to mind because I once knew someone who did that as a hobby), I'd think using keywords such as these would help you find others like it:
gardening flowers competitive

That brings up lots of books on growing flowers in general, and in the second page is "Otherwise Normal People: Inside the Thorny World of Competitive Rose Gardening"

And you can do different searches with different keywords, for example, replacing competitive with prizewinning (or is it prize-winning? Don't worry about which is correct, just try each one in a separate search).

From there, with titles in hand (or copied to a scratch text file or wordprocessing document) you could go to your local library's website and see which ones they have, or if any are in another library within your local library system. Or you could buy or aquire it using one of the methods in my blog post on buying books.

Is that what you're looking for?

Other writers researching books like yours, is that what you do?

June Casagrande
06-12-2008, 09:21 AM
You wrote: "I'm tempted to use the knowledge of similar books I have from bookstores and online book sellers."

Um, that's exactly how I did it. That's the only way I've ever heard of anyone doing it. I did it with the help of my agent. And both of my proposals sold.

Is it possible that they just want a standard, just-like-everyone-does-'em "competition" section and you let one or two tech-sounding words scare you into thinking it's something prohibitively difficult?

You used the word "assume" when talking about the agent's expectation you identify "forthcoming titles." As far as I know, authors aren't usually expected to have full access to info that publishers pay to get.

I would:

1. take note of any relevant titles on Amazon, etc., that must be preordered

2. check the websites of some major publishers, and

3. say to my agent, "Dude(tte): Do you really expect me to have insider knowledge of every title coming out in the next year and, if so, where am I supposed to get this info?" That is, where's this mystical "database" you're supposed to search? (For all I know, there really is one. But, if there is, there's no shame in not knowing about it!)

The important thing is don't be intimidated/afraid to come out and ask!

Hope that helps!

catwoods
06-12-2008, 10:22 AM
Thank you everyone, I appreciate your efforts and the information is all very useful.

I've come close to finishing my first book late in life (as described in "New Here" in the Newbie Forum) and I don't have an agent yet. The information on similar books is requested in the marketing plan section of required query materials as listed on the website of an agent I'm thinking of submitting to.

I'm confused by benbradley's question, "Other writers researching books like yours, is that what you do?", so I don't really know how to answer it. I'm trying to write a proposal according to guidelines, which ask for comparisons to existing books via a "database". I hope that explains it. And again, I greatly appreciate your, and everyone's efforts in posting these tips.

aka eraser
06-12-2008, 06:39 PM
I'm with June. Don't over-think this. Use Amazon's "database" augmented by studying your bookstore shelves. It'll be fine. :)

catwoods
06-13-2008, 01:38 AM
Thanks for responding, aka eraser.

smoothseas
06-13-2008, 02:19 AM
Have you tried a loc search. Don't the Library of Congress web address handy, but you could goggle it.

hope this helps.

catwoods
06-14-2008, 01:27 AM
Thank you very much again to all who posted, I'll probably try a little of everyone's suggestions. When the time works out for me....I do things slowly!
(I like your choice of avatar, smoothseas.)