When querying a book, it’s often vital for two or more comparison titles to be included in the pitch. Comparison or comp titles are books that are similar to the one being queried. They’re a way to help an agent or publisher picture the concept, tone, and market, transforming that coddled manuscript into a commercial product.
How Do You Find Comp Titles?
The answer to this question is both simple and difficult. Simple answer is: By reading in your genre. The more difficult part of that equation is figuring out which existing novels compliment yours, and why.
The three most common ways to discuss a comp title in a query letter are:
- “It’s X meets Y”
- “It’s X but with Y”
- “If you like X, you’ll like Y”
With a little bit of re-jiggling, it’s easy to use these three phrases as a lens to view a potential comp title. Personally, I find it very easy to get bogged down in the thematic comparisons – looking for stories that hit the same tropes, character arcs, and themes I like. Don’t do this for your comp titles. Comp titles are about plot.
Let’s Look At One Of My Potential Comp Titles
Even though I’m nowhere near ready to query (if that’ll ever happen), I thought I’d use The Stolen for this little exercise.
The Stolen is an urban fantasy adventure by Bishop O’Connell. Brendan, an outcast Fian warrior, swears to help Caitlin after her daughter is stolen from her bed by dark faeries. Beginning on the busy streets of Boston, this fast-paced novel quickly moves to the shadowy land of Tír na nÓg, where the fae reside. Brendan, Caitlin and their allies must risk everything to save the stolen child before she is lost forever.
Could The Stolen Represent My Book?
It might be hard to appreciate since my novel has yet to see the light of day, but this is a pretty good list of similarities so far.
The problem with The Stolen is that it’s not a particularly well-known book. It’s title is very similar to other, more famous books too, so using this as a comp title might cause some confusion with, say, Stolen by Lucy Christopher, a YA novel about a girl kidnapped and held in the middle of a desert in Australia. Or even The Stolen by Alex Shearer (which is the first to appear on Google results at the time of writing this).
It’s also a little old, in publishing years, being published in 2014. A good comp title is one that falls on the younger side, being published in the last three to five years. (Yes, 2014 is already over five years ago.)
Will it be a comp title? Hmm. It’s a solid maybe.
Give It A Go!
Now it’s your turn. Tell me about your comp titles in the comments. If you liked this, let me know so I can write more content like this and don’t forget to follow me on WordPress, Twitter and Facebook @WriterInAHat.
This is part a series where I look at potential comparative titles for my dark fantasy In Roots They Quake (formerly known as A Path Of Roots). Here’s the full list:
If you’re looking for query advice or more detailed information about comp titles, these might help you:
Comp Titles: The Key To Pitching Your Book
4 Tips For Choosing The Right Comparative Titles
The Dreaded “Comp Titles”: What Are They and How Do You Use Them?