Do you know what books are comparable to your WIP?
Do you know your target audience?
Do you know if your book has already been written, and if it has, did the book sell well?
If yes, why? If not, why? Was it recent? Is that comp book out of print? Why did it go out of print?
Is there room in the market for your WIP?
These are questions I ask myself when I look at a submission, especially a submission I am considering representing. These are questions you should have fully researched before you send out queries, and perhaps even before you spend years writing a book.
Why? Because there is an opportunity cost of time and money for consumers, agents, editors and publishers for every book we read. My choosing to rep your book means I will not be repping a book by a person who happened to write the same plot/characters/unique twist that your book has. Perhaps that book is better, perhaps yours is. BUT, if that book is already out on bookshelves and is selling well, or not selling well, I/consumers/editors/publishers will not spend their time and money buying your book.
Below is a short list of sites I compiled for the SCBWI Agent Workshop I held in Bakersfield, CA last fall for researching comp books. I am sure there are many more, and I am sure my readers will help fill in the missing gaps in my list.
Websites for researching comp books
Perma-Bound (Accelerated Reader)
Publisher, year, reading level, interest level (age), # pages, # words, reviews. For example, here is the entry for my client Julie Williams' book ESCAPING TORNADO SEASON.
Amazon Advanced Search , Indiebound, B&N online, etc.
Publishers Marketplace $20/month. Also shows which editor bought the book and which agent sold it.
Website with catalog from every publisher: Early Word. Scroll down and find the catalogs listed on the right side. Lots of other great info here.
Here's to all of your publishing dreams coming true in 2010!
Photo Credit: William Wegman (American, b. 1943). Reading Two Books, 1971. Gelatin silver print. Collection of Robert and Gayle Greenhill, © William Wegman