Comp titles, or comparison titles, are essentially similar books to your own that would sit alongside it in the market. They could be similar in terms of content, theme, or tone.
Comp titles can be used:
- In your query letter, when you’re looking for an agent (so they know where your book will sit in the current market)
- In a submission when your agent sends your book to publishers (the same reason applies here – the comps will let editors know where the book fits into the market)
- In marketing (“for fans of X”); marketing departments may also look at how well other, similar books have sold when trying to decide whether to purchase your book
- In online pitching contests and writing competitions
Coming up with comp titles can be difficult, especially if you’re at the querying stage and don’t have the input of an agent yet, or if you’re self-publishing and don’t know which similar titles you should use in promo material.
Top tips for choosing good comp titles
- Try to avoid extremely well-known titles (such as Harry Potter, Twilight, The Night Circus, etc), or famous authors like Danielle Steel or Stephen King. It’s best not to compare yourself to the “greats” or use comps that are overused.
- Stick with more recent examples – published in the last five years or so. The whole point of comps is to position your book within the current market.
- Obscure references are best avoided. You want the comp to be understood!
- Try to stick to the same genre if possible. Using different genres does sometimes work if you want to show a flavour from each side – but it’s easier to show your familiarity with the market if you stick within the same genre.
- Be sure that your comps reflect your target audience! If you’re writing YA, it’s best to use other YA books as your comps, not adult fiction – and vice versa.
- Think about what your comp title represents or is most commonly known for. This is what’s going to come to mind when you compare your book to the comp. For example, if I say The Bone Season and you know of that book, you’ll immediately think of supernatural elements such as mediums, and a dystopian London. Make sure it’s clear why you’re comparing your project to the comp.
Can I use movie/TV comps?
Sometimes people use movie/TV comps, most commonly for competitions, such as online pitching events. Make sure you marry a movie/TV comp with a book too – for example, We Were Liars meets Stranger Things. You want to put across that you’re also reading widely and know your market.
How many comp titles should I use?
This depends on what you’re using the comps for! If you’re submitting to agents or entering writing contests, two is a good number.
Agents submitting books to publishers for their clients might use two to three comps in their pitch.
How to find comp titles
If you’re reading in your genre, you probably have some books on your shelf or your Kindle that could work as comps! Have a look through them, and compare them against my tips above. Are they modern/recent, but not too overused/well-known? Do they reflect a core theme or element of your own book? You could do the same by browsing a local bookshop and looking at blurbs – have a look in the sections for your genre and see what you can find.
You can also use Goodreads lists to scout for books. You can search lists by a keyword or genre. Another option is to search a book on a bookselling website or on Amazon and look at other, similar books customers are purchasing, or the trending titles in your genre.
The best way to find comps by far, though, is by reading!
Including your comp titles
There are a few common ways of including your comp titles in terms of wording:
- [MY BOOK] will appeal to readers of X and Y…
- [MY BOOK] will appeal to the seafaring themes of X, and the magic of Y…
- X meets Y…
- For fans of X and Y…
Any of these methods will work. X meets Y is a good one to use in writing competitions, such as Twitter pitch contests, where you’re more limited in terms of character count.
Remember that comps aren’t the be-all-and-end-all. Although they can be incredibly useful, you don’t even have to include them at the querying stage, if you don’t want to. Pick the best comps you can if you decide to include them, but don’t over-worry about the decision. Your query letter, synopsis and manuscript will also speak volumes.
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